A Vision of Being Human: “Am I normal?”

Vision is much more than source material for WandaVision.

“Am I normal?” Vin asks his sister Viv as they lift off the ground to leave school for home. Vin and Viv are the synthezoid teenagers of Virginia and Vision, the superhero associated with Marvel’s Avengers. This question comes after Vin is confronted during class in the first issue of Vision:

Vision: The Complete Collection

This rendition of Vision (vol. 2, 2016), award-winning and critically acclaimed, sits behind the Disney+ series WandaVision by providing important and substantial backstories for Wanda and Vision but also because the Disney+ series and the twelve-issue comic book series share a framing: The normal American Family.

While WandaVision expands the stereotypical nuclear family trope through pastiche, Tom King (writer) and artists Gabriel Hernandez Walta (issues 1–6, 8–12) and Michael Walsh (issue 7) ground the philosophical questions running through the narrative around Vision’s synthezoid family living in Arlington, VA with the children attending Alexander Hamilton High in Fairfax, VA in the traditional family trope.

Visions entire family, not just Vin, are obsessed to the point of existential dread with their goal of being a normal family (see also Normality in Sayaka Murata). King repeats motifs and phrases around normalcy and the conditions of being a family member — such as Virginia’s proclivity for crying:

Vision: The Complete Collection

Vision is much more than source material for WandaVision, however; this work also offers a powerful addition to science fiction’s enduring questions about what it means to be human — often explored through androids and artificial intelligence — as well as unpacking the essence of love, justice, and the frailty of life (or sentience). [1]

Visions of the Future (Issue 1)

One of the most effective elements of Vision is the use of narrators as well as the color-coding of narrative and dialogue balloons. The first page of the series is all narrator of panels, establishing the normal family trope as well as introducing the framing element for the entire series: “They made compromises that are necessary to raise a family” returns in Issue 12 after the death and destruction that is foretold in this first issue.

Virginia and Vision have a philosophical debate about “nice” and “kind” after awkwardly meeting some neighbors; the entire series is a similar contemplation of core concepts for humanity. Here, readers also see Virginia in the role of the sad housewife (a pattern that continues throughout the work; see the panel above): “She was fascinated by how often she found something that made her cry.”

Along with the focus on “normal” as well as the nature of love (Vision “caught in a state of dread” in tension with “This is my wife. I love her. I must love her”), readers discover that this synthezoid family is living lives quite far from normal; The Grim Reaper kills Viv, and then, Virginia brutally kills the Grim Reaper, prompting one of the darkest uses of dark human in that the issue ends with a parody of normal family life, Virginia saying “Don’t tell your father.”

Vision: The Complete Collection

We can almost hear the laugh track overlaying, as if this were an episode of WandaVision.

Everything Slips through Their Fingers (Issue 2)

Gruesome.

The first two pages are wordless except for the mangled body of Viv muttering “Mother” over and over.

Virginia becomes more than a wife/mother trope with her violent outbursts (again, repeated throughout), but she also introduces a important theme of the narrative — how storytelling shapes reality and truth. When faced with Vision, Virginia fabricates a version of her killing the Grim Reaper because she fears that the truth will harm or destroy their efforts to be a normal family.

Ironically, after Virginia tells her white lie, the couple sits on the couch, her head leaning on Vision’s shoulder (a trope of TV sitcoms repeated throughout WandaVision) with her fear already coming to fruition despite the lie: “These are the noises of their every day. The banal background to their new home. // They used to sound so pleasant.”

In this issue, Vin succumbs to violence also in the absence of his sister, offering a stinging critique of schooling with lunchroom and principal’s office scenes.

In and Out (Issue 3)

The mutant universe has long been used as a metaphor for discrimination and bigotry. One of the key aspects of the theme of normalcy and the nuclear family in Vision is that the synthezoids are very distinctly the Other. Issue 3 opens with a deft confrontation of racial slurs: “Go home, socket lovers” painted on the Visions’ garage door by local teens because as the narrator explains: “Whatever shade of skin a person had, wherever a person was from, whatever god a person worshipped, there was a word for that person.”

This vandalism sparks another act of violence by Virginia.

With the help of Tony Stark, Vision is able to repair Viv — one of many moments in this series where life/sentience is lost and either regained or permanent. When Stark reports back to Captain America’s asking “How it all went,” he oddly frames this miraculous event: “‘Fine,’ Iron Man said. ‘Normal, I mean. Everything was normal.’”

Later, juxtaposed to the very abnormal “normal” return if Viv, readers witness a seduction scene between Virginia and Vision, including the negligee and a brilliant close up of Virginia’s fingers pulling at the string of Vision’s pajama bottoms:

Vision: The Complete Collection

Normal synthezoid romance? Or androids playing the roll of human?

Balls in the Air (Issue 4)

Racial slurs return in this issue, highlighted by a full page close up of Vision holding a football from the high school with the ex-team mascot and image, “Fighting Redskins.” Set in Virginia, this takes direct aim at the former Redskins NFL team in Washington DC.

That offensive logo returns at the end of the issue where Virginia confronts the man who saw her bury the Grim Reaper, who happens t be the father of the teen attacked by Vin and who had begun to flirt with Viv.

When Virginia enters the man’s house, the Redskins logo is in the background, and later, as he pulls a gun on her, the bloody and tragic events unfold (the man shoots his own son and Virginia delivers a skull crushing blow to the man) with the logo bloodied on the wall, highlighted in a single panel ending the issue.

The Villainy You Teach Me (Issue 5)

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare becomes an obsession for Vin, and lines from the play structure the first several pages of this issue, which turns some of the focus to justice and fairness.

While Vision is at the police station answering questions about the shooting, Virginia and the children talk; Virginia repeats “Everything is normal” eve as she explodes and destroys the kitchen table. Viv storms away crying, but Vin remains his inquisitive self, asking, “If you prick me, do I bleed?”

Issue 5 includes two repeated scenes. First, Vision tells Detective Lin, as he did the principal, that he has saved the world 37 times just before Vision (as Virginia did to him) decides to embellish his own version of the night of the shooting: “And all of it cannot redeem him from this, this small moment when he crossed to the other side, when he entered into the madness that was soon to come. // This small moment. // This small lie.”

P vs. NP (Issue 6)

One of the most philosophical issues is this one, a prolonged opening about the problems easily solved and “problems which, practically speaking, you cannot simply solve.”

This musing carries over four pages as the reader watches a problem not easily solved literally unearthed — the remains of the Grim Reaper that Virginia wanted to remain her secret. The issue is filled with off-panel destruction and a blood-splattered Vision dismembering a dog.

The result is a synthezoid green dog built by Vision for the perfect nuclear family. Despite the truth being revealed and despite Virginia’s greatest fear, “the answer, for Vision, was yes. He would continue”:

He would fix what had been broken. He would hide what he could not fix.

He would make his family.

The easy explanation of his answer would be that he, who longed to be human, recognized that this was the human decision.

That every day all men and women make this same choice. To go on even though they cannot possibly go on. …

Indeed, in considering the situation, it was clear:

He had no choice at all…

VISION: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

I Too Shall Be Saved by Love (Issue 7)

With one-shot artist Walsh, King interrupts the narrative of the Visions for a flashback that details the fracture between Vision and Wanda.

This issue is particularly important for WandaVision, but readers also learn (or return to) about the tragic family of Wanda and Vision as well as Vision’s own destruction and resurrection(s). Wanda, too, is reset as Vision explains:

You will not remember my words today.

Just as you will not remember losing Thomas and William to the devil from whom you stole their souls.

To protect you, Agatha will take the memories away, destroy your children as easily as you created them.

In this we have something in common.

You too shall be new.

VISION: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

Virginia, it is revealed, is built from the brain patterns of Wanda: “In the end, we begin again. // And everything is new and different.”

Victorious (Issue 8)

“Life is but a dream,” Virginia intones as she plays the piano. The dream motif stands in contrast to the nightmare unfolding with the arrival of Vision’s android brother, Victor.

Victor and Virginia bond over her trying to play the piano but finding it unsatisfying because “When when I simply access the notes and play play play them well … I seem to feel that I am not playing them.”

Perfect, a synthezoid is thus alienated from being human.

Victor, as readers eventually discover, is ingratiating himself with the family at the behest of the Avengers, but even as he expresses envy for Vision’s “greta family,” Victor cannot avoid yet another tragedy, the death of Vin at his own hands.

They Will Die in the Flames (Issue 9)

Victor is revealed as a paradoxical character; he seeks to avoid his fate (another Ultron plot of destruction) but cannot avoid being the agent of death. This issue reaches back to a line from Issue 7 after Wanda and Vision discuss the future: “Tomorrow always comes,” Vision assures Wanda.

The death of Vin brings not only the inevitable tomorrow but forces the issues of justice that have been on the lips of Vin reciting Shakespeare.

Rage reserved for Virginia now simmers in Vision.

All Will Return to Normal (Issue 10)

Vision cycles through “a great number” of “philosophical and religious traditions,” deciding “I must therefore conclude that it is not just. And what is not just must be addressed.”

Recognizing the inevitability of revenge, Vision is none the less given pause: “I am the Vision of the Avengers. I saved the world 37 times.”

As the opening of the issue establishes, here Vision confronts both philosophy and religion with his daughter Viv, who is kneeling beside her bed about to pray when he comes to talk with her.

“I do not know if there is a god. It seems unlkely,” Viv says after she explains that she is “praying for Vin’s soul to be at rest.

“Yes. It does seem unlikely,” Vision adds, before they agree to pray that there is a god, that Vin has a soul, and that “god [allows] Vin’s soul to rest.”

Our narrator assures us there is a god: “Someone to greet our souls when we leave this life. // Someone to tell us that we have done enough, that we have done what we could. // That, now, finally we may rest.”

You and I Were Born for Better Things (Issue 11)

In this penultimate issue, Vision must fight through the Avengers in order to avenge his son’s death by killing Victor. Simultaneously, Virginia confesses her role in the death of Viv’s potential human boyfriend, resulting in Viv smashing the table as Virginia has, a foreshadowing of sorts.

In a blurring of violent scenes (Vision fighting the Avengers and Virgnia killing the dog), the normal nuclear family motif returns. The narrator retells of Vision creating Virginia and details:

He explained to her that she was a good person.

That she was made to be a good person with a free will of her own.

Now, should she so desire, she could join him on his quest to live a good life.

They could marry.

They could have a house.

They could have children.

They could be part of a happy, normal family

VISION: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

Vision faces Wanda last; she greets him with “The future is here.” Her plea fails as Vision says, “I do not think that you understand. That you ever understood. // I want to be like everyone else.”

Revenge, however, is at the hands of Virginia, who kills Victor.

Spring (Issue 12)

The last issue is a final retelling, a revision of truth.

Virginia tells Detective Linn another embellished story of Victor’s death before committing suicide. As Vision is dressing before seeing Virginia in her final moments, the opening narration is repeated, ending ominously as on the first page of issue 1: “They made the compromises that are necessary to raise a family.”

The final scene is the darkest version of the happy married couple on the couch, including Virginia again resting her head on Vision’s shoulder. And she dies: “Virginia did the right thing. // Or she did the wrong thing. // Or she just did what everyone does — ”

Although the final panels are ambiguous, that the last issue is “Spring” and we are left with Vision, his daughter Viv, and what seems to be the likelihood that Vision is rebuilding Virginia, I recognize the ending to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, a misunderstood work of dark humor and hope: “And it was something of a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when at the end of their journey the daughter first lifted herself up and stretched her young body.”

Vision is smiling and singing, “Life is but a dream.”

For synthezoids and humans alike?

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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