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Tom King’s The Vision is probably the best comic Marvel is putting out there right now. Second to maybe, maybe, Rocket Raccoon and Groot. But, of course, that goes without saying. Let’s put that aside for a second and focus on The Vision.
This is probably one of the darkest, deepest-rooted, most engaging book Marvel has been putting out since the movies began to override the comics. If not for Standards and Practices, this could easily be a hit cable drama, on one of those premium channels. It’s not dark in a silly gore-and-oh–swears way. Not in a Punisher MAX way. It’s a brutal look at modern family dynamics, relationships and, yes, our old friend “growing up”. Plus, there’s hardly any punching!
And it needs to be the future of Marvel comics.
As the movies push on, the comics seem to be slipping more and more towards promotional material. We have a new Civil War event hot on the heels of Captain America: Civil War, about 45 million Guardians of the Galaxy books, and now they’re ramping up their Spider-Man exposure in preparation for their joint Spider-Offensive next year.
Look, I get why they do it. Money. The minute Disney purchased Marvel, I realized it was inevitable. In fact, I’m kinda surprised it has taken this long. I would have figured we would have rebooted the comics into the MCU universe. Might as well make them all tie-ins. We need a gritty Groot prequel and four or five Agent Coulson spinoff books.
The Vision would never have gotten his stand alone without the MCU movies. It’s the truth. Before this he was shuffling around in the background, showing up occasionally in smaller books like Avengers AI. Thankfully, rather than quirky/shy Vision trying his gosh-darndest to fit in, they went with a super solid American Beauty/Blue Velvet mashup.
Marvel has never really had a Vertigo equivalent. The MAX label was close, but wasted on “R-Rated” hyper-violent, hyper-sexual characters. It never went beyond to something more subtle, despite the freedom the label offered. There are few limited titles that rival DC stories like All-Star Superman and The Dark Knight Returns.
There’s a real big opportunity being missed here. Marvel has always been about its relatable characters and their relationships. There are so many that could be mined for serious, exploratory stories like The Vision. Even outside the heavy hitters. Machine Man, Taskmaster, US Agent, Stilt-Man, just off the top of my head. These C-Listers have ton of potential for a really cool story work. Humanity, Greed, Patriotism vs Jingoism, Heights. All these are super juicy issues that effect us all.
I guess the idea is that the MCU is creating a new wash of readers out there and so they’re marketing toward the characters that they know. Spider-Man, Cap, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, on and on and on. Why show them surface-level punching and Regular Superpeople Issues when you can engage them with actual thoughtful storytelling? That’s how you keep a reader.
Does this come down to a quality issue? Am I just asking for better written books, a complaint that has existed since storytelling itself? I don’t think so. Marvel is putting out a ton of really well written stuff, but they’re still surface level Fight-and-Drama. Which has its place. But in a time where more and more of our juicy steak is becoming popcorn, we’ve got to hold onto our slabs of meat.
What do you think? Is The Vision trite and overrated? Is Marvel’s new direction just what the Night Nurse ordered? Let me know in the comments below!