When DC announced it was launching a new monthly Vibe comic to accompany its Justice League of America series, the question on most everyone’s mind was likely, “Who in the world would want to read a new Vibe series?” Now, two months in, that question has morphed against all odds into, “How in the world is a Vibe series this good?”
For those unfamiliar with the character (and there may be quite a few of you out there), Cisco “Vibe” Ramon is a Latino hero capable of manipulating sonic waves and creating shock waves and seismic impacts (hence the perhaps ill-conceived name). The New 52 version of Vibe obtained these abilities during Darkseid’s invasion (as seen in Justice League #1-6). Given this connection, it’s obvious to us why the government would be interested in him, although Cisco, in all his naiveté, doesn’t quite seem to grasp this.
The series plays off an idea similar to Geoff Johns’ Aquaman series. In that series, the very real public perception of Aquaman being a joke among superheroes has been a running theme, with each monthly installment addressing this notion and countering it, demonstrating why, exactly, the character is a top tier hero standing beside Superman and Batman. Vibe, likewise, explores the real-world belief that its titular hero is, well, pretty lame. Unlike Aquaman, however, Vibe has just as little faith in his abilities as we do. He questions why he’s been chosen for membership in the JLA (perhaps echoing fandom’s collective befuddlement at Vibe suddenly carrying his own series). It’s a device used to pretty nice effect, and it molds Vibe into a character we can relate to and, dare I say it, one we honestly like.
Actually, it’s Vibe’s self-deprecation and relative feelings of ineptitude that really give the book its heart. Finding himself thrown into the deep end of the superhero community, Vibe is awestruck and amazed, as though he thinks his handlers will realize their error soon enough and he should enjoy this exposure while it lasts. As hard as Cisco is on himself, his brother Dante at least matches this skepticism. Dante chides him in virtually every regard, from his government-chosen codename to his costume to his seemingly limited power set. However, this is all handled in a way that makes their relationship seem playful and sincerely brotherly. The more they rag on each other, the more we can really feel the bond these two share.
As the second issue progresses, Vibe’s wide-eyed innocence gradually begins to give way doubts of another sort. Vibe’s perceptions of “good” and “evil” become blurred as the government agents working with him begin to exhibit dubious behavior, slaughtering a misunderstood alien creature just as Vibe makes friendly contact with it. We’ve seen this sort of suspicious behavior from shady authority figures millions of times in fiction, but seeing it through Vibe’s eyes at least offers a fresh perspective. Vibe is discovering that, in the world of superheroics, good guys and bad guys aren’t always what they appear to be.
This series is clearly intended to be a companion piece to Justice League of America. The plot intersects nicely with JLA #2, as Vibe talks with his brother on the phone while waiting on the rest of the team to arrive for their first meeting. The whole affair has a fish-out-of-water, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington feel, and it’s sincere and endearing. When we see him standing shoulder to shoulder with Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, and DCU pop culture icon Stargirl, we really get the feeling that this is just an average guy who simply can’t believe this is happening to him. And, honestly, neither can we. Suddenly, somehow, Vibe is the most interesting personality on the team. Who saw that one coming?