Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vigilante #1

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Rick Leonardi
Inker: John Stanisci
Letterer: Steve Wands
Colourist: David Baron
Editor: Michael Siglain

These days, I can't help but approach a new DC Universe title with caution bordering on outright scepticism. The first issue is usually incomprehensible. It takes tedious Googling just to decode enough of the plot to review the thing. But I try to keep an open mind. After all, Vigilante is by veteran creators Marv Wolfman and Rick Leonardi. Surely they know enough to avoid making the usual blunders?

Well, yes, they do. Sort of. This is a new version of the Vigilante character, and apparently he's cropped up in Nightwing before - a story which is alluded to but not really explained. But I'm prepared to assume it was just a trailer and give them the benefit of the doubt. There's no real explanation of who the new Vigilante is, or what motivates him, though we do get a real name. But again, Wikipedia tells me that none of this was covered in the Nightwing story either, so I'm prepared to assume that it's intentionally unrevealed.

More problematically, though, the story is based on Vigilante discovering that the mob were involved in "the election bombings", and investigating that link. These "election bombings" are not shown in flashback, or explained, or even elaborated on, save to clarify that somebody died in them. We're never told who.

After a couple of readings, it finally dawned on me that this might be a reference to DC Universe: Decisions - a miniseries I haven't read, and had largely forgotten about. And as near as I can figure out from Google, yes, it is indeed all a reference to DCU: Decisions, although even there, I can't find out what specifically happened in Philadelphia or who died.

It's a central feature of the story, and yet even with half an hour on Google I can't find out what it is. Astonishing.

But leaving that aside, is the book any good? Well... it's okay. It's quite well paced. It's got art by Rick Leonardi, and I've always liked the energy and style in his work - even if he's sometimes a little too cartoony for the sake of drama. It all holds together reasonably well.

The lead character, though, confuses me. As already mentioned, we're told nothing about him. Apparently his earlier appearances didn't take matters any further. But nor is he played as a man of mystery: we see him with his mask off, and he chats amiably with his sidekick JJ. The resulting impression is of a generic antihero, something that isn't helped by the literally generic name. He's so generic that at first I wondered if it was an audacious post-modern device.

He's like the Tesco Value Punisher. He should come in a blue and white striped costume with VIGILANTE written in large black letters on the chest. Come to think of it, he even comes equipped with a Tesco Value Microchip.

It's not a bad comic, so much as a generic one which is skilfully executed (albeit with that blunder of missing exposition). But it's never really apparent why we should be interested in this guy; his past may be a mystery, but we're given no reason to think it might be worth learning about.

All thoroughly underwhelming.

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