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Vigilante #1 Review

Vigilante #1 review by Hugo Bravo

Written by Marv Wolfman
Art by Rick Leonardi

Remember back in the early nineties, when there were a dozen or so gun-happy archetypes in comic books? It seemed like any character with a costume had the ambition to be the next Charles Bronson.  The first and most well-known Vigilante was a D.A. named Adrian Chase whose family was killed by the mafia, turning Chase into a revenge-seeking mask armed to the teeth. Sound familiar. It should. He was directly inspired by The Punisher. But unlike Frank Castle, the new Vigilante has none of the excitement, or over-the-top blood and guts that make the Punisher one of the most popular anti-heroes in comics.

Sure, this new Vigilante has its original creator, acclaimed writer Marv Wolfman at the helm, and for the most part, the book is a consistent, no-nonsense read from start to finish. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely predictable and another by-the-books story of a street hero trying to take down the mafia. You might remember this nameless crusader from Wolfman’s previous run on Nightwing. The storyline involving Dick Grayson’s encounter with Vigilante was cut short due to the importance of Nightwing’s role in Batman R.I.P, so the full story was awkwardly ended and never fleshed out as well as it could have. Would it have made this miniseries feel more relevant or exciting? We may never know.

Once again, I cannot stress enough how much of the Vigilante character takes from Marvel’s Frank Castle. I guess from all that Marvel has borrowed from DC over the years, an occasional subliminal copycat is acceptable, but Vigilante makes no effort whatsoever to hide it. He has his own computer genius assistant, much like Frank had Microchip back in the day, and the new Mafia boss the White Whale is a dead ringer in both size and stature to Wilson Fisk, Marvel’s Kingpin, only without the charisma that makes Fisk such a great character. Vigilante narrates with the same dark tone of Castle, and when confronted with his captured criminal, he spouts off such generic dialogue as “You can die or you can talk.” At least Frank knows when to keep his mouth shut and let the violence do the talking.  The story involves the discovery by Vigilante that someone with access to the JLA has been leaking classified information to the mob. An interesting setup and worthy of a writer like Wolfman, but it would’ve made such a better read if this idea was saved for a better character. The issue concludes with Vigilante getting himself caught by the authorities to get closer to his target. I could swear that Frank Castle did something similar to this year ago, and with better results.

Even if not, it doesn’t matter much. If the revelation of a traitor in DC would be that important, they would have chosen to reveal it in a more popular title, not in the miniseries of a 6th rate antihero. Though Wolfman could prove me wrong, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the payoff won’t be nearly as good as it could be. This book is for hardcore Marv Wolfman fans only, or those who absolutely love this kind of generic “guy with guns against the mafia” books. Everyone else will wish that his beatdown by Batman in the Gotham Underground miniseries would have been the last we heard of Vigilante.

Rating: 5

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