Not since "Aquaman" debuted as part of the New 52 launch has DC Comics introduced a new title that embodied the unlikely combination of being undeniably important to the DC Universe as a whole with the sentiment of, "They gave that character his own, solo series?"
Yesterday, "Justice League of America's Vibe" #1 by Geoff Johns, Andrew Kreisberg and Pete Woods finally hit stores and reader's hands -- and it's clear that, much like "Aquaman" before it, the publisher intends to make the standalone title about the much maligned pre-New 52 Detroit Justice Leaguer who can discharge powerful vibratory shockwaves required reading. Johns and Kreisberg have crafted a new origin and modified powers for Vibe, tethering the hero to one of the biggest events of the New 52: Darkseid's invasion of Earth. In fact, the issue has a greater role in expanding the DC Universe than any single series since the universe launched in 2010, including Johns' also just-launched "Justice League of America," which, interestingly, feels almost as though it's a companion piece to Vibe's solo title.
While the issue contains a number of nods to DC continuity past and present -- including the obligatory appearance from Pandora -- here are the main moments in "Vibe" #1 that makes it the latest New 52 series to watch.
Vibe is tied to the New 52 in a way most heroes are not, his origin linking the character to a lynchpin event in the DC relaunch. The opening pages of "Vibe" #1 flash back to the war with Apokolips seen in the opening issues of "Justice League," as Francisco "Cisco" Ramone develops powers after being partially drawn into a Boom Tube before his older brother pulls him out of it. Unfortunately, Cisco's brother Armando didn't survive the experience and is subsequently revealed to be the first human casualty of Darkseid's initial invasion of the planet.
Armando's death continues to haunt Cisco, and is later used by A.R.G.U.S. to manipulate the young man into taking on the Vibe identity and joining the Justice League of America.
While the original Vibe had the power to emit powerful vibratory shockwaves, New 52 Vibe has an updated power set tied to the Apokolips Boom Tubes. His internal frequency is no longer synced with the rest of the Earth, which gives him access to a special set of abilities -- including his trademark vibrational shockwaves. He is unable to be recorded by cameras, video or still, making him the perfect infiltrator for Steve Trevor's Justice League of America. Moreover, "Vibe" #1 reveals Francisco has the ability to see and sense camouflaged Parademons and hunt down a Mother Box a mile away -- a definite advantage when it comes to fighting soldiers of Apokolips.
THE EXPANSION OF A.R.G.U.S.
"Vibe" #1 takes us deep into the acronymed organization called A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans) which seems to be the DCU's equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. A government organization responsible for metahuman containment and world peacekeeping, A.R.G.U.S. was formally introduced during Johns and Jim Lee's "Justice League" run, though it has not been as strongly developed as the New 52's other governmental acronym, S.H.A.D.E.
The debut issue of "Vibe" offers readers their most in-depth look at the organization to date, its operatives and at least some of its secrets. In short order, we're introduced to Vibe's handler/JLA recruiter, Agent Dale Gunn -- a staff member of the Pre-"Flashpoint" Justice League Detroit, of which Vibe was infamously a card-carrying member -- and go further into Amanda Waller's involvement with the group.
Although "Justice League of America" seems tailor-made to be the best avenue from which to introduce re-imagined DCU characters, "Vibe" has taken the lead on that front. The first issue introduces a special A.R.G.U.S. containment facility called "The Circus," which seems to feature a number of captured and incapacitated metahumans -- including Gypsy, a pre-"Flashpoint" member of Justice League Detroit and Krakkl, the Grant Morrison and Mark Millar-created alien friend of Wally West. The Circus apparently has a vast number of containment units, any one of which could open at any time to reveal a new, re-imagined character in the DCU, including the currently-imprisoned Pariah, who appears only when the world is about to end...
THE FINAL PAGE
If none of those examples are able to convince you of the level of importance DC is laying on the shoulders of "Vibe," the final page reveal-slash-teaser may change your mind. In dramatic fashion, Johns, Kreisberg and Woods reveal that A.R.G.U.S. has had Darkseid's daughter under lock and key since the initial Apokolips invasion. It's arguably the biggest ending we've seen in a post-New 52 launch title to date, and the only ending to tease bigger things to come for the DC Universe as a whole. Combined with the fact that not only is the issue jam-packed with relevant information, but it's a well-written and illustrated comic to boot, and it's not beyond the realm of possibility for "Vibe" to become the must-read series for those keeping up with the greater thread of the DC Universe.
MEANWHILE, IN THOSE OTHER JUSTICE LEAGUE TITLES...
Outside of the obvious import of "Vibe" #1, Johns and David Finch's "Justice League of America" debut laid some interesting groundwork of its own, though much of it felt more Justice League-centric than DCU-spanning. To wit, we learned that the JLA is being formed specifically as an anti-Justice League team, with each member serving as a deliberate opposite number for a member of the original group. Martian Manhunter is Superman's opposite number, Catwoman is Batman's, Katana is Wonder Woman's, Vibe is Flash's and so on.
Finally, in "Justice League" #17, we meet the New 52 Atom, revealing that Dr. Ray Palmer -- who has appeared as a scientist in the employ of S.H.A.D.E. -- is apparently not donning the familiar red and blue as many expected. Instead, the newest version of the diminutive super hero is a female, and appears to be an ally of the original League rather than the newly-formed government sponsored incarnation, though that's far from firmly established at this point.
See something else in "Vibe" #1 that bears examination? Discuss it in our forums!