Vision 9

vision 9

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Vision 9, originally released July 13, 2016.

Patrick: Last month, Ryan lead off her discussion with the weird relationships uncles have with their families. Uncles have a way of bringing the outside world in to an insular little unit. I’m an uncle myself, and I know that when I walk into my sister’s house, she and her husband and their two children are going to be exposed to whatever weirdness I might inject into their routine. They all tolerate (or celebrate, depending on how open they’re feeling) my weirdness precisely because we’re family. But I always harbor a secret fear that my uncle-y eccentricities will reveal themselves to be uncle-y weaknesses in the eyes of a completely put-together family. Of course, I’m projecting. Just because there’s a pair of kids and two well-employed parents doesn’t mean that something isn’t lacking. But it’s hard not to view your own shortcomings as catastrophic in the face of such idyllic perfection. Vision 9 exposes Victor’s biggest uncle-y weaknesses – he’s a drifter and an addict and spent his whole life fighting.

Which, of course, means that he’s not at all good news for the Visions. The real-time events of this issue, which can’t take place over more than ten minutes, are basically confined to the room where Victor electrocutes Vin to death. Obviously, that’s huge. So big, in fact, that we’re made aware of this electrocution from the second panel, even without having all the information. This is a trick that repeats itself several times on the first 10 pages: wide panels that span the entire width of the page — obliterating the gutter — show the power and persistence of Victor’s destructive electric attack. Artist Gabriel Walta lets those jagged lightning bolts fly, and colorist Jordie Bellaire gives all of these panels a dangerous palette of electric blue and white.

Victor electrocutes Vin

Not only do these panels help to create a dramatic irony between the ultra-domestic “have you seen your brother?” scene and the life-or-death scene between Victor and Vin, the constant visual expression of Victor’s powers plants this concept of chaos on the readers’ head. Let’s hold on to that idea for a second and segue, as the issue does, to Victor’s addiction.

Victor, as it turns out, is addicted to vibranium. He doesn’t smash it up into a powder and snort it or smelt it down in a spoon and shoot it or anything like that. Writer Tom King has smartly decided to make his vibranium use totally invisible, even to the reader. Too often, the physical ritual of taking a drug is demonized, making it seem like the evil is in the act of doing. Take Requiem for a Dream for example: the film turns heroine use into a nightmare scenario, making Jared Leto’s character poke his rotting, oozing flesh with a needle until he can find a vein. It’s gross, and it’s effective (I was a little grossed out just recalling those details), but that grossness ultimately misses the point. In fact, that almost makes the character’s actions heroic – look what he had to overcome in order to sate his addiction! To “do” vibranium, all Victor needs to do his hold it, which reinforces the idea that this is his default. It is easier for him to abuse vibranium than not to.

Mind you, that doesn’t stop King, Walta, and Bellaire from having a little fun and playing one of Victor’s flashback scenes as a straight-up “hey man, are you holding?” scene. I really liked this sequence between Chase and Victor – it’s like a little slice of secret history from what I think is Infinity. The Runaways are in New York about to fight off (what I assume to be) Thanos’ army, so Victor and Chase get to have a NYC rooftop conversation – kinda the perfect space for this After School Special moment.

victor wants vibranium from chase

I am IN LOVE with Bellaire’s coloring here. I don’t even really know how to describe the ways the blues and greens bleed into each other and transgress Walta’s inks, but it’s fucking fantastic. Plus, that mustard color on Victor’s jacket perfectly recalls the yellow on his original stick of vibranium, painting a none-too-subtle connection between the man and the drug.

Armed with all of this visual information, we can finally move back into the present, where Victor is, of course, doing something horrible. In a moment of desperation, Vin lets out one final forehead-gem laser-blast as he shouts for his father. Victor’s going nuts at this point, so there’s all kinds of spaghetti-esque lighting mucking up the page. But Vin’s laser cuts through:

Vin's laser

Straight as a goddamn arrow, four panels all insisting on its straightness and perfection. Victor’s life is a mess, a patchwork of Runaways and Ultrons and Avengers and disappointment and addiction and betrayal. And that’s the biggest uncle-y weakness of all.

Spencer, my god is this issue sad. The narration at the end starts to ask the question of who is to blame for this catastrophe, but that almost feels superfluous at this point, right? Also, how about recontextualizing that scene at the piano from the previous issue. Heartbreaking!

Spencer: Patrick, I reread the first Vision trade today (containing the first six issues of this series), and dude, this entire series is one giant, heartbreaking tragedy! But yes, between Victor’s backstory and the death of Vin, this issue is particularly brutal. Man, King doesn’t pull his punches: this is the second child he’s killed over the course of this series! There’s a lot of reasons Vin’s death hits so hard — he’s a character we’ve come to know and empathize with over the past 8 issues, his death is pointless and comes at the hands of someone he trusted, his agony is stretched across 20 pages — but the number one reason has got to be because he’s still just a child. It’s a point King makes sure to emphasize.

Mommy!

As the issue continues, Vin will plead with Victor and eventually call for his father, but when Vin is in the most pain, like any child, he calls for his mother. King builds to this point, too: Vin starts out with a calmer “Mother” before escalating to “Mother!” until, finally, he cries “Mommy!” It’s the most human Vin’s ever felt, and it’s absolutely devastating. I’ll admit, I had to put the book down for a few minutes to compose myself when I reached this panel.

Patrick, you’re right; in the light of such a tragedy, trying to blame or find fault feels especially useless. I mean, it’s what always happens in situations like this, because humans need someone to blame, but it’s not going to bring Vin back. What’s interesting about the narration here, though, is that it doesn’t necessarily seem to be trying to assign blame for Vin’s death — instead, the narrator (is it still Agatha Harkness?) is explaining how this particular sequence of events leads to what’s been hyped as a deadly confrontation with the Avengers in upcoming issues. The blame here is less about Vin’s death specifically, and more about the tragedy still looming in the future.

Truthfully, even using the words “blame” and “fault” here seems a bit inappropriate — the dispassionate narration doesn’t seek to pass judgment, simply to relay the sequence of events leading up to the confrontation between Vision and the Avengers. Both sides share blame, and both sides’ roles in the situation have been influenced both by their own faults and failings and by outside forces far beyond their control.

That brings me to what is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Vision: there are no real “bad” guys. Traditional comic book villains are largely limited to Vision’s day job as an Avenger; instead, King and Walta imbue every character with complex emotions and motivations, and again, don’t judge any of them for their actions. Characters as disparate as Mr. Kinzky, Grim Reaper, Victor, or even Vision and his family have all done some pretty bad things, but also have some pretty understandable (if not necessarily justifiable) reasons for their actions.

If anything, the true antagonists of Vision may be the forces beyond our cast’s control. What’s more destructive: people like Mr. Kinzky, or the xenophobia that fuels their hatred? Someone like Grim Reaper, or the insanity that so clearly plagued him? The Visions, or the crushing sense of toxic conformity that causes them to attempt to be “normal” no matter what the cost?

Most pertinent to Vision 9, though, is the example of Victor Mancha.

and fought

One of the more interesting aspects of Victor’s backstory is the violence he’s endured. Victor doesn’t use vibranium to escape reality — he uses it to ease his pain (at least at first). As much as Victor is the messy addict uncle, he’s also the veteran, and he’s returned to his family scarred and hurt and not quite the person he used to be. It doesn’t justify his actions (if anything, I feel like Victor’s actions are some of the worst we’ve seen in the series thus far; Virginia killed the Reaper in self defense, and Chris’s death was out of her control, but Victor intentionally attacked his nephew so that he wouldn’t be caught spying on his family), but it does thoroughly explain them, and it paints Victor as less of a villain, and more of a victim himself, albeit one who has screwed up in the most horrific way possible.

It’s almost a little strange to say this about a series that often comes across as (purposely) clinical, but Vision shows great compassion for all its characters, and that’s what makes this book a tragedy. When the Vision inevitably takes on his friends in the Avengers, it won’t be a black-and-white confrontation — it will be a man fighting desperately to keep his crumbling family together vs. a group looking to save their friend from himself, despite hurting him in the process. There’s no heroes or villains here — or even an easy “side” to join like in the Civil Wars — just two groups of flawed individuals as battered by life itself as they are each other.

It’s heartbreaking, it’s tragic, but in the most compelling way possible. Vision‘s last three issues are gonna hurt so good.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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One comment on “Vision 9

  1. When I talked to Drew about Black Widow 4, I was trying my best to be careful of my biases. While my biases are part of what makes my opinion my own, I always need to make sure I am being fair. Just because the writer of Black Widow 4 also wrote All New All Different Avengers, Archie 4 and absolutely cocked up what should have been a fantastic Daredevil run by simply refusing to commit to his premise until 5 minutes before the end, does not mean Drew was wrong. So I tried to avoid letting my opinion on Mark Waid’s other work reflect on my discussion.

    And I’ve been thinking of it a lot the other way as well. Sheriff of Babylon has not inspired me the way that Omega Men or the Vision has, and I have been asking myself do I really like it, of am I being too generous to the book because of my love of Tom King’s other work. I don’t think I am, and can point out many moments of that book I do think are great. This issue did a lot to still my doubts. Because I did not care for it.

    Everything you guys say is true. I mean, this is the Vision, and this team have proven to be masterful storytellers. So many great touches.Spencer showed the page of Victor getting punched again and again, and I want to draw attention to the dichotomy between the narration (I believe the narration is know Scarlet Witch) and the action. Victor kept fighting, and each time, Victor got punched. Perfect way to emphasize the pain that lead Victor to drug use. Another great touch is how Victor would treat the coincidences of him finding vibranium. That sort of justification is the perfect show of addiction, taking random chance and attaching meaning to it to justify his actions. The team’s ability to do everything is still sensational.

    But the choice to make Victor a drug addict really doesn’t work for me. As an idea, ti is a great one. And King does such a great job supporting it with the rest of the issue. The problem, however, is thematic.

    The Vision has always been about a family of outsiders in the middle of an environment that is toxic to them. You guys described the Vision as a tragedy, and you are right. It is a tragedy, and like a tragedy it is built on the fact that the leads cannot reconcile their natures with the situation. And the thing that the Visions can’t reconcile with is suburban society.

    The Avenger’s presence in the book has always been off in the borders, a force of good who exist primarily as the entity that will eventually arrive because Vision needs to stop. The Avengers are Good, in the context of the book, and the Vision goes bad when he stops acting in a way that an Avenger should. The Avengers are very specifically not suburban society. They are a third entity, who exists outside the narrative, hovering over it until the third act. In fact, last issue was the very first issue they had a real presence with. Which is notable, as last issue is the same issue that Vin died (Vin technically died this issue, but in every real way, he died the moment he was first hit by Victor. This issue was explaining why he died).

    Victor being a drug addict changes the meaning of the Avengers. If Victor is a drug addict, then what Tom King has down is synthesised the Avengers and suburbia together, so that they share the same flaws. To do this the issue after, for all intents and purposes, Vin died has massive issues. Especially when the Avengers have had such little presence in the narrative before. Tom King has basically said ‘Surprise, the Avengers are just like suburbia’, a twist that doesn’t work when the Avengers haven’t been present, not does it work when you reveal it after the fact.

    To put it another way, let’s look at this as a twist. Because it is one. The best advice I have ever seen on twists is that they should be ‘surprising, yet inevitable’. Is Victor being a drug addict inevitable?

    The Avengers accidentally killing Vin investigating the Vision’s connections to crime is surprising, yet inevitable. But I don’t think ‘Victor accidentally killing Vin because he can’t control his strength because he’s actual a drug addict currently under the effects of vibranium’ counts. There just isn’t enough in the previous 8 issues to build up the Avengers to the point where that makes works.

    There is a version where this works. Where Victor was there from the start, part of events and interacting with the world just like the Visions were. Someone who somehow successfully lives in suburbia, unlike the Vision. The one free from fault, and acting as the safe port in the storm whenever it gets too much for the Visions. In that version of the story, the reveal that Victor is a drug addict fits perfectly, the reveal that just like everyone else, he has problems.

    But here, there just isn’t enough build up. The thematics of the Avengers being ‘suburbia’d doesn’t work when the Avengers haven’t been established in relation to anything other than their own status as moral agents. And the twist that this issue is built around doesn’t work when there isn’t enough build up. No matter how well Tom King writes the twist afterwards.Because the problem isn’t his fantastic writing. It is the fact that there is no foundation

    I can easily see the Avengers accidentally killing Vin as they investigate the Visions. But having read the previous 8 issues, I can’t see any way that the inevitable outcome was an Avenger accidentally killing Vin while on a drug high

    And despite King’s fantastic writing in this issue, it is a grievous mistake. Last week was great for Marvel. Civil War 3 finished the first act in an amazing fashion, while Gwenpool and Power Man and Iron Fist gave some of their best works. And I’m pretty sure Ms America slept with Kate Bishop. I was really looking forward to finishing my stack with the Vision, but was really disappointed. Because the good writing just can’t save the fact that too much build up was missing…

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