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Review: The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2

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

Preview: The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2 (of 4)

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2 (of 4)

(W) Jeff Lemire (A/CA) Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz
In Shops: Jan 15, 2020
SRP: $6.99

DC Black Label, Prestige Plus, 8.5″ x 10.875″
In modern-day Hub City, Vic Sage died. And then he woke up. In Hub City…in the 1800s! The legend of the Man with No Face rides across the Old West, discovering a shocking connection running through history all the way to the day he died…and pointing to more carnage yet to come!

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2 (of 4)

Review: The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1

DC Black Label branches out from Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn in the gritty and trippy The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1. With a dedication to both Question’s original creator Steve Ditko and his finest writer (Up to now) Dennis O’Neil, writer Jeff Lemire, artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, and colorist Chris Sotomayor attempt to bridge the character’s portrayals as an Objectivist, who views the world in strict black and white terms and as an Eastern philosophy-influenced fighter of systemic evils, who donned the Question mask to right wrongs that newscaster Vic Sage couldn’t. They also craft the first chapter in one hell of a mystery. It features an art style that is far from the usual capes and tights.

Bringing back artists Cowan and Sienkiewicz from The Question’s original DC Comics series was a stroke of genius. It’s what initially got me interested in this series. Sienkiewicz’s scratchy inks and Cowan’s almost journalistic portrayal of human nature roots the first half of Question in the violent, yet ripped from the headlines crime stories that characterized the original run.

The comic opens up with Question muttering something straight out of a Mr. A strip or an Ayn Rand novel and catching a Hub City councilman in a brothel with underage girls. He knocks the creep about a little bit but is mostly concerned with recording footage for Vic Sage to play on the evening news where he openly accuses Hub City mayor Wesley Fermin of being connected to organized crime that leads to a lawsuit and more trouble. The sequence sets up Sage’s very public persona and role as the gadly, or voice of truth, in Hub City. That makes it necessary for him to wear face-warping masks courtesy of his old chemistry professor, Aristotle “Tot” Rodor.

However, this dual identity isn’t so simple. Lemire and Cowan play with the different sides of Question and Vic Sage’s personalities. They show that Question’s single-minded quest for justice sometimes makes him lose the big picture. An example is the police shooting of an unarmed man while he’s following a lead about a ring that was on both the councilman’s finger and the mayor’s lawyer’s. The Question is a skilled detective but his conspiracy-driven nature can blind him to the everyday issues of his city. Cowan, Sienkiewicz, and Sotomayor show this visually through a wavy line, lots of black ink, and a darker color palette. It culminates in Question’s discovery of a literal abyss and some surreal imagery where you can really see the Sienkiewicz influence shine through.

Thankfully, in the second half of The Question #1, Lemire and Cowan create the context for these images. It’s a departure from the crime fiction of the comic’s first act to something more mystical. Hence, Richard Dragon shows up with insight and potty mouth one-liners. (Think the Bride’s sensei in Kill Bill sans the misogyny and xenophobia.) From a big picture perspective, the conversation between Dragon and Sage also seems like a conversation between O’Neil and Ditko. The former taking Question into more of a zen Buddhism direction while Ditko used him as the avatar of his black and white view of the world. That was passed onto his creation Mr. A and Question’s spiritual offspring, Rorschach. (The nine panel grids and the use of “Hrrm” are a nod to that fellow.)

Richard Dragon believes that souls can travel between bodies while Question just wanted to learn martial arts to kick ass and is talking to his old teacher to solve a mystery steeped in symbolism, but connected to Hub City and its corruption. To take a page out of the German philosopher Hegel‘s book, Dragon is thesis, Question is antithesis, and they are a long way from synthesis. The last few pages introduce another wrinkle in the status quo in a natural non “Oh shit, we need a cliffhanger” way. Cowan makes fantastic use of recurring metronome motif to slip readers into another world. It’s like seeing a hypnotherapist as the story shifts in genre. His solid storytelling and well-placed use of six and nine-panel grids, as well as larger layouts, doesn’t waver.

The debut is steeped in the classic O’Neil and Cowan run as well as the ideology of Ditko. Lemire, Cowan, Sienkiewicz, and Sotomayor make sure The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 isn’t a nostalgia-driven retread. In a current era where political corruption runs rampant, and the said corrupt don’t even try to sweep it under a rug, a character who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power is incredibly relevant. However, the Question also engages in Randian purity policing and has a primal, childish view of the world. He’s far from an inspirational figure. This is why Cowan and Sienkiewicz’s naturalistic, almost dirty art style is a good fit for the book. They and Lemire also aren’t afraid to get a little weird. I’m interested to see how they synthesize the various versions of the Question in both the spiritual and physical realms.

Story: Jeff Lemire Pencils: Denys Cowan  Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors: Chris Sotomayor Letters: Willie Schubert
Story: 8.9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics/Black Label provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 Begins to Explore Vic Sage’s Past and Present

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 (of 4)

Written by Jeff Lemire
Pencils by Denys Cowan
Inks by Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors by Chris Sotomayor
Lettering by Willie Schubert
Cover by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
Variant Cover by Jeff Lemire and Marcelo Maiolo
In Shops: Nov 20, 2019
Final Orders Due: Oct 21, 2019
SRP: $6.99

The series will go through multiple time periods and explore aspects of Vic Sage’s past and present that have never been explored before. Combined with Bill Sienkiewicz’s inks and Chris Sotomayor’s deft color touch, this may be the best version of the Question yet.

–Denys Cowan

Vic Sage knows right from wrong. He knows black from white. But what happens when he is drawn into a conspiracy that reaches from the heights of Hub City power to the depths of its underground tunnels? What happens when things stop being black-and-white and start getting a little gray? And what happens when, in a secret chamber deep beneath the city, Vic Sage meets his own end…and his new beginning? Legendary artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz and letterer Willie Schubert return to The Question, alongside Eisner-winning writer Jeff Lemire and colorist Chris Sotomayor, to resurrect Vic Sage, only to destroy him all over again…and again…and again….

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage will carry an Ages 17+ content descriptor (for mature readers) and will ship bimonthly in DC’s Prestige Plus format. The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #2 hits shelves January 15, 2020.

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 (of 4)

Preview: Ms. Tree Vol. 1

Ms. Tree Vol. 1

(W) Max Allan Collins (A) Terry Beatty (CA) Denys Cowan
In Shops: Sep 04, 2019
SRP: $24.99

The collected casebooks of famed ’80s private eye, Ms. Tree! The creation of award-winning crime writer Max Allan Collins and legendary pulp artist Terry Beatty, Ms. Tree was shocking in the ’80s and remains strongly relevant today. When her private detective husband is murdered by the Muerta crime family, Ms. Tree takes over the business – and his last case – as a cold, calculating, and tough as nails PI! This first volume collects five classic Ms. Tree stories, plus the rare Ms. Tree prose story “Inconvenience Store”.

Ms. Tree Vol. 1

DC Announces Joker: Killer Smile and The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage from DC Black Label this Fall

DC is adding two more thrilling stories to its lineup this fall with the introduction of two new miniseries— Joker: Killer Smile from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino available October 30, followed by The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage by Lemire and artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz to be released November 20.

In Joker: Killer Smile Lemire and Sorrentino will share their own interpretation of one of the darkest characters of the Batman mythos—the Joker. For years, the Joker has terrorized Gotham, facing off with Batman time and time again. But now he’s found a new adversary, one that can deliver him from the purgatory of Arkham Asylum and set his madness free once more—the very doctor tasked with treating him. As he gets his hooks deeper and deeper into the mind of his prey, Joker sets off a chain reaction of mayhem that will threaten to tear down not only Gotham City but the soul of this idealistic man, and his young family, too.

Joker: Killer Smile is a three-part story that will debut October 30, 2019, releasing every other month following.

Joker: Killer Smile

In The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, Lemire, Cowan and Sienkiewicz launch a philosophical mystery starring Vic Sage—the Question. Building on the legacy of Dennis O’Neil and Cowan’s previous run, it begins in an early Hub City where an unsolved mystery has led to the demise of the Question—and history will soon repeat itself. Beginning in the Old West and continuing through the lawless 1930s, the answers needed to solve the problem are out of reach—and may doom the Question once again.

The faceless man who believes in absolutes will soon find himself in a world where it all blends together, and escaping this trap is the only way to set himself free.

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage is a four-part story that will debut November 20, 2019, releasing every other month following.

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage

Preview: The Curse of Brimstone #12

The Curse of Brimstone #12

(W) Justin Jordan (A) Denys Cowan, John Stanisci (CA) Eduardo Pansica
In Shops: Mar 06, 2019
SRP: $2.99

It’s the epic finale! As Brimstone struggles to fight the Dark Multiverse beings who managed to come through from their “home office” to our world, the chance to lift the curse of Brimstone is offered! But with Annie’s life in the grip of the Salesman, Brimstone is forced to choose between his only family left and the sanity left in him.

The Curse of Brimstone #12

Explore How America Reacts to a World Where Only Black People Have Superpowers in White

How does America react when only black people have superpowers? In the sure-to-be-controversial six-part comic book series White, co-creators Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3, Inkpot-Award winning artist Jamal Igle, and cover artist Khary Randolph reunite for the sequel to their acclaimed graphic novel and Kickstarter sensation, Black.

How does a nation struggling with a history of racial inequality cope in a world where only black people have superpowers? Our story asks: In a time of supposed inclusion and diversity, how far will those in charge push back to retain the status quo?

Kwanza Osajyefo

In White, Theodore Mann, whose family exploited empowered blacks for centuries, is now President of the United States. Mann’s administration has exacted controversial measures to deal with the empowered he’s deemed terrorists and is stoking national tensions to win public support for Mann First, a cybernetically-augmented soldier program. The main person standing in the President’s way is X –  once known as Kareem Jenkins – who has become a symbol of resistance against the Mann Administration.

For White, the original Black creative team―Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, Sarah Litt, Derwin Roberson, and Dave Sharpe―will return for the second part of a planned trilogy, and will be joined by inker Juan Castro. If funded by Kickstarter, White will be a 6-part, ad-free periodical comic book series. The first printing – with variant covers – will be exclusive to  Kickstarter backers. Comic book retailers will be able to order standard editions directly from Black Mask Studios after rewards are shipped.

The number of backers of White will unlock Kickstarter exclusive variants by comic book industry legends: Ashley A. Woods, Jamal Igle, Jeremy Love, ChrisCross, Sanford Greene, and Denys Cowan.

Issue one of White is estimated to be delivered to backers October 2019. The limited edition variant of the graphic novel and comic book shop retailer bundles will ship to backers in early 2020.

The White Kickstarter campaign is live as of March 4, 2019.

White

Preview: The Curse of Brimstone #11

The Curse of Brimstone #11

(W) Justin Jordan (A) Denys Cowan, John Stanisci (CA) Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira
RATED T
In Shops: Feb 06, 2019
SRP: $2.99

Part one of the epic two-part series finale! After unleashing his raw dark-matter energy and melting Doctor Fate’s helmet, Brimstone’s newfound powers have alerted forces much darker than the ones he’s come across so far. As the home office opens its doors to finally enter into our reality, you’ll never believe the first fiery presence to step through!

The Curse of Brimstone #11

Preview: The Curse of Brimstone Annual #1

The Curse of Brimstone Annual #1

(W) Denys Cowan, Don Hudson, Justin Jordan (A) Mike Perkins (CA) Philip Tan
In Shops: Jan 23, 2019
SRP: $4.99

In this thrilling new annual, Brimstone and Annie are called to help prevent a cult from bringing their god to life via a sacrificial ritual…by none other than John Constantine! Then, explore the origins of Wandering Jack. Plus, witness some of the supernatural deals the Salesman has made throughout the ages. (When you bargain with the devil, prepare to be burned, people!)

The Curse of Brimstone Annual #1
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