Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's "The Vision" #2 continues to be the big surprise in Marvel's All-New, All-Different relaunch. I don't know what I was expecting from another Vision story, but a tale of suspense about a tragically doomed attempt at a normal family life wasn't it.
King and Walta begin with a haunting three-panel progression of Vin in school. Walta's composition is elegantly balanced, making the students look like musical notes or reeds in a pond as Vin descends straight downward, echoing the movement of the reader's eye. This scene also visually foreshadows what is to come: Vin's actions and movements point towards grief, guilt and evasion.
When Virginia talks to the Vision about what happened, she seems to have a clinical, flat-sounding delivery. King makes the conversation richer and more disturbing with a digression into the buzzing of the Grim Reaper's blade, which feels both ominous and absurd. At the end, Virginia's slight stutter and repetition of "I was there" betray her turmoil. The reader's knowledge of her lies gives the scene another layer. Walta's facial expressions and body language for Virginia eloquently show fragility and stress.
All through "The Vision" #2, the main characters hover between being human and being Other. They fail to be "normal" by human standards in behavior, appearance and speech, of course, but their desire and efforts to fit in are heartbreaking. The Visions manage to be relatable and yet creepy at the same time; they inspire both pity and fear. Compared to their neighbors, they are so powerful, yet they also feel so green. Without friends and a community that accepts them, all they have is each other. King and Walta maintain a feeling that something is off or wrong. This is one of the sources of the permeating eeriness and strain in the story. Another is Fate; King continues to foreshadow failure and tragedy that will culminate in a bad end to the Vision's dream.
It's impossible not to be fascinated as the family draws ever closer to further disaster. Virginia, in particular, becomes the real center of the story, more than the Vision is. She seems to feel the loss of Viv more deeply than the Vision, as deeply as any mother might. It is her fatal choice at the end of "The Vision" #1 that inexorably leads the story down a darker path. Although Vin's violent episode gives him new dimension and the scene in principal's office gives the Vision some development as a protective father, Virginia is the first to do wrong. Accordingly, she suffers the most. Walta's artwork for the last page builds a devastating crescendo as Virginia's sense of well-being shatters again.
Walta's visual storytelling is strong on every front. The sequence of different perspectives in the cafeteria scene flows well and maximizes the dramatic tension. He manages to drop in some humor when the principal looks for liquid comfort. He's able to make the Visions look stiff and robotic, yet also show their emotions. Why is this artist not a star yet? His strengths are magnified by Bellaire's color work. Her hue choices -- like the aqua and ochre on the first page or the details in Vin's lunch -- are gorgeous. She also knows when to leave a background mostly alone and when to direct the reader's eye with a bright pops of color.
In only two issues, "The Vision" already contains an extraordinary amount of pathos. The story touches upon universal themes: what it means to be human, crime and punishment, grief and guilt, prejudice and fear. It presents the old dilemmas of security vs. liberty, both in Virginia's actions and the school principal's. These are good things to think about in these times, even if there is no obvious answer. It also shows the escalating horror of how small choices cascade into larger, uncontrollable situations, even in sleepy suburban neighborhoods and superhero families.
If it continues at this level of excellence, King and Walta's "The Vision" more than deserves to be a sleeper hit.