Rogue metahumans, clandestine organizations, covert operations, and weapons technology – welcome to the world of The Vigil. Written by Ram V with art by Lalit Kumar Sharma, Rain Beredo on colors, and Dave Sharpe on letters, The Vigil is part of the Dawn of DC initiative. It is part of three new titles launched this month, all featuring characters and creators of Asian American & Pacific Islander descent. Editor Jessica Chen deserves ample credit for getting this together and serving up a new and exciting avenue.
The stage for this book is huge. There are a billion Indians worldwide, but you would be hard-pressed to find any comic book character from India with global recognition. The landscape of DC Comics characters is primarily American, but it doesn’t need to be. On the other side of the world, a generation of comic book fans grew up in India, hungry for access to mainstream comics and representation of Indian characters in popular publications as the landscape of the Indian comics scene remains fairly fledgling. The timing is also quite opportune; Indian movies and TV shows are having a moment in the West. Ram V has cemented his place as consistently creative, often collaborating with Indian creators. Ram has also already succeeded in introducing Indian or Indian-origin characters to the DC Universe.
The Vigil has been teased in other books and anthologies before, but this is their first full issue. The story begins with the hijacking of a shipping vessel in the strait of Malacca. We are informed that the ship is carrying technical equipment. Machinations are afoot as we learn that a government agency is working towards creating its own metahumans, noting that America has a majority of them. One of them even remarks that they have a Kite-Man. I appreciate this nod, especially since the Vigil last encountered Red Hood. Linking your new team with the ever-popular and expansive world of Batman/Gotham is a smart bet. This effort to create their own metahumans for security/deterrent is also very reminiscent of actual historical events.
However, the scientist working on this reports to the agencies that they haven’t been able to produce success, and the four promising candidates, the only candidates, are missing, leading the agency folk to dismiss him and defund the project. The big reveal is that the four candidates are very much in action and have formed a covert organization, The Vigil. The MO of The Vigil seems to be to secretively secure weapons, albeit of a superhuman nature. For instance, the ship that was hijacked has a special Lexcorp package. The rest of the book introduces us to the characters that form the part of The Vigil as we see them reach the ship and neutralize the pirates while displaying their special abilities.
This MI6 meets superheroes story is a very interesting take and is ripe with possibilities. DC stories lend themselves well to stories involving clandestine organizations and secret societies, and The Vigil could definitely have a long future. As for the story itself, the plot is good, albeit not shocking when it comes to first issues. Secret organizations and people working covertly with ulterior motives is standard fare for such stories and while this book delivers that, I did find myself wanting something to catch me off guard. The story does keep some intriguing mysteries involved which will keep the reader looking forward to the next issue. I have a couple of expectations from the next issue – more character development for the core team and hopefully some more ties to the greater DC universe, because the best way to increase stakes is to tie to the stories we’re already invested in. I trust this team well enough to expect a banger second issue.
The character designs are very compelling, no two ways about it, the creators did great work in this department. I personally loved the design of Saya. It is very reminiscent of the character design for Bhishan, from These Savage Shores, an earlier work from Ram V. Lalit Kumar Shama’s line work is clean and crisp and does a great job in the action sequences. However, I’m not completely sold that this art style necessarily matches the story – would a gritty art style with heavier inks do better for this story? I’m not sure. I found the colors a bit too vibrant for the story, especially the scenes where it is a government office setting. However, the team comes together in harmony when it comes to the action sequences.
Indian representation matters, both on the page and in the creator space. It was Ram V and other Indian creators that I saw at my first comic con in 2018 that made me feel emboldened to get involved in comics more meaningfully. As for Indian characters, it is wild that there haven’t been many so far in the major shared comic universes. The fact that the creative team went in the direction of science fiction and spy thriller rather than the stereotypical magic and mythology stories often associated with India shows that proper thought and intentions are being put in. Indians today are doctors, engineers, and creatives, and there is no need to be stuck with the notions of the past. With both Indian characters and Indian creators making a bigger splash, it feels like being on the precipice of both a Milestone-like legacy and the British invasion of comics. I know those are high expectations, but what can I say except that thankfully it translates to excitement. I honestly believe this premise has legs, and the character designs have staying power. I can see The Vigil becoming a longstanding recurring team.