How Tom King’s The Vision Shows Us The Complexities Of The Human Condition
“Imagine a first cover. Imagine a family at dinner. Talking, laughing. A Normal Rockwell painting. The American Dream. But instead of the bland white people of the ’40s and ’50s, we have green, red and yellow robots each smiling happily, their powers almost jumping out of them. And under the table, the body lies still. Behold the Visions.”
Above is an excerpt from the pitch to the comic series, The Vision, by Tom King. Known for taking a much more cerebral approach to some of comics most unique heroes, King aimed to show us how nuclear a nuclear family can truly be and how that affects a father, a robot, who has no idea what he has done but knows he must maintain this illusion of normalcy. The Vision takes one of Marvel’s most unique heroes and dissects what it is like to be a synthetic android who wants nothing more than the family he naturally cannot have.
Creating his wife, Virginia, and his son and daughter Viv and Vin, the Vision moves his family to a small suburb in Virginia to work closely with the president, as an Avenger, while also living close to his family, as a father and husband. The motivations for the Vision’s decision to create a family are explained rather simply; he just wants one. He wants something he can call his own, and he wants a life he sees others have. However, as the series progresses, we learn his “experiment” is not as simple as one would assume and will ultimately yield disastrous results.
Being that this family isn’t human but modeled after the brain patterns of people he holds dear, the Vision’s family has issues. Virginia feels a hollowness as his wife, for reasons that will later be explained. At the same time, Vin and Viv are forced to face realities that they can logically discern but are emotionally unprepared for, such as being asked if they are normal. After meeting their neighbors, who aren’t overly thrilled to be living next to some robots, we see the Vision take the lead with his wife on showing the couple around their house and maintaining their illusion of normalcy. In reality, Virginia is still very much unaware of the human condition, and without the Vision, we are shown time and again just how new his family is to the world.
One of the first nights that the family is left without the Vision, the Grim Reaper shows up for a visit. No, not THE Grim Reaper but the supervillain and brother to the hero Wonder Man, the same hero whose brainwaves are used to create the Vision and his children. Distraught by this, the Grim Reaper attempts to kill the family and almost succeeds before being bludgeoned to death by Virginia, who tells Vin to keep it a secret. From this point forward, Virginia begins a slow descent into madness that culminates into much more than a domestic squabble. Because Virginia’s brain patterns are modeled after Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, it stands to reason that some of her mental instabilities play a large role in Virginia’s inability to cope with the stresses she is introduced to and inflicts upon herself. While that aspect of Wanda seemed to have stayed, certain intimate qualities are lost on Virginia, such as getting the same joke the Vision told to Wanda. Yes, she still loves the Vision dearly, but much like the rest of the energy in their home, it’s just different.
Following a couple of instances with Vin and Viv, the siblings end up acclimating rather well, with Viv dealing with love and loss in what feels like the same week and Vin showing great promise and interest in growing as a child and as an intellectual (which is very different, in this case, from being intellectual). But following Grim Reaper’s death, stresses only continue to mount, and as more bodies continue to be piled on, we see Virginia slowly cracking under the pressure.
Throughout the course of the series, her actions not only cause the Avengers to be involved in the Vision’s life it also puts a strain on the Vision as he finds it difficult to be a family man and instead opts to spend more time aiding his hero friends. The Vision as a series shows us that the things we do are what make us human, more so than the things we think a normal human will do. For example, we see the Vision correcting Virginia on how to describe if a person is nice or kind, prompting the Vision to explain, as a robot only could, the mission to humanity, which is to “Assert as truth that which has no meaning.” That may be what it means to be human on paper, but it is the little things that make humanity what it is.
“They change, but they do not change.” The Vision says this to his children about how that is typical of most human endeavors, but I always found that this is the core theme of The Vision as a character and a series. For 12 issues, the Vision does his best to change. To live a family life and be what he believes is normal. But by the end of it, he never truly did, he will always be a hero, and by nature, he may never truly be able to settle down. In their home, there is a gift from the Silver Surfer called the Water Vase of Zenn-La; this vase can hold nothing because it will instantly be killed; it cannot hold life. In a way, this is the one aspect of the Vision family that was needed most; life. As the four try to live what they believe is a normal life, they end up becoming the vase rather than the flower, and most life that gets close to them seems to meet a tragic fate. By the end of the series, we see two very different successes—the first being Viv, who finally finds her place in the world and slowly begins to adapt. The second is the Vision, who finds some semblance of humanity through the mistakes he made based on his emotions, but the problem is he hasn’t seemed to figure out how to learn from them (don’t worry, no spoilers).
What begins like an episode of Leave it to Beaver ends up becoming a sick Twilight Zone episode where everything seems perfect, but there is something very off. It serves the story well, and Tom King uses a cadence in his writing that allows the reader to build a tempo that grows and slows to build suspense. With Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Michael Walsh illustrating, we see something that feels like a classic ’50s ad of the happy family come to life, but it is weirdly unsettling as that Stepford Wives vibe lurks around the corner. Mike del Mundo is easily the cherry on top as we see what is supposed to be stills of a happy family with each cover, but there is always something that lets the reader feel like this perfect family may be anything but.
In short, everyone wants a family one day, even the Vision, but there is a lesson to be learned. By trying to be the perfect “vision” of a family, you end up missing the most crucial components. By trying to seem real, you become fake, and disaster will always follow. Cherish the moments that seem insignificant and never forget what makes you, you. Only then will you at least start to figure out how to navigate the ups and downs of life, family, and happiness. Tom King’s the Vision is a cautionary tale, much like the Twilight Zone, but for a book about a robotic family trying to appear normal, it ends up being one of the most human stories out there.
With WandaVision releasing this week I figured now would be a perfect time to take a look into the world of Tom King’s The Vision and hopefully I didn’t disappoint! I also recommend checking out my write up on Avengers Disassembled for a look at the Scarlet Witch and how aspects of her character may lead into the new show. Make sure to follow on my socials and don’t forget to spread the word! There is more great content on the way!