‘His greatest challenge …’ is Kid Flash, super-speedy Teen Titan and exile from the 31st century. Argus boss Amanda Waller sends Vibe after him on the pretext that Bart Allen is a bad guy: ‘We suspect this thief and arsonist may be a breacher,’ says Waller’s field chief, Dale Gunn. Gunn knows for a fact Kid Flash is no breacher – an interdimensional invader – but Waller wants to test Vibe against a speedster, having recruited him for her Justice League of America as the hero with the potential to take out the Flash. Why she doesn’t simply lay her cards on the table and give Vibe – Detroit teen Cisco Ramon – a choice, I don’t know; as is, she risks ticking off an incredibly powerful metahuman she wants as an ally. Is she incapable of being straight up with people?
That’s not something we find out this time, but we do learn that Vibe isn’t some dumb cluck who blindly follows orders when his instincts say otherwise. Yes, he jumps into a fight with Kid Flash in New York’s subway system, but when he begins to suspect the guy isn’t a villain, he offers to use his vibrational powers to help the teen remember details of his past. It seems likely he can help, as the first time the two teens come into contact, Vibe sees flashes – no pun intended – of Kid Flash’s history.
But Kid Flash refuses the offer, fearing that ‘your group’ would use anything he learned against him – and he’s probably correct. Kid Flash wonders aloud why, if he truly wishes to be a hero, Vibe is working for the bad guys. Bart races off, leaving the question hanging. It resonates with Vibe to the extent that he discusses the matter with brother Dante, the only person who knows of his secret life as a superhero.
Meanwhile, Waller is going over the mission with Gunn. She’s annoyed that Vibe disobeyed orders, but happy that they learned more about the powers of both Cisco and Kid Flash. She’s also pleased to learn something of Vibe’s moral compass, useful information for his psych file. Most intriguing of all, when the two teen heroes touched, a massive destructive feedback was felt all the way back in Argus HQ.
Waller would be less happy if she knew that the momentary disruption to Argus systems had allowed prisoner Gypsy to escape her holding cell. Oh, I do hope the New 52 Gypsy is a Durlan who accidentally splatters Waller while in the form of a Super-Moby Dick of Space.
Regular penciller Pete Woods and inker Sean Parsons are joined by artist Fabiano Neves – so good a pinch-hitter that I honestly couldn’t say who did which pages (the nicely chosen colours of Brad Anderson help with the consistency, of course). I can say that panels are detailed without being distractingly busy, and the characters who inhabit them act out the script with immense style. The enthusiasm of our star shines from the first few pages, and as the book goes on we see Vibe’s more serious side – the hero is learning on the job, listening to his heart rather than his superiors, and it shows. Kid Flash looks a tad fiercer than in Teen Titans, but it’s appropriate – he’s minding his own business, investigating a tunnel bearing his lightning symbol that he’s seen in a dream, when he’s attacked by an unknown metahuman and grunts packing sci-fi fire. Waller and Gunn are well on model, though I do wish someone would draw in the devil horns New 52 Waller undoubtedly sports.
Brett Booth handles the cover, presumably because he debuted the new Kid Flash look in Teen Titans. His Bart looks fine, and while Vibe’s face is just a little awkward, Booth’s dynamic composition works.
The big news this issue is that we have a new regular writer. Sterling Gates jumps on board and, while continuing the course laid down by Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg, begins putting his own stamp on the characters; Vibe begins asking questions; Waller shows a little concern for Vibe’s welfare; Gunn mentions a daughter for the first time. Gates is adding nuance, progressing the characters as the ongoing story steams ahead. He also finds room for much-needed humour, as early as page one. Having seen Gates take the pre-Flashpoint Supergirl from Kryptonian cabbage to true Girl of Steel in just a few issues, I can’t wait to see how he expands Vibe’s world. I’m enjoying this opening storyline, but I don’t want every issue of Vibe to be tied to the JLA – surely Waller takes days off, and he gets to pursue his own agenda?
And if Gates starts calling Vibe by his original nickname, Paco, so much the better – that’d save me having to proofread everything three times. Cisco. Pah.