Vigilante. The dictionary defines the word as "A person who considers it their responsibility to uphold the law in their neighborhood and often does so summarily and without legal jurisdiction". One could argue that this definition could apply to superheroes in general, but there's only one that wears the word proudly: The Vigilante. And like many heroes in the DCU, there have been several incarnations.
The first Vigilante was Greg Saunders, who first appeared in Action Comics #41 (November 1941). A country singer-turned-crimefighter, Saunders was a cowboy-themed character who mainly fought street-level criminals, and didn't really have many supervillains. The character would get a revival in the 1970s, but other characters would take up the Vigilante model in the years since.
The one we will focus on here, though, is the Adrian Chase incarnation of the character. First appearing in New Teen Titans Annual #2 (1983). Chase was once a New York City district attorney who lost his family to the Mob, which led him to become the new Vigilante. This one's origin is rather Punisher-esque. Originally taking pains to avoid killing people, Adrian's mind would eventually destabilize thanks to his struggle with his actions as the Vigilante, which caused him to become more violent and destructive. His tenure as the Vigilante would end with his suicide. During his tenure, two other men would use the Vigilante name, Alan Welles and Dave Winston. After Chase's suicide, Patricia "Pat" Trayce, a Gotham City cop, would find Chase's gear and become the new Vigilante.
The Vigilante would go on to appear in various other media, the original Greg Saunders incarnation appearing in Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. A new version of him would appear in the Arrow TV series, wearing a costume based on the Chase version, with Chase himself being reduced to merely an alias for another villain.
And with that, let's take a look at the origin of the Adrian Chase Vigilante!
The cover is pretty interesting. You have Adrian in his Vigilante costume lying in a hospital bed, all bandaged up. Floating above him is the Vigilante facing off against some robed figures who have their arms out. One wants a big ol' hug, and another seemingly wants to strangle him. I do have a question, though. What's with the red lines? Did the person who hooked up Chase's IV not know what he or she was doing? So hard to get good help these days.
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Chuck Patton
Inker: Pablo Marcos
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Marv Wolfman
The story begins with a meeting of the heads of various mob families.
The bosses are summoned to a dining room for a meeting. A mysterious woman states that this meeting is to discuss the future of their...business, lets' just say. One of the mob bosses. who kind of resembles Michael Jai White with an eyepatch, is doing the whole "This is insane and I am out bit", but some crazy-clad soldiers convince him to sit down. One of the mob bosses, Donna Omicidio, recognizes the soldiers.
The name "Monitor" may be a big hint to DC fans. You see, at the time, not only was Marv Wolfman writing New Teen Titans and Vigilante, he was also working on some small mini-series that some may have heard of. Crisis on Infinite Earths, I think it's called. Staring in comics in 1982, the Monitor would appear in the shadows in various titles, posing as a weapons and information dealer for various supervillains as part of the buildup to Crisis.
The mysterious woman, who I am assuming is Lyla, aka Harbinger. She starts to put out her idea to "revolutionize all crime"!
Back in Manhattan, a stolen ambulance is racing down a road. The driver is one J.J. Davis, one of Adrian Chase's assistants in his Vigilante work. He's a hacker who also built Chase's gear. In the back is the Vigilante himself, with a knife in his chest, a wound he took in a previous issue. He's still breathing. Davis tries to contact another one of Vigilante's assistants, Theresa "Terry" Gomez. She helps research Chase's targets. But she's at home with her kid, so she's unavailable. Davis is terrified and panicking, as the cops are right on his tail.
He's evade to evade the police for a while by driving into a warehouse. Davis fears his efforts to protect Chase's identity may end up dooming him. Eventually, he's able to get to a hospital. He brings Chase in, while making sure he's not wearing his Vigilante uniform. After dropping him off, Davis flees before the nurse can get him to fill out the entry forms.
Davis ditches the ambulance, and goes out walking. He beats himself up over his actions, because he feels that Adrian Chase deserves a break because he cares about other people...including down on his luck folks like him.
The art doesn't do a great job of showing it (I think it's the mustache), but J.J. Davis is barely out of his teens. That scene helps show that Davis hints that maybe Chase helped him out, and he's helping him out of gratitude. I don't think we ever learned how they met, which is a shame.
Back in the police station, Captain Arthur Hall discusses the new Vigilante, and tries to figure out who he is. He figures that the Vigilante is possibly a victim of a crime himself, due to his obsession with protecting victims of violent crime. And since Vigilante goes after criminals who were able to get off on legal technicalities, he must know the law. So he could be a cop. Or a lawyer. Or a judge. Or possibly...a district attorney. You know, I get the idea that if Hall encountered Batman early on, he could have figured out he was Bruce Wayne.
The police are also looking into hospitals and private physicians to find out if they treated anyone with gunshot and knife wounds. They also found the ambulance that Davis stole. Hall gets the feeling they aren't going to like what they find if they catch the Vigilante.
In Bellevue Hospital, Theresa meets J.J., and they go to see Adrian. The nurse who saw him flee spots him and wonders why he's come to see a stranger. Davis explains his name is Don Diego, and Chase was Garcia, his old sergeant in the Army.
Heh heh, it's pretty funny. The nurse takes the form to an orderly and tells him to take it to "Admitting". However, the orderly is more interested in flirting with the nurse. J.J. explains they have to get that form, as gunshot wounds are reported to the police. Theresa distracts the nurse, so J.J. can get the form. Terry worries about something like this, but J.J. reassures her that it will be alright. They'll bring back the form...with some alterations to keep Chase's identity hidden.
Terry explains that it's not the form she's worried about. It's Chase. J.J. reassures her that Adrian Chase is too stubborn to die. Terry explains that Adrian was returning. After his wife and kids were killed, Chase had become an emotionless rock. For months afterwards, Adrian seemed to only be the Vigilante. And it scared her. She believes the Vigilante was a disaster waiting to happen. I would say this was foreshadowing of Adrian's eventual descent into the mental instability that would lead to his suicide, but that was not for another four years, and handled by another writer, I believe. She did then say that Adrian seemed to be recovering from the loss of his family.
J.J. tells her that Adrian had him make a gun that could fire sleep darts as well as bullets. To him, Adrian seems alright. He tries to assure her everything will be alright, but he hopes Adrian doesn't make him into a liar.
The two then visit the hospital the next day, and the doctor has news, both good and...strange.
It seems that Adrian has some of Wolverine-esque healing factor, allowing him to recover much quicker from his wounds than normal. In fact, the doctors operating were able to see his wounds repairing themselves as they worked on him. J.J. and Terry are too happy to hear the news to process Adrian's little superpower at the moment.
As for Adrian himself? Well, he's lying peacefully in his bed. He dreams that he went up to Heaven, saw his family, and fell back down to Earth. He then has a strange flashback...
Trust me on this, it gets weird. It's at this point that I do have to make an admission. You see...I goofed. I picked this issue instead of the actual issue that covered the origin by mistake. Still, this issue does hint of how he became the Vigilante a little bit. Another time, I definitely will have to review the next issue in the future. Maybe next month.
Anyway, Adrian wakes up to an overjoyed Terry and J.J. The doctor comes in and tells him he'd like to do some further tests on Adrian because of his recuperative ability. Adrian agrees and the doctor says after he gets the proper forms, they'll start in the morning. Yeah, time to go. The doctor returns with a couple of colleagues, and finds the gang already has left. Heh heh. Away they go.
Back at his van in Staten Island, Adrian enquires what happened to Saber and Cannon, two costumed assassins he was pursuing (It was also heavily hinted they were a couple as well) who gave him the knife and gunshot wounds he had. J.J. explains they are in custody. Adrian expresses that he is pleased with this as he falls asleep. J.J. then remarks he's going to head out, too...with a pretty girl on his arm. Adrian heads off into dreamland. There, he encounters a mysterious hooded woman in front of a burning pyre, holding a sword.
The woman tells him they have both been changed. The woman puts her bare arm in the fire. The fire singes her arm but in a few seconds, the burns heal. It was like her arm was never burnt at all. The woman then hands Chase a sword, telling him to impale her gut with it. Chase refuses, and she tells him that he was chosen by "The Others", and she's merely a teacher. Chase still refuses, and she leaps on the sword, much to his horror.
She seemingly isn't bothered by this, but warns that unlike Wolverine's healing factor, Chase's has limits.
Chase still has to be careful. He still can only take so much. The dream ends with Chase running away screaming...and waking up. He explains to the others that he has been dreaming about how he became the Vigilante. He feels it's time to explain to Terry and J.J. about what happened to him in the six months between his family's deaths and his debut as the new Vigilante. Trust me, it's a bit...weird.
Meanwhile, the big mob meeting is going down. Well, the various bosses are really against the idea of unifying. Donna Omicidio declares the meeting to an end, as she feels there is no one powerful enough to stand against her. Donna, you live in the same universe as freakin' Superman. I think he's pretty dang powerful. A hidden panel...well, more like a hidden wall opens up, revealing the one who invited the mob bosses together.
This guy has got to be Davros's American cousin. Seriously! This is Davros.
You cannot tell me that Davros did not inspire this cyborg supervillain. The mob may have confined him to an overblown life-support system, but naming him the new Overlord of Crime would more than make up for it.
This comic...was rather enjoyable. What I liked about it was that it slightly deconstructed the kind of work that Adrian was doing, by showing the lengths J.J. has to go to help keep his secret identity hidden. J.J. also brings some nice bits of comic relief to the issue. I also liked the scene with Terry worrying about Adrian. I also liked the art, but I did feel that Chuck Patton's take on J.J. made him look a bit older than he actually is. The character is supposed to be in his early-twenties, but he looks a bit older. Maybe it's the mustache. All in all, I recommend this comic. If you want to read it, it's available in the trade Vigilante by Marv Wolfman Volume One.
And speaking of deconstructing superheroes, next time, we look at the penultimate chapter of the Squadron Supreme's miniseries...