I have a macabre reason for wanting to own these issues and that is the events of issue #50–which features the suicide of its main character (which should have had a spoiler alert? Maybe? The fate of Adrian Chase is pretty known to many a DC Comics fan). I came across most of these issues in some bins and filled out the rest via eBay.
They were … underwhelming.
I honestly probably could have done with just issues 480 and not 45-47, although 45 does introduce the character Black Thorn who becomes Adrian’s lover and then winds up being the person who finds his body. Anyway, the storylines involve Vigilante working with the government to track down criminals, coming face to face with and teaming up with Batman, and then confronting an “Avenger” who has been killing criminals on behalf of New York’s homeless. It’s feeling that he is responsible for the deaths of people who he has inspired (two other people who “played Vigilante” while he was not in the costume were both killed in action) as well as other problems he has caused. In fact, the way that #49 and #50 play out up to the point of his suicide could have turned into a “suicide by cop” scenario. Either way, these issues didn’t really do it for me for a number of reasons.
Now, I will say that prior to this the only issues of the series I had ever read were ones that featured Titans characters as well as the New Teen Titans annual that served as the character’s origin story, so I was not completely aware of what had been happening prior to this point. We start in with Harvey Bullock working alongside Harry Stein and the Negative Woman the the guise of an agency that I believe would eventually become Checkmate and they’re going after Black Thorn then having her work with Vigilante to take down international mobsters and fight against the NYPD. Bullock is portrayed as a blundering slob, and while I know he is a bit of a slob, Paul Kupperberg writes him as a complete oaf and gives him and most of the New York characters dialogue that is phonetically written to read like a Noo Yawk accent and it doesn’t land well.
I can see where Kuppberberg was drawing from for a lot of this–action flicks of the day were very “one man vs the world.” But even those had already begun to morph into the larger-than-life action hero flicks instead of the “everyman” action heroes that were more common around the time that Adrian Chase first put on the uniform. There’s a spiritual link he has to Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies and real-life “subway vigilante” Bernard Geotz. But I can tell that Vigilante as a series had pretty much run out of gas at this point. Perhaps it was getting him involved in things larger than himself–after all, he was dealing with federal law enforcement and international mystery–or perhaps it was that there’s only so much traction you can get out of someone trying to clean up crime in NYC.
And I don’t mean to sound completely negative about these comics. I found issues 48-50 to be entertaining enough, especially considering that the Homeless Avenger was so brutal and I thought that Chase’s suicide scene was done incredibly well. I just wish that it didn’t swerve into the Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill direction at times. In fact, I am curious as to what this series would look like now either with Kupperberg being allowed to write in the very dark tones of many of today’s crime comics or with someone like Greg Rucka re-telling this story.
These aren’t really that easy to find in cheap bins–I think that DC underprinted its Baxter series and as a result, the issues do go for a little bit of cash on eBay, especially issue #50. Maybe you can have mine.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?