The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 Review

by Jay Hill on November 20, 2019

Written by: Jeff Lemire
Pencils by: Denys Cowan
Inked by: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors by: Chris Sotomayor
Published by: DC Black Label

If I start this off with that line from Hamlet, would that be too much? That is the question. Speaking of questions, Vic Sage returns with his faceless mask to deliver black and white justice to the criminals of Hub City. In The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, the titular hero will be taken on a mind-bending journey through his past to face his titular demises.

To start, we are shown exactly the type of hero Vic Sage is. He takes down a corrupt politician in a den of perverted desires but shows little heart for some of the ladies working there. Staying true to creator Steve Ditko’s Randian/Objectivist views, The Question thinks you’re either good or evil and if you’re unsure which side you’re on, chances are it’s the wrong one (his words). But when he’s not donning the mask, he’s in front of the camera hosting an investigative news show. This is where the duality of Sage rests. Like Bruce Wayne, he thinks his public persona doesn’t have enough far-reaching effects to create actual change.  On his shoulder, he has Aristotle "Tot" Rodor trying to convince him that the Vic Sage needed for Hub City is the one with a face. In this issue, the exploration of the aspect of his character is just one of the intricacies weaved through the story. Along with that idea of which Vic Sage is needed in a city on the brink of self-implosion, The Question follows up a familiar yet perplexing lead he found when taking down the politician. This leads him through a twisted web of shadowy secret societies and widespread corruption. He eventually finds what he’s looking for, but with it, a bigger mystery is revealed. One that involves his past, one that is hidden in the back of his mind. His query leads him to his former mentor, Richard Dragon. His quest for answers begins when Dragon gives him the catalyst to discovering the real question isn’t, “Who is Vic Sage?” But, rather, “Who was Vic Sage?”

Jeff Lemire is a good writer if you didn’t know. He has taken The Question and all the character’s strengths and nuances and distilled them in what amounts to a perfect first act. He showed the complexities of Vic’s emotions, then gave him a case that feeds those tendencies. While incorporating Hub City and its climate to further fuel Sage’s duality. Lemire gave him a great reason for needing to be on-air personality Vic Sage and gave him an enticing mystery that needs The Question to answer. While also making sure every second, every character introduced, and every action that took place all goes towards building up the base of the story. Then, with one bullet through a mask and one sip of a dubious liquid, turns it all on its head. It goes from a great first act of a mystery/noir, to the start of an introspective spirit quest. Once that happens, all the questions about Vic’s personality and ideology get turned into the perfect primer for a journey into the self. I dare say, a lesser writer would have given a few pages of The Question, then dropped him into the adventure, but Lemire crafted a story that was intriguing from panel one to the last page.

On top of a masterfully crafted script, we have Denys Cowan’s wonderful pencils. Cowan is no stranger to working on The Question as he drew the Dennis O'Neil written stories that reinvigorated the character. And, inking for him is Bill Sienkiewicz who provided the covers for that same series. I don’t even feel worthy of giving a critic of these two legends of the form, but I can say they took what was already an amazing story and added another level of genius. Cowan’s layouts of the pages are deceptively neat and brilliant. His framing is great; he uses perspective and blocking incredibly. On top of his pencils are the inks of Sienkiewicz who’s pen strokes are meticulously chaotic. They add the atmosphere of the city and Vic Sage being at war with itself. When Vic is hit with vision, Sienkiewicz’s almost schizophrenic art style is used; like a madman’s stained-glass window. Then, when clarity is needed, both artists give room for some detailed expressions. Expressions that are colored by Chris Sotomayor with gorgeous slight tones. In the close-up shots, the coloring is brushed and blended to bring out the depth that’s only available with a great colorist. The noir aura is kept moody instead of dark, including a scene of Vic driving through the night that invokes Van Gogh’s Starry Night. But throughout the story, and by the end, the coloring’s intricacies are made apparent as we’re shown glimpses of what the future holds (or the past?).

This is a rare comic. It (re)introduces a character, his world, and his complexity. Then after taking you on a ride for the entire comic, tells you that you haven’t seen anything yet. If this was just the first act of another noir mystery for The Question, it would be starting off strong, but it’s the start of something much more: a journey into the mystery of Vic Sage himself. And, as the story grabs you with every turn, the art impresses and immerses you.

Our Score:


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