The Vision may have been the most fascinating Marvel book of the past year. Its second and final arc is collected in Little Better Than A Beast.
An extended flashback to Vision’s relationship with ex-wife Scarlet Witch demonstrates how closely Vison’s previous attempt at domesticity is tied to his current family situation. The arrival of Vision’s robotic brother Victor Mancha sets in motion a series of events that pushes Vision and his clan to the inevitable tragedy foreshadowed since the beginning of the series, including a showdown with the Avengers and a heartbreaking sacrifice.
As good as the first arc of The Vision was, writer Tom King levels up in Little Better Than A Beast, crafting a story that ranks among the best spotlighting the synthetic Avenger. King crafts the most absorbing family drama that Marvel has turned out in some time, slowly pushing events toward the dramatic tragedy he’s been building up since issue one. King’s grasp on Vision is uncanny; he makes spectacular use of the character’s long and complicated history to provide a believable, relatable emotional grounding for this tale of love and loss, while pushing him into startling new terrain.
But beyond Vision, King does really deft work with the rest of the cast. Matriarch Virginia has been one of the most difficult characters of the series, but in the end, King shows her inner strength in a way that will stick with readers for a long time. Teens Viv and Vin somehow manage to emerge as recognizable teens in spite of their outré nature. King puts Victor Mancha to the best use the character’s probably seen since his Runaways stint. And the writer is very judicious in how carefully and impactfully he deploys Scarlet Witch, not letting her long and tangled history with Vision overshadow the central role of his new family. By the time the arc wraps, King has crafted one of Marvel’s most indelible character pieces in recent memory.
The art team of Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire provides stunning, beautiful visuals. Walta doesn’t get cutesy with page layouts, he uses a traditional grid approach, with some high impact one- and two-page splashes mixed in to tremendous effect. The storytelling has a strong flow that tracks the drama of the writing very sympathetically. Walta’s character work is expressive, packed with subtle, telling details that magnify the drama of the storytelling. Bellaire crafts a pensive, moody atmosphere with her shrewd color work, enhancing the sense of slowly encroaching dread, but also heightening the emotional impact of key moments with her thoughtful choices. Artist Michael Walsh steps in for the Scarlet Witch issue and is very simpatico with the regular team, crafting a low key installment that matches their emotionally impressionistic ethos. Overall, the art is ideally suited to the writing, combining to give the reader a powerful, visceral experience.
While fans can’t help but wish that a book as high quality as Vision would continue, in many ways, this focused, high-impact storytelling, with a logical progression and satisfying conclusion, makes a lot of sense. You must read the first volume before turning to Little Better Than A Beast, but once you have, this is a fantastic story that redefines a long-running character for a new generation.