Young Justice #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Letters: DC Lettering
Cover artists: Patrick Gleason (regular)/Amy Reeder, Derrick Chew, Yasmine Putri, Jorge Jimenez and Evan Shaner (variants)
Editor: Mike Cotton & Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics/Wonder Comics imprint
Price: $4.99 US
One of my favorite super-hero comics is 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which explored just about every corner of DC’s multiverse, and therefore, just about every character and facet of the publisher’s extensive continuity. But the ultimate purpose was to simply that continuity, to streamline its properties to offer a more accessible product to readers. DC has done so on other occasions since, notably its New 52 relaunch that tried to establish a tighter timeline for its super-hero universe. I completely understood those goals, but as a longtime reader, I rather love DC’s history, and honestly, it was the complexity of the parallel-earths concept that helped to hook me on the genre when I first discovered comics in the late 1970s. With Young Justice, writer Brian Michael Bendis makes it clear that there’s a new approach at play: to turn the long history into an asset, to make use of the interconnectivity of the characters, and to revive or to reshape that extensive continuity.
Warriors from the other-dimensional realm of Gemworld arrive in Metropolis, looking to confront Earth’s greatest champion (and therefore representative) about the damage superhuman conflicts are causing to their home, but it turns out Superman isn’t at home on this particular day. Instead, they encounter a collection of teen heroes who just happened to have converged on the City of Tomorrow. Robin (Tim Drake), Wonder Girl and Impulse are reunited as they oppose the dimensional incursion, and they’re joined a couple of new daring figures: Jinny Hex and Teen Lantern.
Patrick Gleason was an interesting choice as artist for this relaunch. His style leans toward a darker tone, as he makes great use of inks and black negative space, and that tendency certainly makes itself known in this comic. I was particularly struck by the early splash page featuring Dark Opal. The new designs for the Gemworld warriors are unusual and quite interesting. He seems to draw on a diverse array of cultural influences to diversify the looks of the dozen invaders, and some of the designs are so intricate, it would likely make other artists long for the complexity of some classic Fourth World characters from the amped-up imagination of the late Jack Kirby.
There’s a rougher quality to the paper used for this comic, but it still presents as a bright, colorful book. This grade of paper lacks the gloss that can really allow colors to pop as brightly as they could on a glossier page, but I have to admit the texture made for some nice moments of nostalgia for this longtime lover of the medium. And colorist Alejandro Sanchez’s tones still grab the eye, notably when it comes to his depictions of Impulse and Teen Lantern’s ring effects.
Though Superman doesn’t appear in this comic, the script often dwells on the unique position he holds in the DC Universe. More interesting, though, is how Bendis explores what Superman represents to people in the DC Universe. The script suggests that people converge on Metropolis because of his presence. Despite the constant barrage of building-devastating battles that unfold in the city, it’s seen as safe because it’s home to Superman. People have come to believe that they just need to call out his name to be saved; they’re wrong, but the perception persists.
This title launches the same month that DC’s online-streaming service (and international syndication outlets) are unveiling Young Justice: Outsiders, the long-awaited third season of the YJ cartoon. Given how the creators and editors at DC Comics would have known of this timing, I’m a little bit surprised at how they’ve opted to mirror the original comic book incarnation of these characters rather than the slightly grimmer interpretations we saw in the cartoon. Those drawn to this title because of the parallel branding of the cartoon will likely be disappointed. The tone here is completely different. Mind you, that’s not a commentary on the quality of this comic, but rather on publishing and marketing choices.
As a fan of the original Young Justice series by Peter David and Todd Nauck, I genuinely enjoyed seeing those characters reunited here. Robin, Wonder Girl, Impulse and Superboy connected as real friends in that series, but as I read this reintroduction to them, I wondered if new readers might not find themselves at a loss in understanding who they were and what connected them. But then I realized that Teen Lantern and Jinny Hex were unknown quantities for me, and I was delighted by them. I’m eager to learn more about these new characters, so new readers will likely be interested in and entertained by all of them.
Actually, what’s probably most interesting about this comic are the unanswered questions. I’m genuinely interested in what’s got Wonder Girl spooked and hesitant to leap into action, and I want to see how Bendis explains Impulse’s return to the DC Universe. He seems to have taken the character’s inherent goofiness and used it to transform him into a fourth-wall-breaking figure, reminiscent of the sort of thing we’ve seen from Deadpool, Ambush Bug and Gwenpool in super-hero comics. It’s a great way to distinguish him from other members of the Flash family. 7/10