Monday, January 19, 2009

Vixen: Return of the Lion #4

For all of these years, Vixen has subscribed to the belief that poachers were responsible for her mother's murder. But when a Justice League bust reveals that not only were the wrong men fingered, but the real culprit is still alive, the heroine decides that it's high time she return to her old home in the African plains. So far she's endured threats both physical and emotional, connected with her spiritual side and learned things about the mystical Tantu Totem that were never understood. Now it's time to have a little sit-down with that man about her mom's demise.

In Vixen's first true taste of the limelight, G. Willow Wilson hasn't put together the most unpredictable story, but one that's nevertheless well written and engaging. Although the revelations Wilson shares about the origin of Vixen's powers may not be especially fresh, they do make her a stronger character and a potentially bigger part of the Justice League. She's clearly the star of the show, with the rest of her buddies along for the ride, albeit in a very limited supporting role. When there's detective work to be done, she's the one doing it while Batman sits on the sidelines and keeps an eye on the aircraft.

Where the writer does show some ingenuity is in the methods and the vision of Vixen's opposition. In Aku Kwesi, a warlord who aims to control her home country of Zambesi, Wilson has developed a versatile character with many different faces. His status as a natural citizen of the country ensures that he'll have no shortage of passionate supporters in his corner, while his international connections and complex planning makes him a threat to even the combined efforts of the JLA. Though his eventual defeat is badly telegraphed at the end of this issue, I enjoyed watching his master plan unfold as the pages slipped by.

The style of Cafu's artwork, combined with the colors of Santiago Arcas, reminds me of the warm, vibrant, uncomplicated work that Niko Henrichon handed in for Vertigo's Pride of Baghdad a couple of years back. And I'm not just saying that because Vixen struggles with a fully-grown lion within the book's first few pages. The two books share a rich, almost glowing color scheme that takes over the page and a clean, straightforward illustrative style to embrace it. Under a more line-crazy artist's watch this would be a jumbled mess, but since both contributors work styles that compliment the other it's an instantly beautiful pairing. While their work isn't quite as easy on the eyes when the rest of Vixen's JLA associates show up, the majority of this issue takes place elsewhere and the err is forgivable.

Return of the Lion enjoys beautiful, appropriate artwork that sets the stage for an entertaining, if low-key, mini-series. The series enjoys a unique flavor, both in setting and in appearance, and while many of the basic plot devices have been done before, the issue is peppered with enough little touches of originality to compensate. This won't rock your world, but as a first attempt with a character I really didn't care for coming in, it'll do. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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