Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Justice League of America #233 (12/84)



Rebirth Part One: Gang War

Vibe: Breakdanced. Flaunted public identity. Threatened by black gangbanger with superhuman crowbar-weilding skills. Rescued by elderly African-American woman. The aforementioned Mother Windom was then harassed by pair of butch white chicks from one of those infamous multi-racial, transgendered street gangs you were always seeing in 80's Charles Bronson movies. They're beaten by Zatanna and Vixen, with a last minute save by a humiliated Vibe. Vibe tried to prove himself by harassing his gangleader brother, who ran a crew of "greasers," hopefully less anachronistic than just covering for an inability to use "beaners," itself bearing all the sting of "honkies." Vibe stabbed in back by butch chick from rival Rainbow Ruffs gang. Saved by League, while his brother continued to preach "el barrio" self-esteem through street brawling. Oh, and the black dude with a crowbar was given actual super-powers by an alien presence. Note how lame Vibe is in his own cover-featured spotlight story.

Vixen & Zatanna: Shop. Use incredible powers to brutalize the most silly-looking, non-threatening gangstas since the Sharks and the Jets.

Steel: Nearly killed himself trying to prove he could lift a whopping three tons to Aquaman. Rumbled in hood, ya'll.

Aquaman: Began consistent characterization in this run as first-rate jerk by imperiling Steel. Whomped hoodrats. Indulged in white guilt at denouement.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Painted a room chartreuse, to the chagrin of J'onn and Arthur.

Gypsy: Stole an apple. Knocked out Crowbar with his own tool while invisible.

Martian Manhunter: Appeared on about eight pages in not many more panels. J'Onn was present for Steel's testing, and argued with the overbearing Sea King.
"Aquaman, Steel is just a boy, after all-- not yet a man by human reckoning. He wants desperately to prove himself..."
Arthur countered, "Then let him. He's a Justice Leaguer, J'Onn. You were one of the first members of the original team-- you should know what that means--"
"I know what it does not mean, Aquaman-- it does not mean testing oneself to destruction--"

As Steel collapsed from the strain, an excellent text piece examined his saviors:
"J'Onn J'Onzz, one-time leader of Mars II, now an exile from his land and his people. Aquaman, born Arthur Curry-- former Lord of Atlantis and King of the Seven Seas, deposed by his former subjects, abandoned by his wife... despite his half-human heritage, an outcast among men. Two who share a similar past-- and possess very different attitudes for the present." While Arthur slipped into jerk mode, J'Onn played the cool-headed, supportive counterpoint. Here though, it was Dale Gun who butted heads with Arthur, leading him to waffle.
"Why is it so hard to admit my mistakes, J'Onn?"
"Habit. Old monarchs make poor drill sergeants."
"It's just this new League is so important to me-- I want us to succeed."
"You musn't let it distort your vision, Arthur..."

The Martian Manhunter joined in on the gang war, though he seemed to see humor in the deeply unfair odds. At one point, he grew into a hulking giant and batted thugs about like a boy manhandling G.I. Joes.

Dale Gunn: "Back off, Fish-Man. The kid did his best. I told you he was at his limit." Then, when Aquaman told him to mind his own business, "Maybe it slipped your mind, but I designed and built this place for the kid's grandpa. Your League is just borrowing it" Dale pressed further his devotion to Hank, and even jabbed Aquaman repeatedly in the chest with his finger. Dale later confided to Hank he thought Henshaw Sr. had made a mistake in opening the Bunker to the JLofA, and in allowing Steel to join the team. Dale was a wise man.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: Arthur remains the only Leaguer to refer to "J'Onn" by first name alone.

The Creators: Artist Chuck Patton was plainly giving this awful issue his all, painfully over-rending against his natural clean style to capture a Frank Miller grit the script undercut at every turn. Conway is the problem at this point, as he could put the Justice League in Detroit, but he couldn't get Detroit into his Leaguer's dialogue, yet. There was a two issue fill-in gap between the annual that introduced the new team and this first issue, which made for a terrible first foot forward with regards to anyone still undecided about the new take.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Tough call, as Vibe started the issue doing some sort of doo-wop/human beat box hybrid, but I settled on, "See wha'chu made me do? I could'a handled this withou' chu, man, it wasn't your fight!"

2 comments:

Luke said...

A "whopping" 3 tons, huh? I mean, yeah, 3 tons is more than enough for a character who is fighting street crime (ie, Bronze Age Luke Cage), but to be in the Justice League of America? It seems a little far fetched. And was it some kind of industry law at this point that women in team books had to be shown shopping together?

Vibe comes off terribly even in your summary. Also, your assertion of the all-inclusive street gang from the Bronson movies: pretty damn accurate (I myself just finished my Death Wish collection last month).

Frank Lee Delano said...

Like a lot of folks, I both love and hate the "idea" of Vibe more than the printed character. I love seeing him pop up on the Justice League cartoon, as a reminder that the "real comics" had their very own El Dorado and Apache Chief to be ashamed of. Really though, Vibe was just ineffectual and mildly misguided, as opposed to being truly abominable.

It never fails to amaze me that the same producers that were employing vigilantism in response to escalating crime due (thanks to them 70's "bleedin' heart liberals") were only too happy to showcase extended rape sequences involving Jeff Goldblum as an o.g. in the name of fair representation. This might explain why I prefer "Death Wish 3," in which all pretense is lost as Chuck and Ernest "Freakin" Borgnine just turn their Gattling "Freakin" Gun on pretty much the entire inner city (barring their own token Mother Windoms & Vibes.) Nothing quite says "strength of character" like a personal arsenal with which to rain death on the unwashed masses.

I'm suddenly jonesing for a "Death Sentence/The Brave One" double bill. Maybe there's a dollar cinema showing in town...