Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s creator-owned series Vanish continues to excitingly mix superheroes and magic. Launched via their Substack, the series reaches a violent point this week in a visual style that harkens back to the early days of Image Comics. There’s a reluctant hero at the core of Vanish named Oliver who is dealing with substance abuse and some serious issues, but can he hold back enough so as not to put a hole in the enemy? The answer is probably not!
Vanish #3 picks up in a startling place, which is as disorientating for us as it is for Oliver as he takes hundreds of blows in nanoseconds. He’s being beaten up by a speedster, who is not happy about his beating of a major superhero in the first issue. Or rather, a superhero in the public’s eyes, but actually a wizard with a shady past. This jarring start is a nice way to dive into fight scenes, although I did wonder how we got here from Vanish #2.
If you’ve come to Vanish #3 hoping for more action, you get that in spades. Not only do Stegman and Cates introduce three new superheroes with violent tendencies, but we get to see magic in magic fights. Even though the supes Oliver faces off against are very powerful, we can see he can hold his own. Color artist Sonia Oback gets to let the blood fly, with plenty dripping off Oliver and some limbs getting sliced off too.
The action is well laid out by Stegman, with eye-popping inks by JP Mayer. Stegman’s detailed style always seems to add the right amount of texture. You can see it in Oliver’s boots or the purple costume of the speedster. Ultimately, the art is as violent as what we’ve seen in classics like The Authority, and if you like that sort of thing in your superhero comics, you’ll love what the creative team does here.
After the slow second issue, this issue continues to move the plot too slowly. The action keeps you entertained, but after the excellent world-building-friendly first issue, it seems each issue is going only to progress things a few hours. Oliver’s actions in that first issue have dire consequences at an early stage, but this issue doesn’t explore the character much or the larger world. It’s tough at this stage to know the point of it all, and it’s further confused not knowing if Oliver’s violence is justified or if he is the story’s villain. The comic doesn’t take enough time to establish these details.
A motivator to keep reading lies in the mystery around Oliver and his actions. Is he a good guy who is being pushed to do some crazy violent things, or is he fooling himself into thinking he’s a good guy when he was the villain all along? The narrative doesn’t give us enough to really know one way or the other, so seeing what Oliver does informs the reader more about the character than anything else.
Vanish #3 satisfies the action aficionado who likes punching and kicking with gallons of blood. While reading this book you’ll marvel at the superhero fights, but knowing these are trained wizards made to look like superheroes adds a nice flair to this series’ unique approach.
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