By: Sterling Gates (story), Pete Woods (pencils), Sean Parsons (inks), Brad Anderson (colors)
The Story: Generally, it’s not a good idea to run away with a girl while you’re on the job.
The Review: You know, we frequently give publishers a lot of crap for putting out inferior titles, but I think we don’t appreciate how deceptive a good pitch can be. Think of the one for Vibe: Geoff Johns writing the adventures of an underdog, city kid from Detroit who becomes an dimensional border cop. Sounds pretty good to me! Who could have predicted that five months later, it’d be Sterling Gates writing a hopelessly insecure kid on the run from his own employers?
While I did think it was a good idea to have Cisco’s fallout from A.R.G.U.S. happen sooner rather than later, now I’m thinking it could have stood to happen perhaps a little later. Neither Johns nor Gates (nor Andrew Kreisberg, I suppose) ever fully mined the potential of Vibe’s association with A.R.G.U.S. before throwing it on the rocks, which seems a sadly missed opportunity to me. What about Agent Gunn playing Murtaugh to Vibe’s non-suicidal Riggs? Think how much fun that would have been!
More importantly, think of how that kind of deeper relationship would have made the drama from A.R.G.U.S.’s betrayal seem that much more legitimately painful. Think of how much more difficult and praiseworthy Vibe’s decision to turn his back on the agency would have been. Think of how Gunn’s protests to Waller would have come across less rote and mechanical, instead of as an obvious attempt to make him seem even slightly sympathetic.
Granted, you can set just about anyone next to Waller and they’ll seem saintly by comparison. While I do think Waller is the type of character you’re supposed to hate, she has no redeeming proportion of respectability either. Her arbitrary judgments do nothing to demonstrate her competence, and she absolutely needs to appear competent for us to take her seriously as a government agent, as opposed to an intolerant schoolmarm with too much power. “…From here on out,” she declares to Gunn, “my decisions are the right ones. In the field and off. Period.”*
All in all, I think the series went off the rails around the time that it decided to make Gypsy such a prominent player early on. It doesn’t seem like Gates even really knows what to do with her—aside from being Vibe’s love interest, of course. It might have been natural to pair the two together, but to push the romantic overtones this fast and hard (Lip-locking already? Seriously?) strikes you as incredibly cheap and a disservice to both of them.
Gates also misuses the Suicide Squad in sending them to capture our young heroes. Honestly, this kind of task is a waste for the Squad, who are far too ruthless to be credibly challenged by a guy who only barely knows how to use his powers and a girl who basically turns into a damsel-in-distress the moment her illusions fail (“Somebody help me! …Aiiiieeeee–!”). Especially when compared to Ales Kot’s superb work with the Squad in their own title, Gates portrayal tries way too hard for edginess, instead making them sound like outlandishly dressed bullies. Crowbar to Vibe: “No one in this world is ever gonna take you serious, man! Not the Justice League, not A.R.G.U.S.—I bet your own daddy don’t even pay attention to you!”*
In these circumstances, Woods’ art can’t really help much. It’s a shame that DC has a trend of placing its better artists with weak projects, because no matter how sleek and shiny his work (with glossy inks and colors from Parsons and Anderson) appears, it can’t really disguise the lameness of the script itself. It really is unfortunate; Vibe looks like a top-class superhero series, but it reads like nearly the opposite.
Conclusion: Gates’ story suffers largely from mistiming. He really needed to spend more time earning his dramatic twists instead of just piling them on in an attempt to generate interest. Only strong art saves the issue from being a total wash.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * As for Gunn’s “Yes, ma’am” in response—honestly, could he be any more of a yes-man? It makes me wonder why he doesn’t just turn around, pull down his pants, and bend over while he’s at it.
* For this alone, I sincerely hope that Crowbar really is dead. With a name like Crowbar, death might come as something of a relief.