Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Vision: Little Worse Than a Man

Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta
The Vision: Little Worse Than a Man (2016)
I'd never heard of Tom King, nor Gabriel Hernandez Walta - whom I assumed to be related to the Love & Rockets brothers, but seemingly isn't - and, aside from enjoying a couple of John Byrne issues of West Coast Avengers about a million years ago, I never really gave too much of a shit about the Vision as a character. Nevertheless, Little Worse Than a Man caught my eye when Jonathan Dennis posted that he'd been reading it on facebook, and there it was in Barnes & Noble looking all intriguing and shit, and I'd made it to page-three-hundred of The Snoring Void and felt as though I deserved a treat, and the girl working the counter said I've been meaning to read this one, which seemed like a good sign.

The bad news, by some definition, is that this is just half of the story, and I gather the other six issues will be collected once they've been published; but otherwise - holy shit!

The Vision, in case anyone requires a recap, is a synthetic man created by Ultron so as to screw with the Avengers - technically a synthezoid, and that's apparently totally different to an android. Oh yes it is. He sports an eye-watering red and green colour scheme; he can fly, walk through walls, shoot lasers and all of the rest; his sentence structure is overly analytical and hence unintentionally amusing, much like Data from Star Trek or Mr. Logic from Viz comic, and now he wants more than anything to be human, or like a human - just a regular guy who mows his lawn and pays taxes.

Naturally I was expecting laffs aplenty in roughly the same vein as an episode of The Munsters, but this is something much better. The excessive logic jokes are all there as Mr. and Mrs. Vision settle in and the two Vision kids attend the local high school, but the story is handled with such loving attention to detail that the laughter feels wrong, almost cruel, and the story slowly escalates into quiet psychological horror. It's that thing about how we are more repulsed by a close approximation of humanity than a patently unrealistic one, because the fear is so much more profound when risen from that split second it takes us to tell the difference between that which is human, and that which isn't. The more the Visions try to fit in, the more David Lynch it gets and the less we notice we're reading a superhero book. In fact, it feels more like science-fiction in the Philip K. Dick tradition - a genuinely rare thing given that most supposedly Dickian fiction seem to have been identified as such by people who may not have read his books but nevertheless consider Blade Runner to be one of the greatest movies ever made, which it really isn't.

Like nothing else I can think of, this book is both hilarious and yet absolutely chilling, often within the space of the same speech bubble, and the artwork is gorgeous. This might even be the best thing Marvel have ever done.

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