Review by Frank Plowright
It’s not apparent at the start, but there are enough clues over the opening chapter to suggest Vanish is Donny Cates musing on Harry Potter. What course did his life take once he’d saved the world as a teenager? To explore that Bunn creates two worlds, one of magic saved by the young Oliver, and the other not too different from Earth as we know it, except with superheroes. Back in the day the threat was dealt with, but not the idea, and Oliver now lives on Earth, seemingly a drunken exile.
Cates is clear from the start that while he may be riffing on Harry Potter, this isn’t the world of thrilling and threatening magic that’s ultimately comforting, but a harsh separation where life is brutal and endings are brief and not necessarily happy. That’s conveyed by Ryan Stegman whose artistic influences are those of Image Comics artists from around the time the first Harry Potter book was published. There are fewer lines, but Stegman’s using the way Jim Lee laid out a superhero story, so the artistic satisfaction is contingent on that having appeal.
An early scene features a teenage superhero being beaten to death, although it’s not quite as clear cut, and brutality is consistent subtext. It’s there in the teaching methods of Oliver’s school, and in his approach to life in general, and for a long while it’s really all Cates and Stegman have to offer once past the set-up. Then briefly, it seems as if things aren’t going to follow the heavily signposted path, but they do, and what Oliver’s been told all along plays out. Eventually the originality rests in such a brutal take on the idea of superheroes.
Not every secret is revealed, but those connections that haven’t been made can be guessed at. Let’s hope that Cates takes the less obvious routes in Volume Two.