The latest DC Black Label series reunites the universally acclaimed art team of Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz with writer Jeff Lemire to craft a new, hard-hitting adventure for the DC Universe's favorite hard-boiled conspiracy theorist in the miniseries The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage. The opening issue of the new mature-readers story brings back the titular superhero to what he does best in defense of Hub City before stumbling across a new mystery, with startlingly personal connections to Vic's own life and secret history across time itself.
The miniseries wastes no time in establishing who the Question is, as the faceless figure busts up a criminal ring with deep ties to several high-ranking city officials. The Steve Ditko-created hero also publicly exposes corruption across Hub City in his civilian persona as a late night political pundit, known for his hard-hitting investigative journalism and biting social commentary as the metropolis slides further into urban decay and rampant graft. However, Vic's relentless pursuit of justice in both aspects of his life are suddenly upended as his crusade takes a turn for the personal and surreal, leading him to deeply question his own identity in the face of a seemingly far-reaching mystery.
Lemire quickly proves himself as a natural fit for penning the first solo Question story starring Vic Sage in years; a stunning, gritty love letter to Denny O'Neil and Cowan's landmark '80s run on the character that's just as timely and unapologetically political as ever. Lemire's approach to the character paints him less as an obsessive conspiracy theorist and more as a neo-noir, cerebral crime-fighter who doesn't pull his punches battling evil on the streets or his talk show. That isn't to say this opening issue is mired in introspective contemplation, but it balances the more meditative possibilities of the character with some genuinely thrilling action set pieces.
As solid as Lemire's writing and the issue's intriguing final hook are, the star of the book is the artwork from a reunited Denys Cowan on pencils, longtime collaborator Bill Sienkiewicz providing inks and finishes, with the duo joined by colorist Chris Sotomayor. From the opening action sequence to Vic in his civilian daily life to the extensive citywide exploration of Hub City, it's like no time has passed for the art team has they bring the classic comic location to life without feeling dated and with a sense of vitality that grabs the reader from jump.
However, Cowan's approach this time balances the visual juxtaposition of feeling more grounded than his previous work while adding a sense of surrealism as the true nature of the miniseries' premise begins to come to light. Similarly, Sienkiewicz's inks and finishes make the proceedings seem a bit more atmospheric and foreboding than we've seen Hub City in the past while Sotomayor's color palette imbues the art with its classic pulp sensibilities; this doesn't feel like a traditional superhero book, and that's very much by design.
Both of Jeff Lemire's DC Black Label titles are wildly different, but they also ground the more fantastical elements of their worlds through multi-faceted protagonists and a heightened sense of verisimilitude. In The Deaths of Vic Sage, Lemire has teamed with perhaps the most iconic penciler to work on the eponymous hero, matched with a peerless inker and colorist to create a piece that leans more into the surreal, with no signs of slowing down in its subversion of expectation. And honestly, Vic Sage himself wouldn't have it any other way.