By: Geoff Johns & Andrew Kreisberg (story), Pete Woods (art), Andres Guinaldo (pencils), Sean Parsons & Bit (inks), Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: Vibe fails to stop Agent Gunn from killing the messenger.

The Review: More than ever, I realize that Johns has a special gift of endearing characters to readers.  He does his best work with characters who seem a little overwhelmed, hapless, or out of their element, and trying to navigate the obstacles and responsibilities placed on them in the best way they can.  No wonder that Johns resonates most with the superheroes who are new to the game and have something to prove.  He likes getting you to root for the underdog.

Vibe certainly qualifies in that respect, not just from his publication history.  Of all the various characters Johns has taken in hand, Vibe has the deepest self-doubt problem.  This is something that won’t go away in just one or two issues, and probably not even after a whole arc.  But wishy-washiness isn’t exactly a trait one admires in a hero.  If Johns-Kreisberg expect us to stick by Cisco in the long run, we need to see qualities that surpass his crisis of confidence.

There is something kind of sweet about his naïve and trusting nature (let’s be kind and not call it gullibility), leading to some fun humor at his expense.  When he tells brother Dante that his mask records data for A.R.G.U.S., Dante asks in alarm, “They aren’t recording now, are they?”

“Only when I’m on duty,” Cisco assures him.

In private communication, Waller: “So much for keeping his activities quiet.  Go talk to him.”

Gunn: “Roger that.”

Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I can’t help feeling rather sorry for this young, earnest kid.  Guilt-tripped into chasing after the latest interdimensional “Breacher” (Gunn: “I’ll just tell that cop’s widow this one was out of your comfort zone.”), he clearly freaks out in the face of this monster and barely manages to defend himself by instinct alone, sounding shaken afterward.  His good intentions, unfortunately, get defeated by Gunn’s interference and lies, but we can see that Vibe’s starting to sense he’s being strung along, for all of Gunn’s attempts to appeal to his ego.

In contrast, Dante’s whole goal seems to be poking holes in his younger brother’s self-esteem whenever possible.  Though he chalks up his barbs to concern, you can tell there’s envy at work in his mind.  Dante has shown himself to be a moocher who’d like fame and fortune to land in his lap rather than put effort into obtaining it, and here Cisco has gotten just that.  Several times, Dante remarks how he’d make use of his brother’s new status, for example, in regards to choice of codename.  “If it was me—”

“It’s not,” Cisco replies.

“But if it was, I’d tell then I’d pick my own name.”

I ought to warn anyone who’s also reading Justice League of America that in this issue, Johns-Kreisberg insert a couple scenes you’ve already seen, the first being Cisco taking down a shoplifting third-grader in his first costumed outing, the second his phone conversation with Dante in the JLA headquarters.  This is even more irritating since the scenes do little except re-emphasize Cisco’s feelings of unworthiness, which, okay—we get it already.  Johns-Kreisberg really need to respect that line where the horse has already been beaten to death.

Between the equally solid inks from Parsons and Bit as well Hi-Fi’s glossy colors, the differences between Woods and Guinaldo are not too apparent.  Still, you can always tell when Woods comes into play, given the richer, heavier line and shadowing he puts into his art and a much more dynamic sense of storytelling.  If you need any more proof of Woods’ capabilities, how about the fact that he can make give a monstrous alien a pathetic, desperate expression that touches your heart?  If DC can make this the standard for their house style of art, they might rival Marvel in the visual department someday.

– The latest “Breacher” has a connection with Gypsy, revealing a new origin for her–

– Kahndaq, “terrorist groups known as the Sons of Adam”—

Conclusion: A likable star is one thing, but that’s a far cry from one that you’d follow wherever his adventures take him.  It’d help if Johns-Kreisberg would spend more time on action and less on angst.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – So Gypsy in her DCnU incarnation might be part of a nomadic race of aliens.  I like that, actually.  It avoids any politically incorrect notions of race and culture, anyway.

– Then again, when Johns reintroduces Kahndaq to the world, he also attaches to the fictional nation a set of “terrorist groups known as the Sons of Adam.”