Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why DC Needs Vibe

I have talked for a while on this blog about some of the issues I have with the current New 52 DC Universe, this feeling that it is an overwhelmingly depressing place to live.

 The powers-that-be will call it grim and gritty, or realistic. But the truth is that the longer this universe and these books come out, the more unrecognizable things are becoming. There doesn’t seem to be a super-hero who is happy being a hero, happy to be helping people. Superman is a loner who doesn’t want to mentor his family, someone who floats over everybody. In countless books, in continuity or out, he has become a killer. Supergirl is a disaffected teen running from her new world. Her father has once again been turned into a super-villain. Superboy is a brainwashed weapon, a bank robber who carries the DNA of a maniacal genocidal alternate future son of Clark and Lois.  The Amazons seduce and kill men to create the next generation, trading male children into slavery for weapons. Wonder Woman is a warrior only, never an ambassador for peace.  The Legion can’t be made dark enough to sustain a title and so it is canceled, replaced by JLA3000, a book that Kevin Maguire is kicked off of because the book needs to be darker than his art can support.

It felt as if the whole DCU was cut from the same grimmer and grittier cloth.

And a palette of one color becomes boring pretty quickly.
Throughout this new universe, I kept looking for a least one book that might have a different viewpoint, a book where characters were being heroes because it is the right thing to do. Someone who realizes that in this world it is harder to be good but you have to … because, to quote the competition, with great power comes great responsibility.

The new Ameythyst? The Teen Titans? The Justice League? Have you read those books? Nope.

Maybe Demon Knights? After all, the purest and most noble of characters, The Shining Knight, amidst others that are beautiful shades of gray. It was doing it. But that book has already been canceled.

And then there was Vibe.

Initially written by Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg and then handed over to Supergirl-scribe Sterling Gates, Vibe stars a character trying to do what’s right in a cynical and grimy world.

Cisco Ramon is a teenage boy given fantastic powers. He is approached by the government group ARGUS to be part of a new Justice League of America and he jumps at the chance. He wants to honor the memory of his presumed fallen brother. He wants to help his family. He wants to help people. So he jumps at the chance.

Given the codename Vibe, he goes beyond the missions given to him, patrolling the streets and trying to fight crime. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

And when it becomes clear that ARGUS isn’t exactly acting above board, when Cisco realizes that ARGUS is imprisoning people, making Vibe try to capture innocent people, asking him to attack other breachers, he says no. He doesn’t fall in line. He doesn’t follow orders. He does what’s right! He turns against his bosses and helps the people who really need it. People like Kid Flash and Gypsy. It isn’t easy to do that. It isn’t easy to stand up against government-funded evil and be a hero. But he does it.

Moreover, his ethics inspires others to do the same. Dale Gunn, his handler at ARGUS, is portrayed as a good man who at some point decided to follow orders even when he thought the orders were wrong. He did this to protect his family. He is a perfect reflection of Vibe. He was Vibe. That is, until he compromised his principles and fell in line. When Dale sees Vibe helping Kid Flash and Gypsy, he begins to question his own decisions. He even helps Cisco’s brother break into the Circus to rescue his brother.

Vibe, the young hero, inspiring others to be better! In this market, it’s a wonderful change of pace.

Long time Supergirl readers shouldn't be surprised that Sterling Gates has a handle on a young hero, striving to do what's right, and learning their place in the world.

Outside of the optimism of the book, and as a great bonus, Gates clearly has a comprehensive knowledge of the DCU, dropping in such other-dimensional beings like Lady Quark, Maaldor, and the Warlock of Ys … Easter Eggs for long time fans.

What could be better?

The last issue of Vibe sold just over 12,000, a probable death sentence  for the book.  

With title after title after title showing a grimy world where heroes can’t be heroes, who don’t like being heroes, who don’t want to be heroes , in a dark gray world, can’t DC have one title that brings the light? That has optimism?

Sometimes I want a horror movie. Sometimes I want a comedy. Sometimes I want a drama. What a boring world this would be if there were only horror movies!

Can’t comics have the same? Isn’t there room for something more positive? Especially in the DCU where things are so dismal right now that next month I am going to be rooting for the villains because ‘evil is relative’ and there are even worse villains.


And please … before anyone says I am old-fashioned and want a saccharine world of the Silver Age … I will defend myself by listing some titles on my pull list: Conan, Fatale, Danger Club, Satellite Sam, Rachel Rising, and Revival. I am not against darker stories. I am not against violence in stories. I understand the world we live in. But I also know that I want options in my entertainment. And I sometimes want to believe in the inherent goodness of humanity and in the existence of heroes.

That’s why DC Comics needs Vibe.

In this market he is the Unlikeliest Hero.

Why? Because he is a hero.


Saranga said...

You've convinced me to try out the title.

if you want something lighthearted and fun can I suggest you try Larfleeze? It's fab.

Unknown said...

I totally agree VIBE is a fantastic series that gets criminally overlooked each and every month. I review VIBE for and I've really grown to love the title. And I agree that, for lighthearted fun, VIBE is the series to go with in the 'New 52'

But what's so wrong with a darker DC universe? I see that you enjoy darker books, but that fact doesn't make your argument stronger. In fact, what you've done is prove that your argument for a lighter DC universe isn't very strong at all. If you enjoy darker books, why not just sit back and enjoy the darker tones being presented by DC? You're basically laying down a double standard for DC's books as opposed to titles from indie publishers. Why is it okay that FATALE, SATELLITE SAM, and REVIVAL are dark in tone, but it's unacceptable for Superman to be less than a boy scout?

"Throughout this new universe, I kept looking for a least one book that might have a different viewpoint, a book where characters were being heroes because it is the right thing to do. Someone who realizes that in this world it is harder to be good but you have to"

This is EXACTLY what DC is doing in the 'New 52'. In the Silver Age, comics were more lighthearted because everything was more lighthearted: movies, TV, music, everything. Comics are darker now because media is more realistic and gritty than ever before. In fact, Superman makes MORE sense in the 'New 52' than he ever did before.

A being with nigh-limitless power decides he wants to do good and the entire world is against him in some manner or another. If you were just trying to help and were faced with hatred day in and day out, wouldn't you be a bit less chipper and upbeat?

You seem to have a very pessimistic view of the DCnU in general, as well. You mentioned AMETHYST and JUSTICE LEAGUE as dark, dark books, which they are not. AMETHYST had some of the most lighthearted tones in ANY 'New 52' title. JUSTICE LEAGUE isn't as much dark as it is pragmatic: this is a title that's used to set the status quo of the DCnU, so certain things happen that will affect other things around the shared universe. Sometimes, those events are dark. But did you read JUSTICE LEAGUE #8? It was a fun look at Green Arrow trying to become a member.

Anj said...

Thanks for the interesting and indepth comment Jay.

I don't mind some darker elements in the DCU. I read Suicide Squad and Justice League Dark. But why does that tone need to be in all the DC books.

But I don't want only ja dark DCU. I do think that JL and Amethyst were darker than I expect out of a team of our primary heroes and a teenage fantasy princess.

I don't even know if I would call Vibe lighthearted fun. It's not a humor book. It's a more positive hero.

Your point a hero becoming darker is well taken. But why does the DC universe need to constantly turn on its heroes as you say they do. Can't people be inspired by their good work?

I guess it is all in your point of view.

I am glad you are enjoying Vibe too.

Anj said...

Thanks for the suggestion Saranga.

I'll see if I can grab some Larfleeze.

AndNowInStereo said...

While you've got a decent point Jay, I'd argue that DC could do with some more levity because there needs to be room for some less intense stuff in pop culture, and historically their characters have been good at providing it. Sure we can all enjoy our Breaking Bads, Walking Deads and Game of Thrones', but if you decide you're not in the mood for heavy shit and say to yourself "I'd like to see what Superman is doing", pick up his book and find him angry and borderline villainous, you might be a bit miffed. Sure there can be dark superheroes but why does Superman have to be one? Or Wonder Woman?

Last week events in Supergirl made mentally recall certain shocking plot points in Game of Thrones. Yeah sure, you got my attention, writers, just as George R.R. Martin's plots did (and I'm sure it was IN NO WAY a stunt to carry momentum over the missing month or anything cynical like that, oh no, of course not). But I was reading a book about the teenage cousin of Superman, not watching a harsh, played-completely-straight deconstruction of fantasy tropes on HBO. Maybe I'm just too old-fashioned in my creaking old age that is my late 20s, but for me to be making those comparisons about the book starring a character originally created to be the less idealised but younger, more optimistic and perhaps more relatable (especially to kids and girls in particular) counterpart to THE iconic superhero is something I never thought I'd be doing.

To mis-quote Linkara, "And people wonder why these characters are more popular on the small screen these days."

Anonymous said...

Dan Didio is obsessed with dark and gritty; he won't be satisfied if every DC comic is like Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. When Kevin Maguire was taken off Justice League 3000 for not being dark enough, that's an indicator of his obsession. I just couldn't handle the current Batgirl anymore, with the angst, severed limbs, serial killers. I love my share of dark titles too, when it's appropriate...otherwise, it ends up being a sad joke (like when Speedball turned into Penance over at Marvel). It's all about balance.

Sadly, it's also not just Dan Didio, fans are simply too closed-minded to support any books that aren't Bat/Super/Justice League related - thus genuinely interesting books are cancelled before their time.

LJ-90 said...

I would recommend Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man if you're interested in a good, heroic teen superhero. I'm serious, Miles Morales is a fantastic character and I really believe you would love the book Anj.

Seriously, everything you just said, that book has it in spades.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for a terrific piece, Anj. And look, already you've got some interest going. It is so refreshing to read a book about a good person, inspiring those around him to be better, in a comic that's full of action and intrigue. Vibe has heart.

Jay, it's good to read your comments but I think you missed Anj's point - yes, he enjoys some dark books, but it doesn't logically follow that he'd therefore enjoy an all-grim DC Universe. DC Comics today is trying far too hard for a Marvel tone, with characters who are X-Men unpopular and Wolverine-edgy, and it simply isn't working. If there's a lesson DC should be taking from Wolverine it's 'be the best at what you do'. Embrace the history, the legacies, the occasional goofiness and, most of all, the basic brightness of the universe - give us inspirational heroes, ones who can have bad days, make the occasional rubbish decision from which to learn, sure, but heroes who are immediately recognisable as such. Good people, fighting for a better world. I don't want to have to strain to discern the anti-heroes and villains from the heroes.

The new 52 has driven me away from Wonder Woman after decades of being a fan. The New 52 has taken the Legion away from me. The New 52 means I don't know from month to month whether I'll get a Superboy who's a hero, a crook or a confused puppet. The New 52 has broken Kara.

The New 52 isn't working. Vibe should be the model for a refreshed, more traditional line. I want the best DC, not a pale Marvel.

Anj said...

Thanks for the new posts.

LJ, you aren't the first person who has said that I should head to Ultimate Marvel.

Mart, I understand and agree with everything you say. I have been enjoying Wonder Woman because I have been reading it as a sort of Elseworlds book. But I can understand why long time Diana fans can be disappointed.

GettinJiggly said...

I was just reading an article at Newsarama and it made me think of this article. About how basically "Hope" is dead in the DCU. It's on page 6. Its sad that instead of fun inspirational stories we get dark and gritty ones. I put this on the similar vein of Marvel and their movie franchises, they try to bring them into the comics. Well DC is like Nolan's Batman worked so well lets make the entire New 52 like that.