The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 – Jeff Lemire, Writer; Denys Cowan, Penciller; Bill Sienkiewicz, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: A Little Too Throwback
Ray: Every Jeff Lemire comic is an experience, and sometimes a comic is several experiences in one. That’s definitely the case for The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1, a dense, twisty, fascinating, and often frustrating tribute to the Denny O’Neill/Denys Cowan Question series from the 1980s.
We’ve seen Vic Sage return in Greg Rucka’s comics recently, but the character here bears little resemblance to that zen man of mystery. Jeff Lemire’s Vic Sage is a gritty urban vigilante with an attitude problem, closer to a crime-buster version of Dr. Strange than anything. In the first few pages alone, he busts a perverted politician and publicly humiliates him, frees some girls from sex trafficking, and then calls a sex worker a whore. Lemire’s Question is an angry man, and it brims off every page – but sometimes that anger seems to be aimed at the wrong source, and it makes Question: Deaths of Vic Sage #1 a slightly uncomfortable read.
This is a book that leaps all over the place, starting out as a grounded look at political corruption in Hub City. The place has been under the thumb of a corrupt mayor for years, his sister – an old friend of Vic’s – is carrying water for him, and Vic’s button-pushing TV news show is exposing what he can. Vic’s relationships all seem to range from fraught to downright hateful, and it’s not hard to see why given his charming personality. Denys Cowan’s art is a perfect fit for this story – too many stories set in “crime-ridden cities” either feel generic or exaggerated. You can feel the grime coming off every page of this book. Those familiar with the previous incarnation of the series will probably get more out of it, as characters like Richard Dragon and Tot are brought in with the assumption that we know them already.
A brutal police murder plot that leads to race riots ups the scales at the end of the issue, but Question is preoccupied with something else – a possibly supernatural mystery that ties back to his mask. That’s where this starts to feel a lot more like a Lemire book, as we get shades of his surreal, time-hopping Gideon Falls in the last page. Unlike his other Black Label book, which was a straightforward horror tale, this is a book that expects you to invest yourself in the Question’s often surreal world. He doesn’t always make it easy, as I could see many people put off immediately by his misogynistic comments. Lemire and Cowan have put together something fascinating here, but it’s going to be another issue or two before I’m sure exactly where they’re taking it.
Corrina: This was more than a slightly uncomfortable read for me. There were points when it felt downright insulting, especially to the women in the story.
We see three main female characters. One is a child that the Question rescues from sex traffickers and who has no agency. The second is the one that Vic dismissively and insultingly calls a “whore” not worthy of his time or attention or help.
First off, that dismissal doesn’t even make sense in the context of the story. If the child is the victim of sex traffickers, it’s entirely possible the grown women is as well. And, even given she was there voluntarily, that’s a nasty dismissal of all sex workers. Maybe Lemire meant the disdain because the grown woman should have tried to help the child more. Maybe. Either way, it’s uncomfortable and so unexpected from Lemire given his body of work. Maybe it’s a homage to the 1970s Question but it’s not the 1970s any longer. (And I don’t recall anything that egregious in the 1970s Question stories either.)
The other woman in the story is the sister of the corrupt politician. She’s portrayed as first as a stooge for her brother, then a shocked, naive woman who needs to be saved when she uncovers the real corruption. There’s little agency there as well, only a victim. Vic was right about everything and she was wrong.
It’s not a great first impression, this Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1.
Perhaps later issues will reveal remorse or that Vic was acting out of character. Possible. The sequences with Vic questioning his past are excellent, with some wonderfully atmospheric art by Cowan, who I am so glad to see on this series.
But I really hate comics that make me, as a women, feel slimy as I read them.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.