It has been something of a tough week for me in comics. In Supergirl, Zor-El has been once again cast as a villain. And in Legion of Super-Heroes, the beloved team got sent to comics limbo in a rather sad and humiliating way. Amidst all that offal was Vibe #7.
Vibe continues to be a cut above the rest, a classic take on the teen super-hero albeit in the darker more sinister DCU.. There is a brighter take on heroism in this book than in almost any other DC book that I read as Cicso remains optimistic, believing in the inherent goodness of humanity, and struggling to honor his brother's memory.
Like many classic heroes, Vibe's decision to be a hero is spurred on by tragedy. His older brother Armando saved him during the original Darkseid invasion, resulting in Cisco obtaining his powers. This inspires Vibe to help others. But before you think this is something you have read before, there is a key wrinkle. Armando didn't die.
And it isn't all sweetness and light. Cisco has had to deal with being lied to and betrayed, showing it is hard to remain good in a cynical world. It is this attack on Cisco's ethics that I find most intriguing. Will he give in to everything around him and become coarser? Or will he continue to rise above.
But it is a book about a hero and I love it for that.
Add to that some seriously wild, wide-open action and a boatload of obscure DC characters and writer Sterling Gates has the recipe for a great book. With all dimensions open to him, Gates has access to almost anything!
Pete Woods has left the book so art here is done by Andres Guinaldo and he shines here. Whether it is close-ups of expressions, people in civilian clothes, or giant para-demons fighting people in exo-skeletons, it all shines here. I hope he remains on as the regular artist.
As I said, Cisco's impetus for becoming a hero and helping people is honoring his brother Armando's sacrifice.
The book opens up with a flashback to Armando's funeral and Cisco, just a young boy, dealing with his survivor's guilt. I can understand how meaningful that moment was, how deep these feelings cut, how much this could impact Cisco.
But as much as this issue is about Cisco and Armando, I love the third brother Dante. He has no powers but he is just as fiercely loyal to the memory of Armando, just as driven to help and do what's right. He is a quiet reminder that you don't need sonic powers to do what's right.
A couple of issues ago, Gypsy told Vibe a very romanticized origin, sounding so much like a fairy tale that even Cisco wondered if it could be true. At the time, I wondered if it was a lie. I thought that trusting Gypsy's story was no different than trusting the lines that ARGUS was giving him.
In the aftermath of Rupture's appearance (Armando's nom de guerre), Gypsy comes clean. She wasn't marooned on Earth by her evil step-mother. She ran to Earth to escape. And Rupture is her step-mother's field general and assassin. She pleads they run.
Everyone that Vibe has trusted has had a hidden agenda, has lied to him. Will he become jaded? Can you remain a pure hero, trusting in the goodness of mankind, in this dark DCU?
And Armando being alive and clearly brainwashed is another interesting wrinkle to see if Cisco will crack. It is clear that Armando can try to fight his programming. But he is Rupture.
If Armando's death was the what made Cisco accept his fate as Vibe, how will his being alive and evil affect him? Imagine if Uncle Ben was not only alive but a super-villain!!!
And how do you truly battle your hero and inspiration?
Great grist for the mill here.
So there is great characterization in this book. And I love how you see Cisco truly struggling to deal with everything he is feeling about Armando's return and Gypsy's lies.
But this was my favorite moment of the book.
With the two brothers battling, their powers rip open the fabric between dimensions and in flies a dragon!
I love Vibe's incredulous 'Are you kidding?" It is this crazy stuff that means at any point Gates can insert a knuckleball. A dragon in ARGUS? Awesome sauce!
And it is clear that Guinaldo can handle a dragon assault as well as kids in suits at a wake.
I have said before that the juxtaposition between Vibe and Dale Gunn is great for this book. To see Gunn re-find his morals and start defying ARGUS to do what's right shows just how inspiring Vibe himself can be!
Here he swears to get Dante out of ARGUS in one piece. At least we get an explanation how Dante can still be alive after getting slugs to the chest. Gunn injected a nano-nurse!
Still, I love seeing Gunn start to question the decisions he has made in life.
Meanwhile, the brothers are still battling.
There is a realism to Vibe's lines here. He is a young guy. Of course he would be flummoxed, exasperated, happy, and sad to see Armando back unfortunately as a villain. This must be heart-wrenching.
That said, Vibe isn't backing down. His brother is trying to hurt people and Vibe isn't going to allow that to happen.
During the battle Gypsy comes clean. Her step-mother is wicked, a dictator in her dimension. And that evil queen Mordeth bent Armando to her will when he arrived.
I have to comment on the art here as we see Armando fall from the sky into that dimension. The use of him as a ghost or silhouette works well here, giving him a sort of celestial feeling, like a god falling from the heavens as opposed to an inner city kid. The use of the galactic background (as opposed to seeing it from the ground or just stars) increases that feel. But what I liked most was the blurred edges of the panel giving this a sort of dreamy, mythic feel to it.
This one panel almost beat out the dragon one. It had a sort of Silver Surfer feel to it.
And then my third favorite moment.
You can feel Cisco's pain here as he pleads with his brother to break the spell and come home. I especially love how he wears his heart on his sleeve, talking about how he has done everything he could to honor Armando.
And Guinaldo does solid work here. This is an understated expression here, not contorted in grief, just enough pain coming through, the single tear a nice touch. Vibe looks young here which he should.
Oh but Gates isn't going to let this end easily. With Cisco standing there defenseless, Rupture buries his war-club (scythe?) into Vibe's chest, all the better to absorb Cisco's energy.
Big moments need big art.
And with that Rupture drags both Vibe and Gypsy through a dimensional portal to her home world. And on Earth, Argus is in shambles and Darkseid's daughter has escaped. Nice cliffhanger.
So what can I say. After the disappointing Supergirl and Legion, I get another very solid Vibe issue, a book filled with action, some crazy action, and enough pathos to choke on. And throughout it, we have a kid just trying to be a hero because it is the right thing to do, no matter what sort of a morass he is wading in. Just solid stuff.
I have seen more and more big name sites praising the book. I have seen tweets talking it up. I have beat the drum. I fear that this is an overlooked gem on the comic racks. I hope that DC doesn't pull the plug prematurely. They need this book. I need this book.