Monday, October 10, 2016

Real Name: Mari Jiwe McCabe
First Appearance: Action Comics #521 (July, 1981)
Fight Club Ranking: #344

Featured Fights:
- vs BRIMSTONE: Legends #2 (Dec 1986)
- vs JUSTICE LEAGUE: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)

An unexpected result of spending time with the Suicide Squad this past August was digging back into the DC Comics of the post-Crisis eighties. Along with the issues of Suicide Squad and Legends that were featured, I also spent some time re-reading JLA. This was the period when the Justice League underwent a major revamp - relaunching with the eclectic all-star group eventually known as Justice League International.

JLI was a revamp necessitated by the small scale, urban-minded adventures immediately preceding it -- the infamous "Detroit" era of the League. We saw one of their last outings as a group in Legends #2, but the real end for the JLA came shortly after, when there were just two members remaining: Martian Manhunter and our Hero of the Week - Vixen!

Vixen hasn't been a character I've thought a great deal about over the past twenty years, but it seems one good turn deserves another! Comic Book Resources reports Vixen is about to make another comeback to the JLA starting with a spotlight special: Justice League of America: Vixen #1.

The copy reads a bit like pandering catch-up to Marvel's Black Panther hype, but it does allude to a time in Vixen's life when things weren't so bright. That's ultimately what engaged me the most in my journey back to the eighties!

Where most of the Detroit era League flitted into obscurity, Vixen instantly became a more interesting character by personifying the pathos of that era's demise. She mourns lesser JLA heroes Vibe and Steel -- killed off in a plot by Professor Ivo. Volume 1 of Justice League of America ends with a roar when Vixen descends into the underworld of the city gripped by a lust for revenge.

Vixen's crusade to take down Ivo borders on a suicide mission, which may've been the inspiration for her admission into the Suicide Squad. It's another example of that series' wonderful ability to play with the meta-text of characters who aren't thriving, but aren't necessarily ready for cancellation! It plays particularly well when the Justice League come to blows with the Squad. While others fight, Vixen shares a tender moment with Martian Manhunter - the only Leaguer who was there to the end.

It would've made a lot of sense to keep the African heroine around for the Justice League International run, but the path she ultimately took made her a much more interesting, complex character than before. A compliment to the otherwise serviceable concept of a character who can channel the powers of a pantheon of animals.

Vixen is also starring in an animated series spun out of TV's Arrow. It's significantly cooler than its mediocre TV universe ties, but for real thrills I recommend Batman: Brave and the Bold. It's generally one of the best DC cartoons around, notable for playing with references from the forties all the way up to today. They develop a very fun relationship with B'wana Beast. Well worth a look!

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