Over the past year or so, DC's Black Label imprint has provided a platform for some buzzworthy and unpredictable forms of storytelling. The titles have included dark takes on some of DC's most beloved characters, and a longtime cult favorite now resides amongst them. The first issue of The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, which arrives in stores today, brings the character from the 1960s into the 21st century with entertaining ease. In the process, this tale takes the crime noir world that regularly surrounds its protagonist and spins it on its head in a way that new and returning readers of the character will likely appreciate.
The issue opens with The Question investigating a child prostitution ring, which quickly proves to have ties to a prominent politician in Hub City. After targeting corruption in the forms of both The Question and his newsman alter ego, Vic Sage uncovers a conspiracy that's much more nuanced and personal than expected. As Vic goes down the proverbial rabbit hole, he seeks advice from an old friend, which proceeds to make his journey even more complicated.
Even with so many years of lore surrounding Vic Sage, there's something about the plot of this issue that feels relatively accessible for new readers. While the issue certainly doesn't hold your hand through every moment, it results in introductions and revelations that are concise and effective. Jeff Lemire's provides Vic—and the inner turmoil that he comes to feel—a nuanced,often earnest, take without ever feeling out of character. After Vic's sparing comics appearances in recent years, there's a sense that this is a sort of "back to basics" take on the character, one that also injects complications from him existing in the modern day.
Without getting into spoilers, there's a reveal in this issue that essentially challenges what The Question's abilities symbolize. While there's no telling exactly how that thread will play out, the anonymity that comes with Vic suiting up as The Question is utilized in an interesting fashion, which will hopefully be deconstructed more in future issues. It also feels weirdly serendipitous that this issue is coming out just as Rorschach, a character who was originally based on The Question, is being dissected as a right-wing symbol on HBO's Watchmen television series.
At times, the world of the issue feels anachronistic in all the right ways, largely thanks to the timeless visuals. Denys Cowan, who penciled a significant number of The Question comics in the 1980s, shines in this issue, with some beautifully-rendered facial expressions and scenes. The inks by Bill Siekiewicz, who drew covers for the same era, adds an extra sense of frenzied energy to even the most mundane of moments. Chris Sotomayor's color work builds on that energy even further, especially as Vic dives further into the mystery at hand. And the lettering by Willie Schubert feels incredibly emotive and personal.
The Vic Sage iteration of The Question has had a bit of a hiatus in recent years of DC Comics, but this Black Label miniseries brings him back to life in a rewarding, slightly-updated way. The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1 begins a stoic, bizarre, yet genuinely cool thrill ride, with visuals and revelations that will surprise longtime fans and new readers alike. There are few indications of where this series will head next, and that makes it a debut definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Published by DC Comics
On November 20, 2019
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors by Chris Sotomayor
Letters by Willie Schubert