You’ve got a handful of pages to prove your concept, to introduce your character, to get your hooks into your reader and keep ’em coming back for more. How do you handle it? In The Art of the Start we look at first issues, be they new originals, fresh story angles, or total reboots. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
I’ve always liked the Marvel character, the Vision, but I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan (that honor, based upon my completely unscientific sample data, goes to my friend Toby who recently had the Vision tattooed onto him — phasing through him). And the only quick blurbs I read about the Vision were about him building a family for himself. It doesn’t exactly scream super-hero, and I might have even skipped it if not for the creative team.
I’d really enjoyed Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s work on Marvel’s recent Magneto series. And Tom King has become a writer to watch — he’s been doing very interesting things over at DC on Omega Men and Grayson (with co-writer Tim Seeley). Oh, and Jordie Bellaire on color art? Sold.
With the Vision recently introduced to a lot of people via the second Avengers film, this book makes a great case for an Art of the Start. If you only know the Vision from the movies — can you pick up Vision #1 and follow along? Does it compel you to want to read more?
My answer? Yes, and oh my god yes.
We open on a typical suburban neighborhood and third-person-narrative that describes the arrival of “the Visions” to this Washington DC ‘burb.
I want to focus on that narrative for a minute. First, it’s something that’s found less and less in modern comics, and I’ve been missing it a bit. That’s a personal thing, I know. And in lesser hands, it’s a thing that can go very wrong, but King doesn’t over-write here, and the narrative becomes an engaging welcome into this new paradigm, while also offering us a more textured read and an ominous tone — complete with effective foreshadowing.
The Vision has built himself a family, and he’s moved to Washington, DC, as part of his role as an Avenger. But this brings up a lot of questions for his new neighbors, particularly George and Nora, who seem split on this development. This device allows us a clean introduction to not just the Vision’s current status, but it also displays the fear of the common man at the face of replicating
robots “synthe-somethings” entering the neighborhood.
The middle of the issue plays out less as a super-hero book and more as a tale of science fiction. If you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone or Star Trek: The Next Generation or — perhaps more currently — the UK’s Black Mirror series, you’ll very likely enjoy this. What can these Synthezoids learn from acting human? Should they act human? What does it mean to understand the way humans think and act? What is normal? These questions build our curiosity while also compounding a sense of dread. We’ve seen this happen in other sci-fi shows… we know that other shoe is going to drop…
But when it does, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. Another swerve, back into more classic Marvel territory, with… well, I’m not going to spoil that here. But it’s not just the entrance of a new element, it’s also the reaction to the new element that grants us the cliffhanger that has me desperate for the next issue.
Not only is Vision #1 successful as a a first issue, it’s an unexpectedly fantastic twist on super-hero conventions. King and Walta seem to — based solely on this issue — have enough freedom to spin the series as a complex sci-fi thriller — the recent film Ex Machina meets Leave It to Beaver. And for me, that dark conceit is reminiscent of the late 80s early 90s super-hero deconstruction, when creators were allowed to stretch the boundaries of the sub-genre.