Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vibe me!

It would be impossible to replicate the horror of the Justice League's Detroit era, its crabby mischaracterizations, its plots that are somehow simultaneously outre but still tedious, and its brainstomping dialog...

were it not for Steve Englehart.

Even though in his brief run on Batman years ago, Englehart managed to mischaracterize the Joker as an impractical loon rather than a brilliant but incidentally homicidal criminal mastermind and the Penguin as a clue-dropping Riddler clone, I am still going to choose to believe that his current arc in JLA Classified is an ingenius homage to the original awkwardness of Vibe's Jay El Lay, rather than just bad writing with drawn out meandering plotting (plodding?), unrecognizably unpalatable versions of well-known characters, and harsh entendre-driven dialog that makes you sorry you know English.

That choice made... let's revel in how expertly Englehart has mimicked the incomprehensible mess that was the Detroit League! Except, of course, for Vibe, who was aces.

Speaking of aces, this final (?) installment of "Game of Chance" begins with Scooby and the Gang hiding out in a cave from a forest fire started by the Royal Flush Gang. Is the fire an ingenious trap laid by the RFG to disable the only contemporary leaguers with power, intelligence, and experience (the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman)? Ah, no, actually. Queen just forgot to stamp out one of the cigarettes she been constantly smoking through the arc. No, really.

Anyway, J'onn is focused on the most important thing: WHERE has the Royal Flush Gang gone and IF they are nearby WHICH version might they be facing? Apparently, J'onn (and Englehart) forgot that an issue or so ago, the JLA killed two of the original gang and then let the other two go, actually stopping Vibe and Steel from going after them. And, since the gangs are essentially indistinguishable and rely on the same power of "stellaration", it makes no strategic differnce which gang it might be. It's not like the readers care!

It's followed by a cute scene where J'onn sends Vixen and Gypsy to scout ahead (because they're intelligent, prudent, and less likely to blunder their way into a conflict) while making Steel and Vibe stay behind (because they're too loud, aggressive, and stupid). J'onn, you are SO sexist! At least we get a cute panel of Vibe being petulant.

Adorable. Of course you're sneaky, sweetie. And the oufit helps.

Gloriously, this is followed hard upon by an entire pulse-pounding page of Aquaman ...

wait for it ...

falling down.
I haven't been that excited since Aquaman found a comb in JLA 242!

Next we learn that the Martian Manhunter lied to them all about their camping trip, which was really just an excuse for him to have the time and opportunity to read their tiny little minds. Sadly, I can't label this an Englehartian mischaracterization of the Noble Martian Manhunter. J'onn's just a creepy snoop who plays headgames. J'onn's always been a creepy snoop who plays headgames.

Then we find out that animal-avatar Vixen plays little naughty games with the "furries" on the weekend:

A lot of guys feel that way, Vixen.

Actually, she's "channeling the powers of Grizzly" because she's in a cave. Apparently she and "Grizzly" are on a first name basis; I wonder, did she know Mr. Chocolate, and, if so, what was his first name?

Anyway, she follows that up with one of the JLDetroiters trademarks: the Apropos-of-nothing Sententious Assertion of Self-Definition ...

"I am the life of Africa -- for better or for worse."

I would say it's for the worse, if true. Are there a lot of grizzly bears in Africa, Vixen?

Have you ever paused to think about what a photo shoot with supermodel Mari (Vixen) McCabe is like? I picture it something like a scene out of Zoolander: "You're a monkey Derek. You're a monkey. Dance, monkey, in your little spangly shoes. Mash your cymbals, chimpy. Dance, Derek, dance." Hm... actually that sounds more like a date with Vibe.

Cut away to Gypsy who, stealthed, is running through the cave in her bare feet (because that's how she does everything), doing an extended interior monologue of Apropos-of-Nothing Sententious Assertions of Self-Definition about being "Roma" and "some of us gypsies have special powers that not even Zatanna could know" and how "J'onn with his telepathy cannot read my thoughts for I have gypsy thoughts."

Um, actually, "Gypsy", your name is Cindy Reynolds, your parents aren't "Roma", you grew up in a suburban Michigan cul-de-sac, which you left when no one would pay attention to your essay on A Tale of Two Cities, and you ran away (apparently, without shoes) to Detroit, where you were a street-thief whom Chuck Dixon dressed look like Cyndi Lauper. (Does Englehart not have access to Wikipedia? Or the DC Encyclopedia? Or Ridelin?) So if Gypsy is thinking any of things that Englehart puts in her thought balloons she is stark raving delusional.

Anyway, so she runs into Amos Fortune who's telling the RFG they're not going to be "stupid hearts or clubs" any more (which is really good, since, um, they were spades or clubs), and magically remodels them into Living Tarot Cards of Doom.

And, no, I did not make that up. Who could? I mean, other than Englehart?

Then, the JLA attacks the RFG, but, more importantly, J'onn J'onnz swears.

The Martian Manhunter swears.

JJ has done some pretty odd stuff over the years. So odd that it's really hard to say that anything's out of character for him (wait till you get a load of his new miniseries!). But having JJ swear is unimaginably out of character and if I had lain awake for 3 nights trying to come up with the least likely things for him to do or say, it still wouldn't have occurred to me to have him swear. Englehart is some kind of genius, I say.

Well, at least we get to see Vibe's Gary Coleman impression:

That is so cute. If I were Mr. Drummond, I'd adopt Vibe in a heartbeat.

Naturally, in the midst of the fight, King falls over dead from coughing (which in *kof* case you *kof* missed it, he's been *kof* doing in every *kof* word balloon for *kof* four koffin' issues) which causes the rest of the gang to start having heart attacks. At this point in the story, I can only ascribe everything about this story -- plot, characterization, dialog, and DC actually printing this comic-- to the effects of stellaration, because it defies all odds and logic.

Oh, and in other developments ...

We learn that "vibe" is a verb, baby.

Vibe me!

While the RFG is kicking the JLA's arse and the cliff in the cave (that's a BIG cave) is collapsing, the inevitable happens: a bear attacks the JLA.

Hey, Vixen, Grizzly called; he wants his powers back.
Oh, and I'm here to tell you the bear is not the only one freaked by this battle

Bear attacks; it's a Detroit thing.

In other ursinological news, we learn that bears do urinate in the woods, and, if possible, on Aquaman:

Urine ... same constituents-- as sea water-- kept me alive -- to help my team...

Well, apparently Vixen not the only one into all sorts of freaky stuff.

So, as the issue ends:
  • The RFG loses the fight,
  • we learn that Vixen is "in love" with Steel (even though she was sucking face with his godfather, Dale Gunn, about a week ago and hitting on the local preacher as well... oh, and has barely said 5 words to him in the entire JLDetroit run),
  • we find out that Gypsy has precognition and knows how Vibe and Steel are going to die but doesn't warn them about it (because, like Supergirl, she doesn't believe you can change the future, so I guess it's good she didn't figure out Despero was going to kill her parents, huh?),
  • but it's all okay because, well...

Vibe is still irresistible to any and all.

P.S. Note the joyous news that the story is CONTINUED IN THIS WEEK'S JSA CLASSIFIED.


Nick said...

I'm away from my shop for the next four months, and I must know; What did J'onn say?

/bnfqfjw - the way everything the Question says should realistically sound like

Scipio said...

What did J'onn say?

About what?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for fixing Superhero Radio. I'll have to check it out now.

It's comics like these that make me think that it wouldn't be that hard for Marvel to be a better comic company than DC, except for the fact that neither company has published anything decent on a regular basis for the past 35 years.
At least as far as I know. If you know of any comics today that have good writing, non-gritty art, and are morally decent (no graphic, bloody violence; no swearing; no sexual filth) on a regular basis, please tell me, I want to read it.

I love JLU and the DCAU (except Teen Titans and I don't like "The Batman" that much), but I can't stand modern comics. They' re just too gritty and evil. I read Silver and Golden Age collections even though the writing (especially in the Silver Age) is a bit weak.

Please help me!

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

Here's what J'onn says! You liar! I'm not a creepy snob who plays head games and is sexist! You must've forgotten that I read your blog! And I am SO noble. *Grumble grumble*

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

But I do agree that I would never swear. I mean, Batman swears. Superman has even sworn, (in Superman [1987] issue 3) but I the four percent evil portrait of saintlihood would never swear. I don't swear in my blog, and I don't sweawr in my comics. That was a horribly out of character moment. I think I shall sue Steve for defamation.

Nick said...

the swearing! What did J'onn say when he swore!

I mean, was it like Frank Miller swearing, or what?

'Vibe, what are you, retarded? I'm the goddam martian manhunter!'

or was it more of a 'damn, did I leave my iron on before I left the house?!'

/ccbngizm. I won't even do anything with that one.

Marc Burkhardt said...

Don't get too hung up on established characters' histories in the DCU, because the powers-that-be will have one response for you:

Superboy's continuity punch.

Maybe Gypsy received a power-up as a result and actually became an, um, actual Gypsy along the way.

At any rate, the Englehart/Rogers run on Batman rocked, but I know you're not the biggest Bronze Age fan out there ,...

Anonymous said...

I think that Jonn's swear was:
"Hot Damn, Bucket a Spam!"
That's what I always say in the woods outside Detroit.

Bat-mite, you should look for Uncle Scrooge comics written & drawn by Don Rosa. Pick up the trade The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck.

erjmel - Erkul's younger brother

Harvey Jerkwater said...

I maintain my theory I expounded on Free Comic Book Day at Big Monkey: Steel could work, and work well. Provided he were revived as a comedy character.

Think of it: the lunatic grandfather whose cyber-parts are WW2-era supertech and whose organic parts are eighty, the guardian who is inexplicably attractive to women, the inherent lameness of Hank III, Hank's cluelessness, the flag-motif of the uniform that nobody seems to notice, throw in Vibe as his best friend and partner, and there ya go. Played for laughs, Steel: The Indestructible Man would be a great book.

Well, I think so, at least.

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

I think that most 80's Marvel fits your morally decent standards, bat-mite, but almost every 80's DC comic has swearing.

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

I agree about Steel, Mr. Jerk.

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

Water. Jerkwater.

Anonymous said...

Does this comic book end with Aquaman dead in the Canadian wilderness?

Anonymous said...

So, did J'onn say something simple, like "Damn it!" when he screwed up or swear at someone? On a lighter note, bears urinating on Aquaman to keep him alive in the Canadian wilderness has infinite levels of awesomeness. Perhaps he should have bear sidekicks accompany him on land.

Anonymous said...

I've read some of the Scrooge McDuck. Quite good, but no superheroes. The only current superhero comic I can think of is JLU, but it's so short and $3! That's about ten cents per page that isn't an ad! I really liked the JLU show, though. Cancelling that to show "The Batman" was one of the worst marketing decisions ever.

Verification Word: Yuklrw. 'Nuff said.

Scipio said...

J'onn said,

"We've got to get that damned machine!" in referring to the stellaration device.

Anonymous said...

I bought JLA Classified 24 and 25 today and I read them on the bus on the way home. It was a very long bus ride.

So, I must say that reading JLA Classified 24 and 25 on the bus was much better than sitting on the bus and not doing anything.

I, um, think it would have been better if they had found a writer who isn't completely contemptuous of his audience and his medium.

Just sayin'.

Art-wise, I was wondering if comic book artists look at real breasts at some point before they draw them, or if they just guess, or if there is some kind of corporate template they all use.

Anonymous said...

Comics will be later than ever if it becomes industry practice that artists have to look at real breasts before they draw them. Though gay men and heterosexual women who can draw would be in demand.

Anonymous said...

She thinks gypsy thoughts? What does that even MEAN? Are they in code? Does she just think 'Gypsy Gypsy Gypsy Gypsy!' all the time?

That might explain some things...

Tony said...

It means Gypsy's thoughts alternate between Cher and Fleetwood Mac.

Scipio said...

"She thinks gypsy thoughts? What does that even MEAN?"

It's mys-TEEEEER-i-ous ... just like "Gypsy"!

Anonymous said...

I just assumed that her "Gypsy" thoughts were just an endless loop whining about how now it's her turn to be "Scorpio Rose" instead of Madame Xanadu's. That, and being grateful that at least it's not her turn to be "Mantis", and lose the use of personal pronouns.


Jeff R. said...

Now you guys have got me thinking about Christine Lavin as Gypsy. Stop, please...

Anonymous said...


No one outside America regards "damn" as a swear....

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

That's true... but I still wouldn't say it.

Johnny Bacardi said...

Don't know what's worse- Englehart pulling all this stuff out of his ass because he didn't have a clue about the histories of ANY of these characters, or me actually buying these 4 issues because of my adolescent fanman crush on Gypsy, knowing full well that Englehart has lost whatever magic he had back in the day writing Coyote, Dr. Strange, and Captain Marvel- which he proved in spades on that godawful Dark Detective miniseries.

Bad me. Bad.

Conformation word: hnfogbj. I can't think of a single smart-aleck comment about that, that won't get me sued by someone in the Foglio family that is.