The Vision 12

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Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Vision 12, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: I run payroll at the office I work in. No accounting experience, trusted with cutting paychecks for a dozen employees. I was intimidated at first — that’s the livelihood of my friends and co-workers I’m handling — but I was soon numbed by the inevitable monotony of the task. Something recently kicked me out of that stupor: a co-worker got married, and so the rate at which we withheld income tax changed. I’d been used to cutting this check for about the same amount twice a month, so I noticed that it looked like she was suddenly bringing home about 7% more than she had been before she got married. As a non-married dude in a committed relationship, I started to jealously ask “what the fuck?” The fuck, it turns out, is that the US government subsidizes marriage. I had always known there were tax benefits to getting married, but I’d never internalized what that really means. It means that marriage, and by extension family, are so integral to the platonic ideal of the American experience that the government is morally obligated financially encourage it. The Vision has always been about the fallacy of the domestic American dream, and issue 12 brings that fallacy back to the relationship from which that fantasy stems: husband and wife.

The issue starts off with Detective Lin half-heartedly entertaining his co-worker’s story about some mundane martial dust-up. Writer Tom King doesn’t ever give us any details (though there is an intriguing insinuation that a smell is involved), but it doesn’t matter. Lin’s buddy’s story has that stink of anyone that speaks from the high horse of experience, complete with a knowing wink and a nonspecific assertion of “when you got a family, man…” The story shifts from there to show Virginia’s phoned-in confession, but it’s interesting to consider why King would insist on this introduction. Is it to iterate on the importance of family? Or perhaps it’s the opposite, to trivialize the institution? Whatever the case, the reader begins the issue already thinking about the value of marriage, without having to seriously investigate it.

Of course, that gives way to the scene that takes up the majority of the issue — the final confrontation between Vision and Virginia. There’s nothing really left for these characters to work out, all they have left is to bear witness to the consequences of their actions. King and artist Gabriel Walta treat this like Vision is going into domestic battle, even going so far as to give Vision a suiting-up montage. The joke — of course — being that he’s changing out of his superhero costume, and in to his husband costume.

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Virginia has a lot to confess to here, and she’s heartbreakingly forthright about her intention to let herself die, corroded from the inside from the water vase of Zenn-La. This is a compelling image all on its own, with obvious parallels to alcoholism. A wife, unable to do what’s best for her family knowingly drinks herself to death.

It would be possible for King and Walta to treat Virginia like the villain here: she did murder two people and diamond-punch a third into a coma, all facts we were reminded of earlier in the issue. Hell, she even confesses to killing the dog. But she’s not the villain here. The villain is the set of totally unfair expectations put upon her as a mother and a partner. Vision’s voice over gives a quick snap-shot of their neighbors, all of whom have made huge compromises to have families and provide for them. These compromises are hard. By the end of the issue, Wanda will have a hard time summarizing what Virginia did:

Virginia did the right thing. Or she did the wrong thing. Or she did what everyone does…

That’s a powerful contradiction, followed by the casual admission that everyone buying into those domestic compromises is doing the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time.

Absolved of villainy, Virginia becomes a truly sympathetic character. The only thing she asks for in this issue is to put her head on her husband’s shoulder. Whether she’s right or wrong, all she wants is support. In an agonizingly copy-less page, Vision acquiesces.

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My god, how painful is that uneasy look on Vision’s face? It’s hard to say whether Vision is actually supportive of his wife in this moment, or if he’s just playing the part in her final moments. He has put on the costume, and we’re mere moments away from these characters dropping all other labels but “husband” and “wife.” Vision even starts to identify himself as “Vision of the Avengers,” but Virginia interrupts to remind him “you are my husband.”

Virginia’s final words are “why must you always make me…” Now, that could be a fragment, but it could just as easily be her complete thought. Whatever comfort Virginia and Vision found in their (by definition) artificial relationship, the expectations that came with it might have led them to this conclusion. It’s a welcome, non-definitive statement on marriage and family, one that offers both comfort and sadness.

Drew, you’re a happily married gentleman, what did you make of this issue? Also, how about Wanda pulling out that “one half of me” line from Merchant of Venice? What an artful call-back! Hey, and what do you make of the number of times we read the address on the house? The numbers “616” carry obvious meaning to the Marvel Universe, but I can’t quite track what the specific significance would be here.

Drew: Wow. Forgive me for ignoring your prompts, Patrick, but I can’t remember a time I disagreed so strongly with your read of an issue. Or, at least part of your read of an issue. You suggest that Virginia’s actions are the consequence of unfair expectations, but I honestly don’t think fairness enters into the equation of a mother’s self-sacrifice. Every mother, from spawning salmon to the bear that eats them, is willing to die to protect their own. Viv calls it “the pursuit of an unobtainable purpose by absurd means,” which would be short-sighted if it weren’t so spot on. The biological imperative is to assure the survival of the next generation, even if that next generation’s goal is just to assure the survival of the one after that. It may feel odd seeing that attitude from a robot (one that I suppose has no actual biological link to her children), but I’d argue that Virginia’s self-sacrifice is one of the most human things she’s ever done.

Which is to say, I didn’t really see this issue as the indictment of marriage and parenthood that you did, Patrick. These may not be motivations we fully appreciate as non-parents, but that we don’t understand them doesn’t mean that there’s something inherently wrong with them. Indeed, while Virginia was certainly the victim of circumstance, those circumstances always came from outside of her family: the Grim Reaper, Leon Kinzky, and Victor Mancha. Her reactions, on the other hand, were always motivated by protecting her children or herself. This issue finds those motives at odds — she can best protect her daughter by sacrificing herself — which is the stuff of tragedy (or a good nature documentary), but is hardly an unnatural choice. In fact, Vision makes a similar choice in issue 3, when his attempts to revive Viv threatened to kill him.

Heck, I’ll go even further to suggest that focusing on the artificiality of these relationships goes a long way towards missing the point of this issue. That those relationships bring Virginia to make the ultimate sacrifice is no more an indictment of them than Romeo and Juliet is an indictment of young love. Reading her motivations as alien ignores the very human tragedy at the center of her struggle — to me, Virginia’s actions prove that her relationship with her family was, at its core, utterly human.

Which may be a long-winded way of saying “when you got a family, man…” — this issue may be more about non-parents not fully understanding the motivations of parents than anything. Detective Lin and Virginia don’t get it, but Vision and Scarlet Witch definitely do. In that way, this issue is way less about the institution of marriage than it is about family, which I think might be so engrained as to not even warrant abstraction as an “institution” — even if the family is non-traditional, adults looking out for and making sacrifices on behalf of children is virtually universal.

Which brings me to that sequence where Vision returns home. You attribute the narration to the Vision, but I think that’s almost certainly wrong. In this issue, the red, borderless boxes seem to be Scarlet Witch’s, but the narration in that scene is an explicit callback to the opening page of issue 1, the narration of which I had heretofore attributed to Agatha Harkness. Issue 3 ends with Agatha starting to recite those exact same words, and issue 6 ends with the narration trailing into Agatha revealing her vision to the Avengers. Looking a bit more closely, it seems clear this series actually had two narrators: Agatha Harkness in the first six issues, ostensibly telling her story to the Avengers, depicted by maroon boxes; and Scarlet Witch in the latter six, ostensibly telling her story to Viv, depicted by red boxes.

Narration

That’s issue 1 on the left, issue 12 on the right. I realize the image is too small to really make out the text, but it is identical, albeit the sequence takes a bit longer in issue 12, spilling onto the pages on either side of it. A narrator switch is quite a detail to hide in plain sight, but letterer Clayton Cowles played it so subtly, it never occurred to me that anything had changed. It wasn’t until the end of this issue, where the narration trailed into Wanda’s dialogue that I even thought to question it.

It’s a testament to how dense this series is that I wouldn’t notice a detail like that for six issues. This issue in particular is so chock-full of callbacks, I’m sure I’ve missed more than I caught. That can be a frustrating prospect, but here, it has the energizing effect of making me want to go back and consume this series as a whole — we’ve often praised the strength of its individual issues as coherent episodes, but it’s harder to get a sense of the overarching structure from our issue-by-issue analyses. I actually feel under-prepared to make any grand statements about the series as a whole, but I’m hoping we can get some of that going in the comments. For me, this issue wraps everything up perfectly and nudges Vision and Viv (and Sparky!) into the future. That future may not be as tightly written as this series, but what in the world is, really?

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31 comments on “The Vision 12

  1. I actually don’t think you and I have such different reads, Drew. The series is about the struggle to fit into the accepted norms of society. That struggle is often punctuated by moments of meaning and fulfillment, which are at odds with the struggle itself. I don’t think of this as an indictment of marriage or family, so much as an exploration of what makes those things special and self-destructive at the same time. I suppose I didn’t focus on the positive aspect of family, motherhood and marriage because they hardly need a champion.

    • I guess I just don’t see it as critical of those things. Like, if a mother bear rushes into danger to protect her cub, we don’t see that as a loss of autonomy, but a noble expression of maternal…love? Duty? If the mother bear died in those efforts, it would certainly be tragic, but not because motherhood is an illusory precept. Instead, the tragedy would be that the instincts for self-preservation and for motherhood were ever in conflict. That’s no more the fault of the instinct for motherhood than it is the fault of the instinct for preservation, but we might miss that because we don’t have the instinct for motherhood (my words are breaking down here a bit — I’m not talking about gender, but about our non-parent status). I guess I’m feeling like your read is aggressively that of a critical non-parent, which I think misses the beauty of Virginia’s sacrifice.

      • Except that Virginia makes bad decisions – like objectively bad decisions in defending her family. The pressures (or biological imperative or whatever) that drive her to kill Grim Reaper are one thing, but she carries this further to killing a child and putting a man in coma (to say nothing of reprogramming his husband’s memories). She makes a sacrifice to save Viv and Vision here in these final moments, but I don’t think you can ignore the road she’s been on for the last 11 issues. The problem, as I see it, is that Vision created her to be “wife and mother” and while those are respectable roles for a human being to play, she doesn’t have a life or identity outside of “wife and mother.” A parent would give their lives for their children – yes – and that’s a noble sacrifice, but Virginia didn’t chose this life. She didn’t even live a life that lead up to it. She IS “wife” without really being allowed to be “woman” and I think that’s where the series is critical of the institutions of family and marriage.

        And I do think it’s critical without condemning the whole thing, btw.

        • But these are decisions any character might make to defend themselves and their family. She flies off in a rage when Reaper nearly kills Viv. She opts to cover up the murder for fear of being labelled a murderer. She confronts Leon Kinzky because he’s threatening to blackmail her. She avoids his fire, inadvertently causing Leon to shoot CK. Here, she opts to put Leon in a coma, again for fear of being labelled a murderer. If Walter White did these things, we wouldn’t chalk it up to him being programmed to be a father and husband — we’d see it as him doing whatever it takes to avoid being caught. I don’t disagree that Virginia knows only wife- and mother-hood, but I’m not sure I understand how that applies here. Like, the threats weren’t specific to being a mother/wife, and wouldn’t be less threatening to someone who has experience being something other than a mother/wife. A character having their life (as they know it) threatened is perhaps the most basic motive in the world, so I’m not sure why the limits of that life (as they know it) really matter.

          (Also: did Virginia actually alter Vision’s memories? That’s part of her cover story, sure, but I thought that was a fiction invented to protect Vision. That’s the lie that Virginia makes Vision promise to maintain, for fear of what would happen if they know he lied of his own free will.)

        • Hold on though – isn’t that (at least partially) what Breaking Bad is about too? Walter White has this pride built up around being able to provide for his family and not be a burden on them as he dies of cancer. Yeah, it’s about ambition and survival, but his suburban, domestic life is also being criticized (or at least being made fun of, e.g., his car, that sad handy from Skyler, the indignity of working the second job) throughout the series.

          I just don’t think there’s any arguing that this series ISN’T about family, and that’s basically all I’m saying.

        • Being a provider for his family definitely motivates Walt, but I don’t think that’s ultimately what the series is about. I certainly don’t think you can say it’s the only thing that motivates Walt. I suppose, in hindsight, it’s possible to see Walt’s egotism as keeping up with the Jonses run amok, but the limits of his perspective are irrelevant. Like, Walt doesn’t make those choices because he did or didn’t have a life before this one. He and Virginia are definitely responding to their circumstances, but no more than any other protagonist. I’m not seeing how Virginia’s particularly limited perspective makes her actions more remarkable — or, rather, I’m not seeing how an explanation of her actions is more reliant on the limits of her perspective than any other character.

        • Isn’t is very clear that Walter White didn’t do any of it for his family? He may have said he did, but in the end, he did it for himself. Walter White did it because of his own feelings of entitlement, his feelings that he deserves better, not because of his family. That’s the whole point. In the end ‘I did it for me’.

          On the discussion of Virginia, I think I lean more towards Drew. In fact, I think this issue makes clear that Virginia is the hero, and the Vision is the villain. Virginia is closer to an Anti Hero than a traditional hero, but her story was less about what was expected from her as a mother and more actual attempts to preserve everything. She didn’t do anything because she had to, but because she wanted to. If it was because she had to, I would have expected a bit more rebellion

          She makes bad decisions, but only because she’s in a position where there are no good ones. There is a reason why I keep describing the environment as toxic when discussing this book. She does her best in a bad situation. She tries to protect her children. She tries to confront the blackmailer (only for things to go horribly wrong, leading to CKs accidental death and her stressed overreaction).

          Her quest has been a constant attempt to make things better, even as it blows up in her face. But she’s always been a heroic figure. Hell, she’s the Kyle Rayner of the Vision. Both Kyle and Virginia are the heroic ones who do their best, but simply can’t save everything because the situation is too messed to begin with. There was no path for Kyle to peacefully resolve the conflict in the Vega System, and there was no path for Virginia to peacefully protect her family. But their heroism comes from the fact that they tried anyway.

          As Drew said, the tragedy of Virginia is that ‘the instincts for self-preservation and for motherhood were ever in conflict’

        • It’s been a little bit since I watched the show, so forgive me if I’m remembering it incorrectly, but that “I did it for me” scene comes when Walt is visiting Skyler one last time before he rains down bullets on the dudes that enslaved Jesse, right? That confession is like Virginia’s confession in that it was made to clear their spouse of any guilt.

          I don’t believe that Walt did anything necessarily “for his family,” but I do think he’s correcting the emasculating imbalance caused by not being able to provide for them. Vision and Breaking Bad are obviously not going to be one-to-one comparisons, and I think there’s a lot more sweetness in Virginia’s demise than Walter White’s, but I do think that both series ask us to look at the societal expectations put upon families. For both Walt and Virginia (and Vision for that matter) parts of their daily lives that are lies, in direct conflict with quiet suburban family life narrative they’re trying to create. In Walt’s case, it’s less about him wanting that life as much as wanting it to appear that he has that life from the outside. He’s driven by pride to claim that functioning ideal of family, and I’m not convinced that Virginia’s quest for that same normalcy is any more pure than Walt’s.

          If the whole series is about Vision’s quest to try to live a normal life without understanding what that means, then Virginia is more a victim of Vision’s expectations than anything else. He’s the one that sets them on this path in suburbs with two children and issues the imperative BE NORMAL. I’ll agree that a lot of what Virginia’s acting on could be considered normal motherly (or to un-gender it – parental) impulses. Virginia makes all these mistakes because being human, being normal, being in a family is far more complicated than following a simple line of instruction, and it doesn’t always work.

        • Patrick, I think we read the “I did it for me” line differently. To me, that was Walt recognizing that the drive to do what he did for his family couldn’t have been for them because they neither wanted nor appreciated it. Indeed, by the time they feel all of the repercussions, he’s destroyed their lives and they hate him. It’s in the face of that that Walt recognizes he did what he did because of his ego — if it was actually just about his family being taken care of in his absence, he could have accepted the money from the Schwartzes, or walked away when Gus was dead, or at any other point along the way. There’s no doubt that feeling like he was providing for his family was a factor, in which case, he really was doing it for himself. And in that, I think I agree that there is a bit of a statement there about the expectations put on fathers and husbands to be the breadwinners. But ultimately, I don’t think that’s really the focus of the show — the whole premise is that he takes this absurdly drastic action to “provide for his family” which is only remarkable because nobody makes a choice like that.

          And I think The Vision ultimately isn’t any more interested in those expectations, either. Indeed, I think Virginia is far less driven by those societal pressures than Walt is. She doesn’t make a calculated decision to kill the Reaper, she does it in a fit of rage, and that’s what sets her down the path. She covers it up, sure, and then suffers from trying to cover it up, but that’s a decision plenty of non-married, non-parent characters have made in fiction since forever. That is, I don’t think not wanting to suffer the consequences of killing someone (however accidental/justified it might be) are specific to Virginia or her domesticity. That she might fear the justice system or that she might be particularly fond of her domestic life can certainly goose that motivation, but I don’t think her choice to cover up her crimes is driven by those factors.

          I guess I think the specific suburban societal pressures are more or less incidental to Vision’s desire to have a family. His family looked the way it did because that’s the way families are idealized in the culture he’s immersed in, and would undoubtedly have looked different if the cultures were different. But I think the story — an accidental death whose cover-up spirals further and further out of control — wouldn’t fundamentally change. Put another way, I think this series is more about trying to be human than it is about trying to be an American suburban human.

        • I think Walter White’s story is about entitlement. The feeling that he deserves better. What exactly better is is in part defined by patriarchal expectations of what a man and a father should be, which is how he gets away for so long pretending it is about his family. But it isn’t about his family, so much as it is his belief that he deserves better. He thinks he deserves to be powerful and successful. The fact that one of his measures of ‘better’ is ‘able to provide for my family’ does show how our ideas of family inform our ideas of success. But if it really was about providing for his family, Walter White would have accepted money from the Schwartzes at the very beginning, as Drew said. Or stopped at many other times. Walter White wanted what he ‘deserved’. In the end, that was his only motivation. And that is what ‘I did it for me’ was. Him finally admitting that,

          With the Visions, you are right that Virginia’s is a victim of the Vision’s expectations. But I don’t think the problem is the expectation of Virginia being a wife and mother. It is the expectation that the Visions could ‘be like everyone else’. The Vision’s mistake is setting them up in suburbia and thinking they could live a cliche suburban existence. Virginia is failing because humanity is more complicated than a simple line of instruction. In fact, it is very easy to make the case she is the most human of them all. I mean, she even introduced sex into the household of robots. And all of her many choices are the exact same sorts of choices you could see a human character make in a melodramatic soap. Virginia is failing because the world is rigged against her. Because every solution ends up creating another problem, that escalates and escalates
          To build on what Drew said, the series isn’t about being an American suburban human. The series is about how being human is ultimately about accepting who you are, not trying to be something different.

          In the Vision’s quest for humanity, Viv succeeds because she understands that she is not normal, but a teenage robot with superpowers, a murdered brother, a dead mother and a superhero father. Virginia succeeds because she finds meaning in doing the best for her family, even when the game is rigged against her. The Vision fails because he thought success came from being something he wasn’t and going to a place that didn’t fit him and his family, and because his response to the events was to start again, fresh

  2. Drew, I think you’re spot on with the narrator switch and now, indeed, I want to go back and read it, too. (Wanted to do that anyway, of course). … I also think it’s interesting to juxtapose Virginia’s final half (?) sentence with the final panel of the book.

    I’ve seen some other reviews indicate that this book serves to absolve Vision of his actions (fighting the Avengers, etc.) because Viv admits that she altered his programming to make him do that, which thus “cleanses” Vision for continuing forward with all of Marvel’s other story line. …. But I think that’s wrong; it’s pretty clear to me that Viv was lying about altering Vision, as part of her overall story to the police. VIsion’s actions were his own, at all times, which I think it important to maintain, even if the rest of the comic-verse won’t bother with that moving forward. It would lessen this series considerably if VIv’s version of the events was true. But it’s not true. It’s sprinkled with some obvious little lies that make it clear that she’s also lying about modifying Vision.

    Speaking of “lies,” though, you could really mess with the entire idea of what happened in this series, with a book-length dissertation, if you start to deeply consider those two narrators and try to go down the road of to what extent each of them were reliable. Because if we can’t trust the narration, then it *really* gets interesting.

    • Is there any world in which Virginia does “change Vision’s memories” but that’s not actually intended to be literal? Like, that’s a fun sci-fi explanation for what happened (even if it is just a cover story), but isn’t it more meaningful to think that his affection for wife made him believe better of her than what was true?

      • “Vision’s memories” are a fascinating topic by themselves. I realize he’s not human, but how does he even get through the day without having most of them walled off from everyday operations. …. I’m amazed by a lot of things about this series. But one of the things I love most is that the entire issue — in a series of only 12 issues — was devoted to a flashback. On the surface, it barely applies to the overall narrative. But it really means everything and I’m sure it will be just as mined for clues as everything else King put together here.

      • But, that’s not exactly what happened. We know he knowingly lied to cover up the crimes, not that he actually didn’t know (or chose not to believe) that Virginia had committed them. We also see him agreeing to agree to continue lying, not because he believes the best of Virginia, but because he knows he’ll be held accountable if he doesn’t take the scapegoat she’s offered.

    • This issue certainly didn’t absolve the Vision’s responsibility. We are correct. Virginia lied to make sure the Vision didn’t go to jail. He was never reprogrammed. And regardless of how other books treat this story, it is canon (if we are going to treat canon as a thing that is important) that the Vision did all of these things, and then continued to be an Avenger without being punished. He is totally at fault, which is why it is so scary at the end that he is working on another synthezoid.

      Also, part of me would love to do a book breaking down the Vision, Omega Men and Sheriff of Babylon together. All three books are so amazingly complex, and you really could do a book length dissertation. The only difficulty would be working out what to leave out

  3. Who else, by the way, would *love* to see this as a Netflix mini-series? (With the caveat that it must be in the hands of a kickass, “Breaking Bad” level creative team.) … I think it would be an incredible 8-10 hours of television, and it wouldn’t even really cost a lot, production-wise, most of it being set in suburbia. I’d even grant that they could keep Bettany as Vision, and the power of the series would be increased 10-fold if they could get Downey Jr. to show up for a couple days on set. His moments are tiny but key. …. Everything else could be freshly cast.

    • Fuck yes. And it’s all thematic territory not-at-all covered by the Netflix Marvel shows. The only thing that might make that cost prohibitive, is that Vision is reportedly MOSTLY computer generated. That always kinda confuses me, because he sure looks like he’s just in make-up, but what do I know?

      • I think the biggest “problem” — and it’s vital for the story — is that this takes place AFTER the Vision/Scarlet Witch relationship, which hasn’t yet occurred in the MCU. And there’s no way around that. But maybe they could call it “an MCU story” that’s outside the realm of the movie-verse.

        • Honestly, there are ways to alter the story so that it could be an MCU thing. Just as every other story has been altered in adapting, you could change this to fit the MCU.

          And yeah, it would be amazing to see what some great actors would do with material as deep as this. Would love to see the movie/TV side start taking inspiration from this.

  4. Oh man, this issue has to be up there with some of the greatest series finales. I don’t know about you guys, but Virginia’s death moved me to tears, lol. The only thing that I was a little sour on was that last page; what’s going on there? Has Vision lost it? Is he rebuilding Virginia? Vin? Is he making a whole new wife or child? It was confusing to me what I was supposed to feel; are we supposed to be hopeful, scared, or sad that Vision is trying to make more life? How did you guys read it

    • It definitely feels foreboding, right? I think Vision is still looking build that perfect human life in the suburbs. Does that mean being a single dad? Or does that mean trying to rebuild family? I certainly don’t read it as hopeful.

      Where I do think there’s hope is in Viv rejecting the same need to fit in. Her father asks her if she wants to pack a lunch so she can fit in with the other kids, and Viv’s doesn’t see the need to try to fit in if fitting in is a lie.

      • I completely agree with this. That was basically my grand conclusion in my comment. The fact that Viv actually completes the quest to become human is a moment of triumph. But the Vision is still trapped on that quest, and we now know exactly how destructive the quest could be. Ultimately, all of this could happen again.

        I wonder if Tom King had a second season planned, like he did with Omega Men and Sheriff of Babylon? We will never get to see it, because Tom King signed an exclusive contract with DC (if DC were going to steal Tom King away from everyone else, why couldn’t they let him write more Omega Men so we get something to make up for the Vision disappearing?), but I really wonder if he had plans for what happened next. Because he certainly set things up to horribly explode in brand new ways.

        But the great thing about the books, is that they work perfectly even without a second season. Both Omega Men and the Vision are among the greatest series finales in comics, if not ever

  5. You know what? I almost didn’t read this series. Avengers 0’s Vision story was utterly atrocious, and ended suggesting that this series was going to be spinning out of Avengers 0. But, King was killing it with Omega Men, and I just had to see what Tom King would do, even with (as I thought at the time) a really shitty lead in.

    And King killed it again. I did not expect to get another Omega Men from King. And yet, with one issue, he made me madly obsessed with the Vision of all people. And despite one small misstep, he has continued to write an utter masterpiece.

    I was honestly a little apprehensive about this issue. Would King stick the landing? He has described Omega Men, the Vision and Sheriff of Babylon as a trilogy called the trilogy of Good Intentions, and it has been notable for how far it is willing to go. But the old rule of writing comics for the Big 2 is don’t break the toys. Omega Men took Kyle Rayner past the point of despair, and annihilated his soul. He is damaged goods. Truly damaged goods. And so should the Vision’s ending. But unlike Kyle, who did everything he could to stop the horror and failed, it is the Vision’s fault. He is the horror. And a satisfying ending had to take that into account. Even as it left the door open for Waid to do more aimless Avengers stories with the Vision. The idea that, say, the Virginia secretly reprogrammed the Vision would be terrible

    But Tom King finds the perfect answer. Virginia’s confession is fake. The Vision stated his intent to correct her embellishments, and we know exactly what the embellishments are. The only things they could be are the Vision being reprogrammed. And so, the Vision has got off scott free. And yet, he is going to have to live with what he did. He remains, in the very end, what he has been since that first prophecy in issue 1. The villain. There is no redemption for the Vision, just an acknowledgement that all the good he does is enough to ignore his crimes. Dark.

    But what else would Virginia do? Virginia’s motivation has always been the same. To try and fix everything. But that was never possible. The very world around the Visions was toxic to them. There was no perfect solution. Virginia, as a parent, was dedicated to doing what is best for her family. And this was best. It required her complete sacrifice, but isn’t that what parents do? And in the end, Viv understands this.

    Thanks to Wanda, Viv has completed the Vision’s mission. It required a choice quote of Shakespeare, but in that ending scene, she has found that humanity. When she admits she is not normal, when she chooses to go to school without lunch and flies off to class, she asserts her identity. In learning not to chase some idea of humanity, and being herself, she has achieved the Vision’s ultimate goal. Viv gets the happy ending.

    In fact, so does Virginia, in its own warped way. She gets everything she wants. She kills herself by drinking the vase – the very symbol for the impossibility of the Vision’s quest, leaving it ‘broken’ in half and freeing the Visions to find the path to humanity. Her final act is just as much a statement of identity as Viv’s. It is unsurprising that her final act is something as human as intimacy.

    Virginia and Viv succeed in their quests for humanity. Unlike Omega Men, where all are corrupted by their choice to act, Virginia and Viv instead find their success. Largely because unlike everyone else, in the end they avoided letting their good intentions take them down the path to hell. Despite everything Virginia did, in the end she didn’t break out of the house to kill Victor. SHe didn’t do what the Omega Men did. What Kyle Rayner did. What the Vision did.

    And that’s important. Because the Vision didn’t take the same path that Viv and Virginia took. THey both tried to deal with Vin’s death as healthily as they were able. The Vision didn’t. And because of that, he didn’t reach Nirvana like the other two. Not only has Virginia buried his sins, she also stopped the Vision from truly having to confront the errors in his quest. Ultimately, the cost of saving the Vision was too high for Virginia to pay. And that’s why Virginia saved Viv instead. But what does that mean? The Vision, not having learned a thing, is trying to do the exact same thing again.

    The tragedy of Kyle Rayner was that he left the story fundamentally changed. The tragedy of the Vision is that he didn’t. His quest is still ongoing, and he is still a threat

  6. I’m late to the party, but what the hell.

    1) In the end, I think what I liked about the ending will be something I’m quoting from Matt. “It is the Vision’s fault. He is the horror.” That final scene was creepy as hell.

    2) In the end, didn’t Virginia do all of this not just for her kids, but for Vision? She lied and destroyed herself so he’d still be able to be Vision of the Avengers. She made mistakes for her kids and, if one can consider an android committing suicide not a mistake, killed herself to protect her husband’s legacy and future.

    3) I’m thinking this is the 12 issues of comics in the past few years that most requires a reread from me. I want to, of course, but I think my drive is deeper than that. I feel obligated to reread this to do it justice. I experienced it on a monthly schedule, I think I need to experience it in a single setting.

    4) I read something by someone the other day that commented on comic fans wanting comic stories turned into movies and tv shows. They theorized that those ideals belittled the idea of comics as a medium – as if it were lesser than tv and movie. A comic is justified when it becomes ‘more’. I suppose all stories are best served by some medium or other. I wonder if it’s because probably only 20 or 30 thousand people read the Vision, but if it were on netflix it would have such a wider audience and we’d feel justified in having found it first.

    I’m not sure about number 4. I’m sure of what I read, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I am guessing The Killing Joke’s optimum form was comic – although even its creator(s) didn’t think its original form was the optimal form in the comic (I remember reading Moore’s unhappiness with the coloring). So, I’m not sure.

    • I definitely don’t think this story would translate well to film/TV, mostly because of its reliance on a mysterious narrator. I think it is possible to use a detached third person narrator (but very rare — Little Children did it well, but I can’t think of a single other example), but not one whose identity is a surprise to us (and whose identity changes over the course of the narrative). The surprise narrator reveal is something that really only comics can do, and is something I see as truly essential to this particular story. So, I guess I’m saying a strict adaptation of this story would only disappoint me, since I think it’s more or less perfect already. I wouldn’t mind seeing the MCU pick up on some of these themes, but the structure where a mysterious narrator knows what will happen before it happens simply couldn’t work.

      • I don’t think there is too much reliance on the mysterious narrator, especially in the second half (in fact, Tom King was announcing in interviews that Scarlet Witch was narrating the second half). The real twist is who the narrators are talking to. And the great thing about Agatha Harkness is that she is never involved in the first half of the story, so an old woman narrating won’t spoil the surprise of who the narrator is. And while we will recognise Wanda, we won’t know who she is talking to, and that is the real important thing.

        But I do agree with the idea that we shouldn’t rush out to make this a movie/TV show. Which is why in my previous comment, I discussed them taking inspiration. Strict adaptions always disappoint, and even if they pull it off, we would just have another version. I would much prefer something like Iron Man Three and Winter Soldier, that takes inspiration from the original books but creates a new version (though hopefully closer to Iron Man Three than WInter Soldier, which isn’t as good as everyone thinks it is)

        • Great points about adaptation, Matt. It wouldn’t make sense to try to Sin City this thing on to the small screen, but I think that era of that kind of comic adaptation has passed us by. Thank Christ.

          I think a television series featuring the Vision and his family, with a similar setting, tone and stakes could be really great. You just need to have smart filmmakers with strong clear perspectives on all those things and let them tell their own, medium-appropriate version of this story.

    • Who Virginia did it for is a little more complicated than just listing people. Her actions were also in part to save the entire world, as she knew that was what would happen if the Vision wasn’t stopped. And there probably wasn’t a way to stop the Vision without her suicide, as you couldn’t give the Vision an excuse to go on another rampage. And the best way to stop him from killing everyone is to make sure he has no reason to – to protect the Vision’s future.

      But even as I say that, it is also true that Virginia does care for the Vision, and that a big part of Virginia’s motivations is protecting the family as a whole. Virginia has never just been protecting her children. But the family as a whole. And that is an important part of the ending.

      On the Killing Joke’s colours, It is actually Bolland who never liked the colours. They were rushed, apparently, and he wanted to do them properly. Though people generally prefer the trippy colours of the original to the gritty colours of Bolland’s rerelease. The Killing Joke movie has a hell of a lot of problems, including substandard animation, generally unenthusiastic voice acting, a terrible prologue added on and other stuff like that. It is bad for entirely different reasons than the nature of adaption. Though the nature of an ALan Moore script, with each panel so meticulously crafted, means that a straight adaption will always suffer from the fact that the original story was designed entirely with comics in mind. There is a reason that the only adaption of Moore’s work that he likes is the adaption of ‘For the Man who has Everything’, that was full of major changes

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