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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Daredevil/Echo: Vision Quest

Writer and Artist: David Mack
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

What’s it about?
Vision Quest is Maya Lopez’s story. 
Maya is a Dancer, a performance Artist, and Actress and a Boxer.  She has the extraordinary ability of being able to mimic any action or movement she sees, perfectly and without error.  This talent was first discovered at primary school when despite being Deaf, she played a complicated piece of music after seeing a musician perform it once.

Maya was first introduced in Parts of a Hole, with what felt like a solid introduction to her story.  However this book provides more detail as to her background, her relationship with her father, her Native American community, her experience of Deafness and Sign Language and her experiences growing up.

Maya Lopez describes herself as an echo – because she’s Deaf, because she has her father’s imprints upon her, because she doesn’t feel quite real in her own body.  Vision Quest sees Echo return to her Native American community to search out the Chief and seek advice on her life.  He advises her to go on a vision quest and the meat of the story is born.

What’s good about it?

This is a surprisingly grown up book.  The structure of the book and the topics discussed are mature and given due seriousness.  It’s thoughtful without being complicated and it has a certain solemn feel to it.
It's a mature, introspective read which left me considering it for days afterwards. 

Some of the issues brought up in Parts of a Hole related to Maya’s deafness and ability to sign are dealt with and there are a smattering of American Sign Language signs shown throughout the book.  Consequently, it really does read like a book aware about Deafness, which is an amazing achievement in a society which appears terrified of any sort of hearing problem.  Unlike in Parts of a Hole there are no scenes of Maya lipreading people standing in the dark (hooray!).

It's not a beat 'em up, superhero versus villain story.  There are no fights to save the world, save the girl, save the city, prevent  an alien attack or some other catastrophe.  It's simply not that sort of book and you are unlikely to read anything else like it, in comics or traditional prose.  It's a deeply personal book about Maya, her life and her roots.

What’s bad about it?
I really don't think I have anything to criticise about the content of this book.  The one disadvantage it has to the new reader is it's price and availability, which I shall deal with in the other information section below.
What’s the art like?
David Mack both wrote and did the art for this story.  The only part of the creative process he didn't do was the letters.  As a consequence, this piece of work is pretty unique in superhero comics as the creator has developed and published his vision for the story, without having to bend it to fit other people's styles (barring editorial input, and the letters, of course).

Most importantly, he does a beautiful job – Vision Quest is mostly painted, not pencilled, although there are some pages with childlike drawings on them.  This serves to tie the art neatly into the story, creating something that so beautifully complementary it makes me sigh with happiness.
This is not like your regular book, comic or otherwise, echoing (hah, sorry) what has been said above, this book is one of a kind.   The layout isn't a traditional 6 or so panels to a page, with the action flowing to an from each distinct panel.  Instead, the background tells as much story as the panels, and the panels may be
depicted as picture frames, childhood sketches, collages, Picasso-esque art samples, a collection of mouths or other symbols.  It's beautiful.

There's a lot of background detail within the art, something that a non comic reading friend whom I lent the book to absolutely loved.

As you can see from the art samples posted  throughout this review, Mack utilises a number of different art styles throughout the book.  Yet, it's not as jarring as you might think.  There's a richness to his art, especially to his portraits.

Other information
This book is now out of print and not easy to get hold of, I located it by saving a search on eBay and even then it took six months for the book to be listed.  I paid about £18 for a hardcover from eBay (I don't believe it's ever been released in paperback form).  Yes, it's expensive, but it is worth it.  However, I have now done a quick search and found it for about half that price on The Book Depository website.

If you buy this, do make sure you also get Parts of a Hole.  Sadly, no other books have been published solely focusing on Echo, although she has appeared in some New Avengers books.

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