Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Vigilante: Southland #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

Southland, Where Everything Goes South

Writer: Cary Phillips 
Artist: Elena Casagrande 
Colors: Giulia Brusco 
Letters: Todd Klein 
Cover: Mitch Gerads 
Cover Price: $3.99 
On Sale Date: October 26, 2016


Authorities often take a hard-line stance against vigilantes, but considering the popularity of superheroes, it seems like a lot of the public would be okay with a couple of people taking the law into their own hands to fight injustice. I mean, pretty much every superhero is a vigilante, and those that aren’t usually work for some shadowy organization that is secretly funded and answers to no government agency. Of course, you can’t right tell a guy like Superman not to fight crime, but it rarely even comes up in conversation. So I want everyone reading this now to put on some kind of disguise and start patrolling the neighborhood for miscreants. The power is in your hands, people! Just don’t use my name if you get caught, I will disavow all responsibility. I have the perfect alibi, anyway: I was reading Vigilante: Southland #1 while any chicanery transpired. Don’t believe me, officer? Well check out my recap and review as proof!

Explain It!

Donny is living the lifestyle. He can dunk a basketball, he’s got a medical marijuana card, and his superintendent’s job at Del Pueblo University in Southland—that’s South Los Angeles, to the uninitiated—is a piece of cake. His girlfriend Dorrie works there as a professor, and pays most of the bills, leaving Donny plenty of time to play video games and get baked. Yes, life is good, despite the occasional harassment by the cops, but every black man goes through it once or twice in their lives, right? Just be polite, don’t make any sudden moves, and things will work out fine. Dorrie, though, she’s always going on about some kind of injustice this and revolution that, it’s such a come down. Donny loves her though, and so his world should be shattered when she is hit and killed by a black sedan while riding her bicycle to the university. Donny takes it in stride, though. Must be some good bud he’s smoking.
The funeral is a somber occasion, as would be expected, but Donny spies a familiar cigar-smoking figure in silhouette standing nearby in the cemetery. First, however, is the mourning period, and Dorrie’s family is receiving visitors and well-wishers as per custom. At this…what do non-Jewish people call this? In Judaism it’s “sitting shiva,” but I have no idea what this is to non-Jews. Someone help me out. Anyway, during this time, Donny greets a fellow in a wheelchair—someone he’s met before, apparently, a colleague of Dorrie’s named Mike Regalado. He’s some kind of scientist. That evening, Dorrie’s mom goes through some of her personal effects and finds evidence of…something. And she really doesn’t look too broken up about the unsolved murder of her daughter. Donny pays a visit to the cigar-smoking chap from the funeral, and it turns out to be his estranged father, who is a club owner and maybe a pimp too? Donny needs his dad’s help solving the mystery of Dorrie’s death, for some reason, which he also thinks is a mystery, for some reason. Maybe for that same unknown reason, Donny’s pop thinks it was calculated murder, as well. This is when I wish comics still had thought balloons.
That night, a really not-upset Donny is searching through Dorrie’s personal things, and he finds an electrified mace—though when he finds it, he asks no one, “…was she taking kinky kung-fu lessons?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Was the relationship that strained that you wouldn’t even know about the sex toys in your home? Later, Donny and his dad smack the crap out of some junkie who witnessed Dorrie’s hit-and-run, and he confesses that the guy that hit her stopped and stepped out of the car to confirm her death before speeding off. Later, Donny gets dropped off at home, but the junkie dimes him out and the apartment explodes just as Donny enters!
This book…is kind of a mess. There are some cool interactions that would probably play out well on screen, but here they just seem unnecessarily prolonged and gratuitous. And while I appreciate that we don’t need to know everything in the first issue, there’s too much left to question: what kind of information did Dorrie find and what does it implicate? Why is everyone so sure that Dorrie’s murder was calculated? How come none of Dorrie’s loved ones seem genuinely upset at her death? Why do we get Mike Regaldalo’s full name, but several other characters remain nameless? Some of this may be revealed in the next issue, but by then it’s too late: you lost the audience already. The art is pretty good, nothing sublime but certainly skilled and well-suited for this noir type of story. The story, however, has problems.

Bits and Pieces:
Whatever intrigue this book might have contained is ruined by poor storytelling and expanded scenes of conversation. The dialogue is okay, but the character work is overdone and the plot is sacrificed for it. The book looks good, but as a singular issue it isn't enough to make me too excited for the next issue.


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