The time: 1984.
The place: Detroit.
Young Paco Ramone learns that with the original tried and true Justice League disbanded a new Justice League is taking form and, utilizing his superhuman power of… vibration… Paco decides to leave his life as the leader of the Los Lobos street gang to make it as a superhero dubbed Vibe. Also he was a break dancer.
Can I get an “awwwww yeeeaaaah?”
Just kidding, something that stupid would never happen.
Double just kidding, something that stupid happened so hard.
It was the 80’s, which I guess is an excuse, and much like the pet rock, Molly Ringwald and Poison, Vibe soon faded into obscurity and rightfully so.
But, some three decades later DC Comics mastermind Geoff Johns, an expert in the resurrections of bankrupt characters (Green Lantern: Rebirth, New 52 Aquaman), saw to it that Vibe was brought back to the forefront of the DC Universe by making him a member of the Justice League of America and giving him his own ongoing series, a series presumably with a goal other than selling comics to the grandmothers of ethnic street performers and Vanilla Ice fans.
It’s a hefty undertaking but Johns has proven time and time again that he can take a less than stellar character and rocket them into the fandom stratosphere. When Johns took the reins of Green Lantern Hal Jordan was the personification of everything wrong with the 90s with a weakness for the color yellow and now, after writing the incredibly successful series for nearly a decade, the Green Lantern universe spans across five series and Sinestro Corps shirts are awesome. Even worse off than pre-Johns Green Lantern was Aquaman. The guy talks to fish and pretty much all he’d been good for (outside of Batman: The Brave and the Bold) was being made fun of for talking to fish and serving as a springboard for shark cameos. After Johns started writing for the Atlantean at the start of the New 52 Aquaman is the star of one of DCs best books and was even at the center of a major crossover event, Throne of Atlantis.
Johns, who only actually co-wrote the first issue of Vibe’s standalone series, hyped the book substantially, talking about how the new spin on the character would give him inter-dimensional powers and make him arguably one of the most powerful and important characters in the DC Universe.
But Vibe didn’t suffer from just the angst-ridden, cynical 90s or an easily spoofed power, Vibe was a raging ethnic stereotype with stupid powers and a stupid outfit, and despite Johns’ efforts the first issue of Justice League of America’s Vibe was pretty underwhelming. On the bright side, Paco Ramone got a cool new name: Cisco.
The first issue of JLA’s Vibe also saw the character nestled into the existing New 52 universe quite naturally, his powers being a result of the weirdo-demon-bomb-messenger-monsters sent by Darkseid in the first arc of Justice League. The issue also left plenty of mysteries to keep readers interested; how will Vibe fit in with the likes of Hawkman and Martian Manhunter in the JLA? Can Vibe trust A.R.G.U.S., the government agency that seems so interested in his powers? What exactly are Vibe’s powers?
I have no godamn idea.
And therein lies my biggest problem with JLA’s Vibe: I legitimately have no idea what he does. The old Vibe could vibrate and shoot sonic blasts, but in the New 52 young Cisco has the power to… see other dimensions? Or hear other dimensions? Or be other dimensions? Who knows. Also he shoots stuff? I guess they’re also sonic blasts but I couldn’t tell you. They sort of look like Pidgey’s gust attack, but again, who knows? I think he still vibrates.
I could overlook the neither-here-nor-there powers if Cisco himself was at least an interesting character, but again, we’re talking about a hero named “Vibe.”
When the second Blue Beetle died he was replaced by Jamie Reyes, a Mexican-American teenager who lived with his parents in El Paso. Jamie Reyes is awesome. His youth gives him the Spiderman-esque spirit of a quip-ready underdog and his cultural heritage adds nuance to his interactions with his family and the world around him.
Cisco’s cultural heritage adds a few apostrophes into his dialogue bubbles.
But of course even poor characterization and dumbass, inexplicable superpowers can be overlooked if, somehow, barring all logic and reason, the story is still good – and with guest appearances from Kid Flash, Batman and the Suicide Squad all within the first five issues something interesting has to be going on.
For a third time I am just kidding.
Kid Flash is a pretty cool character, and he still looked pretty cool in Vibe because when you have a cool costume and not a vest and ski goggles like some sort of preteen Digimon wrangler you can look cool even in a less-than-cool book. But Kid Flash’s appearance did little more than further confuse what exactly Vibe’s powers are. Kid Flash can move fast enough to tap into the speed force, which is extra-dimensional in nature, and in return Vibe can… touch Kid Flash?
But hey, you can’t go wrong with Batman. Surely one of DCs best characters can lift up one of its worst?
Just Kidding IV: The Voyage Home.
Turns out it wasn’t Batman at all, it was – get ready – an inter-dimensional shape shifting gypsy.
Cool right? Right?
And of course the Suicide Squad can only look so badass whilst chasing a break dancing vibrator and – again, get ready – an inter-dimensional shape shifting gypsy.
When last I saw Vibe he was trapped in a robot test tube thingamajig and I kind of hope he just stays trapped in their forever and then eventually gets blown up by the Blue Beetle on accident or on purpose, I really don’t care, and left to vibrate away in the dust and ashes. But either way I sincerely don’t care.
Because Vibe is stupid.
So, so, so stupid.
And I am not kidding.