Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vigilante: Southland #2 Review and **SPOILERS**

Handi-capable of Whupping Your Ass

Writer: Cary Phillips 
Artist: Elena Casagrande 
Colors: Giulia Brusco 
Letters: Todd Klein 
Cover: Mitch Gerads 
Cover Price: $3.99 
On Sale Date: November 23, 2016


I have to hope that having recently seen the character Vigilante on the CW television program Arrow, this miniseries is an attempt to capitalize on the small screen introduction. I have to hope that’s the case, because DC doesn’t have the greatest track record for capitalizing on such debuts. It looks like they learned a lesson from there being no Supergirl comic last year when the television show debuted last year on CBS, because while the initial issue of Vigilante: Southland left a bit to be desired, at the least it does exist. And maybe issue #2 will be an improvement? I wonder how we could find out, barring a read of the damn thing ourselves? I know, we’ll just wait for Reggie to do a review! He’ll tell us what’s what.

Explain It!

The first panel is an amber-tinted flashback, “Twenty years ago” according to the caption, of Vigilante (or a fellow in the Vigilante ski mask) cruising along on a homemade chopper. There’s an inset close-up panel in full color of a hand touching the chassis of a motorcycle, then the next panel proper is the same width as the first, also in full color, depicting a guy in a wheelchair sitting next to the same bike from the first panel, but now in the present day—we know this because there’s a miniscule panel to the right that reads “Now.” I missed this caption on the first read, so I thought the whole page was a flashback, and to make things more confusing I don’t remember this guy in the wheelchair, named Mike, from the last issue. I seem to recall a handicapped guy at Donny’s girlfriend’s wake, but wasn’t he a university professor or something? This guy works in a motorcycle garage. Donny, recuperating from having entered his apartment just as it blew up, is told that he and his dad must have pissed off the wrong person, which reminds me: where is Donny’s dad?
And this is just the first page. This book is rife with the same storytelling problems as the last issue that make it a fairly unpleasant read. Donny’s girlfriend’s mom is also hanging out there—at least, I’m pretty sure it’s Dorrie’s mom—and the three of them establish that they all thing Dorrie was murdered by a hit-and-run driver. She was carrying on Mike’s work, uncovering a conspiracy whose nature we aren’t sure about. Seems Mike used to be the Vigilante—called himself the Eastsider—but he was taken out with a sniper’s bullet that I can only guess is what crippled him. We can see that in another amber-tinted flashback panel out of nowhere, but frankly this all requires us to fill in too many blanks. Bonny does know about some of Mike’s exploits, like taking on some bad dudes in Boyle Heights, and wouldn’t you know it? That’s where they are now, beneath some church on Whittier Blvd. Which happens to look like a motorcycle shop. And has a bed and some kind of medical capacity. Why is this all so confusing? None of it makes any narrative sense. Does Dorrie’s mom know Mike? Is his home base in this expansive church basement?
At this point, if I wasn’t reviewing the issue, I would quietly close the comic and never think about it again. And it just gets worse. Donny decides he must seek revenge for Dorrie, and his hunt takes him to the boudoir of some dominatrix, who whips Donny in his Vigilante mask—that now does little to hide his identity for some reason—mercilessly for too many pages. Later, Mike trains Donny to fight by beating the crap out of him while in a wheelchair. Says he’ll train Donny in the art of fisticuffs, but clearly will only be able to teach moves done from the waist up. Later, Donny winds up at the home of Vance Childers, suspected of giving the order to kill Dorrie, and it’s like a full quarter of the book, them trading innuendo and snippets of information before Vance is killed by a sniper’s bullet, and Donny has been framed as the shooter. Swell.
The main problem with this comic book is bad storytelling. New concepts and characters are introduced without any introduction, too much space is spent on a rather gratuitous scene between Donny and the dominatrix that is meaningless in the final analysis, and where the hell did Donny’s pop run off to? You could skip the first issue and be no more wise about what the hell is going on here. I think the art is okay in a stylistic sense, but it does us no favors in terms of clarifying the sequence of events in the book. Frankly, it’s a bit of a mess, and would be most useful as an instructive tool for prospective comics makers on how not to develop a story.

Bits and Pieces:

There seems to be a solid story somewhere in here, unfortunately it is obscured by poor plotting and bad development that comes across very amateurish. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the art, but paired with the confused storytelling, it gives the overall impression that this book is a mess. Not a great look. On the plus side, there's only four issues left!


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