the reproduction of another manufacturer’s product following detailed examination of its construction or composition.
Reverse engineering is a term that you can count me guilty as charged for overusing to describe comics. As is often the case for technical jargon that’s entered the cultural lexicon via the proliferation of startup culture, it’s become shorthand for any number of ways an idea or concept is examined from a unconventional angle. In the wild west that is internet comics criticism, I’ve seen reverse engineering used to describe a properties literary deconstruction, modern contextualization, even the almighty reboot. Marvel Comics The Vision is reverse engineering on a whole other level and in issue seven; the comic is reverse engineering the character himself, his relationship with the Scarlet Witch, their place in the history of the shared universe, the current ongoing core plot, the concept of love & the nature of telling an ongoing story based on past continuity. Series writer & colorist Tom King & Jordie Bellaire have teamed with guest artist Michael Walsh for another truly special installment of a series that continues reverse engineer everything in it’s orbit; the character, the comic and the readers expectations.
“In the end we begin again and everything is new and different”
In the fall of 2015, I wrote in a review of the Green Lantern Darkseid War tie in that Tom King was too brilliant not to be the next guy to take over one of Marvel or DC’s marquee books and what do you know, next month the writer will be bringing his talents to Gotham City on the mainline Batman series. King is a deep thinker with a gift for finding profound humanism within genre conventions while consistently reconstructing the traditional comics format to expand the functionality of the mediums already immense storytelling potential. He’s a writer who brings something unique and engrossing to every series he’s been a part of but The Vision is perhaps his most esoteric. Approaching the classic Avenger’s character with a deft and subtle touch, the comic has taken an examination of the traditional American family as a concept through the eyes of an artificial intelligence striving for normalcy and happiness. The Vision does this by literally creating a whole family from scratch and integrating them into the Washington DC suburbs and as those who have read the series already know; chaos reigns. Issue six takes a step back to explore The Vision’s first relationship with former teammate The Scarlet Witch. King manages to open up pocket’s of nostalgia for any reader that’s familiar with classic Avenger’s comics by zeroing in on small moments inside of big plot points in past continuity and mining there emotional depth. It’s a harrowing emotional roller-coaster from start to finish. This is the sort of multi-tiered storytelling that’s made King’s superhero comics so engrossing in that it hit’s the readers nostalgic points and then expands on that by giving the relationship between The Vision & Wanda an emotional depth that is instantly familiar and relatable for anybody that’s ever been in love with another person. It sound’s complex, but the writers gift for casual dialogue makes it feel free-flowing and natural. Whether examined analytically or just experienced on a purely visceral level, the writing in The Vision #7 is nothing less than astonishing.
Artist Michael Walsh has become one of Marvel’s best and most underrated illustrator of the last two years. After a brilliant extended run on Secret Avengers with Ales Kot, it’s felt like Walsh has been relegated to the publishers less visible comedic titles. While Walsh has proven that he is gifted in that type of visual storytelling, keeping him in a box is a disservice to his immense skill set and talents. Anybody that was reading Image Comics in 2012 to 2013 will know that Walsh is capable of almost anything from his brilliant work on the Comeback miniseries or the debut of the seminal Zero. In that context, The Vision #7 is a revelation for the artist’s range of style and technique. His page design and visual narration provides a smooth read and natural flow for the plot’s timeline while his striking character work explicitly captures the emotional resonance at the heart of the comic. Walsh has a gift for creating minor details in the backgrounds that make the comics he works on richer without distracting from what’s important and it provides a more holistic atmosphere to the books shifting backdrop and that’s on full display here. In terms of the comics color art, Jordie Bellaire is perhaps the best and most important colorist of her generation. Part of what has made her such a prominent figure in the medium is the way she brings a unique aesthetic to every book she works on that is equally singular to herself and the comic itself. You can usually tell when Bellaire is doing the colors on a comic but no two comics Bellaire colors look alike. That’s because Bellaire has an innate understanding of the books and her collaborators that is distinctly unique to her only. In issue seven of The Vision, where the story jumps forward in time periods with rapidly shifting moods and settings, her colors end up being the baseline that accentuate’s the emotional core. It’s there not just in the shades or darkness, but in how the light reflects off skin tones or the nature of the design style of the time periods. In the debut of Image+, Bellaire has an interview where she talks about her efforts to get colorist the recognition they deserve. While her vocal activism is already having an effect in how comics are discussed and covered, her work could speak for itself as is evident here.
Circling back to the concept of reverse engineering, what’s been most fascinating about The Vision is how the book’s protagonist has taken that idea and tried to apply it to something as ethereal as love. The Vision has no logical reason for wanting a family per say and speaking purely in terms of utility, they’ve been far more of a burden then anything else. But as the series has shown, there’s a deeper happiness there that is indescribable in any type of logical term. Issue #6 attempts to analyze that at the source by exploring the protagonist first experience with love. But instead of finding a substantial answer, The Vision #7 just mines deeper into the murky and inexplicable emotions that make us human. In the end we begin again.
Disclosure & Consent: In November of 2014, artist Michael Walsh donated an original page of comics art from Marvel’s Secret Avengers #1 for a charity auction being organized by Nothing But Comics and this articles writer. No arrangements were made between artist Michael Walsh, Marvel Comics, the writer or Nothing But Comics on the nature or tone of any future content or coverage for the artist Michael Walsh or publisher Marvel comics based on Michael Walsh’s donation to the charity auction