Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man Review (Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta)


I get into some spoilsies later in the review so I guess “be warned”. The short version of this review is that the book is overrated, boring and poorly written and I wouldn’t recommend it. Ok, on with the review proper!

The Vision suddenly has a family! His wife is Virginia, his son is Vin and his daughter is Viv (oh the cute alliteration) and they reside at 616 Hickory Branch Lane (geddit, like Marvel-616, the main Marvel universe). Not a lot happens for most of the book until something does and then it’s over.

So this was disappointing. I’ve heard nothing but praise for this series so I was really looking forward to it despite not being a Tom King fan. He’s a writer who can take interesting setups like Dick Grayson in a James Bond-esque series or a cop investigating a murder in 2004 Iraq like in The Sheriff of Babylon and somehow manage to suck all the excitement out of them (to be fair he co-wrote Grayson with Tim Seeley). I’d say he does the same here with The Vision, which is a similarly boring read, except the premise isn’t exciting to start with! 

When did Vision make a family? I read quite a lot of Marvel and don’t recall him doing or seeing any character mention this. More importantly, WHY did he make a family? Vision is one of those awkward characters who differs from writer to writer. Sometimes he desires to be more human, sometimes that’s never mentioned at all. I tend to read modern Marvel books and I’ve never once read a story where he talks about wanting to be human, though I understand back in the ‘70s that was one of his things. 

Moreover, it makes you wonder about the message this book sends out. Vision and his family are synthezoids but Vision, in this series, seems to desperately want acceptance among humans as one of them, despite the impossibility of ever being human. Especially in this day and age shouldn’t the message be less of achieving an arbitrary standard of “normalcy” and trying to fit in by subverting your true nature, and instead accept who you are and asking others to do the same? Why try be something you’re not? Vision is so unique and wonderful, why does he want to be as dull as his suburban human neighbours? 

It’s important to show the reader the creation of Vision’s family and his reasoning behind it because that’s the whole point of this book. It’s simply not good enough to claim that the reader should know all about The Vision and to have read Uncanny Avengers or whichever series it was established (if at all) that Vision wanted to create his own family; this needs to be done in THIS series and can’t be taken for granted. That’s one of King’s biggest failings with this book. 

However I could have forgiven all of that if there was an engaging story or the book said something clever or original about the 21st century Western middle class, except it doesn’t do any of those things. 

Maybe this series is intended to be a satire on suburbia? It’s not. It’s definitely no Shirley Jackson or Ira Levin commentary on the nightmare of the ‘burbs. What story there is, is underwhelming: Vin gets in trouble at school, Viv meets a boy she likes. Wow. Sure, it’s “normal”, which is what I guess Vision wants, but it’s not riveting storytelling either. 

Then a villain appears and Virginia ends up killing him because she was protecting her family. Fine - but why hide it from Vision? She was totally justified in killing him - he broke into her house with the intent of murdering her and her family; the dictionary definition of self-defence. But instead she hides his body and lies to Vision, and this provides the meatier side of the story despite being pure and utter stupid contrivance. 

Pure and utter stupid contrivance summarises what happens next as someone films Virginia burying the body and blackmails her, leading to a commentary on America’s useless and idiotic gun culture. Needless to say, the story is not impressive at all and the motivations behind the characters - particularly Vision’s with that final page reveal - are inscrutable and silly. 

King’s not a very good writer. The narration throughout is flat and boring - maybe intentionally robotic-sounding but definitely not enlivening to read - while the dialogue between Vision and Virginia is dry and dull. They literally have mundane conversations about semantics! 

King also inserts Shylock’s famous speech from The Merchant of Venice (“If you prick us, do we not bleed”) in a clich├ęd and pseudo-intellectual commentary on the neighbourhood’s perception of the Visions. It’s an obvious and uninspired choice that feels like something a high-schooler would think was clever. Also, King’s Vision claims to have saved the world 37 times, citing The Korvac Saga and The Phoenix Force as two such occasions - yeah, no-one else was involved in resolving those, just you, Vision, right? 

Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art is fine but nothing special. Like in his Magneto series, he can sometimes bring out the horror in death which does give weight behind some of the scenes here, though otherwise his art style remains competent and somewhat drab. 

I had high hopes for this one but The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than a Man turned out to be yet another poorly written and conceived Tom King comic that was a struggle to get through. I think this one is meant to be a prestige series on the same level as Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye but it’s actually little worse than the usual craptastic superhero-punching-supervillains fare that makes up most of Marvel’s output.

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