The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #3 Review

by Jay Hill on June 16, 2020

Written by: Jeff Lemire
Pencils by: Denys Cowan
Inked by: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Willie Schubert
Published by: DC Black Label
Rest in Power: Dennis O'Neil

We continue through the deaths of Vic Sage to discover what truths are hidden in these past lives. This time Vic finds himself as a private investigator in 1941 Hub City trying to find a missing union advocate. But this case is also another chapter in the mystery of the evil and omnipresent “Man With a Thousand Faces”.

The last issue took us to a Western setting in a story that was based around a search for vengeance and redemption. Now we’re in a more significantly “film noir” feeling environment as we’re introduced to the next life of Sage. The previous identity of Sage we witnessed, Viktor Szasz, had a very defined mindset that was explored throughout the issue. Our change to this identity, now Charlie Sage, introduces a character with different intricacies. The personality of Charlie Sage is shown not just in his actions but also by a brilliant use of thought/narration boxes by writer Jeff Lemire. Using inner monologues seems to be a lost art in modern comics, one that doesn’t happen enough or when it is it isn’t used to its full potential, but, in this series, it has been used perfectly to flesh out and define the multiple protagonists.

This story’s tone may feel more familiar to The Question character and the real/modern Vic Sage of this series, but it stands out as its own identity. While the first journey to another persona found Viktor Szasz, who felt more like “just a man” who eventually became The Question, Charlie Sage feels he’s entirely The Question; his life as a PI is defined by the chasing of mysteries. Those two personas feel like one side each of the “real” Vic Sage from issue #1 who is fighting with himself on whether to just be the man or the man in the mask. In this issue, synchronicity is brought up and synchronicity seems to be apparent in little corners throughout this series. One bit of synchronicity that is focused on in this issue is the strike in 1941 Hub City and the protests in modern-day Hub City. Speaking of the protests, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how incredibly prescient the storyline of an unarmed black man being killed by a cop and sparking city-wide outrage is.

The real beauty of this story is in its structure. These issues have been following self-contained narratives, completely engrossing on their own, that also act as steps in the larger story at hand. We are seeing lives inside a life, stories inside a story, and mysteries inside a mystery. The ultimate enemy is proving to be a formidable one, but The Question is still doing what he does just in a different way. In a mystery, the investigator searchers every depth to uncover the clues, and this mystery is so perplexing it is taking multiple lives and deaths to gather those clues. But with every identity comes new information and, by the close of this issue, it seems The Question has gathered enough clues to begin cracking this centuries-long case.

The art in this book creates an incredible feeling. You get steeped in the atmosphere of the story by the visuals. The writing style with its expressive narrations and perplexing mysteries makes you desire art that adds to that feel and you couldn’t have asked for a better art team. Denys Cowan’s angular and defined style not only fits the character perfectly but, in his work with the late, great writer Dennis O’Neil, some would say it defines it. And, added to that is the inks by Bill Sienkiewicz which takes those great pencils and adds his signature mad style. The combination of the two is beyond the perfect fit for this book. DC adding pages of the art process to the back of the issues is a blessing. To get to see exactly the talent at hand and what they bring to the table. Even with just the pencils, the great style of Cowan captures a vibe so true to the series and character. Then you get to see how Sienkiewicz cements the world into place with a scratchy, impressionistic flair; the duo meshes like Morrissey’s vocals and Johnny Marr’s riffs. 

And the coloring is handled by one of the best around, Chris Sotomayor. I think I’ve mentioned how he has been the subtle MVP in the series, but if I haven’t, let it be understood now. With the shifting environments, the coloring has been key. In the last issue, the palette was made rustic and sandy to capture the Western feeling. In this issue, the "noir" is thoroughly supplied by the colors chosen. This is made most apparent in the scene of Charlie walking through a rainy Hub City. The environment and his dark trench coat almost bring about a black-and-white movie aesthetic. And, some of the best visuals and coloring of the series has been in the close-up shots; Cowan’s panel layouts are amazing and highlight some great shots while Sienkiewicz inks the faces with great details. In this issue, there’s a great shot of Tot and the coloring on his face is fantastic. And, I love the way the coloring “mimics” the scratchy style of the art, leaving visible lines of definition. Some of the best art of the issue is in the latter half of the book. There’s a “time warp” sequence that highlights the coloring’s evolution, the scenes underground are filled with great, detailed visuals, and there’s a terrific shot of Charlie and the multiple Questions. One more point of praise goes to Willie Schubert’s lettering. Like the rest of the art team, he has shown a great evolution throughout the changing environments of the issues. This issue brings torn journal entries with typewriter-style text and adds to the atmosphere like all the art.

Actually, I lied, one more point of praise goes to Howard Chaykin for his great variant cover.

Being interesting, engrossing, and entertaining for 40+ pages while containing subtle substance and an incredible structure makes this a perfect issue. It’s great storytelling mixed with great art to form a great comic book. Brilliance can be found in the miniseries format and the way Lemire has crafted this story is clearly brilliant. The art may be the best and most expressive in a DC book this year and creates such a satisfying atmosphere. This is a genius and exciting comic book and, with one more issue left, I can’t wait to have this series complete to read it again.

Our Score:


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