Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen live four times this year (it is) but I can’t help but draw parallels between The River, the Boss’ double-album exploration of the commitments and confines of family, and writer Tom King and artists Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire’s run on The Vision, which ended last week with issue #12.
The Vision favors androids and artificial intelligence to cars and working class Joes, but like Springsteen’s The River, it is a work concerned with what it means to create a family and live alongside of them in society.
The book sees cybernetic Avenger The Vision settle down in the suburbs of Northern Virginia with a cybernetic wife and two cybernetic children of his own creation. When an old enemy shows up at the house events are set in motion that, when all is said and done, feel unavoidable from the start.
The book posits the notion that having a family opens one up to the possibility of certain inevitabilities. Familial ties bring with them certain triggers or buttons that, for better or worse, when pulled or pushed, create predictable responses.
The Vision winds up being the perfect character for exploring these themes as, from the most cynical point of view, spousal and parental relationships can feel like programming, like binary switches imposed upon a being that execute particular, predictable processes should the correct motivation arise. If one’s family is threatened one can be predicted to respond with aggression, as if the entire interaction, from threat to recourse, is as straightforward as ones and zeroes.
Looking back on the events of The Vision’s twelve issue run the story that unfolds feels at once utterly unavoidable and utterly human. It’s as clinical as a series of interconnected if/then statements and as profound as a mother lifting a car to save her child.
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Vision had been written by a dogmatic bachelor. At times Vision’s commitments to marriage and fatherhood feel like a surrender of free will, a forfeiture of control. And there is a certain surrender involved in Vision’s pursuit of family life, a surrender to those potential inevitabilities. But there is also the potential, within those constraints, of profoundly affecting the world around you. Like Neo seeing the code of the Matrix fluttering before him, an understanding of the interconnected ties that bind oneself to the world around them brings with it a power all its own, to manipulate those ties like a giant mech suit made of family members and exert more influence on the world than you could as an individual.
And yet, be it shackles or springboard, The Vision presents family as still something more. A phenomenon. An unknown. Why do we create replacements for ourselves who will one day create replacements for themselves and so on and so forth ad infinitum? What is the end game of family?
The Vision never answers those questions, but it displays the fundamental humanity behind asking them in spectacular fashion.