Jeff Lemire, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor explore yet another “life” of The Question in The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2. The issue is mainly set in Hub City during the 1880s aka the Wild West. However, this isn’t some John Wayne redux. It probes deep into the racial violence that characterized this time period in the United States. The protagonist, Charlie (who later becomes the Western version of the Question) deals with the guilt of his actions during the Comanche War.
Sotomayor uses plenty of reds and blacks in his palette to contribute to the book’s bleak tone. It complements Sienkiewicz’s scratchy inks. I went back and glanced at The Question #1, and Cowan’s art style is utterly different. Empty spaces, bursts of violence, and shamanistic quests for meaning contrast with non-stop media commentary in the previous issue. Cowan still uses plenty of grids in the comic. However, their purpose seems to be to slow down and focus on pivotal moments in the story. An example is Charlie talking to some witch figure about a primal conflict between good and evil or his friend, Booker, about to be hung in a racially motivated, kangaroo court and not to simulate TV or smartphone screens. Cowan’s storytelling is impeccable. It’s easy to follow the action on the page while mentally trying to pull together Lemire’s reincarnation-driven plot.
The themes of rigid, Randian objectivism versus a more fluid zen Buddhist ideology continue in The Question #2. Lemire and Cowan have traded out philosophizing for gunslinging. (Lemire writes Charlie as super-reflective though.) For all its hallucinations and “deep” observations, the plot of the comic is about a man, who has done bad, making up for it by doing some good. It’s a white hat shooting a black hat, someone more tolerantly minded pitted against a racist.
The traditional Western with a bit of political commentary baked-in part of The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2 resonated with me stronger than the part of the story where he’s seen as more of an archetypal figure. Yes, it’s a great plot device on Jeff Lemire’s part. It allows Cowan, Sienkiewicz, and Sotomayor depict the Question and his ideology in different eras. However, it’s not as memorable as Charlie riding back to his old town in the twilight reminiscing on his genocidal past and how he is going to avenge a good man and his wife. The process page in the back of the comic shows how much black spot inking Sienkiewicz added to Cowan’s pencils. Chris Sotomayor’s rusty palette show that Charlie’s return isn’t triumphant, but a reckoning. He wants to kill the devil and find peace.
Jeff Lemire, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor use the creative freedom of the Black Label imprint to tell what is a damn fine dark Western with some mystical elements. They show how shitty the 1880s were with a loose, gruesome approach to the violence instead of something more stylized. In the bigger picture of the miniseries, it digs into Charlie/Vic/The Question’s identity a little bit more setting upcoming ideas and revelations as Lemire and Cowan continues to jump eras in both plot and visuals.
Story: Jeff Lemire Pencils: Denys Cowan Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors: Chris Sotomayor Letters: Willie Schubert
Story: 7.8 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics/Black Label provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review