Writer Tom King’s The Vision series from Marvel Comics is such a weird, wonderful thing. It’s a superhero comic that features virtually no superheroics, a domestic drama about superheroes that’s more interested in the psychology of its main characters than their powers. It’s a Cheeveresque suburban drama where the secrets that the main characters keep from each other manifest in the form of murder and the deeper issues of faith and existential angst materialize in the form of the convoluted Gordian knot of comics history.
The eighth issue of The Vision pushes along the plot of the series, after a seventh issue that reveled in the characters' deep and occasionally contradictory history. The synthezoid superhero and his family have settled into an uneasy tranquility, and they’re enjoying a visit from their “uncle,” a superhero created by the power-mad evil robot Ultron. Things seem positively cheery for a while, until, of course, they stop seeming cheery. Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta portrays all the characters with a wide-eyed innocence, and he underplays the science fiction elements beautifully. He puts such attention into the detail of Vision’s family’s somewhat preppy clothing that you almost forget their skin is a radioactive pink-purple.
The best parts of the issue are the scenes that don’t necessarily have to do with advancing the plot. The Vision’s son reads the trial scene from The Merchant of Venice — the passage about justice and salvation not being the same thing — as he absentmindedly plays fetch with his robot dog, Sparky. Meanwhile, Vision’s malfunctioning wife is plunking away at a piano and slowly falling apart. Her housewife’s lament touches on the core themes of the series, the question of reality and synthetics, of tools and humanity:
When when I simply access the notes and play play play them well...I seem to feel that I am not playing them. I have… simply…become the piano. I am perfect perfect perfect I am the piano. I am I am I am.
There are very few comics that compare to The Vision. It’s a dense and literate story that celebrates its pulpy superhero roots. It’s not a deconstruction, the way Watchmen was. It’s not one of the hyper-serious re-imaginings we’ve seen time and again in Watchmen’s wake. It’s not a winking postmodern joke. It’s a book that has its own rhythms and its own uncomfortable vibrations. It’s heartbreaking to think that King is leaving The Vision with issue 12. He claims that his story will be complete with that last issue, but it’s easy to imagine 50 or 60 more issues of this, collected into something dense and weird and creepy: the great American superhero novel.