Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Justice League of America's Vibe #1 (April, 2013)

Elder sibling Armando Ramon was bound for college in California, set to be the first member of his family to attend. Younger brother Dante mocked him for abandoning Michigan, and figured his fortune was waiting somewhere other than academia. The junior Francisco just wanted his brother to stick around, but he was the one who literally became stuck inside the event horizon of an opening Boom Tube. Dante backed away in fear while Armando rushed to pull Cisco free from the disruption in space-time. Tragically, a Parademon emerging from the portal between dimensions killed Armando "For Darkseid!"

Five years later, Armando Ramon was remembered as the first known victim of Darkseid's failed invasion, routed in the debut mission of the Justice League. Cisco was working at an electronics store, where Dante tried to mooch off Cisco's paycheck. Cisco wasn't about to let his college money go to the casino again, and he and their dad were pretty upset that Dante had skipped the memorial ceremony that morning.

Agent Dale Gunn of A.R.G.U.S. was following Francisco Ramon on orders from Amanda Waller. Neither wanted "Subject 2" to end up like the first. Gunn talked Cisco into his car on the promise of justice for his brother's death. Ever since the incident, Cisco had developed certain abilities. He couldn't be photographed without blurring in the picture. He could generate waves of destructive vibrational force. He could detect the presence of intrusions from other dimensions by their different vibrational frequencies, even "seeing" their outlines through solid matter. A.R.G.U.S. had been formed as an offshoot of Homeland Security to defend against super-human threats after Darkseid's invasion, and now they had Francisco's number. "Your internal vibrational frequency is no longer in sync with the rest of the world." They knew he'd been using his powers as a vigilante in the neighborhood, and wanted to harness and direct his abilities for a greater good.

A parademon that had lost its Mother Box was trapped on Earth, hiding out and feeding off the homeless. Agent Gunn told Cisco it was the parademon that had killed his brother, and that he was needed to stop its rampage. "You can destroy it. The power inside you is from beyond this universe. You're tapped into the vibrational tendons that hold reality together." Tearfully, Cisco clashed with the Parademon, which was eventually caught between its own dimension and ours, tearing it apart.

Agent Gunn took Cisco to the Special Detroit Branch of A.R.G.U.S. Darkseid's incursion had thinned the walls between dimensions, leaving the city a nexus point where "creatures and debris" leaked from beyond. Someone had to police those breaches, and Cisco had the perfect power set for the job. "So basically you want me to be a... border cop?" Under the codename Vibe, Cisco would join a new heroic team to protect the world against the next Darkseid... the all-new Justice League of America. This was all hush-hush of course, but Cisco just had to tell Dante at least...

Amanda Waller didn't actually know if that was really the Parademon that killed Armando Ramon. "They all look alike to me." She just needed to motivate Cisco, and she wanted his powers under control, specifically hers. Should he refuse, he would be imprisoned in her underground laboratory dubbed "The Circus." There was already a containment cell that literally had his name on it, should he cause any problems. Subject Gypsy knew about that all too well, as she looked on from confinement as Waller continued to discuss Vibe with Agent Gunn. She wasn't the only such prisoner by a fair margin. "We need to do whatever we can to prepare ourselves for the inevitable, Agent Gunn. Because one day, it's all going to go to hell again. One day, Darkseid's going to come back... for his daughter."

"Not-So-Secret Origin" was by Geoff Johns & Andrew Kreisberg on story and Pete Woods & Sean Parsons on art. I don't recall the constitution of the Ramon family from the 1980s, other than there being sisters, but I do remember that Paco was Armando's older brother. That would be a minor point, except that there is nobody named Paco in this comic, and the only person with a personality remotely resembling the Bronze Age character is Dante. Francisco is a bland, whitewashed version of Paco Ramone, or in other words, the New 52 Vibe is actually a reboot of Reverb/Hardline. The now presumed deceased Ramone family matriarch used a different kind of douche in the New 52, so she never had any daughters, and her first son got a name previously reserved for this boring Cisco kid.

The In-Name-Only-itis doesn't stop there. I never claimed to be a fan of American Colossus Hank Heywood III, but I found that Gerry Conway had surrounded Steel II with solid trappings for a solo hero. His grandfather bestowed upon him a super-heroic legacy, but the twist of Hank Sr. inflicting the cybernetic parts on the kid was a significant twist. Heywood Industries provided all sorts of cool toys to play with, and once the kid inevitably rebelled against the original tyrannical Indestructible Man, it created a conflict of loyalties for his surrogate father, Dale Gunn. Like his new boss Amanda "Apple Bottom" Waller, Gunn has gone from an out of shape, balding and gray war vet to a young aerobicized spy with decidedly gray ethics. Gunn contributes to the homogenization of the New 52, where he was once a unique element that lent diversity to the universe. I'll save my Gypsy criticisms for next issue.

The point is that in trying to make Vibe an important representative of the Latin community, and to make up for the past sins of unintentionally comedic ethnic stereotyping, the creators have removed every bit of organic appeal from the character. They've decided that Vibe is going to be a big deal with a major role to play, then worked backwards from that intention to craft a bare bones perfunctory construct instead of a living character. Even the art seems calculatingly inoffensive, functional in a manner reminiscent of Alex Saviuk. It isn't terrible work by anyone, but it is bereft of passion or soul. I'm not sure how long I'll keep up with it, but I'm confident it'll get canceled before it tries my patience too much.

New 52's Day


LissBirds said...

It's kind of ironic that trying to bring diversity in a non-stereotyped way winds up creating characters who are all the same.

The backwards characterization is a serious problem at DC. I haven't read this book, but everything seems to be backwards: plot and character. Characters are sold as being important to us because DC told us they are important to us, not because they are shown to be. "Show, not tell" is such a basic and simple concept that I wish they could rediscover during an editorial meeting.

Diabolu Frank said...

You've got it all wrong, Liss! A bunch of characters in the book tell us Vibe is important. Not editors, but actual DC characters speak dialogue and tell us in no uncertain terms how very very important the continuing adventures of the Justice League of America's Vibe will be in the coming months and years so we really aught to keep paying attention to him. Like, he even killed a parademon that one time and stuff.

LissBirds said...

Ha!! Well, now that the characters say he's important, then I guess it must be so.

Count Drunkula said...

I was underwhelmed by the first issue of what I imagine will be the eight issue VIBE mini-series. All of your points are pretty spot-on. Beyond the characterization, the plot felt very white bread, very traditional and safe, and ultimately that just reassured me that my money would be better spent on other things. Like tacos.

The only thing about this series that remotely interests me now is Gypsy.

Diabolu Frank said...

I don't believe in piracy, but if there's a book I've already paid for like Justice League of America that I'm especially anxious to read, I'll download a copy until my physical shipment arrives. I still haven't read Vibe #2, despite having the book on hand for nearly a month. That about says it all.

I made a point of checking out the latest sales numbers before pre-ordering another issue just a few hours ago. Vibe is the worst selling DC book after All-Star Western of titles not already canceled or assumed to be axed very soon. I'd have a tough time ordering a ninth issue, let me tell you.

Count Drunkula said...

Yeah, I read the sales for February and VIBE and KATANA both did pretty horribly. Not long for this world.

Diabolu Frank said...

Katana did a little bit better, but nobody in my blog circles seems to have read/commented on it. Just goes to show you shouldn't launch two hangers-on in their own ongoings before anyone's even been exposed to them in the presumed hit core book.