I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. I love The Question, and I have ever since I learned that he was the basis for the character of Rorschach in Watchmen. I always thought it was kind of weird that DC had never collected any of their Question comics from the mid to late 80s. Granted, the series finished well short of the graphic novel boom that we enjoy today, but I thought for sure that the character’s position at center stage in 52 would start the ball rolling and it finally did.
The character has kind of an odd history. He started out as a vigilante embodiment of Steve Ditko’s objectivist philosophy. Vic Sage, like many objectivist followers of Ayn Rand was something of an asshole. After the Charleton characters were purchased by DC, he got a metaphysical face lift (as it were). Zen and Violence collects the first six issues of his relaunch.
Vic Sage is an investigative reporter in the ridiculously corrupt Hub City. He’s trying to expose the wrongs of the political elite, but he has trouble making people care. He also carries on the fight as his faceless alter ego, The Question. Wearing a mask that makes his face look blank and a stylish fedora he kicks down doors and does the things vigilantes usually do.
But he is unfulfilled. After he meets (and receives an ass-kicking from) Lady Shiva and almost dies, he undergoes a spiritual metamorphosis. In the comic book equivalent of a training montage, he spends a one-page year recovering, training, and learning meditation/melee skills from the enigmatic and awesomely-bearded Richard Dragon.
Then he’s ready to hit the streets with a Zen outlook and a whole new kind of cool.
The storytelling is solid, even if the art is a little 80s-tastic. The plot is straightforward enough for the reboot of the character and gives him the opportunity to kick some low level ass while adjusting to the new status quo. The villain of the first story arc, an insane preacher manipulating the drunken mayor in a half-assed scheme to create a world so corrupt that the rapture is bound to occur is slightly less than epic. But The Question is a street level hero and he works well with the smaller stakes. I hate it when vigilante characters end up saving the world. For The Question, trying to save the city is enough.
My biggest complaint with this trade is that only collects the first six issues and comes with $19.99 price tag attached. It’s worth it, but I would have been much happier if this series had gotten the Showcase treatment. The art does not need the glossy treatment it gets here and I think it would look awesome in black and white. As my local comic purveyor pointed out, Zen and Violence clearly has the numeral 1 on the spine, so I’m sure there will be more forthcoming if it sells. But I, for one, would love to have a bigger chunk of The Question in a much thicker collection.