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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Vixen: Return of the Lion

Writer: G Willow Wilson
Artist: Cafu
Inker: Bit (finale)
Colorist: Santiago Arcas
Letterer: Rob Clark Jr
Publisher: DC

What's it about?
Vixen, or Mari MccCabe, is a member of the Justice League of America (or JLA, Earth's protectors).  She has a totem which allows her to access the mophorgenic field and channel the abilities of any animal on earth - speed of a cheetah, strength of an elephant, flight of an eagle etc.

Born in Zambesi, a fictional African country, she has lived in America for many years.   Now, she has discovered more details about her mother's murder.  This information takes her back to Zambesi and the village of her birth to investigate and seek revenge on the killer.  Mari finds herself answering other, unexpected questions - where does she fit into her old village life?  How did she become the person she is now?  What can she do about the rot circling her childhood home village?
 Vixen: Return of the Lion is a story about Africa, about preserving community, about roots, about the strength in allies and the need to protect your own.  It's about finding and grounding yourself. 

What's good about it?
Recently featured in our characters of colour series, Vixen is an extremely powerful member of the Justice League of America (JLA).  This book showcases her talents and abilities and ably demonstrates why she's got a legion of fans.

Upon my first read of this book, I was somewhat annoyed that the JLA had such a prominent role, feeling that their presence took away from Mari's story.  Then I re-read it, and thought about it some more.  The JLA's actions, roles, interactions really don't diminish Mari.  It remains her story and instead, they act as a counterpoint to her homelife.  The JLA represent one part of Mari's identity, Zambesi another.  Mari is struggling to reconcile these aspects of herself, but in the end comes out on top.  That is not a spoiler - she's the hero of the story, you can expect her to finish on a high.
But what I really, really love about this book is the art.  So we shall change format order and segue into...

What's the art like?
Beautiful.  Breathtaking.  Peaceful, calming, energising and (for those of us who haven't been to Africa and can only imagine it) incredibly evocative of dry, dusty summer heat.  It feels fresh, and natural, and the balance between Cafu's pencils and Arcas' colours is just perfect.  The colours have a similar feel to Christina Strain's work, as seen in Runaways, Spider-Man Fairy Tales and Marvel Fairy-Tales.

The lines aren't precise, but they are measured.  There's a gentleness to them that is also quite precise, if that makes any sense.  They get across everything they need to, without being overwrought or heavy.  All characters have a sense of grace and poise about them.  It's delightful.

I'm a fan of art showing wide, sweeping plains, so there are several panels in this which make me very very happy.

The cover is by Josh Middleton, who also supplied the covers to the monthly issues which are included within this book.  Middleton's work is lovely, he's got a gentle style and an eye for anatomy.  Vixen's breasts are pretty prominent on the cover, but they are drawn and shaped realistically for a women that size and in that position.

What's bad about it?
Eesh, what a difficult question.  I guess the main thing that might put people off is Wilson's refusal to shy away from politics.  Some people may find her dialogue a bit 'in your face'.  If you want escapist fantasy, far from everyday life, this isn't for you. 

Other information
ISBN: 1848565798 or 9781401225124 (Amazon isn't too clear about which one is the current English language edition)
Price: Also unclear.  Expect to pay between £8 and £12.

If you want to read more of Vixen, she appears in the several JLA books, of which Return of the Lion complements.  Listed in reading order, these books are:
Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path
Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga
Justice League of America: Injustice League
Justice League of America: Sanctuary
Justice League of America: Second Coming
Vixen: Return of the Lion
Justice League of America: When World's Collide
The next 3 issues of this series, numbers 35 - 37, also had Vixen on the team, but these have not been collected into trade.  If you wanted these issues you could find them on ebay, in your local comic shop's back issue boxes, or as digital comics from the Comixology application.  The covers look like this:
<--- Issue 35                            Issue 36--->
Issue 37 below.

Or if you don't want to pick up a full book, I can also recommend one particular issue from this series, which is Justice League of America #11 (collected in The Lightning Saga trade), and is all about Vixen and a character named Red Arrow.  It's a standalone story and it's brilliant.

G Willow Wilson has also written some other comics, one of which is a fantasy story called Air: Letters from Lost Countries

1 comment:

  1. I really loved this book :)
    I found it totally by coincidence a while ago. And I just loved the tone, the story and specially the artwork here^^

    It's this type of little mini-series DC needs to publish more often (rather than the dozen Bat titles and epic crossover events all the time)

    It reminded me of that good Black Lightning Year One mini from a couple years back.