Thursday, June 4, 2015

Young Justice: The Secret #1

Writer – Todd Dezago
Pencils – Todd Nauck
Inks – Lary Stucker
Colors – Jason Wright
Seps – Digital Chameleon
Letters – Ken Lopez
Assoc. Editor – Dana Kurtin
Editor – Eddie Berganza

Our cover by Leonard Kirk is a simple, yet effective image. I really like the colors and even the fonts used. It's a very clean, minimalist look, and I truly do enjoy it despite a couple of complaints. My first complaint is that Todd Nauck, who drew the inside pages, did not get to draw the cover, giving readers a taste of what's to come. My second complaint is that this cover buries the lede. This monumental issue is the first official adventure of Robin, Superboy and Impulse, and nowhere on the cover is this idea conveyed.

I do know that this issue was part of DC's Girlfrenzy! event, which put the spotlight on its female characters. But I think it's rather odd that one of those Girlfrenzy! issues tied in to a series that didn't exist yet and focused on a completely brand new character. And who is that mysterious girl on the purple cover? Well, it's kind of a secret ... or should I say The Secret?

This special standalone issue can be pretty tough to find. Luckily, it is available digitally, but not by itself. It's collected with two other rare Young Justice standalones in DC Comics Presents: Young Justice #2 with this cover:

Oddly, this was originally the cover for Young Justice #18 (drawn by Nauck), which is not included in this 100-page Spectacular. I guess the marketing team felt this was the best cover that showed (most of) the team. But I'm getting way ahead of myself! Young Justice hasn't even been formed yet! So let's take a look at how it got started.

Our story begins with Robin being interrogated by person or persons unknown. Apparently the Boy Wonder and his "friends" have participated in quite the event and have managed to anger all the wrong people. So Robin tells his story, saying it started the night before when he noticed a military convoy slinking through Gotham in the middle of the night. The next night, Robin heard on the news about a major evacuation in upstate New York, so he decided to go check it out. To Robin's surprise, Superboy and Impulse also arrived on the scene — Superboy saying he saw it on CNN, Impulse on MTV News.

The three young heroes soon attracted the attention of the U.S. Army and the D.E.O. (Department of Extranormal Operations). Robin tentatively offered to help, and the D.E.O.'s Dr. Charles reluctantly agreed. He told the boys the D.E.O. was in the process of transferring a dangerous gaseous subject from their downstate location to their Wabe Facility in the Adirondacks. But a mishap occurred, creating the smallest of fissures in the subject's containment unit, and she was free. Charles told the boys the creature killed several of his men and escaped into the wilderness. He said they evacuated the neighboring town to protect it from the creature that is more deadly than any disease — more lethal than any virus — and angry.

We then cut to Superboy's interrogation, where he explains that the head army guy, Lutwidge, did not share Dr. Charles' faith in the young heroes. So Lutwidge gave the boys two hours, saying he'd call in an air strike after that, whether they were still in the town or not. So Superboy, Robin and Impulse rushed into the deserted town, which Superboy described as emptier than a showing of The Postman (one of the biggest movie flops of 1997). Impulse volunteered to canvas the whole area in a couple of seconds, but Robin asked, "And then what?"

When Impulse wasn't able to come up with an answer, Robin lectures the group, saying they need to form a plan like the Justice League would. In his interview, Superboy says he volunteered to do a quick flyover, but really it was Robin's idea, and he really had to twist Superboy's arm to get him to do it. Robin wanted Superboy to fly, since that would be stealthier than letting the Tasmanian devil that is Impulse out in the open. In the meantime, Robin told Impulse to go to the D.E.O. compound, which Impulse did ... before realizing he didn't stick around long enough to hear the rest of Robin's instructions. After he came back and learned what he needed to do, Superboy joked that if and when they join the Justice League, they'll be Impulse's parents rather than teammates. The Robin and Superboy teased each other about which one of them would be the mom.

We then cut to Impulse's interrogation, where Bart is already bored of telling the story. He's slouching in his chair and asking if he can go. But a stern voice orders him to sit up, and reminds him of the severity of the situation. So Impulse obediently continues the story, saying Robin sent him off to retrieve a containment unit, which Impulse did ... only he missed the part where the D.E.O. worker said the canister was defective.

After Impulse smugly delivered the containment unit, Superboy returned from his scouting mission, saying he's found the perfect spot for them to survey the town. After flying Robin and Impulse up to the top of the hill, Robin diagrammed a plan of attack in the dirt. Finally, Impulse was given the go-ahead to canvass the town as fast as he could. And sure enough, he found the gaseous monster in the cemetery.

After spotting the creature, Robin and Superboy flew down to join Impulse, who whipped up a quick vortex to suck up the creature, while Superboy manned the containment unit, keeping it steady with his tactile telekinesis. In his interview, Robin explains that he was counting on Superboy's invulnerability and Impulse's speed to protect them from the poison. Luckily, everything went according to plan, and the subject was soon captured in the canister.

Robin, Superboy and Impulse all tell their interviewers they didn't notice anything strange about the subject once it was captured, but in fact, they did. The monster transformed into the girl on the cover, begging the boys to free her. She told them that she's been a ward of the D.E.O. for as long as she can remember, constantly being observed and resented for her powers. She said she was able to escape her room, and witnessed the D.E.O. performing horrible experiments on other children with powers. And when she was discovered, the D.E.O. prepared to send her to the Wabe, a place the girl knew subjects don't return from.

The boys held a quick conference to discuss this latest development, and Superboy was reluctant to trust her, believing the monster could be disguising itself. But Robin remembered how Dr. Charles inadvertently referred to the subject as "she." Robin also pointed out how odd it was that so few of the soldiers were wearing HAZMAT suits if they were supposed to be tracking a dangerous and poisonous creature. As the young heroes talked, the girl escaped the defective containment unit, but didn't leave. She explained that she wanted to gain their trust.

The girl apologized for initially appearing as a monster, explaining she was scared of Dr. Charles. She said the scientist would claim to mix her with oxygen to calm her down, but would really use potassium chloride to render her inert. Impulse asked what "inert" means, and Superboy tactlessly said it means "dead." This caused the girl to break into tears, and Robin tried to comfort her, but found his hand passed right through her shoulder.

Impulse tells the interviewers that after capturing the subject, they promptly handed the cylinder over to Dr. Charles. As soon as doing so, he hooked up the container to a machine and told the boys he was going to suffuse the subject with oxygen. Impulse asked him if this was to render it inert, but Charles explained it was to make it unconscious. But once the machine pumped in the oxygen, it created a huge explosion. Impulse and Superboy were able to save the people closest to the blast, and Dr. Charles was unable to explain what happened.

What really happened was Robin popped a couple of his smoke capsules in the canister, while the girl hid safely in a water bottle. After convincing the D.E.O. and Army the "subject" had exploded, the heroes returned to the cemetery, where the girl rejoiced in her freedom. Impulse asked her what her name is, but she said she didn't know, and hoped to learn it as she explored the world. As she took off, Robin told Superboy and Impulse she can only remain free as long as she stays "dead." So they vow to keep it among themselves — a Secret. And in their interrogations, each boy officially says the subject was killed in the explosion.

We then cut to the JLA Watchtower on the moon, where Superman, Max Mercury, Flash and Batman (via video conference) discuss their proteges' predicament. Flash suggests they report to the D.E.O. that the boys have been debriefed and their stories are consistent — the subject's death was accidental and the D.E.O. can't be held responsible for it. Superman asks whether they should be suspicious, and Max says he trusts Robin and Superboy, so he's satisfied. Batman says he doesn't trust the D.E.O., but he does trust the kids, and says they must have a good reason if they're somehow unable to tell the whole truth. After all, Batman reminds them, they all have their little secrets.

So there you have it — the first official adventure of Robin, Superboy and Impulse! They've met each other individually, and in big groups, but never have they had a whole mission all to themselves like this. The fans had been clamoring for this exact team-up for years, and as this issue shows, those fans were right to clamor. Todd Dezago proved that these three characters make the perfect combination in terms of power-set, personality, and comedy. And it helps so much to have the wonderful art of Todd Nauck. Like Humberto Ramos, he has the perfect style for this type of story — something cartoony enough to allow for the goofiest of jokes, but also grounded and detailed enough to incorporate action scenes and serious moments. We have begun an exciting new chapter in Impulse's history.

This issue is also notable for being the first appearance of Secret. She will later become a major character in the upcoming Young Justice series. Sadly, she only appeared in one episode of the Young Justice animated series, but I guess one episode is better than none. That episode is called "Secrets," but I recommend reading a few issues of the comic book series first so you can find out who Secret really is.

I'm a bit disappointed this issue doesn't include any kind of editor's note to hype up Young Justice or something. However, we do get this fun house ad for JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #1, drawn by a familiar name — Humberto Ramos.

Other ads include:

1080º Snowboarding for Nintendo 64.

No points to collect. The Coca-Cola card.

Yabba Dabba Doom. The Dark Knight now on Cartoon Network. Batman: The Animated Series, aka the greatest superhero cartoon ever.

It pays to ask. Okay since you asked ... now, when you drink Yoo-hoo, you get to enjoy America's favorite chocolate drink, and get some outrageous loot.

Get in touch with your dark side. Batman & Robin for PlayStation.

A contest through Spree candy to win a trip for four to Hollywood, Disneyland and a camcorder.

The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.

JNCO "Crimescene" 50-inch bottom jeans.

Destroy all expectations. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Rent it now!

Next time, we'll return to the main series — where Impulse is still bald! — in Impulse #38.

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