Alex Ross Spotlight: Living with Mistakes

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Every creative person lives with mistakes, or work they don’t necessarily look back on fondly. To an extent it seems counter-intuitive to think of Alex Ross in such a light, as he’s in such a league of his own among comic book and superhero artists. But indeed, the man is vulnerable to the same things any artist is. Case in point, in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, he’s very critical of the lithography pictured at right. Gorgeous though it may be, Ross is quick to critique his rendering of Superman’s head.

In the latest video from his YouTube channel, Ross talks about living with certain insufficiencies and failures in his work. I’ve juxtaposed it with a video from two years ago, in which he talks about the importance of completing work. As a former journalist, I can very much identify with turning in work you’re not 100% satisfied with. But a deadline is a deadline, and sometimes the bullet simply has to be bitten.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Alex Ross Spotlight: Marvels and History

By Rob Siebert
The 5th Turtle

It’s easy to compare Marvels to another seminal Alex Ross work at DC years later, Kingdom Come. The stories themselves aren’t that similar. But the main character in both is essentially an average Joe seeing all this colorful superhero stuff from the ground level.

The Norman McCay we meet in Kingdom Come is an old man. But in Marvels, we follow Phil Sheldon the late ’30s into the mid-’70s. So we see the majority of his life play out alongside the evolution of the world of Marvels.

Ross elabrorates…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Toy Chest Theater: RIP Stan Lee

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

With the passing of Stan Lee, fans from across the globe are paying tribute to the iconic creator in their own unique ways.

I found this image from Nicholas Belmont to be particularly touching. Since the news broke yesterday, I’ve seen a lot of “grieving” images from toy photographers. Many of which depict an emotional Spider-Man being comforted by other Marvel heroes. That’s perfectly natural, I think. There’s nothing wrong with that. People process grief in a lot of different ways.

But for yours truly, in times like these scenes of love resonate so much more than scenes of grief or sadness. That’s what we get here. The love and respect we all feel for Stan Lee, personified by the characters he helped create.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lee. Thank you for inspiring so many.

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A Review of The Vision #12 – Having Your Cake and Eating it Too

Vision #12 cover, 2016, Mike Del MundoTITLE: The Vision #12
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Cover by Mike Del Mundo.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: October 26, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Hey, Tom King? Gabriel Hernandez Walta? Jordie Bellaire? Everybody involved with The Vision? Meet me in the second ‘graph, please…

Well done. Seriously. This series is a masterpiece. A perfect masterpiece? Maybe. That depends on a lot of things, not the least of which is the reader’s personal taste. But you’d have to do a lot to convince me this isn’t a master class in comic book storytelling, and a high point in the Vision’s near 50 year history.

(And yes, I stole a Jon Stewart bit. He’s not on TV right now. I miss him. Sue me.)

This final issue of The Vision sees our titular character finally face the reality of what his wife Virginia has done, and what his dream of having a family has become. We also get a look at how these events shape Vision, and what remains of that family, going forward.

vision-12-silentWhat has fueled this whole story has been Vision’s motivation to be human. As he flat out said to Scarlet Witch last issue, “I want to be like everyone else.” Therein is the underlying tragedy of this whole thing. He wants it so badly, but he can never truly have it.

That’s why there’s such a a morbid irony what Vision does when he finds out his wife has, for all intents and purposes, poisoned herself. He tells Virginia to use her powers to phase the substance out of her, and that he’ll use his status as an Avenger to correct the murder confession she gave to the authorities. He wants to reap the benefits of his family’s super powers, and his status as an Avenger to save this illusion of normalcy he’s created for himself.

He’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. That’s what he’s been trying to do this whole time. And of course, life doesn’t allow for that. But Virginia sacrifices herself to save Vision out of love for their family. And as we see in the flashbacks, she modified his memories to protect him. As tragic as it all is, it illustrates that Vision was able to create a loving family for himself, only to have it taken away from him.

I imagine this is part of the reason why this series has resonated so well with readers. These characters aren’t looking for something so firmly planted in the realm of fantasy, or even overtly selfish. They’re looking for love and acceptance, as well all are.

We see/hear Virginia’s confession to the police over the course of three pages, which Jordie Bellaire colors in a blaze of yellows, oranges, and reds (shown below). It’s a cool effect, though I’m happy we only see it for a limited time. It’s tough on the eyes after awhile. Bellaire may be the unsung hero of this book. The muted palette she’s used for this series has worked wonders.

vision-12-neon-gabriel-hernandez-waltaI had seen Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s work prior to The Vision. He did some fine work on Magneto, and I have a miniseries he did for IDW called The Suicide Forest. But The Vision made him a star. At least in my book. His rendering of the family is very human and familiar, but at the same time distinctly and hauntingly different. In this final issue, he’s at his strongest during Vision and Virginia’s final scene together. Some of it’s in the very subtle nuances of a facial expression. At other points its more blatant, i.e. the panel where we see tears on Vision’s face. It’s a scene that grabs you and doesn’t let go, even after you’ve closed the issue.

The lone element in this series that left me unsatisfied was the role Scarlet Witch played. In issue #7, we see that she incited all of this. Not just by giving Vision her brainwave patterns, but her relationship to Vision as a whole. I had hoped to see a bigger emotional pay off between Wanda and Vision. She has a scene with Viv in this issue, where we see there’s something of a motherly bond between the two. That’s another ball of wax entirely.

I have mixed feelings about Viv’s survival, and her continued appearances in books like Champions. Especially with Tom King not at Marvel anymore. What he, Walta, and this team created is so unique, with a vibe and tone unlike anything else at Marvel right now. I almost wish we could let this remain a crystalized masterpiece for awhile before thrusting Viv into the Marvel Universe at large.

But of course, that’s not how mainstream superhero comics work.  In the end, everyone at The Vision has done something few creators at DC and Marvel get to do. They opened a new door for storytelling that other creators can now walk through and explore. In the process, they added a new dimension to a long-standing, yet often under appreciated piece of the Marvel lore.

So I’ll say it again: Well done, folks. You made great comics.

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A Review of The Vision #11 – The Burden of Being Different

vision #11, 2016TITLE: The Vision #11
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Cover by Mike del Mundo.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 21, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As amazing as this series has been, and as much of a landmark as its been for the Vision, ending it next month is the right move. This story feels like it has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Better they not try to forcibly extend it, especially now that Tom King is exclusive to DC.

With his son dead, Vision is over the edge. He’s set to kill his son’s murderer, and his own
“brother,” Victor Mancha. But Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, and a litany of other Marvel heroes are standing in his way. Now it’s one against many, as Vision fights for revenge. But he’s not the only one in the family out for blood…

The Vision has an appreciation for the character’s history that does tremendous things for this story’s depth. Case in point, the caption boxes in this issue take us back to Vision’s origin, plucking actual dialogue written by Roy Thomas in 1968. We’re reminded of how he came to be, and that ironically his original purpose was to kill the Avengers. We read Utrom’s first words to him, and later his first words to his wife Viv, reminding us he’s come full circle. King is working with Vision’s history, and using it to support his story. Writers don’t always take that route, and I credit King for doing his homework.

The Vision #11, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, cooperation

The series has been building to this fight with the heroes since issue #1, and it doesn’t disappoint. It gives our heroes a painful reminder: If the Vision goes bad, they’re in big trouble. He disposes of some of Marvel’s big guns with unsettling ease. It’s not epic or event-comic worthy, but Walta and colorist Jordie Bellaire give us something satisfying that still fits with the tone they’ve set. Also, seeing Bellaire color all these flamboyantly dressed heroes is a thrill, considering we’re used to seeing a more subdued  palette from this book.

There’s also a certain gritty texture to Walta’s art that accentuates the grim undercurrent in this series. It’s especially powerful in quiet scenes, like the one we see here with Virginia and Viv. There’s a heart-wrenching scene where the Vision family dog exits the series that’s almost too good. Human-on-animal violence is risky territory, even if the subjects in question are robots.

Another moment the series has built to is Vision’s reunion with Scarlet Witch. This felt like it should have been a fight. Vision tries to burn the world to the ground, and the only one standing in his way is the woman that inspired him to create a family in the first place. Instead, Wanda just says some stuff about understanding him, and how he won’t be able to come back from this. That’s all well and good. But that’s it? I’m hopeful this was just an appetizer, and a more physical confrontation will come next issue.

Though to his credit, Vision’s last words to Wanda in this scene are poignant, and even insightful: “I’m so sorry, Wanda. I do not think that you understand That you ever understood. I want to be like everyone else.”

Vision #11, 2016, Scarlet WitchOf all things, this reminds me of the talk show scene in Edward Scissorhands. Edward makes a comment about wanting to meet a corrective surgeon, and a pair of ladies in the audience can’t understand why he wouldn’t want to be “special” anymore. The whole “burden of being different” thing obviously works for this book.

King, Walta, and everyone on The Vision have done something great with this book. They’ve brought out the best in a B-list character, elevating him in the process. Just because it’s right to end it next month, doesn’t mean I”m glad to see it go…

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A Review of The Vision #7 – The Scarlet Witch Issue

The Vision #7, 2016, Mike Del MundoTITLE: The Vision #7
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Michael Walsh. Cover by Mike Del Mundo.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 11, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Tom King, author of The Vision, said not long ago that the title character’s relationship with Scarlet Witch has haunted this whole series so far. To me, she’s as big a character in this as anyone in the family…” In this issue we finally find out why that is.

In a development that shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise to those familiar with Vision’s history, issue #7 lets us know that he created his robotic wife Virginia using the brain patterns of Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch. We also look back at some of the pivotal moments in their romance, and how Vision came to be in possession of Wanda’s brainwave patterns. It’s actually surprising how simple it turns out to be.

The Vision #7 (2016), title pageWe knew Wanda was going to play a role in this series at some point. When they revealed how Vision created his wife and family, there was really no other option, was there? It had to be her. Who else could it have been? Her appearance was inevitable.

Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint. We spend virtually the entire issue going over select moments in Vision and Wanda’s history. We see part of their first night in bed together (left), we see them at home, we see them argue, we see their family life, and we see the awful consequences of Vision losing his memory in Vision QuestToward the end, we also see what seems to be a reconciliation, and just how pivotal Wanda was to Vision’s attempt at the American Dream. There’s some great plot symmetry with how King involves Wonder Man in all of this. This issue is a prime example of how continuity can be used to bring depth to a story, so long as one doesn’t rely too heavily on it. In King’s case, he uses it as Vision’s motive. It also adds a hell of a lot of depth to the eventual confrontation between the two.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta has the issue off, and he’s definitely missed. To be fair, his style isn’t that different from what guest artist Michael Walsh gives us here. The main difference is Walsh is a bit smudgier than Walta. But it’s not a drastic change. The biggest complaint I can throw at this issue from an artistic stand point is there’s a word balloon with its tail going the wrong way. Colorist Jordan Bellaire is back on this issue, and definitely helps ease the transition. Thankfully, Walta will be back next month.

The Vision #7, 2016, Michael WalshThe only moment in this issue that stands out as awkward is when we peek in on a past battle between The Avengers and Count Nefaria. They’re literally making out behind a tree during the fight (shown right). I”m not sure I would have framed the scene this way. At one point, we literally see a car thrown against the side of a building. It seems like it’d be more logical to see one tending to another, using a strewn about vehicle for cover. At the very least, I’d have made that tree a bit bigger. It’s like…HEY! We see you! EVERYBODY can see you!

Awkward make-out spots aside, from a story perspective The Vision is the best superhero title either of the big two companies are putting out right now. It’s a fantastic blend of super-powered fantasy, mixed with suburban paranoia, and a really thick sense of looming tragedy. From the start, we’ve had this sense that something really, really bad is about to happen. At it keeps getting closer…

Images from author’s collection.

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A Review of The Vision #6 – The Jig is Up!

The Vision #6, 2016TITLE: The Vision #6
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Cover by Marco D’Alfonso.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 6, 2016

***Miss last issue? Boom. Or head back to the beginning with issue #1.***

***WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This series needs to get cancelled…in seven months.

Tom King has signed an exclusive deal with DC, and will succeed Scott Snyder as the writer on Batman. But we’ll be seeing his handprints on The Vision through issue #12. That should really be the end of this series, as you’re not going to find anyone who’s going to top this, or even maintain the current quality. Plus, let’s be honest. This is Marvel. If there’s enough demand, another Vision series will be part of their next big relaunch.

The jig is up for The Vision’s wife, Viv. Her husband has learned her secrets. Vision literally discovers Grim Reaper’s body buried in the back yard. The question now is, what happens going forward? Does The Vision maintain this classic American facade he’s created? Or is it all for naught now that the bodies are piling up?

The Vision #6, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, headshotKing and Gabriel Hernandez Walta aren’t going to earn any points with the PETA crowd on this issue, as Grim Reaper’s body is discovered by a small dog, which is subsequently killed. It’s a jarring image, but that’s part of this book’s M.O. isn’t it?

Speaking of which, how about this headshot? It’s not even the blood. That’s just the garnish on the dish. It’s the eyes, the color of the “skin,” and the way the shadow frames his face. This page puts you inside the issue, and face to face with The Vision. As such, it puts you in the shoes of all the citizens who interact with he and his family.

And yet, it’s not as though Vision is cast as this awful horror comic villain. In some ways, he’s very sympathetic here. He wants to be normal. He wants a family, and he’s willing to go to drastic measures to make that a reality. But of course, he was doomed to fail from the start. And if anyone finds out about those drastic measures, his entire existence is ruined.

It looks like next issue we’re officially acknowledging the elephant that’s been in the room this whole time: Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch. We’ve had a good six issues to dive into Vision’s new status quo, and now is a good time to peek behind the curtain and see just how we got here. Wanda had some sort of role, most likely unknowing, in the creation of this family. I’m curious to see if that role is as unsettling, or perhaps as horrific, as what has subsequently unfolded.

Image from author’s collection.

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