Only 30 years after she was supposed to hit the newsstands with her very first solo series, Mari McCabe finally finds her way out of the shadows of team and team-up books to stand tall on the new issue shelf at the local comic shops. Undoubtedly, the character has drifted a little ways from the point she started at under the watch of Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner.
Now a veteran of the Justice League of America (this is, after all, her second stint), Vixen has rarely had time to shine, other than a few issues in the original JLA (Detroit) run and some brief scenarios in the current run. Hard to believe that three decades ago she was slated for an ongoing series. G. Willow Wilson uses the history of Mari McCabe to inspire this story and inform the readers. While the editor’s note boxes are absent, Wilson makes mention of Vixen’s first “official” appearance, a team-up with Superman in the pages of “Action Comics” #521 in July of 1981.
From the initial, somewhat cliched setup, Vixen finds herself returning to her homeland of Zambesi, seeking vengeance from the man who murdered her mother. Aku Kwesi is again terrorizing the village of Vixen’s origin.
That gives Cafu a chance to really sparkle. The art is meticulously rendered, and helps transport the reader to Africa alongside Mari. Cafu is a talent that has somehow found the comic scene to shine in, a rare blend of fantastic realism where, no matter what is drawn, it is believable. Santiago Arcas’ colors help this cause tremendously, giving the book a grounded palette, grounded with a large array of earth tones that refuse to make the book dull or muted. I don’t know where either of these talents came from, but if I were Dan DiDio, I’d be drawing up some exclusive contracts toot sweet.
Unfortunately, that brings me to the part I didn’t want to get to: the inaccurate display of Vixen’s powers. Vixen’s powers stem from the Tantu Totem, a mystical artifact that grants her the ability to assume the abilities of any animal she can imagine. Here, as in a recent “JLA Classified” and also in the wretched pseudo-“Hawk & Dove” from the ’90s, Vixen’s powers are manifested as changes in appearance, almost like a shape-shifter caught mid-shift. The way I’ve always understood her power to work is that the abilities manifest themselves magically -— as shown on “Justice League Unlimited.” She has the power of an elephant, but at no point does any part of her morph into a match of an elephantine equivalent. A nit to be picked, I’m certain, but as Mari is one of my favorite characters, I think it is an important distinction to make. Of course, following everything that’s going on with the character and her powers in “Justice League of America” currently, maybe this is the way they will manifest.
In all, this story was enjoyable, and served as a good first chapter to a longer story for the character. I hope Wilson keeps the momentum going and manages to avoid falling into superhero cliches too frequently. I’d recommend the book to fans of the character, cautioning them to Mari’s exposition of her power and the salty language in the Vixen’s confrontations with Kwesi and his men.