DC Comics released The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #3 this past week on June 16. Writer Jeff Lemire continues to weave a tale of intrigue and mystery with one of DC’s most painfully underutilized characters and does so with a profound respect for the history and essence of the character. I’m sure this is helped by having classic Question artist Denys Cowan doing pencils for the issue, who is accompanied by Bill Sienkiewicz on inks. Chris Sotomayor joins them as the colorist along with letterer Willie Schubert.
Lemire continues Vic’s vision quest through his past lives. After exploring his life in the Old West, Vic now finds himself in the 1940s, working as a private investigator searching for Jacob Fuller, a labor rights advocate. Vic takes on the case from Jacob’s sister, and fellow union activist, Margaret Fuller. Considering The Question’s Objectivist origins, putting him on the side of collective labor over-against upper-class business owners is a clever reversal of Steve Ditko’s original intent for the character. That is the beauty of Lemire’s work on this series. It reminds me of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman in that Lemire has incorporated all of the elements of The Question’s publication and media depictions into his story: the black and white moralist, the PI, the journalist, and even the mystic, all while redefining those stories for modern audiences. Most specifically, Lemire defines the Question’s concern for justice around social issues like race and labor rights.
There’s also a very brief “blink, and you’ll miss it” reference to the Justice Society of America, which seems to indicate that this story is attached to a larger universe. Whether that universe is self-contained or attached to the main DC continuity (in the same way that the Netflix Marvel shows “are” a part of the MCU) is something that I’m sure plenty of fans will probably talk about in chatrooms.
Lemire continues to weave a strong, complex narrative as Vic Sage attempts to overcome evil and keep history from repeating itself once again.
I can’t say enough about Cowan and Sienkiewicz’s art in this book and the series as a whole. Sienkiewicz’s inks are a perfect complement to Cowan’s pencils. Both men’s talents were made to draw this Question story. Their work expertly creates the noir feel of this issue, capturing the cynical and dark corners of Hub City in 1941. This should be no surprise since this isn’t Cowan’s first time drawing The Question, and Sienkiewicz has shown his penchant for noir in Brian Michael Bendis’s Alias. This is Cowan and Sienkiewicz at their best!
Sotomayor shines in this issue. His muted colors help to create the noir atmosphere for this story. He also knows how to occasionally brighten certain details up that make them “pop” off the page, usually those of The Question’s outfit. The blue on the cover provides a nice contrast to the dark world the characters inhabit.
Adding to the noir sensibility is Schubert, who provides the “voice over” in lettering that looks like it could’ve been written on a typewriter. All of the little lettering details combine to help create the proper atmosphere for this story. Whether it’s Vic’s handwriting on a notepad or the font style of the many newspapers he passes by (one of which contains that JSA easter egg I mentioned earlier), Schubert’s lettering adds as much to the noir elements of this story as the pencils, inks, and colors.
When Lemire and company set out to write their series about The Question, I wonder if they realized how relevant it might be for our current time. Culturally, the series has dealt with issues of racism, both in the present and the past, including police brutality. In issue #3, labor rights are highlighted, and again, police are shown as a means for quelling social protests and outrage. On a more personal level, with the passing of Denny O’Neil this month, it seems only fitting that his former collaborator from The Question series in the 80s, Denys Cowan, is doing the art for this series.
Perhaps this is the promise of DC’s Black Label. People can have the time and freedom to write great stories that relate to the world in meaningful and authentic ways.