Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. For more of our thoughts on this week’s new comics, take a look at Wednesday’s Deadshirt Comics Shopping List.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Tom King
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire (colors)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Each day you live. Each breath you take. Each beat of your heart. Each is due to my actions. Thirty-seven times over.”
The Vision is a story that would be very different in another team’s hands. Vision and his new, synthetic family might be positioned as more misunderstood, and the narrative would be about accepting differences and building bonds. And that would probably be a fine comic.
But that’s not what King, Walta, and Bellaire are doing. Instead, they’re writing maybe the best comic coming out of Marvel right now.
It’s not that Vision lacks sympathy for its characters. The core family is likeable, the boorish, intolerant humans are shown with appropriate disdain, and Walta’s opening page, where Vin literally sinks through the floor of the school hallway, is as good a metaphor for the high school experience as any I’ve seen. But the key to the book is that when the school principal tells Vision and Virginia that their children are guns, “metal in a shape that can kill,” there’s a nagging fear that he might be right. These are new characters, unfamiliar to both us and to the Vision himself, and there’s a sense that unlike in the narratives of most X-Men comics, the average person’s fear will prove justified. We already know from the omniscient, atemporal narration boxes that things will go bad and people will die, so for all their attempts to be normal, the Visions are transformed into metatextual time bombs.
My friend Curt Franklin described the book as “body horror, where the body is the family unit,” a phrase that’s stuck with me in reading it. Small, atmospheric elements are rendered just off enough that they turn from familiar to upsetting. The facial expressions on the Visions are fine when they’re smiling or excited, but when they become upset, their eyes seem more empty, their skin more unnaturally pink. Viv’s cries for her mother as she’s lying on the ground, sliced in half, come across less like a desperate child and more like a broken record or computer glitch. Everything is crafted to catch you as you begin to feel comfortable and shake you. No, these aren’t humans. They’re something else.
The Vision is as bold a book as any Marvel has put out, one that takes a familiar character and transposes him into a new context to reveal new elements. While the connectivity and worldbuilding that Ewing, Slott and others have brought to the All-New, All-Different Marvel universe is great, setting up a small, tense corner in a Washington, D.C., suburb for this story to play out is just as valuable in its own way. There’s clearly a dark, defined story being told here, and I’m here for it.
Max Robinson is reading…
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Ben Caldwell
Colored by Jeremy Lawson
Lettered by Travis Lanham
“Life isn’t about being who you are. It’s about becoming who you want to be.”
My immense affection for DC’s Prez reboot is pretty well established at this point. This month’s issue, which functions as a sort of “mid-season finale” of the 12 part maxi-series, is a fitting place to leave Teen POTUS Beth Ross for a little while.
“Beware of Cat” focuses on two very different women. Beth–who’s up against a deadly cat flu decimating the country while also fighting off insidious corporate interests, germ-worshipping religious fanatics, and her own constituency–and newly transitioned, former literal government killing machine Tina. Despite their differences (Beth is a human teenager, Tina is a gigantic robot originally built by the government to kill our enemies abroad as “War Beast”), both women are defined by their dignity and strength. It’s a credit to the quality of the writing and art in Prez that Tina’s identification as a woman is not treated as a gag or a throwaway joke, with the humor coming from the fact that she’s a multi-ton living weapon who enjoys quiet church meetings.
As ever, Caldwell’s art throws so many background fastballs at the reader. From a talking head’s increasingly bizarre hairstyles to the creepy psuedo-Guy Fawkes “Beth” masks worn by protesters outside the White House. Prez is one of the few books I buy each month I re-read just to appreciate the art.
While Prez #6 explores a national news problem with its usual wit and candor (in this case, the ethics of genetic intellectual property rights), it wisely spends more time concerned with eternal questions of identity: Who are we? How do we change? How do we become the people we wish we were? A 22-page comic, unsurprisingly, does not offer any hard answers on this. Instead, it lets the characters speak for themselves. When Tina interviews with Beth for a previously unfillable secret service detail position, Beth trepidatiously asks her if she “…actually believes in that stuff” in reference to a Bible she’s holding. Her response: “To be honest, I don’t know if any of this is real. I just know it makes me feel real.”
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!