** SOME SPOILERS INCLUDED **
Nobody believed an ongoing series starring a C-list hero—who also happened to be fond of break dancing—from the 1980’s would actually be a success. Even though it was a pet project of the prolific Geoff Johns and would connect directly to Justice League of America, public expectations remained low. Against all odds, JLA’s Vibe has quickly become one of my favorite titles to read each month. Vibe reads like a 80’s era action series without all the pomp and silliness of the actual time period—and it’s really, really good.
Vibe #5 starts right in the middle of the action as Cisco and the mysterious Gypsy attempt to outrun A.R.G.U.S. forces. An ongoing theme of this series has been the challenging of authority. This isn’t the first time Cisco has been at odds with his government employers, and it doesn’t seem like it will be the last. A.R.G.U.S. isn’t the most good-natured organization—as evidenced by Amanda Waller’s decision to send the Suicide Squad after Cisco—so Vibe’s distrust is certainly warranted.
Cisco is a fantastic ‘point of view’ character for the DC universe because he’s been thrust into the middle of it without much warning, not unlike us readers. He’s a mostly normal teenager, he doesn’t understand his powers or really how they work, he’s skeptical of everything being given to him, and that skepticism soon morphs into distrust. He’s one of the most relatable DC character right now simply because of how he reacts and behaves in a new life he has to get used to calling normal. His situation feels akin to an entry-level position at a prestigious law firm, and in a very real way, Sterling Gates is giving us a comic book about what it might actually be like to be a superhero.
Thick exposition can often hit the brakes on any momentum a comic book has, but in Vibe #5, Gates integrates Gypsy’s backstory rather well, and by the end of it, Cisco has even more of a reason to distrust A.R.G.U.S. This, along with Cisco’s relationship with his brother Dante, reinforces the second running theme in Vibe: family. Dante is the only person Cisco tells about his life as a member of the JLA, and they’re brotherly relationship is one of the strongest, narratively, that I’ve read in a while. Tertiary characters don’t often elicit an emotional reaction, but Dante’s sadness and frustration over not knowing where his kid brother is actually made me sad and frustrated for him.
I don’t understand why DC is intent on forcing the Suicide Squad to hunt kids, but they showed up in Teen Titans a few months back, and now Waller has sent them after Vibe after he goes AWOL with Gypsy. While I’ve been enjoying Ales Kot’s take on the team recently, their presence in other titles often seems forced (see Resurrection Man #9).
Amanda Waller has become somewhat of a cruel overlord instead of the power-hungry tactical genius she was in the pre-‘New 52’ universe. Before, she was always about her duty and seizing enough power to accomplish her goals. Now, it feels like she’s just arrogant and compulsive because she’s paranoid that nobody respects her. Then, her flamboyant shows of strength reinforce the fact that her subordinates hate her. It’s rather unfortunate, because Waller was once the character I loved to hate, but now, I just hate her.
If you haven’t checked out Justice League of America’s Vibe, you should. Sterling Gates’ fun and energetic approach to the title makes it one of the most consistently engaging titles DC has in its lineup. I never thought I’d like a comic book about a hero who can manipulate vibrations and frequencies, but Vibe is just plain awesome.