The Vision #4

Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez's "The Vision" #4 answers some of the questions that have boiling since the end of the debut issue: who watched Virginia bury the Grim Reaper's body? And what do they want? King plays with the reader's expectations throughout the issue, starting with a fun Redskins joke on the title page, before jumping back into the dark interior of Virginia's situation, both physically and metaphorically.

The Vision has become the least important character in the plot, except for how he set everything in motion. Mid-issue, Walta's full-page spread of the Avengers vs. Giganto has wonderful composition and textured, three-dimensional space. Bellaire's use of light and the contrast of apple red and lime green hues is dramatic and complementary. The cluttered composition on the next page seems deliberate, intended to show The Vision's trouble balancing work and family.

Despite The Vision's neglect or lack of foresight, it's unquestionable that Virginia has done the most wrong. Even if the Vision's dream is a piece of folly, Virginia is Eve in his Eden. Yet, despite her complicity in her own fall from grace, Virginia is sympathetic. Both King's captions and Walta's facial expressions are eloquent. One can't help but be moved by the siege on her wellbeing ever since the Grim Reaper entered her home. Her suffering is profound and complex in its toxic mixture of guilt, worry, fear and social isolation, and no one has witnessed more of Virginia's suffering better than the reader.

Thus, when Virginia's tormenter requests a meeting, the reader is worried for her and ready to be on her side in the case of potential blackmail -- but King and Walta turn the tables quickly in just one page, and the result is fascinating.

The mysterious witness is revealed in one page that is a masterpiece of perspective and composition. First, the reader shifts is placed behind the mystery man's head, sharing his view, suddenly aware of the danger he faces. A long horizontal panel establishes him as an aggressor, but his opening gambit also shows he's scared. The perspective pans out during the beat of silence as the two contemplate each other and the reader contemplates them both. When the silence is broken, the question "Do you want cookies?" shifts the tone, but it's Walta's art that completes the reframing in a second long horizontal panel.

It's all in the face, with its rings of worry and tiredness under the eyes, the sad eyebrows, the wrinkles that might be laugh lines in a different situation. In his clothes, in the interior of his home, in the small paunch of his belly and his posture, Walta and Bellaire wordlessly and rapidly flesh the character out, but nowhere more so than in his face. A villain might offer refreshments, but not with that face. So, even before he explains himself and makes an ultimatum, the reader's loyalties are pulled in his direction. This heightens the horror of what happens next.

The only place King's dialogue feels off is a scene when C.K. talks with Viv. Casual speech for a nervous teenager might be scattered with "y'know", "like", "I guess" and other speech fillers, but King overdoes it or gets the rhythm wrong. The boy's inelegant gesture of forgiveness and toleration feels less plausible than his insensitive and aggressive behavior to Vin in "The Vision" #2. The dialogue there also rang truer. Walta's facial expressions are strong, but the reader may not be convinced of C.K.'s sincerity until King's ominous caption tells the reader that Viv would cherish this conversation for the rest of her life.

This scene serves its true purpose when King replays the dialogue in captions laid over another, later scene, to sharpen the sting of failure. Progress on one front only makes disaster on another front feel worse. King has a gift for pattern-making and Viv's words -- "it just goes through me" -- both foreshadow and complete the terrible irony of the last page.

King's plotting never loses its slow-motion-car-wreck suspense and he admirably resists easy answers. He shows how protectiveness and bravery can lead to bad deeds, how marginalizing outsiders can create the violence it is meant to stop and how hard it is to do right when fear and anger dominate. "The Vision" is a superb tragedy, both frightening and instructive, for it reminds its readers of not only of the fragility of life, but of goodness.

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