Robot 6

The week in Geoff Johns: ‘Justice League of America’ and ‘Vibe’

vibe and the jloa

Justice League International had respectable sales, but nevertheless was one of the earlier cancellations of DC Comics’ New 52. Justice League Dark is similarly doing decent business, but, like JLI, it’s still not doing anything close to the monster sales of the Geoff Johns-written flagship Justice League.

So it’s not exactly surprising that DC is taking another whack at expanding the Justice League into a franchise, and that for this second attempt, Johns is involved. On Wednesday the publisher debuted Justice League of America and Justice League of America’s Vibe, and both will almost certainly be considered successes (the former has more than 50 state-specific variant covers as an added kick in the pants).

But are they good comics? I could answer yes or no, but that would make for an awfully short post.  Join me below for a discussion of each.


Vibe was created in 1984 by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton as part of the ill-starred “Detroit Era” of the Justice League, in which the team relocated from an orbiting satellite headquarters to that city and paired a handful of veterans (Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Elongated Man and Zatanna) with new heroes (Steel, Gypsy, Vixen).

Vibe was Paco Ramone, an avid breakdancer who previously ran with a gang, and possessed vibrational powers and the unfortunate habit of speaking in phonetically rendered accent (most notably, “you” was always pronounced “chu”). Obviously, he didn’t age well, most eloquently evidenced in the fact that he’s one of the few dead superheroes to never come back to life (save for a few short stints as a zombie).

vibe coverDC’s not taking any chances with his solo series, titling it Justice League of America’s Vibe (when Martian Manhunter received a JLA spinoff in the late ’90s, they gave him a “From the Pages of JLA” tag, but didn’t force “JLA” into the very title of the book), and writers Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg tie his origin into the events of 2011’s  Justice League #1 — like Cyborg, he gained his powers by exposure to Darkseid’s invaders.

Additionally, Johns and Kreisberg make the obvious-when-you-think-about-it connection regarding vibrational powers and the DC multiverse, which Gardner Fox created and explained as various dimensions existing in the same space, but vibrating at different frequencies (that was how the Flashes used to be able to travel between Earth-1 and Earth-2, for example).

So Vibe is being positioned as a character uniquely qualified to deal with inter-dimensional crises, like Darkseid (who will be coming back in some form, the cliffhanger splash promises) and something “maybe worse” that’s been trying to get through. It’s safe to say that whenever DC does its eventual big crossover dealing with the nature of their multiverse, as they do on a semi-regular basis, Vibe will be heavily involved.

He’s also not as confident or arrogant, but rather he’s a industrious teenager who works big-box retail to pay for college and live up to the example his dead big brother set for him. He’s not much fun, and I wonder if they ran so far from his now wince-inducing origins that they lost the appealing parts (or potentially appealing parts) of the character.

You know, hip-hop culture still exists, even if the faddish aspects that Vibe exemplified as a sort of clumsy outreach toward youth and relevance have receded.

If I’m talking around the contents of the comic, that is in large part because there’s almost nothing here, at least nothing of any interest. Five years ago, Francisco and his two brothers are walking along when one of Darkseid’s Parademons appears through a boom tube, killing the eldest and granting Vibe his powers.

One day, an agent of A.R.G.U.S. (The New 52’s S.H.I.E.L.D.) shows up to recruit Vibe, telling him he’s going to be a member of the new Justice League of America, handing him a new costume and explaining the premise of the series (“So basically you want me to be a … border cop?“) Meanwhile, Skinny Amanda Waller hints at a future threat and that she may not have Vibe’s best interests in heart. The end.

Pete Woods provides some rather nice artwork, but it, like the plot, is fairly generic. With so little personality in the writing, the book could have used some energy and style in the art side of the equation, but no dice.

It’s hard to see how or if the book will improve, either. Johns is only involved in this issue, and Kreisberg is apparently off the title after three issues, with Sterling Gates coming in for the fourth. Perhaps the “importance” of the character to the fictional setting will keep interest going and, more importantly, eventually add quality, but it’s awfully disappointing when compared to, say, 2006’s Blue Beetle #1, which also introduced a young Latino hero.

Story continues below

justice league of ohioVibe’s role in Justice League of America #1 is fairly small, but it is significant that he and every other member of the team appears in some form within the first issue, quite an improvement over Johns’ Justice League #1, which featured Batman and Hal Jordan bickering for most of the issue.

Johns’ script here is straightforward, and the plot is almost identical to that of Dan Jurgens’ Justice League International #1. Because a governing body isn’t so sure it can trust the real Justice League, it wants to create its own own, and it goes through the candidates and arrive on the line-up by the end of the first issue.

In JLI, it was the U.N. Here it’s A.R.G.U.S., with Skinny Amanda Waller and Colonel Steve Trevor picking the team. They’re all on the cover.

Their secret mission is to be able to take down the Justice League, if it ever comes to that, and so each member is (more or less) selected to combat a particular counterpart on the Justice League, although some of those match-ups seem to be slightly stretching it. (Katana is chosen to counter Wonder Woman, perhaps because she’s a woman? I don’t know; I didn’t read Katana #1 — maybe New 52 Katana is a lot more powerful than old Katana.)

Johns cuts away from the Waller/Trevor discussions to actually show the characters in action, or to involve them in discussions, so while this is basically an assemble-the-team issue, it’s got a lot more meat to it than, say, the last , which consisted mostly of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman looking at headshots.

Professor Ivo, android duplicates of the other Justice League and the Secret Society (of Super-Villains?) are being set up as the antagonists, but it looks like as with most of the New 52 super-stuff, the exciting parts of the books won’t be the stories themselves, but seeing what’s changed and why.


In that respect, Johns creation Stargirl is probably the most curious character, as she seems to break some of the “rules” of the New 52. She’s a legacy tied to Golden Age character (as far as I’ve seen, the only legacy characters have been ones recreated in the Silver Age and who have been re-decoupled form their antecedents, like The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, etc.).

Stargirl is being positioned as a celebrity superhero, and “Pemberton” (the original Star-Spangled Kid), Pat Duggan (Stripesy) and the rod’s original owner (a Starman?) are mentioned in passing.

As for the artwork, I’m not a fan of David Finch. I find his work over-rendered (here, he’s inking himself and colored by Sonia Oback and Jeromy Cox), and overly dark. It’s very detailed, but the details aren’t necessarily important or even consistent.

His women are are all whisper thin and his men indistinguishable, but as long as he’s drawing people with costumes and masks, that’s not much of a problem. That said, he’s a popular artist, so I don’t think it matters all that much how good he is; this book is going to sell, and Finch is going to help it do that more than hurt it.

Of course, based on how the Batman title DC created specially for him to write and draw went, chances are Finch isn’t going to be drawing this title for very long—or at least, not very often. (The incredible amount of recycled art and imagery in this book, including clipping pieces of his variant cover for Justice League #1 to re-use as headshots, indicates he might already be falling behind). Which is either good news or bad news, depending on what you think of his style and ability.

On the writing side of the equation, this is a much stronger start to a Justice League series than any of the New 52 Justice League series so far, while the art side is predictably weak compared to the work of the artists on those other Justice League comics.

And on the cover? Your state flag!



Worth noting that “Justice League of America’s” being wedged into the title may be due to the fact that Vibe is already a magazine title and not so much due to DC marketing.

Another brilliant idea by Johns.

Is Woods still working digitally? I took a look at the preview pages that were released, and his style seems to have changed a bit since the last time I saw his art. Maybe it’s the addition of an inker. (If an inker’s required, Woods probably isn’t still working digitally.)

In any case, I’m curious to see where Justice League of America’s Vibe winds up on the sales charts. Johns is a big draw, of course, but Kreisberg is much less of one. Woods isn’t really a household name, despite his early stint on Deadpool, his long and excellent run on Robin, and his recent work on Action Comics. Plus, there’s still some kind of stigma attached to Vibe as a character, as evidenced by the reactions to the book’s announcement online. Will Johns involvement, however tenuous and short-lived, be enough to make a difference, or is this title doomed to be part of another New 52 culling in the near future? Racking it next to Justice League and Justice League of America will certainly increase its visibility in the direct market, at least. And, sales-boosting crossover events are all but a certainty with Johns at the helm of the team title.

Johns will keep me AWAY from that title.

The Justice League in the title is to do with Vibe Magazine if I remember right. Read there is some legal issue similar to the one Captain Marvel experienced in using the name (they weren’t sued, but avoided the legal issue)

I don’t mind the premise of the series personally. The art could have been better I admit, but it had some interesting moments. The stuff with Star Girl and Martain Manunter were probably the most interesting, along with the new Villain group. It’s two early to tell how the series will pan out in the long run. I think Vibe would have been better off building up in this book, and then maybe spinning out into his own series. I think he could be an interesting character. However, with his shaky past, its very risky putting him in a solo book imo. It’s not like he was in a position like Aquaman was when Johns took over the book. He has a long history, with some strong moments, and he has been a regular league member.

I was surpised when I noticed, that you had picked up the first issue of the newest Justice league-series.

As for their quality…Expected.

I was fairly disappointed by both books.
– JLA#1 was a very predictable ‘who will protect us from the heroes’ first issue.
– Vibe #1 was also very uneventful ‘kid gets powers’ issue
Unless these titles get a lot moer exciting real quick, they’ll go the way of JLI and Blue Beetle

Stargirl needs to cover that belly.

To be fair to David Finch, once someone else started scripting his book for him, he fared much better on getting the issues out on time. I don’t think it’s impossible; his runs on avengers and ultimate xmen were pretty on time.

Pete woods needs to go back to that older style he used at marvel when he was doing deadpool, with a bit of the new detail work thrown in.

I’d hate to think Johns is not making an effort with JL because they are the JL and will sell anyways while writing JLA better but knowing full well these second stringers would never sell unless they used the JL brand. I really hope he does not make the JL look stupid to make the JLA look good.

i enjoyed JLA like the shadowy aspect and the idea of opposing leagues. also martian manhunter seems way more of a powerhouse than ever before.

new katana may not have the physical strength of wonder woman but i think they’re playing off her martial art skills and magic sword up these days. ala batman vs supes kinda thing.

i love the idea of vibe vibration powers and yeah maybe he doesn’t have a strong personality trait to define him yet, i’d much rather this than the previous insulting incarnation or them trying to do a modern hip hop slang speaking character cause it always comes off terribly.

man i really think comic news sites give dc to hard of a time. i diligently read the old universe books for decades but this new stuff albeit not perfect is refreshing. i care more for characters like barry allen, the bat family, and definitely wonder woman. also loved the bickering lantern and batman of new JLA they actually act like people now when they’re together. why? cause they haven’t had the time to be as perfect as they were in the old universe. sure there were a few fights but not in the way gl really doesn’t seem to like batman. tension is a good thing. villains can exploit it and let’s be honest these powerful characters need some kind of flaw, considering how strong and effective they are in their own books let alone as a team.

and hell comics sales have been rising, and that’s has alot to do with dc’s relaunch. got marvel to do a very similar thing and it’s working people are buying it.

so maybe give em a break sometimes. or at least more articles about the really well done new 52 books outside of snyder’s batman. like flash, batwoman, wonder woman, green lantern, and swamp thing.

Once Finch started only drawing The Dark Knight in the New 52, the book was always on time, so to bash his art because his first foray into writing caused delays isn’t really fair or accurate.

“I really hope he does not make the JL look stupid to make the JLA look good.”

MK, Johns has been doing tat since issue one of JL so it can’t be blame don JLA. I’ll probably stop buying JL soon because of that…

I thought Vibe was very good.

Awful writer.

Chief Creative Officer…….. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ;)

Like all comic people going through a phase, I loved Bendis and Johns for their writing style. But honestly, 2-3 years of reading their books and you know they bring nothing new to the table and stick to only their old tried and true established styles. I mean you pickup any comic of theirs and the writing style is exactly the same…..

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