The Monsters are Due on Maple Street:
The Horror of Tom King’s Vision
by Jack Sellers
For your consideration, The Vision; synthezoid son to Ultron and savior of the world alongside the Avengers. A man? Or a machine? Or some unholy patchwork of the two? All that can be known is that it’s something that can only be found in The Twilight Zone.
Alright, enough fun. This week I want to get back into something I really love and that’s comic books. I want to talk about the amazing work by Tom King and Gabriel H. Walta on their Eisner Award winning series The Vision. The first issue, “Visions of the Future” presents a clear and thoughtful direction for this series moving forward while also establishing its more horror inspired elements.
There’s a standard in a lot of mainstream comics that when a new writer takes over a series, they often undo everything that was previously done to push the character forward and return them to the generally accepted status quo. A back to basics reset that has plagued most of the popular superheroes’ titles for decades. King and Walta’s first issue takes a step in the exact opposite direction. King takes inspiration from the years of continuity that proceed his run and push Vision out of his bubble within the Avengers and puts him in an entirely unprecedented situation. This abandonment of familiarity is beautifully complimented by Walta’s signature dark and ominous art style, accompanied with Jordie Bellaire’s wonderful coloring. This collaborative team takes every step possible with their first issue to divorce the character from any semblance of comfort.
The issue begins with ominous narration from an unknown source as the reader is introduced to Arlington Virginia, a suburb 15 miles from Washington DC, and the new home of The Vision family. The unnamed narrator says “Behold George and Nora” in an homage to the Vision’s first appearance as they discuss whether giving cookies to their new neighbors is a good idea. As their conversation ends we meet The Visions for the first time. Vision stands in a shirt and tie, ditching his cape after taking a job as the Avengers’ White House liaison, beside him are his wife Virginia, and his twin children Viv and Vin. Vision takes George, Nora, and the audience on a tour through his house introducing several key features of the house that will come into play later and familiarizing the audience with the layout of the house. As George and Nora leave the house the narration provides an ominous piece of information: “Later, near the end of our story, one of the Visions will set George and Nora’s house on fire. They will die in the flames.” The twins attend their first day of high school and learn what it means to be an outsider, but in the final pages of this first issue is where the proverbial second shoe drops. The narration continues, telling the audience about a conflict between Viv and her mother when long-time villain of the Vision, The Grim Reaper, attacks, stabbing Viv from behind, exposing her robotics. The Grim Reaper continues to attack the family until Virginia kills him, and after realizing the gravity of her actions, she quickly tells her son, “don’t tell your father.”
This is just a taste of what is to come in this series. There is mystery throughout and tons of surprises, but I wanted to touch on what feeling this series elicited in me. I’ve made a big reference to The Twilight Zone and I’m using an episode title as the title for this article. So you might be asking why. In this first issue, and the series as it runs to completion, we spend almost all of our time in the town of Arlington. While using the action of superherodom as a backdrop, King and Walta dive deep on these characters and what it means to be different, and to be an outsider. From the very beginning of the first issue this series’ obsession with other people’s perception of the Vision’s is made clear. Virginia deals with nosy neighbors trying to know what the creepy robots next door are up to, Vin and Viv try their best to fit in at high school despite having pink synthetic skin and the ability to fly, and The Vision all the while preaches to them about what it means to be human. Much like in the episode of Twilight Zone “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” the fear and paranoia of neighbors feeds into the greater problems at play, but here the monsters aren’t trying to hide and sew chaos. Instead they seek community and the “normal life” that Vision longs for so dearly. Throughout every issue the tension is built and the fear of the unknown tears through the neighborhood much like The Grim Reaper tore through Viv. As he attacked the Vision family, The Grim Reaper screamed delusionally about the family being imposters, fakes. He breaks into their home and disrupts their lives in an attempt to prove his reality. You see, The Vision’s consciousness is based off of that of The Grim Reaper’s brother, Simon Williams. He stands over Viv’s body in need of repair, and yells about their attempt to be a facsimile of his “family”.
The Vision by King and Walta presents an opportunity to gaze in on what it means to be human, hero, and robot. Are the Visions monsters? Are they heroes? Are they simply a family? These questions don’t have clear or easy answers. There is a great complexity to the story told here. There is no doubt that The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Walta is a triumph of comic book storytelling, but it is also a tale of outsiders, imposters, trying desperately to be part of something, and the paranoia and fear of everyone involved tearing their family apart.