Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Justice League of America #241 (8/85)

Vixen: Goaded Aquaman into considering reconciliation with his estranged wife, despite his protesting her “asinine pop psychology.” Hung out with her fellow Leaguers as they cooked lunch. When Aquaman came up missing just as the team was alerted to the return of an old threat, she kept her knowledge of his likely whereabouts to herself.

Aquaman: Marriage to Mera established at seven years to this point. Aquaman was prideful, evasive, and passive-aggressive in Vixen’s presence, but equivocated in solitude. Arthur questioned the true motivation behind all his recent decisions, and owned up to his transferring his tumultuous emotional state onto the new team he brought into existence. Finally, he jumped off a pier in search of his lost love.

Steel: After dominating most of the previous issues with his presence, Steel backed off a bit here. Had a macho mini-brawl with Vibe over dating his sister; a conflict resolved with Vibe’s blessing the courtship. Beyond that, he coasted this issue.

Zatanna: Continued to be as much, and most likely more, of a non-entity on the team than Sue Dibney this outing. She paired-off on the mission with Steel, and spoke exactly one line of dialogue.

Vibe: Turned his powers against Steel until his old-school protectiveness was sated by Steel’s formally asking permission to date Paco’s sister. Vibe then debuted his new costume. This move advanced his people five years—up from the ten Vibe’s very existence set them back. Sure it was mostly black and red, but with studded belts, a plunging neckline, fingerless gloves, and chunky ankle boots. He might as well have thrown in a sombrero and fringe. He paired-off with Vixen on the mission.

Dale Gunn: Cooked up some Texas-style chili. Flew the L.O.S.T. to the mission site. Pulled a Bones McCoy with his “I’m just a glorified engineer doubling as a pilot... but...” riff. Got knocked out.

Gypsy: Helped Dale make the chili, but slipped and lost her grip on the bowl. Made pointed comments about Ralph and Sue’s sitcom couple marriage, then even less tactfully blew J’Onn J’Onzz off when he questioned her bitter stance. Thought Vibe’s new outfit was “cute,” prompting him to puff-up and rant. Threw Manhunter shade about it being Aquaman’s job to brief the team on missions, not his.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Ralph used his incredible powers to save a bowl of chili and quoted Emily Post. Sue had eighteen times as much dialogue as Zatanna, as she kidded her husband and helped make peace between Vibe and Steel. Ralph paired-off with Gypsy on the mission.

Martian Manhunter: Wearing an apron around his waist as he diced onions for the chili, Manhunter noted “After three decades on your world, I thought I was beyond the possibility of new experiences. It would appear I was mistaken.” When Gypsy almost nullified his culinary effort, J’Onn actually exclaimed “--Gods of Mars--!” Meanwhile Amazo, the android “one-man Justice League,” escaped confinement at the Fortress of Solitude and absorbed the life force/personality of drunken lout Slick Jake MacGregor. The repurposed Amazo then slaughtered the town of St. Jude in the Canadian Yukon, population 200, as revenge for its treatment of MacGregor. This tragedy prompted the Manhunter to call the League together, both to address Amazo and their being short one leader. J’Onzz called the shots, but not without question, and rightly so. When evidence suggested Amazo could have headed off in any of three directions, he splintered the group to follow each lead, quartering their effectiveness. J’Onzz one-upped Gunn’s Bones with his own take off Phil Hartman’s Caveman Lawyer. “I ask myself...Dale Gunn. What would Aquaman have done, I wonder? On Mars, I was thrust into a position of command, but I too am a scientist by nature. Command does not come naturally to...me...?” Up from under the ground sprang Amazo, who swiftly used his super-breath to blow Dale and the Martian Manhunter up against consciousness-depriving rocks.

Introduced this issue: Justice League signal rings-- gold bands with a gigantic red light/gem that beeped team members and acted as a verbal communicator. Conway was still ignoring J’Onn’s mental powers, and the Legion of Super-Heroes thought we weren’t just cavemen, but tacky cavemen.

The Creators: Gerry Conway, still struggling to balance the mundance with the fantastic, forced poor George Tuska to spend 2 ½ pages on the chili skit. Thanks largely to the rich inks of Mike Machlan, the grizzled old veteran managed to make the rampant inanities of the issue reasonably appealing to the eye. At times, he even invoked Alex Toth and Bob Oksner instead of the usual “Don Heck of DC.”

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “The Big Green Guy.”-Gypsy.
“Big Green”-Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Cute? You call me cute? Do people call the Batman cute? Do people call Superman... cute? With this suit, I’m making a statement. I’m saying, ‘you’d better give me your respect, or I’m gonna bust your head.’”


Luke said...

This post produces some interesting thoughts.

First off, the idea of the Justice League cooking chili together I think effectively demonstrates just what Conway and/or DC Editorial was trying to do with the team at this point. This sort of homey, family-type stuff would not be out of place with the Titans or the X-Men, and this is one of the best pieces of evidence I have seen regarding the push to emulate those much more successful titles (at this time). Readers today complain about the League not using codenames (myself included), but this type of stuff is just as out of place. I understand the idea of trying new things and going in new directions, but what's the point of going in a new direction if that direction is just the exact same thing as someone else?

Secondly, the more I read about Vibe, both here and over at The Absorbascon, the more it seems to me that he would have worked better as an Outsider than a Leaguer. His punchy attitude and ego, along with his "street" cred and background, makes him a better fit for the Outsiders, I think. I can see him getting in Batman's face when he disagrees with the Dark Knight, and possibly getting slugged in the face ala Guy Gardner for it. But with his Latin temper, he'd probably pop right back up. That would have really put Vibe over.

Someone like Steel makes a bit of sense for the League (and personality wise he is too close to early Geo-Force anyway), but with Vibe, his powers and demeanor match more with the "subversive" (so-to-speak) set rather than front and center in the DCU. Of course, one could argue that the Detroit League doesn't operate the as the classic League, and that they weren't front and center, but that is the traditional role. And all we have for Vibe now is retrospect.

Thirdly, the very idea of Martian Manhunter eating chili is rife with problems. If it's really spicy, wouldn't his psychological weakness to fire kick in since he would feel like his mouth was on fire?

Diabolu Frank said...

If the issue had been written by Gardner Fox or Jack Miller, I assure you the chilli would have eventually caused flames to weaken the Manhunter in some manner. Kitchen fire, lit fart-- something.

I'd say the New Teen X-League had plenty of blatant conceptual theft right at the surface without digging stuff like this up, but that doesn't make your conclusion any less correct. Any time Wonder Woman calls Superman "Kal" I want to punch a baby seal in the throat. Any time "Kal" calls Batman "Bruce," I'm just waiting for one of them to declare their undying man-love for one another. But then, the Modern Age Wonder Woman likely has her own use for the beard (eyeshadow?) That Steve Trevor thing was a whole other character. Someone like Black Lightning would have exposed Paco as the poseur he was, raising the subtext to text.

My feeling is that Vibe was always intended to evolve into something greater than was presented, but time was not on his side. He was created as the rookie full of bravado, which meant he would have to either grow into the super-heroic ideal, turn evil, or serve as a tragic example. That could have played in the League, and would have been an even better fit for the Titans, but the Outsiders would have exposed that he was doomed from go. I've always hated that team, and I could list the reasons why, but ultimately they were all professionals with the potential to work as soloists. Vibe would have queered that deal but good, and been so blatant about it that the ax would likely have fallen all the more swiftly.

I'm glad I chose to spotlight each Detroit member in these recaps, as its made me consider each of them more carefully. I'd always seen Steel as the Colossus stand-in, but on second reading I realized the guy really could have been something. I expect Geoff Johns came to the same conclusion, or else why create Citizen Steel (a great codename, I think.)

Luke said...

The reason I point out this particular conceptual theft is because I just haven't read much about the Detroit League, so it just seems that much more blatant to me. And yeah, Black Lightning wouldn't tolerate Vibe's crap, and probably wouldn't have back when he was an Outsider, either.

That team, I think,grew into their roles as being "professionals with the potential to work as soloists," as you say. When Batman pulls them together, they all have problems of one sort or another which is either keeping them out of the public eye (Metamorpho, Katana), undermining their abilities (BL, Halo), or just plain screwing up their life (Halo again, Geo-Force). Bats teaches them to stand on their own two feet as well as to work the 5-as-1 (which is a part I really enjoyed about reading this particular series). With Bats on the team, he's the kind of guy who could look into Paco and see potential, even if he would need a "baptism by fire" to learn the difference between bravado and courage. The Outsiders as a concept have a bunch of problems, sure, but I think that they have a good niche to fit into conceptually.

(Ironically, there is a scene in the first issue of the new BATO where Batman is monitoring a misson from the Batcave and Thunder keeps getting in his face and arguing with him before Bats drops some knowledge on her; this kind of role I could have seen Vibe in as an Outsider.)

In the end, though, Vibe went out a hero (much like Steel, oddly enough) and fighting to protect the helpless. As Scipio says over at the Absorascon, he may be a broad character, but he was a heroic one. Inane accent and all.

Diabolu Frank said...

"With Bats on the team, he's the kind of guy who could look into Paco and see potential, even if he would need a "baptism by fire" to learn the difference between bravado and courage."

I don't recall how Batman reacted to Vibe, but I guess I'll get a refresher when he rejoins the team in #250.