By Jonathan Edwards
At the end of my review for Justice League of America: The Atom Rebirth #1 last week, I said that I fully intended to check out Justice League of America: Vixen #1, so here I am. Now, I may have known little about The Atom, but I knew even less about Vixen. I was pretty sure she could mimic the abilities of animal (likely due to being connected to the "Red" such as Animal Man and, I think, Beast Boy are), and that's about it. That does indeed turn out to be the case, and I'm super okay with it because animal mimicry is rad.
Going in, I was curious as to if this one-shot would be structured the same way as The Atom's, showcasing specific moments across a multiple year span. It does not. Instead, it's presented as a much more typical origin story. We follow the hero through an initial instance of superheroing while flashing back every once in a while to some event that help put them on the path to said superheroing. In fact, if I remember correctly, it's pretty much the same structure Brian Michael Bendis used in 2016 for Invincible Iron Man #1 (except without the random drive-by scene that I still question the appropriateness of). However, there's something to be said about following an established structure to tell a solid story. And personally, I think Justice League of America: Vixen Rebirth #1 is a good example of that.
On the first page, we're immediately introduced to Mari McCabe and learn a bit about her through the narrative device of having her appear on a talk show. Funnily enough, this reminded me of the first issue of New 52 Animal Man. If I remember correctly, Jeff Lemire did this exact same thing to introduce us to Buddy Baker and given Mari and Buddy's like powers, I'm inclined to think this might be on purpose. Either way, I got a bit of a kick out of it. From there, the main conflict is quickly set up, and the flashbacks all feel pretty natural when they happen. It's all very efficient, also allowing for some nice character moments to occur. One detail I particularly like is Mari's concern over the efficacy of her after-school programs to help kids rather than any preoccupation with her own reputation.
The art is probably my favorite thing about the issue. Not so much the pencils or inks, although they are strong. The colors are what really stand out. Jamal Campbell has a recurring utilization of orange and blue, and it's fantastic. It gives the flashback sequences a unique visual style, provides a great representation for Mari using her powers, and thematically links her past to her present. Red is also pretty frequently used as a tertiary and/or accent color, so it's almost like this is Campbell's take on the CMYK color model used in printing. It's moody, and versatile, and I don't think I would've rated the book as high without it.
With two of these one-shots left to go, my hopes and expectations for the coming JLA series are starting to rise. I'm looking forward to seeing what Steve Orland & Co. do with The Ray next week. If you're super familiar with Vixen, this'll probably be nothing new. But, with a solid enough story and great art, I think this is definitely worth a read. You could certainly be doing way worse. Like Justice League/Power Rangers.
Writers: Jody Houser, Steve Orlando
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Publisher: DC Comics