Spoilers for this week's Vision #1.
The Vision created his own nuclear family -- problem is, they might be "nuclear" in more ways than one.
With Vision #1, writer Tom King and artists Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire, follow the synthetic superhero in his quest for a normal life, a normal job, and a place in a suburbs. But if you've read the issue, you know nothing in Vision’s life is as simple and idyllic as it seems.
With more in common with traditional sci-fi along the lines of Ray Bradbury and The Twilight Zone than traditional superhero comcis, Vision #1 constitutes what King calls Marvel’s “Vertigo moment” – a title that takes a classic character and casts him in a radically different light.
Vision #1 is all about intrigue – who gave Vision’s wife Virginia her brain patterns? Who is the mysterious, omniscient narrator (who King assures us is an actual Marvel character)? And just how bad will things get when Vision’s “normal” life comes crashing down around him?
Newsarama: Tom, let’s start things off by recapping where Vision #1 finds its title star and his family. What’s lead Vision to this point?
Tom King: First, let me say thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about Vision. I’m incredibly proud of this book, and I’m grateful to you for giving me a chance to get the word out.
As for where we are in the story: soooo…eight months have passed since the secret end of Secret Wars (don’t ask, and I won’t tell). During that time, as recorded in Avengers #0, Vision had a kind of nervous breakdown (or what qualifies for one if you’re a heroic robot). In order to recover from this breakdown, Vision cleared his “emotional memory,” the feelings of love and hate he had for his colleagues and family.
Following this purge, Vision sought to rebuild his life by building a wife and two teenage children. In addition, Vision took on the job of White House Liaison for the Avengers, and he moved his sparkling new family to the D.C. suburbs. He now commutes (through flight) to both the capital and Avengers headquarters.
Now, obviously, creating your own family is a rather odd and possibly insane thing to do (not just for robots; trust me, I have three children). The explanation for and consequences of that decision is the story of this book.
Nrama: Vision #1 doesn’t get too deep into how Vision created his wife, Virginia, or his children, Viv and Vin, but he does mention the woman from whom he took Virginia’s brain patterns. Is this going to be a central mystery, or will the woman’s identity be revealed sooner rather than later?
King: To give this some background, Vision was created by Ultron who used the brain patterns of Wonder Man as the basis for Vision’s cognition. As is revealed in the first issue of this series (spoilers!), Vision created his wife using someone else’s patterns. He then combined this new pattern with his own to create the children, Vin and Viv. Merging the two patters resulted in a less developed consciousness, which is why Vin and Viv are teenagers.
Who Vision used as the model for his wife, and what that means for her and for the children will be indeed be a central mystery of the series (though I’ve already put in some clues, so please let me know what you think). When it all comes out, everything is going down.
Nrama: Speaking of Viv and Vin, Vision hasn’t exactly had the best of luck trying to raise twins in the past. Is there a reason he decided to build that same dynamic into his life with his twin children?
King: Part of the psychology of Vision deciding to put together this family was his desire to seek redemption for past mistakes and the resulting tragedies. It’s not a coincidence that he made twins. However seeking redemption in this way, creating a new successful life that mirrors an unsuccessful one, is a fairly messy and fairly messed up thing to do. This will play out throughout the series.
Nrama: One of the most interesting devices in Vision #1 is the use of captions from an absent narrator. They give a kind of cinematic feel, but they also create a separation between the Vision and the reader, giving him the feeling of an outsider. What was your intent with framing the narration this way? Is it a device that will continue?
King: I’ve said this before, but I don’t like putting captions in my comic books. I feel, for me, they become a crutch, a way to ignore the essential fact that our medium is a visual medium, and the greatest pleasures to be derived from comics are how stories can be told with pictures.
And despite all that, for this series I’m using a ton of captions! So I better have a damn good reason why.
For Vision I’m putting in third person omniscient narration, a storyteller who knows where the story’s been and where it’s going and decides (for hidden reasons) when and how to give out this information. Which means, in any panel a caption could give you a detail about the world that is unknown to the characters in the panel. The narrator knows the Vision’s past, present, and future. I stole this from - no wait, I mean, inspiration for this technique - came from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
A narrator like this adds a sense of mystery and proportion to the story. It allows me to tell the reader that the small actions they are witnessing are part of a larger saga they should start anticipating. If done correctly then, this adds a ton of tension to the narrative, tension that brings the reader back for the next issue. Vision is a story of little mistakes leading to huge consequences, consequence that will shake the Marvel Universe. The captions allow me to point that out early.
That’s very much in the weeds of the writing, but you asked…
Oh! I should add that the off-panel narrator is an actual person in the Marvel Universe: another mystery of the series.
Nrama: Interesting. You’ve said previously that you wanted to take a “back to basics” approach, and Vision #1 hints at the character’s complex origins without feeling overwhelming. But the issue’s climax is obviously very closely tied to Vision’s creation and origins. How deep will you go in exploring Vision’s roots, and will this series result in a more streamlined version of the various tales about his origin?
King: Don’t tell, but I kind of love how complicated the Vision’s current history is. I’m a huge fan of continuity, and I feel one of the things that makes comic books great is this insane and awesome attempt to link decades of different creators’ visions (visions!) together. It’s an honor when it’s your turn to add to that, and part of what comes with that honor is the responsibility to protect and respect the decisions of the incredible writers that came before you.
Vision's entire fifty year history - his multiple deaths, loves, and families - will impact this title; hell they’re the backbone of the title. Now, obviously, you don’t need to know any of that history to read this book. My job is to introduce those elements in an organic and interesting way, basically to make them a natural, easily-understood part of my narrative without boring you with exposition. Really, it should be like your own backbone: you don’t think about it too often, but you’re glad it’s there.
Nrama: Vision’s family lives in Arlington, Virginia, a town close to Washington, D.C. where most people are government employees. You’re no stranger to government life, having worked for the C.I.A. for many years – are you bringing some of that culture into Vision’s world?
King: I used to live in Arlington, not far from where the Vision is living. I now live in downtown D.C., about fifteen minutes from the Visions.
I’m a firm believer in putting your experiences in your writing, of bleeding into the page. Unlike Vision, I am incapable of erasing my emotional memories, so I instead I stuff them into panels and balloons and hope they can do some good there.
Having lived in Arlington, in this suburb, I can hopefully bring some realism to the moments. Having worked a rather secretive national security job during the day before coming home to another world in my own house, I can hopefully add some realism to the moments of Vision returning from the Avengers to his family.
Nrama: One thing to note about Vision’s new life is that, despite the trappings of a family and a suburban home, he’s living as the Vision, not under one of his aliases, like Victor Stone. Is this an indicator of where Vision is at in his own development? Is he done trying to be human, or has he simply come to accept who he is?
King: I think he’s realized to that be human is, on some level, to accept who you are, or at least to try to accept who you are. This will be one of the major themes of the series, the idea that you don’t have to hide your identity in order to be accepted into the American dream, or put it more precisely: you shouldn’t have to hide your identity to be accepted into the American dream.
How Vision’s neighbors, friends, and enemies react to this decision provides the spark for the conflict of the series. And the spark becomes in inferno rather quickly.
Nrama: Vision #1 is very much a drama. There’s an exciting twist near the end, but it’s not a big action superhero book. Do you have plans to expand into that realm, or are you looking to stay the course on a more intimate character piece?
King: My great fear for Vision is that people will hear the premise, see some images, and think I’m writing a TV series from 1987: “An Avenger creates a robot family and moves to the suburbs; wackiness and life lessons are sure to follow! Tonight at 8, 7 central!” Honestly, if I wasn’t writing the book, it’s what I would think. It really sounds like something we’ve seen before, a first season Star Trek: The Next Generation story where Data has to discover the meaning of family and the word “it’s.”
But what I’m trying to do with this story is quite different than that. This series will be compelling, thrilling, and violent. It’s not about robots learning to be human; it’s about robots learning that to be human you have to go through a lot of crap, crap that warps you in ways you may not like.
The series starts quiet because I want the audience to lean in, to try to hear the whispers, before I hit them with something so damn loud it breaks their ears. This is a story that’s meant to shock you, to get you talking to your friends, to get you to say. “I can’t believe that just happened!” That’s hard to do in comics today where there’s so much noise, which is why we start with the quiet.
Nrama: How closely did you and Gabriel Hernandez Walta work to develop the look and feel of Vision’s life in suburbia, and what does he bring to the table that doesn’t come from the script?
King: Gabriel’s my complete partner in this, and he’s building a world with his art, which is unlike anything else in the Marvel Universe. In my mind, Marvel never had it’s sort of “Vertigo” moment, where crazy creators took concepts like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Shade the Changing Man and grounded them in the everyday in order to create crazy, transcendent comic books. When I first saw Gabriel’s take on Vision, I immediately thought of those books. He makes the Visions’ world so real it becomes bizarre, as if he’s weaponized the uncanny valley in the service of story.
As for Jordie Bellaire, she’s simply the best colorist in comic books. Like all great colorists, she’s a brilliant storyteller; she understands the subtleties of being subtle. Her colors draw you into the page, into the world. I can’t stop staring at them.
Nrama: There are obviously some major implications for Vision’s domestic bliss at the end of Vision #1. What can readers expect in Vision #2 and beyond?
King: Yeah, so Vision #1 ends with a huge twist. As does #2. And #3. And #4. I haven’t written #5 yet. Maybe it ends boring: Vision discovers the meaning of “it’s” and e-mails Data. Probably not, but it’s possible.
Slightly more on topic, #1 ends with this crazy life changing moment that will drive the rest of the story. #2 will show us the family’s reaction to that event as well as the community’s, and it will start to show us how these two reactions collide to create an existential threat to the Visions.
To speak metaphorically vaguely, the Visions are an atomic bomb being flown over the Marvel U. At the end of issue 1 they’re dropped from the plane. As we go forward, we get to see them fall. And we get to see the heroes of Marvel look up and in wonder…and horror.
And Newsarama has a first look at The Vision #2, which you can view in this album.