ComicsVerse
Episode 102: Tom King's Vision
ComicsVerse Episode 102: Tom King's Vision

ComicsVerse gathered together a group of fans of Tom King’s VISION to podcast about their experiences with the story. This group, which included Maite Molina-Muñiz, Jordan Parrish, Marius Thienenkamp, and host Justin Gilbert Alba, talked about Vision’s humanity, what was truly at stake for Vision and his family, and much, much more. To go along with their podcast, ComicsVerse writer Matt Attanasio wrote his own exploration of VISION.

There’s nothing quite like reading a good, existential piece of literature every once in a while. You know, something to help keep things in perspective, or something to help your mind wander for a bit. Recently, I discovered Tom King‘s VISION, a masterfully written comic that covers some of the most vital and existential facets of life. If you want a book to make yourself think, then this is one you should read.

Tom King’s VISION is a befuddling beast. I didn’t openly consider this book to be good at first glance. At least, I didn’t think it was good for the same reasons I think other comic books are good, if that makes sense. There isn’t a lot to immediately grab your attention, like flashy action sequences or notably intense lines of dialogue. I had to take a step back and really ponder this series to figure out what made it so good, and what made critics and fans rave so madly about it.

Tom King’s VISION is a good book because it dares to be different and to tackle a handful of heavy themes all at once. The storytelling style is decisively robotic, accompanied by pitch-perfect art from Gabriel Hernandez Walta. This isn’t a book you can just blaze through. It’s chock-full of subtle nuances and odd character portrayals. All of these things are meant to alienate you from what you think it means to be alive.

This is definitely not a book for everyone. There are certainly parts of this book not everyone will enjoy, like the storytelling or art style. But, even still, I invite you to join me for this deep-dive into Tom King’s VISION, where I’ll explore what it means to be alive in the eyes of the titular hero.

The Vision: A Short Recap of the Character

Before we dive into Tom King’s VISION specifically, I need to make sure we’re all on the same page, in terms of knowing who our main character is. Originally created by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, the Vision is a synthezoid. A synthezoid is basically a robot, only far more complex and human than a robot.

Speaking of which, Vision was created by Ultron using brainwaves from the then deceased Wonder Man. Originally an enemy of the Avengers, the Vision quickly turned on his creator and joined the heroes in defeating him. Since then, he has been a prominent member of the team, appearing in many of its numerous iterations.

Needless to say, Vision is a hero, through and through. Just about any Avenger would vouch for him, and rightfully so. He’s taken part in more than his fair share of memorable moments, including the Kree-Skrull War and pretty much any time Ultron was involved.

Recently, Vision’s had an odd go. Finding fault with his state of being, he decided to wipe his emotional data, so he could operate more efficiently. Whether or not this process really helped things is a matter of opinion. It’s certainly made him more analytical and forwardly logical, to say the least.

Tom King's VISION
Paul Bettany portrays the Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

But, more importantly, Vision also recently had a family. Technically, he still does have a family. It’s a complicated matter, one which we’ll be examining later. But, with the matter of family in mind, now’s probably a good time to introduce Vision’s family, who all star in Tom King’s VISION.

Meet the Visions

Seeking some semblance of normalcy, Vision created a family for himself, including a wife, son, and daughter. These family members were Virginia, Vin, and Viv. Later on, the family even got a synthezoid dog named Sparky. The family lived in Fairfax, Virginia, with the Vision working as a consultant to the President for the Avengers.

Throughout Tom King’s VISION, the family engages in many day-to-day activities that we as human beings consider normal. Such things include chatting with the neighbors, the kids going to school, chores around the house, and plenty of other things deemed normal by society. But, of course, given this is a family of synthezoids, things go awry rather quickly.

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #1. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

What already begins as a perturbing story continuously falls further into madness as it goes on. Virginia’s mind slowly deteriorates, Viv becomes cold and emotionless, and Vin grows obsessed with death. Though Vision tries to keep everything together, it just doesn’t work out in the end. The story essentially depicts a consistent deterioration of the family. We’ll get more into the specifics later on.

It’s kind of difficult to examine each family member individually at the beginning of Tom King’s VISION. Early on, there’s not much to separate them. They all act, talk, and operate in identical ways. It’s the problems each character faces and the ways they each break down that allow us to identify each one as a unique character. Furthermore, it’s these issues that ultimately are presented as the core themes of Tom King’s VISION.

Tom King’s VISION Tells a Robotic Story in a Robotic Manner

Before we get to breaking down those themes, though, there are some other small yet important details to note first.

One of the most glaring parts of Tom King’s VISION is the way the story is actually told. If the storytelling ever feels very formulaic, cyclical, or robotic, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be like that. It might read oddly at first, but trust me, it grows on you. Frankly, it’s one of my favorite things about Tom King’s VISION. What better way to get you into Vision’s head than to, perhaps, tell the story as he may perceive it?

Then again, the story isn’t actually told from his perspective. It’s actually told by two other characters: Agatha Harkness for the first half, and the Scarlet Witch for the second. Yet, it never feels like they’re the ones telling the story. You always feel like you’re in Vision’s head, feeling what he feels and seeing things through his eyes.

When you boil this book down, you’ll find it’s essentially a story about being alive, finding happiness, and being human, all told from the mindset of a robot. That’s what it feels like, start to finish. Granted, it may take some getting used to (it certainly did for me), but it pays off in full. Creative choices such as this propel Tom King’s VISION forward as a truly astounding title.

Tom King’s VISION Features Some Fairly Robotic Art, Too

To go along with the robotic storytelling are the magnificent pages from artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta and colorist Jordie Bellaire (plus guest artist Michael Walsh for VISION #7). There’s a great deal of diversity from this artistic team. Their art can be described as simple, yet… haunting. That’s a good thing, mind you.

I mean, when you’ve got characters who always seem to be staring right at you with nothing but white orbs for eyes, what better word is there than haunting?

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #5. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Jokes aside, Tom King’s VISION has some truly befitting art. Walta, Bellaire, and Walsh all do such a fantastic job of moving the story along. They present pages that, at first, appear rigid and uniform. But, upon closer examination, they almost appear to have a great fluidity to them. There’s a very odd dichotomy at work with the art for this book, but there aren’t really any disappointing moments.

VISION #11 features some particularly flashy pages, in which Vision basically fights all of the Avengers. But, for as many flashy pages as that single issue has, there are about three times as many disturbing or totally perplexing images from the rest of the series. VISION #6, in particular, features some pretty gruesome looking stuff. It’s kind of reminiscent of an old-fashioned horror film.

The art for Tom King’s VISION is probably the least compelling part of the series, but it is nonetheless pertinent in portraying the story and moving it along. There’s better comic art out there, but none that would fit the story as well as Walta, Bellaire, and Walsh’s.

So, What’s It All About?

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Let’s talk about what really makes Tom King’s VISION tick.

I view this story is an examination of life through the eyes of a synthetic being — someone who isn’t human. The story covers numerous existential topics, as I mentioned before, including life (and what it means to be alive), death, the importance of family and emotions, and finding happiness. These concepts are all fully fleshed out in wholesomely potent ways.

Let’s break it down.

Matters of Life…

Vision’s yearning for a normal life is perhaps the driving force of Tom King’s VISION. It’s the reason for everything Vision does, including creating his family in the first place. This urge to fit in and have a meaningful life is something many of us can relate to. So, from the get-go, there’s an idea we can latch onto as readers, something that grounds the story.

This idea is perhaps the most consistently challenged in Tom King’s VISION. There are countless attempts to discredit the Visions as real people. In VISION #1, some of their neighbors visit to welcome them to the neighborhood. This older couple bickers, though, about whether or not it even makes sense to greet the Visions, simply because they’re not exactly human. The gentleman of the couple says the Visions are nothing but “Fancy, red toasters.”

But, for every counter to the Visions’ existence as being significant, they always try their hardest to maintain their normalcy and to maintain the idea that they can fit in. When Vin and Viv go to school, they are commanded by their parents not to phase through walls, fly, or use any of their powers, really. And, despite those two having access to limitless knowledge via the internet, they still actually go to school. Even though the Visions are robots, and they don’t need to sleep, they still commit to the act of doing so every night.

The Visions do all of these things, and more, because they believe it will bring them a better understanding of what it means to be alive, what it means to be human. And, more importantly, it will all help them feel normal.

…And Death

Yet, for all their attempts at normalcy, and to lead normal lives, the Visions’ story is one filled with death, the antithesis of life. Just about every issue of Tom King’s VISION features something related to death, whether it be a character actually dying or some subtle reference to it.

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #6. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

This trope starts at the end of VISION #1 when the Grim Reaper nearly kills Viv. The villain shouts and hollers that the Visions aren’t real and that he and Simon (Wonder Man, who is Reaper’s brother) are real. The villain is, in turn, killed by Virginia. Although, killed might be an understatement. She bludgeoned him to death with a chunk of metal. She gets pretty ferocious.

This event marks the initial decline of the Visions. It sets off various chain reactions in both Vin and Virginia. Vin seemingly becomes obsessed with death, having witnessed Grim Reaper’s death firsthand. He starts quoting Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” frequently, harping on the play’s ideas of mercy. On top of that, while Viv is out of school, Vin almost kills another student. This cycle of death for Vin is oddly appropriate, as he is ultimately killed towards the end of Tom King’s VISION.

Virginia can’t seem to escape the cycle of death. When a neighbor discovers what she did to the Grim Reaper, she confronts this man. An altercation ensues between the two of them, but when the man shoots at her, she inadvertently kills his son. She then knocks the man out and puts him in a coma. In VISION #11, Virginia kills Sparky and Victor Mancha (the Vision’s brother), who had killed Vin by accident. Virginia’s story ends with her killing herself by drinking corrosive water.

Matters of Happiness

Tom King’s VISION strikes a fine balance in how it discusses both life and death. In the face of so much death, the Visions still strive towards life, and towards life with meaning. They strive to belong and find their place in society, even though society consistently tells them they’re not wanted.

To go along with this, there’s the matter of the family’s happiness. Their happiness comes, in part, from their quest for normalcy. Finding happiness is something we all do in hopes of living a good life. The Visions follow a similar path, doing things they believe will make them happy. Vision has his job, Virginia has her various activities around the house, and the children go to school.

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #8. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Tom King’s VISION really questions what we’re willing to go through to achieve happiness. Viv’s story is particularly interesting. She comes across as the coldest of the characters, even though she probably comes closest to achieving true happiness. She gains the appreciation of one of her classmates, who thinks she’s cool. It’s a really tender moment, and things look up for her early on. But, sadly, this is the same student that Viv’s mother accidentally kills. Thus, Viv grows cold for most of the story.

It often feels like the Visions are their own greatest enemies in their quest for life and happiness. Yet, they continue to strive for these things. Whether they achieved it or not in the end is up for debate. At the very least, the Visions have each other. Or, at least, Vision and Viv have each other in the end. And, frankly, they seem to be doing well by the end of the story. So, in some ways, I guess they did achieve some degree of happiness.

The Importance of Family

Tom King’s VISION often comes across as a fairly dark story. But, despite all the gloomy, depressing content regarding life and death, and their seemingly hopeless quest for happiness, the story still remains pleasant and gratifying in many instances. That is mostly in part due to how the book discusses the importance of family.

In one way or another, we all have strong family ties. In Tom King’s VISION, the Visions have a healthy connection with each other. There are certainly some rocky moments, but, for the most part, the family sticks together. They all seem to genuinely care for each other. And, frankly, there are some tender moments between them all. Vision returning with a healed Viv after the Grim Reaper attack is a particular favorite moment of mine.

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #3. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

The family comes together on more than one occasion in very meaningful ways. They gather together with Visions’ brother, Victor, very fluidly as well. There’s a consistent connection and tenderness to the family, despite them being rather rigid characters. Moments like Vision playing catch with his kids really stand out in what is usually a fairly grim tale.

Loyalty to Family

However, the concept of family goes deeper in Tom King’s VISION than the simple connectedness of the Visions. There’s also the matter of loyalty to family.

You could argue that the Avengers are, in a way, Vision’s family. He’s been with them essentially since he was created. Yet, despite that, Vision goes on a spree towards the end of the series, taking out pretty much every major Marvel superhero. Vision does this because he wants to kill his brother, who accidentally killed Vin.

Now, I’m not saying that Vision shouldn’t fight for his family. I just question where the character’s loyalties lie. He was willing to kill his own brother and endanger people who have been with him all his life for a son he didn’t know for more than a year. If Vision cared so much about his family, why did he consistently ignore the signs of Virginia’s mental deterioration?

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #11. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

These aren’t plot holes or slip-ups by King. These are purposeful storytelling choices.

I’m a big fan of how this idea plays out in the story. It shows just how flawed Vision is, and how his yearning to fit in and be like everyone else is a huge detriment to everyone, including himself. Vision was so desperate to have a true family, he put his honorary family at risk without much of a second thought.

Basically, the character deals with a dangerous dichotomy. Which family should he pledge his loyalty to? Of course, he chooses his newer family. Still, this remains one of the most fascinating points of Tom King’s VISION.

Don’t Be Afraid to Emote

Part of what makes Tom King’s VISION such a robotic story is that it is, in most cases, an emotionless story. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just how the story is told. Like I mentioned in my Vision 101 section, the character basically shut off his emotions recently. Thus, his thinking is far more logic-based than usual.

Given he built his family with this mindset, they’re all also extremely logical. Because of this, many of the conversations between the family turn into small little arguments based on what the proper ways of thinking should be. Or, what could be simple expressions of emotions turn into several panels worth of the characters trying to explain their feelings. It’s a mind-boggling thought process that these characters run on.

This feeds into my points about family. Since Vision wiped out his emotional processes, he becomes cold towards his comrades. By his logic, his true family must come first, meaning those that would stand in his way of bringing his family justice will pay the price. However, there are no raw emotions for the family to work with. Thus, with all of their decisions being decided through intense logic, things may not always work out in the best ways possible.

But, VISION #12 does a really good job to counter this mostly emotionless story. As Virginia dies, she and Vision share a touching final moment. They just sit together and talk about saving the world. As a matter of fact, Vision even cries. It’s probably the most tender moment in the whole series. It just goes to show how a powerful, emotional moment can really change a story.

Tom King's VISION
From VISION #12. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Putting It All Together

With all of these heavily thematic storytelling facets in mind, Tom King’s VISION  is probably one of the most uniquely compelling Marvel books in recent history. This is a story that should leave you taking a few steps back and pondering any number of existential topics. Tom King’s VISION really doesn’t pull any punches. It’s a story full of heart and determination; it’s poised on telling a meaningful and completely unique story.

Finding happiness and trying to fit in in the face of daunting adversity is a struggle many of us face in life. Death is something we all must deal with at some point or another. And, I’m sure we’ve all dealt with numerous instances of our emotions acting up like pesky nuisances. But, clearly, Tom King’s VISION is a story we can all, in one way or another, connect with. It’s told in a manner that demands your attention and focus. Give it time, and you’ll find yourself lost in a train of thought regarding any kind of existential subject matter.

If you haven’t read Tom King’s VISION, I highly suggest you give it a shot. And, if you have, maybe go back and read it again. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to give it a second read through.

And be sure to keep an eye out in the coming months for Chelsea Cain and Marc Mohan’s new Vision series. It promises to follow-up on the events of Tom King’s VISION in some big ways.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do some serious thinking for a while.

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