Okay. So Halloween might be behind us, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this about a Marvel comic—especially one starring the Avenging Android that was one of the most charming parts of Age of Ultron. But the first issue of The Vision is a strangely chilling, page-turner of a comic. And it is fantastic.
Spoilers ahead for The Vision #1, by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
The Vision has gone through some major changes in “All-New All-Different”. He’s still an Avenger—although promoted from the Mutant/Human “unity” squad to the big leagues alongside Iron Man, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Ultimate Spider-Man. But the biggest change is that Vision no longer holds the memories of his nearly 50 years of superheroics—his life, his personality, his relationship with the Scarlet Witch, all deleted from his system to avoid damage that would’ve ultimately destroyed him.
This isn’t the first time that The Vision has had his memories wiped seemingly for good, but there’s a semblance of permanence to it this time, especially as his new series is all about the synthezoid starting his own simulacrum of a family (a wife, Virginia, and twin children: Viv, a girl, and Vin, a boy) in the wake of essentially reverting himself to the emotionless being that Ultron created him as. Naturally, in the first issue, this doesn’t go well, as The Visions attempt to fit themselves into a society that can’t help but see how overwhelmingly inhuman they are.
It’s in that inhumanity that Walta and King create some stunningly tense and really creepy moments that I never expected to see going into The Vision as a series. In some measure, it’s a story laced with tragedy—you feel Vision’s plight to have a family, the immeasurable sadness when they can’t quite comprehend or understand a human quirk, or how they’re treated as something so different when all they want is to be treated as humans.
Vision and his wife, Virginia, bear the brunt of that emotion—even if as a synthezoids they can’t quite process it yet. In a particularly heartbreaking moment there’s a moment where Vision is unsure if he loves his wife or the person he based her memories on, a person he can’t quite remember. There’s several moments in the issue where Viriginia sits alone in the family’s household accessing the memories Vision built her from, and simply cries to herself.
But under that sadness is a layer of unnerving tension that makes The Vision so fascinating to read. From the get go, we get to experience the emotional plight of the family—but through void-laden eyes, barely emoted faces, and artificial mannerisms of The Visions it becomes something weirdly sinister and unsettling to see. Like Vision and his family, you see the emotive core of the story, but aren’t quite sure how to react seeing it play out across this not-quite-human group of characters.
Whether it’s the detached narration throughout the book (which begins with a spectacularly ominous foreshadowing of the violent death of a couple who are neighbours to the newly-arrived Visions), or the moments where the few human characters serve as a mirror to just how alien and abnormal The Vision and his family are, the underlying atmosphere of the whole book makes for uneasy, yet rapt reading.
It’s an atmosphere reflected in Walta’s stark art, packed with detail but clean and deliberately without warmth (aided by a fairly muted color palette from Jordie Bellaire, aside from the deliberately vivid pink-red skin of the Visions) The emotion of the story and the unemotional nature of the Visions as beings mix and clash in such a gripping, jarring way, that when they come to a climax in the final pages of the issue, it makes for a sequence that is equally unsettling for a completely different reason.
I’m going to toss another Spoiler warning here because after this next image, we’re going to talk about the end of the issue. If you’ve somehow got this far and not read the book, turn back now!
It’s strangely the moment that Vision’s family are the most emotive that creates the issue’s most unsettling moment. Just as an argument about a piece of homework is about to erupt, the Grim Reaper—who is the brother of Wonder Man, the Avenger Vision’s original synaptic circuits were based on—bursts through the wall of the kitchen and spears Viv through the chest with his scythe.
It’s brutal, violent, and shocking because Viriginia and Vin’s reaction (The Vision himself is absent, away on Avengers business) is so thoroughly human in a way none of their reactions in the issue were leading up to it—full of shock and fear and confusion. The Grim Reaper is driven mad by the thought thought of his dead brother’s memories being used to create the android family, which is understandably tragic, but that doesn’t justify the horror of his attempt to carve his way through them. It also leads to the first really emotional spark we see in Virginia: one of pure, unbridled rage, as she beats Reaper to death for harming her children. In a moment of realisation, she then begs her children—one of whom is one of whom is lying on the floor with a gaping chest wound, calling out to her—not to tell their father what has happened.
Jeez. Who ever thought a comic about an android family could be this unnerving? Either way, it’s made The Vision suddenly one of Marvel’s must-read series.