In Review: Justice League of America: Vixen–Rebirth #1

An excellent rebirth that should be picked up.

The covers: A pair to seek out on this revisionist tale of Vixen. The Regular cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo. This has the title character up close and in the reader’s face as Mari McCabe leaps out the reader with her nails resembling those of a tiger’s. She looks fierce and is surrounded by several other animals whose abilities she can utilize: an eagle, ape, owl, elephant, bull, lion, and tiger. The coloring really sells this image, with the hero being in much darker colors than the pale blue background and the white images of the animals. This is poster worthy. The Variant cover was the one I purchased because it’s just beautiful. Created by interior artist Jamal Campbell, Vixen is racing at the reader, while a ghostly image of a rhinoceros is around her, showing that she is using that creature’s strength. To her right is a stone edifice that mirrors her totem and atop and around it is a gorilla, gazelle, lion, and vulture. I prefer this image to the Regular cover because she can be more clearly scene and the coloring is gorgeous, especially with that orange sky. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: Steve Orlando & Jody Houser have created an excellent entry point for new readers and good “rebirth” for long time fans. I confess to pretty much ignoring Vixen when she appeared with the Justice League decades ago, and all those issues of that series, so this is going to be my first pass at the character. After reading this, I’m a fan. This issue begins with a quick one page summary of Mari McCabe, orphan turned fashion runway icon. “Animal activist. Tabloid darling.” She’s on a talk show promoting her after-school enrichment programs that she’s been involved with for several years. The host of the show has one of the program’s recent graduates come on who shockingly goes on a tirade about how Mari has never visited anyone involved with the program and how she’s been e-mailing the celebrity daily asking her to help find her missing mom, “…You were my last hope! With everything you do, all your connections, I knew you could help! But you couldn’t even return my call. You’re so worried about helping animals, but what about the people you say you’re helping?” This causes Mari to make a course correction with her life. Later at her luxurious apartment, she opens a box she hasn’t touched in years: it contains the Tantu Totem. The story flashes back to Zambesi, Africa, where she is given the totem by her father and why she needs to be the one to use it. This origin is extremely emotional and gives Mari a very strong reason to be a hero. In the present, she employs the supernatural symbol to track down the girl’s mother. Seeing her use her abilities is fun and the battle with her first villain is good and lasts about as long as one think it would. I liked this origin and adventure and hope that her future stories are as entertaining. Overall grade: A

The art: Both the art and the colors are created by Jamal Campbell and they assist the story immensely. The first panel looks as though it was a freeze frame from Project Runway (Uh…I don’t watch it, my daughters do). The pose of Mari and the coloring, mimicking the flashing of several cameras, is on point. The panels that follow neatly show her lifestyle before transitioning to the television host. The reds used for the set are excellent. They provide an excellent transition to Mari’s apartment which is colored in lighter reds, foreshadowing how her current life is beginning to change. Her apartment, though only seen on one page, is outstandingly rendered, having me hoping that at some later date Campbell will be able to show more of it. The flashback sequences are fantastic: the characters look great and the coloring perfect. When the off panel action begins to happen in this location, Campbell uses a deep orange to ignite the background while using yellow for the sounds. When Mari activates the totem for the first time it’s an artistic tour de force, showcasing an explosion of all the animals whose abilities she can harness, with the heroine in the dead center. The coloring is also impressive on this page. Whenever she harness the totem, the colors are a terrific signal to how she’s employing the animal’s traits. But Campbell’s artist skills are also top notch, with Pages 10 and 11 being particular standouts; I really like the layout of the bottom panel on 11. The introduction of the book’s villain is akin to a killer from an adult thriller. His design is simple, yet Campbell makes this individual an absolute menace, with his close ups being extremely unnerving. The final page has a good reveal, mirroring the flashes of light from the first panel, and the look of joy on Mari’s face is great. I will purchase any comic illustrated by Campbell. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, a television broadcast and telephone messages (the same font), dialogue, telephone text, sounds, and the book’s title and credits are created by Clayton Cowles. I like the font Cowles uses for the scene settings, very strong and an instant eye catcher while reading (which is very helpful given the flashbacks and many changes of location), and the quiet dialogue on 9 set the scene exceedingly well. Often I dislike when a letterer uses the same font for different forms of communication, but given that the broadcast and the telephone are both electronic, it makes perfect sense for Cowles to use the same look. Overall grade: A

The final line: I wasn’t a fan of this character before, but now I am. If Vixen continues to appear with the quality of story and visuals, I’m going to have one more book to collect each month. An excellent rebirth that should be picked up. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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