A bit of corporate synergy means that there are spoilers ahead for…
“You know, I’ll take that sass from just about anyone else in my life…but not from Zeus’ granddaughter!”
One of the things I was most eagerly anticipating in 2019 was the return of Young Justice.
The animated series, that is. After years of demand – and high viewership numbers of the existing seasons on Netflix – the addition of a third season to the much-beloved series prompted a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement for fans of the show…until it was announced that it would be exclusive to yet-another-streaming-service, a sign of what increasingly seems to be a move to recreate cable TV on the internet.
One of these days I’ll probably write up something about the DC Universe streaming service, but now, I’ll just mention that the new season of YJ has so far proven to be worth the wait.
Of course, right now we’re talking about the return of the comic on which the animated series was based, which is something else fans have been demanding for years. Since before the animated series ever launched, in fact.
So, how does it stack up?
It’s not bad! While Bendis is much more like himself here than he has been in Superman and Action in terms of some of his tics as a writer showing up on the page, it’s a perfectly fine start to a new series that walks the line between introducing something new and acknowledging what came before.
With Young Justice: Outsiders – the animated offering – the action can pick up right where it left off, as that “universe” has essentially been in stasis since the second season ended. With the comic, that luxury isn’t available, as it’s been a longer stretch since the last series ended and the larger universe in which the team existed has undergone significant changes.
I’ve mentioned many times before that it still remains unclear, post-“Rebirth,” what is and isn’t in continuity, or at least – as here – how what is in continuity manages to fit. We don’t really get any answers – and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to in a first issue – but we do get some more questions. However, there is some acknowledgement of the fact that history is a bit wonky right from the start.
Said acknowledgment occurs at the beginning, as we open on another world where a man who says he was born on Earth is talking to his father about the current state of their world and how it is tied to Earth and the many – seven, by his count – history-altering crises that the Earth has undergone.
The world in question is revealed to be Gemworld, and the man from Earth is Prince Carnelian, speaking to his father, Dark Opal.
From there, we move to Metropolis where a young woman who’s been driving a rickety old pick up truck all the way from Texas is pulled over for a broken tail light. The young woman explains that’s she’s packed up her life to move to the Big Apricot, as is evidenced by the – rather suspicious – pile of junk just barely held in place in the bed of the truck by a tarp.
Before the cop can investigate further, they’re both reminded that they’re in Metropolis, where crazy things – warriors from the twelve houses of Gemworld demanding that Superman show himself, in this case – drop down out of the sky on the regular.
While the Action Ace is a no-show, Robin (Tim Drake) happens to be in town, and does what he can to help contain the situation. He gets an assist from the young Texan, whose name is Jinny Hex. While he appreciates the help, Robin’s not thrilled by her use of lethal weapons, which prompts Jinny to dig through her junk pile and produce some kind of fancy ray gun.
We get a bit of a flashback to a few minutes earlier when Tim had a chance encounter with Cassie Sandsmark, AKA Wonder Girl, who tells him that she feels like she hasn’t been doing what she should be doing and has moved to Metropolis to attend school and sort things out, believing that being in a city under the watchful eye of Superman would be more relaxing.
That’s when the invasion happens, but despite Tim’s suggestion that they team up, Cassie insists that she needs to sit this one out.
Fortunately, as the battle rages, she changes her mind and joins the fray, as does Bart “Impulse” Allen, who happened to be running to Canada at the time (as a bit of a meta-joke, Bart says that he was heading there to join Alpha– the thought is cut off before he can complete it).
(We get another meta-joke in the form of a cameo from the two young women who popped up in the preview of The Man of Steel in Action Comics #1000, who were in the diner that got trashed, and are in that same diner with a “Not again!” as it gets trashed here.)
Another hero shows up as well, a “sort of” Green Lantern, hidden inside a ring-construct mecha, going by the name “Teen Lantern.”
Bart believes it’s fate and that Young Justice is together again, though Tim asserts that can’t be the case without Conner. As the Gemworld warriors decide to retreat, our young heroes find themselves caught in an onomatopoeia storm, and we follow two of them as they wind up in different locations.
Tim’s welcome to wherever he is isn’t exactly the warmest:
Bart, however, does get a much friendlier greeting:
Anyone who knows me well and has paid attention knows of my fondness for Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, and will likely understand why I’m very leery of seeing the character’s return.
From what little we’ve seen, this seems to be a mixture of the original, which I loved, and the version introduced as part of “The New 52,” whose title was one of the earliest casualties of that initial group, which I was considerably more ambivalent about.
(I will say that Gleason did a fantastic job with his rendering of the evil Dark Opal, echoing the style of original Amethyst artist Ernie Colón without aping it.)
I was initially concerned that Cassie’s reluctance to join the fray was going to be some tired “I’ve lost my powers” thing, but I’m glad to see that wasn’t the case and am interested in finding out what’s up with that.
One other area of concern for me is Impulse, as he represents something of a nightmare scenario for Bendis to Bendis up the whole thing as far as dialogue goes. As it is, in his brief appearance here, Bart is already a bit much.
Gleason’s art is a good match for the story and characters, and he does an especially good job with the frenetic scenes with Bart quickly bouncing around Metropolis, though I will say that there are times when even the slightly slower action is a bit hard to follow.
I’m also impressed by the bright and vibrant color work from Alejandro Sanchez.
I’m not sure who is part of “DC Lettering,” but the lettering is crisp and clear, and the sound effects in that onomatopoeia storm were especially well-done.
That said, after checking out this first issue, I’m probably going to trade-wait on this series.
I understand the need to appeal to new readers, fans of the old series, and fans of the show, but I think that it would make more sense to put the thumb on the scales in favor of the animated series a bit more, at least in terms of some of the characters, or the characterization of the characters, but we’ll see how it goes.
There is definitely some potential – enough to keep me interested – but I keep insisting to myself that I’m going to do more trade-waiting but failing to do it, so this will be a good test.
YJ is the first title from a new line of new-reader-friendly and teen-focused comics curated by Bendis. “Wonder Comics” will see other titles such as Wonder Twins and Dial H for HERO joining the line-up later this year.
We’ll see if it pays off, and as I mentioned, it would probably be smart to align things a bit more with some of DC’s properties in other media, where they get much more exposure, but for right now, it’s a decent start. I’ll close out with one of the other fantastic variant covers, this one from Evan “Doc” Shaner.