Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vixen: Return of the Lion #1 (December, 2008)

A Justice League consisting of Vixen, Superman, Batman and the Black Canary uncovered an Intergang weapons cache bound to help “clear the way” for a new Ridge Ferrick mining facility in the African nation of Zambesi. Documents found by Batman revealed bribes to a local warlord running the operation, Aku Kwesi, who had murdered Jeanne-Mari Jiwe fifteen years earlier. “Made it look like a poaching incident.” Superman asked that the information be kept quiet until he could talk to Vixen in private about her mother’s killer.

In a revision of the events of her first published appearance, Superman caught Mari alone at the gym to discuss the case that introduced one to the other. “You were so angry because of what happened to your mother. When we caught those poachers, it seemed like her killers had been brought to justice. We were wrong. Superman explained all about the Numasa operation and Kwesi’s involvement, then offered a comforting embrace. “I tried so hard to get over this. I thought it was all done. But it isn’t. I can smell the blood in that photograph. Like it was happening all over again… I can leave tonight.” Superman didn’t want Mari rushing into things, especially alone and in a bad emotional state. “I’ll go with or without League permission. Clark-- if this was about someone you loved, I wouldn’t try to stop you. You know I wouldn’t.”

In the Dagombi Plains in Zambesi, Mari Jiwe strolled into town, attracting the attention of village children. Mari was recognized by her old schoolmate Abiesa, Mari was welcomed with a hug and “A kwaaba, darling friend!” Abiesa never thought she would see Mari again after hearing she had become a model in America, and with her parents gone, “Who was left to arrange your marriage, your protection, your future?” When Mari revealed the reason for her return, Abiesa was dismissive. “This is the world. The good fall, and the evil prosper. It’s no good to talk of punishing. Only a goat that is tired of life invites the lion to dinner.” Besides, she chided, without a domesticating husband, Mari might even begin to bleat like a goat.

The reunion was interrupted by some of Kwesi’s men, who rode through the village on motorcycles while brandishing machetes. Mari called them sons of whores, and used the powers of the jaguar to show them what for. The men didn’t give up their boss, but with the trouble she’d caused, assured Mari he’d find her.

Abiesa was initially fearful of Mari’s powers, as she clutched her infant child tightly to her breast. Mari explained that they came from her totem, which “helps me use the power of the vodun-- the animal spirits.” Abiesa pointed out that Mari’s father was a Christian priest of the English church. “He used to tell me that there is only one god-- but the wise know him by many names.”

Abiesa spoke of how Aku Kwesi was once thought a mere bully from the Forest-People, but his weapons and men proved him much more. He had taken girls from the village by force to serve as wives, and his men did “terrible things.” Mari was set to change that, but “Kwesi is more dangerous than you know. He has powers. Unnatural powers.”

Abiesa’s husband Owo arrived just ahead of Aku Kwesi, who was intent on humbling “the uncircumcised slut who thinks she can insult me.” Mari identified herself to the fiend, who remembered her mother. “Her husband was getting above himself, preaching new ways and making trouble. She was a warning.” Mari charged the offensive “animal,” who unsheathed his claws and slashed her cheek. The spirit of the eagle afforded Mari a flying kick to the chest, which Kwesi shrugged off. “It’s like he’s made of metal… a metahuman?”Kwesi lifted Mari by the throat and slashed her abdomen. Before he could finish the job, one of Kwesi’s men warned “Sir! This is not wise… Forgive me, sir. But to kill a guest of the village-- and a woman-- it looks desperate.” Kwesi argued with Sia further on the matter, before asking for Sia’s gun, and pointing it down at the wounded Mari. “Welcome, She-Spirit, to the lasty moment of your life.

“Return of the Lion Part 1: Predators” was by G. Willow Wilson and Cafu. I’m also inclined to single out colorist Santiago Arcas for his highly complementary and graceful work.

Whether intentionally or through insufficient research, Mari had gone from fifteen years removed from her native M’Changa after the murder of her father to ten years removed from Zambesi. DC Comics don’t award No Prizes, but let’s say M’Changa went through the all too common political upheaval, perhaps as the fallout from General Maksai’s death. The end result was maybe the new nation of Zambesi, which Vixen had visited something like five years into her super-heroic career? Good? No?

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