It's the penultimate issue and Vibe's adventure on the other-dimensional world of Piradell steps into high gear. Aiming to rescue his friend Gypsy and brother Armando from the clutches of would-be multiversal ruler Mordeth, he's allied with Breacher and his rebel unit. Breacher has a big stake in the outcome, as he's both Mordeth's very estranged husband and Gypsy's father. Gypsy, we learn, is the ultimate tug-of-love child, sent to Earth by her father for safety, only to be used by her mother as a tool in her plans for conquest (click on image to enlarge).
Mother of the year?
Back on Earth, Vibe's other brother, Dante, is recovering from wounds sustained when he teamed up with ARGUS agent Dale Gunn to save Vibe from Amanda Waller's Circus for extradimensional beings. Gunn's trying to keep Dante away from Waller, but she's closing in.
And on Piradell, Armando - aka the bruiser known as Rupture - is beginning to wake from Mordeth's spell. Otherworldly tech boosts Vibe's power to the level at which he could end Mordeth's threat to Earth once and for all - at the cost of his own life. Such a sacrifice is within the bounds of Vibe's character, but he doesn't get a chance to make his own decision ...
Betrayed by Gypsy? Nah, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund and Andrew Dalhouse's cover is entirely misleading, it's not even spinning on a story beat - the plot goes nowhere near such a scenario.
Writer Sterling Gates could never be accused of decompression as there's plenty of plot in here, along with lots of characterisation and action. While Vibe doesn't always have all the information, or hold all the cards, he's still the star of the show due to his massive heart. And we also see that he's developing leadership chops, running Breacher's unit in his absence.
If there's a more inspirational figure in the new DC Universe, I'd like to meet them.
Where Gates does fall down a little this issue is in getting the exposition across in dialogue; there are some uncharacteristically creaky bits of conversation here which editors Kate Stewart and Brian Cunningham might usefully have taken another pass at.
With the exception of amusing brainbox Nylo ...
... Breacher and his gang haven't grabbed me, but they do make for a cute moment as Vibe introduces them as Piradell's Justice League. And they're certainly useful allies, especially semi-robotic Vic. Gates informs us that Vic was rescued midway through becoming a Raptor, a cyber-slave of Mordeth. And goodness me, but penciller Derlis Santacruz and inker Wayne Faucher don't have draw 'em scary.
However the storyline wraps up - and remember, there's only one more issue of this horribly undervalued series to go - I hope the Raptors pop up throughout the DC line, joining such classic aliens as the Gordanians, Psions, Dominators and Khunds. They've great dialogue too, a cross between binary and insect clicking. If Warners is looking for some cracking big screen monsters for their films, they could do far worse.
The art of Santacruz and Faucher is very easy on the eye and the storytelling is strong throughout - as well as good compositions and convincing players, Santacruz actually gives us establishing shots, almost a lost art. Colourist Brett Smith likewise earns his cash, with tones that are by turns vibrant and moody, and attention paid to light sources. And nice one, Taylor Esposito, for making the Raptor dialogue suitably chilling.
As well as the Piradell plotline, Gates has a lot of ground to cover in next issue's finale - the fate of the Circus 'performers', Waller's business with Dante, the escape of Darkseid's daughter and probably things I've forgotten. I don't doubt, though, that Gates will pull it off, because - this issue's aberrant dialogue aside - he's a darn fine comic writer. I do hope DC have a high-profile assignment lined up for him.
Before that, though, I suspect we're going to get Vibe's finest hour. Can a street kid from Detroit save the multiverse? Bet on it..