Favorite Books of the Year: Sam Martone & Susannah Clark
FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire, collected as Vision, Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man and Vision, Vol. 2: Little Better Than A Beast.“In late September, with the leaves just beginning to hint at the fall to come, the Visions of Virginia moved into their house at 616 Hickory Branch Lane, Arlington, VA, 21301.”
—The Vision, issue #1
Over the past year, I’d look forward to nothing more than the one Wednesday each month when I could go to the comic shop and buy the new issue of The Vision. The series, now concluded and collected in two trade paperbacks, follows the Vision, an android (or synthezoid, technically) and a longtime member of the Avengers, as he moves into a home in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C., with a family he built for himself. He and his wife, Virginia, meet the neighbors. Their kids, Viv and Vin, go to a local high school. They are trying to lead good, normal lives, like anyone else. What could go wrong? Of course, everything does.
But this isn’t a typical superhero comic. In fact, it has the sensibilities of an indie graphic novel that just happens to be set in the weird sandbox of the Marvel universe, wrapped up in all the history (and baggage) with which that comes. The art is gorgeous, and the writing is sharp and nuanced—you’re strung along by a narrator who constantly references events yet to come, who sets up little pieces well in advance of when they’ll fall into place. Sure, there’s a villainous intruder and a superhero brawl or two, but this comic is really about the quieter moments: Virginia giving the neighbors a tour of the house. Vision enumerating to himself the 37 times he’s saved the world. Viv and Vin casually flying home from school.
Amidst all the renewed interest in artificial intelligence in pop culture artifacts over the past few years, this is easily my favorite. Turn off West World. Read this instead.
On Bowie by Rob Sheffield
We lost too many heroes in 2016, and among the ashes is a trove of obituaries and think pieces—urgent writings that surfaced online within hours, to be read with raw wounds and forgotten by the next sudden loss. Rob Sheffield took the heartfelt eulogy for David Bowie he wrote for Rolling Stone and placed it as the intro for a full-length book, written in just one month. For anyone familiar with Sheffield's work, On Bowie delivers the masterful balance of personal history, cultural criticism, and arresting language found in his other books and essays, but the tribute stands alone as a new genre of appreciation, struck when the iron is no longer hot but not quite cooled either. It was a long winter of mourning for Bowie fans. We expect to see the names of the dead back in the headlines on anniversaries and in award show in-memoriums, but to have been able to become so intimately reacquainted with each of Bowie's incarnations just four months after the shock wore off provided for an entirely new experience of grieving, one that would resonate differently even just one year later. On Bowie captures the urgency of the morning after with a polish that would take most writers years of revisions. It is not written for Bowie fans—it is written for anyone who's had to face the strange once, and soon after, chose to face it again.
Sam Martone lives and writes in New York City.
Susannah Clark is the Managing Editor of The Collapsar