Friday, February 22, 2013

Things That Should Have Bothered You (and Me) in Vibe #1

A lot of people who don't know the character are probably going to think he's a Mexican-American. Particularly the way they have him say "You want me to be a ...border cop?!" They should have made it clear that he's Puerto Rican (a very different culture).

I can believe man can fly. I can believe a boy can get caught in a boomtube and acquire transdimensional vibration powers. I cannot believe, however, that in the last five years, no one -- including Cisco -- has tried to take Cisco Ramon's photograph.

Dramatic visual or not, "The Circus" is wrong on about 50 levels, not the least of which is humanitarian.

Does it seem a little odd that Armando is such a big guy in high school, while his brothers at that age are obviously much smaller? It happens, yes; but brothers usually have much similar builds.

I realize that this time around you had to make Vibe much less colorful than his original incarnation.  But making Dale Gunn bland? DALE GUNN, THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND?!?!?!?!

Gypsy's wearing shoes.  I mean, character revamp is one thing, but what's the point of rebooting a character if you eliminate their defining characteristic? Re-booting; heh.

Krakkl? O RLY?  You have a universal reboot and can allow/deny the readmission of ANY pre-52 character and you choose...Krakkl?  With all the baggage it brings?  There are about 17,000 other characters who could have been in that particularly shot without causing hypertime paroxyms; why not choose one of them?

Pariah?  Repeat above paragraph.

DC really wants all their youth characters to have as little parental interference in their lives as possible, don't they?  I guess in the DCU you don't need a permission slip when you sign up to be a freaking super-agent for the government.

Cisco doesn't ask, "How do you know that?", when told a specific parademon is the one who killed his brother?  Come, now.  Paco was smarter than that.

Can't we have shadowy government manipulators who are just that?  Do they always have to be complete a-holes, too?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vibe #1: A Review

Well, well, well.

Vibe #1.  Who would've thought? 

On the whole, this set-up issue is clear and goes down the checklist of Things To Accomplish To Put This Character Back On Track. Geoff Johns has stacks of those checklists lying around the house, I bet.

This version of Vibe is given some comfortable distance from his still-toxic pre-Crisis version by giving him a different version of his name: Cisco Ramon.  The new name "Cisco" and the original one "Paco" are both nicknames for "Francisco".  If a new Dick Grayson were being 52ed today, I'm sure they'd call him "Rich" instead.

Vibe is given a relative-killing origin; that's nearly a sine qua non for a Johns revamp.  Not a criticism; just stating a fact.  He introduced parent-killing backstories for Hal and Barry when he brought them back as Green Lantern and the Flash.  Most analyst think that's 'modern-style bloodthirst' on Johns' part. I disagree; I think it's the opposite: it's Golden Age bloodthirst.  I have no doubt it was to make them feel a bit more like Golden Age characters Batman and Superman than fluffy Silver Age reduxes. 

The same applies to Johns' having given a parent-killing origin to Aquaman. Although Aquaman actually has a Golden Age pedigree, almost no one has read any of those stories (where he punched holes in Nazi submarines), and popular perceptions of him come almost entirely from the Silver Age stories (where he set up fish hospitals).

[By the way, Johns isn't the only one operating in this mode; Azzarello offed Wonder Woman's mother pretty quickly as part of her re-branding as a demigod.]

Johns ties Vibe in extremely directly with Darkseid's attack that sparked the formation of the Justice League.  This is so smart (classic, Johns-smart) that it almost hurts.  The connection with Darkseid, the comic source of his power, and the fact that his power is completely unique immediately mark him as a major player, one that cannot be dismissed as a lightweight.  Gee, a power that even the Martian Manhunter doesn't have; won't JJ be jealous! 

It also marks him, as it did Cyborg, as 'natural' Justice League timber; just like the League, Vibe and Cyborg were 'created' by Darkseid's invasion.  No wonder Darkseid's little outings never seem to get anywhere; he generates his own antidotes.

Cisco Ramon neither chooses the name "Vibe" nor his costume; both are imposed upon him by his handlers at DC's current leading Shadowy Agency That Deals With Superheroes, A.R.G.U.S.  So, if you don't like either of those, Johns renders Cisco himself blameless.

Gone is the original's backstory as a gangmember. This Vibe is squeaky clean, cooks for his father (note the single-parent family), is trying to save money to go to college, and is trying to keep his own little brother on track. 

Gone is the original's foolhardy bravado.  This Vibe -- even though his, well, earth-shattering power is pretty clear and gets clearer through the issue -- is surprised that anyone would seem him as a potential superhero.  The original Vibe thrust himself upon the Justice League Detroit and this one has to be recruited and coerced into joining the JLA.

Gone is the original's joie de vivre and breakdancing ebulliance.  This is Vibe is sober and down-to-earth, thanks to a very different origin.  Cisco Ramon is perhaps the least flashy Puerto Rican in the continental U.S. 

Brushing aside the specifics of why, Paco Ramon had two main problems as a character: people didn't take him seriously and people didn't like him.

So it's clear what John's is doing: it's imperative that he make Cisco Ramon someone who (a) must be taken seriously and (b) is likeable. And everything in issue #1 is planned to do exactly that.

Has something been lost in the process? Certainly.  Whatever else one might say of Paco Ramon, he was... colorful.  Vibrant.  Cisco Ramon is as bland as possible.

But that's not because Johns' can't do colorful.  It's because he's trying to remake Vibe as an essentially DC-type character, rather than a Marvel-type character. 

Let's see: a sassy, street-wise, chip-on-the-shoulder, former criminal turned good-guy-with-an-edge, who's an ethnic stereotype with accented English, with a single in-born superpower from which his codename (a single noun) comes, heavily glossed with some pop culture phenomenon.   That's got Marvel written all over it.  Start writing a list of Marvel mutant characters who fit somewhere in that description and let me know when you get tired.

As much as people (including me) wouldn't want to see it or admit it, the original Vibe failed for one main reason: he was a Marvel character in the DC universe.  And, over time, the DCU, like an organism fighting off viruses, rejects such characters or remakes them in its own style.  Johns is trying to make darned sure that this version of Vibe is organic to the DCU, a natural and necessary part of it, rather than part of some outside invasion of from Earth-616. 

As much as I miss "Paco" Ramon, if doing that helps this version of Vibe survive and possibly flourish, then Cisco Ramon has my blessing.

Although I still like to see him dance at some point.  Boy's got to be able to dance.

Things That Made Me Happy... my comics this week.

  • Vibe #1; period.  More on that later.
  • “I’m Element Woman and you’re The Awesome!”
  • Atlantean scepter-sticks of power; collect ‘em all!
  • “No; the other right!”  Bwahahaha; character-based classic.
  • Vulko kind of makes you realize how scary it would be if Alfred had his own agenda, doesn’t it?
  • U.M.P.  That's now part of my comic book vocabulary.
  • Steve Trevor is… a sturdy fellow. Woof.
  • Oh, so, that’s why Catwoman.  That reason makes sense. But it would make much more sense for… KILLER MOTH! HA! HA!
  • Hey, Zatanna finally remembered she could freeze the water by just saying something!
  • Looks like the Atom’s had some work done, eh?
  • Well, that's one way to get her to wear shoes.
  • J'onn is creepy. And kind of crazy.  Just like I always said.
  • Uh-oh.  "Taken 3" won't be starring Liam Neeson, will it?
  • Vulko’s motivation.  Yeah, that’s what I figured.  Typical Atlantean thinking.
  • Pemberton. VERY mysterious.  And that's not the star I would have expected to see.  Star Girl may be more interesting this time around.
  • Finally, a reasonable justification for the “let’s look at photographs on a desk” routine when team-picking (which stopped making sense after Mission: Impossible went off the air).
  • Well; that’s a sad but fitting punishment for Ocean Master.
  • Aquadog!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Weather Week: Apex City

Weather Week at the Absorbascon wraps us with the weather in Apex City, hometown of the wacky Martian Martian.

Well, really, what can I say about the weather in Apex City that I haven't already said before?

It's always summer in Apex City because, as we know, Apex City is Florida.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't have seasons; they look roughly like this:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weather Week; Wet, Wetter, Wettest

At first I thought "Weather Week" here at the Absorbascon might come to a splashing halt with Aquaman.  Aside from his brief stationings in New Venice and Sub Diego, Aquaman doesn't have a fictionpolis proper whose weather we can describe.  I'm not counting Atlantis, of course, whose only 'seasons' would be Wet, Wetter, Wettest, and *glub!*.  

But then I remembered that Aquaman's real domain isn't the ocean; as Geoff Johns has emphasized, it's the interface of the ocean with the world above.  The real excitement in Aquaman stories comes from incursions from the oceanscape upon the surface world (e.g., the current Atlantean War) and vice versa (e.g., Black Manta).  

In the monotony of the underwater world, Aquaman wouldn't experience seasons.  Or much else, really, since the only people down there to protect are the Atlanteans, and they're a bunch of jerks, Aquaman's annoying country cousins from the wrong side of the watertracks.  

Aquaman must be ecstatic every time he's called to duty in the world above the sea, where people actually need and appreciate his help.  Those times, and his land-based homelife with Mera, provide both the seasons and the seasoning to Aquaman's life.  I imagine it as looking something like this....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weather Week: Central City

You know, when you're comparing things in the realm of comic books, it can be very difficult to determine what's "most unrealistic."  Flying, invulnerability, heat vision; yes, those are rather inconsistent with our understandings of physics and biology.  But that idea that one of the world's richest and handsomest men would spend his nights dressed as a bat and beating up muggers in alley is psychologically unrealistic.  It all depends on your point of comparison.

Since this is Weather Week at the Absorbascon, our point of comparison is meteorology.   Weather-wise, Batman's Gotham City and Green Lantern's Coast City seem quite realistic given their generally understood locations.  Superman's Metropolis is much less realistic, thanks to a pretty substantial winter-deficit.

But unquestionably the prize for Most Unrealistic Weather goes to Flash's Central City.

Of course; it's always Central City, isn't it?  While Gotham and Metropolis are certainly odd in tone (Gargolyes! Bizarre transformations!), they seem functionally, structurally normal (for east coast cities).  But the incomprehensible geography of midwestern metro-nightmare-plex Central City is legendary; the impossibly tall buildings that are always impossibly far away on the horizon leaving nothing but gigantic empty plazas, mile-wide sidewalks, and uncrossably broad streets.  While Gotham City and Metropolis are normal cities dressed up in dramatic and odd costumes, Central City is completely otherworldly,  defying all the principles of space-time, architecture, and urban design.

And meteorology.  For quite some time, Central City has been consistently portrayed as a midwestern city.... WITH AN ALMOST TOTAL ABSENCE OF FALL OR WINTER.  It is always spring or summer in Central City.

It's one thing for Coast City to have no fall or winter; it's on the California Coast, so that's not unusual. But Central City is in the midwest, where there's winter; lots of it, in fact.  That Central City should be sprawling is at least consistent with what the midwest is like; that it should have no winter is completely unrealistic.

There is a reason, of course;  as always, reality bends itself to accommodate the Flash.  Central City has ridiculous geography for only one reason: it makes a better stage for displays of superspeed. Comics are a still-frame medium; there is no sense of 'time' other than the one we bring to it.  In a temporal medium (like a movie), you would show superspeed by reducing the time it takes for Flash to do something.  In comics, however, that's hard to convey, so the easiest way to 'shrink time' is
to  e x p a n d  s p a c e ; hence, the bizarrely expansive geography of Central City.

Similarly, that's why Central City (a midwestern city which should by all rights have BIG winters) has no winter.  Because in comics, the thing most synonymous with winter is SNOW.  And what's the main problem with snow?  IT SLOWS YOU DOWN.  Yep; you can't run in snow.  Snow would be a major problem in a Flash comic; so, Central City has no snow and the closest thing Central City has to Fall and Winter are the occasion attacks by Weather Wizard and Captain Cold.