Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 Review

Tripping Balls with Mr. A

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Pencils: Denys Cowan 
Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors: Chris Sotomayor 
Letters: Willie Schubert
Cover: Cowan, Sienkiewicz & Sotomayor 
Variant Cover: Jeff Lemire & Marcelo Mialo
Assistant Editor: Maggie Howell 
Editors: Chris Conroy & Molly Mahan
Cover Price: $6.99 
On Sale Date: November 20, 2019


Well, well, well. If it isn’t one of the characters that DC screwed up royally during the New 52. Something about having ushered forth from the primordial ooze or some such? I don’t believe DC Comics ever developed the character enough to speak about. There’s been an appropriate cooling off period, and now he’s back for the first time in the prestige format The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, and I’ve reviewed book one of the series right here!

Explain It!

The Question is a crazy, mixed-up character. Conceived by Steve Ditko as a sanitized version of his Ayn Randian hero Mr. A—another suit-wearing man dispensing high-minded critique of the world, he has come to represent a kook following conspiracy theories, as best exemplified in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon from…*shudder* two decades ago. Then there’s Rorschach from The Watchmen, who was a combination of The Question and Mr. A, and a dirty smellbag besides, and that well-revered The Question series by Denny O’Neil and the artists of this book. And don’t forget the immortal god or whatever he was meant to be during the New 52…point is, The Question has been interpreted differently by many different creators during different eras, and what Jeff Lemire is attempting here is to create the All-Question, a character that respects the disparate elements of his re-interpreted personality
Much of the late-Silver Age character as depicted in the pages of Charlton Comics is intact: Vic Sage is a revered television personality in Hub City, who investigates crime and dispenses justice as The Question, a faceless guy who puts on the mask and changes his suit and hair color with the help of a special gas, provided by his pal and former professor Aristotle “Tot” Rodor. But then there’s the other stuff…the stilted, curt nature of his voice-over; the overtly conservative views of right and wrong—literally described as “black & white” in the comic; the quasi-mystical aspect of him tripping balls when he finds another mask like his with a bullet hole through it…this is all of ‘em. All The Questions. They’re being shoe-horned in here to validate everything that came before. 
Which, if you’re already a fan of The Question, might be right up your alley. But if you’re lukewarm on the character, it might be tough to stay attentive until the very end. So after he sends his buddy, the police chief, up the river, The Question finds the aforementioned mask and starts having crazy visions. After investigating the police chief’s lawyer due to a funny ring on his hand he…I don’t know, really. I think he’s coming to terms with his other iterations, which, let’s be frank, has been done before.
I could be off-base, since I don’t have a doctorate in Ditko characters, but this feels like a celebration of The Question that will resonate with extant fans. The artwork is terrific, completely evocative of that late 1970s/early 80s noir style that was prevalent in comic books of the time, which may be a factor in dating the thing and making it feel “old.” It does feel old, but not insignificant. Whether it holds your attention or not will depend on what you already know about and feel for this character. 

Bits and Pieces:

An expertly-executed but somewhat dry story that pays a lot of gratitude to the versions that came before. Indeed, that seems to be all there is here.


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