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JLA’s Vibe: The (Re)Making of a Hero

“The New 52” has brought with it not only a surprising influx of new titles and bold, for lack of a better word, re-imaginings of characters but enticing new set-ups and directions. Though even a proponent of “The New 52”, as opposed to a detractor - who naturally questions a lot of what went through the writer's/editor's heads when they recreated a lot of things, would have to admit to be confused when one of newest books to hit "The New 52" was announced. Quite possibly one of the most puzzling aspects of a reboot that has left many befuddled is that one of the least important and least fondly remembered characters of all time had suddenly been pushed back into the faces of readers - and they didn't care if we were ready or not. That's right - Vibe!

The definition of Z-List.
A footnote to a footnote.
A cautionary tale of how to NOT write a minority/ethnic character.

A character that has passed through the halls of time as being one of the comic world's biggest jokes. In fact, an entire gag in the acclaimed Justice League Unlimited centered on the fact that Vibe saved the day. Ironically enough the writer of said episode, Andrew Kreisberg, is the one who has chosen to pen the first two issues of our shockingly pushed hero. A hero who no one in his or her right mind would be willing to back - and no one really was when this was announced. The deck was stacked against Vibe to shell out a decent book, or even a blandly mediocre one, and people were gleefully waiting to watch it fall. Some even counting the days until the first issue dropped, just to riff and poke punches at it.

Then February 20th, 2013 came along and readers stood shocked as what seemed to be a near miracle happened - Justice League of America's Vibe (yes that mouthful of a title was also against it) was actually decent, no - more than that - it was actually enjoyable, and in the good way, not the "so bad it's good" way. It had instant character moments, tension, drama, humor, interpersonal relationships, and action all from the get go. Each set-up and developed in believable and interesting forms. They even made Cisco Ramone, Vibe himself, an intriguing and entertaining character.

Now a lot of the credit can, and should, go to writer Andrew Kreisberg. The Justice League Unlimited episode mentioned above that he penned? It just so happened to be "The Greatest Story Never Told", an episode that also told the story of a DC hero that gets no respect (in this case Booster Gold) and which has become one of the series' most fondly remembered episodes, so of course he was a natural fit for this particular title. Though it is the other name attached to the writer's bill that provides the best clarity for how Vibe ended up being an enjoyable romp and why he's suddenly being pushed around as the next big thing in the DC Universe. I mean, the character even has a big part to play in the upcoming DC Comics crossover event - Trinity War. The name is that of none other than DC's golden boy Geoff Johns.

Geoff Johns, a writer who will no doubt be remembered (fondly or not) mainly for his lengthy Green Lantern run, has become DC's go-to writer for taking on and "remaking" various characters. Just look at his track record: Hal Jordan, Aquaman, The Rogues, Captain Marvel/Shazam!, and now Vibe. The man is able to toss out revisions like candy and for the most part it works for readers, and although of course there will always be detractors when it comes to characters in general one cannot deny the acclaim that he seems to engender. Why, one might ask - what does he do that makes these revisions catch on so thoroughly? The answer is simple, perhaps too simple to believe, but like all decent "cape comic" writers Geoff Johns has a formula - let's call it the "Make An Important Character" Formula.

Now this "formula" can work with already established characters (ie. Hal Jordan, Aquaman) or barely developed smudged (ie. Vibe). One simply hypes up the return of established character or the reintroduction of laughing stock with massive amounts of press coverage and interviews - the amount that Vibe alone received was staggering. After that amplify whatever one can to the character - ie. Personality, cast, power level - and do it as much as one can, Vibe himself has gone from dancing vibration fool to a hero heavily tied to the Fourth World level of power. Which leads into the next point - tying the character to important "events"/crossovers. You have Johns' Green Lantern, which has become nonstop "events", and Aquaman - heavily tied to Justice League/"Throne of Atlantis", with finally Vibe - whose genesis came entirely from buildup to Trinity War!

Add enough "cool" moments within their own series to show that these characters are worth reading about and you have the recipe for something that will stick with people. The remaking of characters has become compact and re-creatable to a tee. Vibe was just the most recent beneficiary of this rather kind of shallow development. That's why they say that execution is everything, because being shallow in "cape" comics isn't that big of a deal as long as the ride is enjoyable - and Vibe has shown itself to be. For better or worse the Vibe train is roaring out of the station, taking whatever passengers care to get on - and things seem to lean over toward the side of "better". Sometimes remaking characters into shades of what they used to be really can be the way to go, as one can start from scratch. I'm buying a ticket for Justice League of America's Vibe - how about you? Please leave comments and responses below.

JLA's Vibe #2 hits shelves on March 20th.


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