Sunday, July 12, 2015

Young Justice #1

Young, Just Us

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Penciller
Lary Stucker Inker
Jason Wright Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Ken Lopez Letters
Eddie Berganza Editor

Our cover by Nauck and Stucker gives us a wonderful look at our three heroes swinging off into action. Of course, Impulse hasn't finished his Lotsa Fries and Mongo Gulp, and as we can see in the background, it seems the boys were having a pretty wild party in the old JLA headquarters. But most importantly, this cover announces the most amazing news ever. After years of repeated requests and clamoring from fans, Impulse, Superboy and Robin now finally have their own series! And I'm not even going to try to contain my excitement!

Our story begins with the horrific image of Robin's hand being eaten by cockroaches and replaced with a batarang. Batman tells him no one will notice the difference, and he suggests his young ward grow a beard. We then cut to Superboy, who has suddenly sprouted large, fiery angel wings. Superman tells him it was only a matter of time before that would happen, since Superboy has such a holier-than-thou attitude. And Impulse is caught in a series of high-speed changes in clothes and personality, in which he turns into the Reverse-Flash, Han Solo, and the Incredible ... Impulse? (Hey, if anyone can get away with a Hulk reference, it's Peter David, who had a legendary, award-winning run on the title over at Marvel.)

The three boys then all wake up screaming from their bizarre nightmares. They've decided to officially form their own team, and use the site of their victory over Bedlam, the Secret Sanctuary in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, as their new base. Naturally, the kids had to break in the place with a sleepover, although I do think it's a little weird they each chose to sleep in their superhero uniforms.

Anyway, Robin is the only one to admit he had a bad dream. And when he describes it, he might also be commenting on the state of the comics industry at the time: "I was turning into someone unrecognizable. Grim, gritty, depressing ... as if some maniacal power was doing terrible things to me just to serve some demented whim." Impulse has no idea what Robin's talking about, and considers him a screwball. He then complains about how boring their new team is, and demands some action.

Meanwhile, as fate and parallel story construction would have it, at a convenient archaeological dig not far away, we see Professor Nina Dowd beginning the 18th day of her excavation. She is convinced the crater they've been investigating was caused by an extra-terrestrial object several thousand years ago. Suddenly, her crew unearths a wheel with a tire and everything on it, and it appears to be attached to something. Nina notices the tire is not made of modern-day rubber, but something else entirely. Against the warnings of her colleagues, Nina touches the wheel, and is immediately engulfed in a bright flash of light.

While back at the ex-JLA HQ, Robin is trying to convince Impulse that it's too soon to start chafing from inaction. They've just barely decided to be a team, and have spent the night swapping stories and getting to know each other. But even Superboy agrees with Impulse, and says they can't just sit around waiting for a "call to action." So Robin reluctantly fires up the old JLA computers and offers to take monitor duty. Impulse, meanwhile, finds a can of spray paint, and decides to redecorate. Robin gets face full of the stuff, but Superboy is able to protect himself with his tactile telekinesis.

Impulse draws pictures of the three of them on the ceiling, accompanied by "We rule!" He also writes "Hanson bites" on the Red Tornado statue. For those who don't know, Hanson was a popular boy band at the time with their 1997 hit, "MMMBop." Superboy actually likes Impulse's artwork, but Robin is upset, reminding them that the JLA is loaning the meeting space to them and they need to treat it with respect. Robin asks how they can even function as a team if they behave this way, and Impulse suggests they drop the whole idea of being a team. Once again, Superboy agrees with Impulse, saying they have nothing in common.

Suddenly, the Red Tornado statue reveals itself not to be a statue at all, but the actual forgotten robotic hero. Red Tornado tells the boys they should view their relationship in Freudian psychoanalytic terms. He explains that the three of them perfectly fit the archetypes of id, ego and superego. Impulse, who grew up in a simulated environment and has no real concept of danger is id — all instinct, no before-or-after thought. Superboy, a clone raised with developmental knowledge not experienced firsthand, is ego — having a grasp of morality and ethics. Robin, the only one with anything close to a normal childhood, is superego — having a highly developed moral sense and being the natural leader.

Superboy is furious he's not the superego, saying Robin should the Boy Ego. But Robin is more concerned with what the Red Tornado is doing in the Secret Sanctuary. Red explains that he had lost his humanity, and believed their was no reason to continue to exist. But in the past few minutes, he realized there is some small human feeling left in him, because he finds the three boys incredibly annoying and wants to smack them, particularly Impulse. And for annoying him back to life, Red Tornado graciously thanks the boys. Suddenly, Impulse notices an alert on the monitors about the nearby archaeological dig.

The four heroes race over to the site to check it out, with Robin catching a ride on Red Tornado's back. The android explains that he has detailed, constantly updated files on more than 1,500 super beings — with 19 files on Hawkman alone. Impulse explains that the exploration was sponsored by McGuffin University, and one of the diggers got zapped by an artifact they found. And Superboy is shocked and unnerved to hear Impulse deliver such straight lines.

By the time our heroes arrive at the crater, there's already a large gathering of reporters and D.E.O. officials. The two men in charge of holding the media back are Donald Fite and Ishido Maad, special agents. Ace Atchinson, a reporter for CD-TV, was on his way to a Black Lung Disease concert, when he decided to make a detour and check out this strange event. But Fite 'n Maad (which I think sounds like "fightin' mad") refuse to grant anyone access, and destroy Atchinson's camera.

Robin tries to politely approach Fite and Maad, but Impulse doesn't care about their authority and zooms down into the crater himself. At the bottom, he finds a large, blue crystal/cocoon thing. Maad pulls out a gun on Impulse, but Superboy blocks the bullet to protect his teammate. Fite, meanwhile, shows off all his impressive credential to Robin — apparently he and Maad work for the DEO, FBI, Interpol, CIA, Secret Service, Scotland Yard and more. He says they're from the All-Purposes Enforcement Squad, and have more clearance than God.

Impulse then decides to take a peek inside the cocoon, and despite the warnings of Maad, he vibrates his head through the crystal. This causes it to explode, but Impulse was quick enough to get to safety before being injured. But Robin still scolds him for taking a chance like that, saying Superboy is better suited for such tasks. The smoke begins to clear, revealing Nina Dowd, who has now been transformed into a tiger lady and calls herself Mighty Endowed. And she is mightily endowed in more ways than one. Robin turns to Monty Python to describe her — "huge ... tracts of land."

Mighty Endowed vows to defeat the heroes, and Impulse feels a bit uncomfortable with the idea of fighting the buxom beauty. But Superboy relishes in the opportunity. However, Mighty Endowed, soon discovers she is too top heavy, and fall flat on her face. And Superboy has probably the only fitting response to this whole spectacle: "Awww nerts."

Robin again politely asks Fite 'n Maad for permission to investigate the crater, and the excited Ace Atchinson vouches for the Teen Titans. Superboy tells him they're not the Teen Titans, so Ace calls them the Young Justice League of America. Impulse says, "No ... we're young, but just us." Ace misunderstands, and calls them Young Justice. Impulse wishes he could drop an anvil on Ace's head, and repeats, "No, young, just us!" Ace enthusiastically responds with, "Right! Young Justice!" So Impulse gives up and says, "Fine, whatever."

Fite agrees to let the newly christened Young Justice check out the crater, and Impulse again zips down there without a second word. Robin and Superboy are close behind, and Robin asks Superboy if he pull the wheel out of the ground. Superboy then launches into a lengthy explanation on how he'll use his tactile telekinesis, and Impulse (who is standing on Mighty Endowed), tells him to stop blabbering about his powers as if he needed to fill in someone who's just met him. Robin gets the two to stop arguing, and Superboy pulls out the wheel, which is connected to a large motorcycle/car thing.

Superboy excitedly claims the vehicle as his own and names it the Super-Cycle, which makes Impulse quite mad. Robin begins to investigate it and wonders aloud why it transformed Nina Dowd. Superboy says she turned into a booby trap, and Robin slams his head down on the bike in response to that terrible joke. But then Robin realizes he inadvertently activated the vehicle. As the engine revs up, Robin realizes he's stuck in the driver's seat. Impulse and Superboy try to pull him out, but fail, even with Superboy's tactile telekinesis. The bike then tells them to hold on, and it immediately flies up into the sky.

Maad demands to know what just happened, and Red Tornado says id, ego and superego have been unleashed. He says he could explain more, but he'd need a slide projector and some charts. And Ace feels, a fan of Hanson, is a bit offended by Impulse's graffiti that is still on Red Tornado's chest. Meanwhile, as they rapidly approach the ionosphere, with the Super-Cycle ignoring both Robin's guidance and Superboy's you-know-what, we find our team finally united in one thing ... pure, undiluted panic ... for the most part. Robin is screaming, Superboy is worried, but Impulse is saying "cool" the cool way: "Keeewwwll!"

I am so excited to begin this series! THIS was the team book Impulse was always meant for! He never fit in with the New Titans, and Marv Wolfman didn't want him there, ultimately coming up with lame excuses to write him out of the story. Then poor Impulse had to suffer a couple of years where he barely made any appearances outside of his own title. But now he's finally landed on something that is a natural, perfect fit. He's paired with kids his own age, and with story and art in the same tone as his own series. As Robin said at the beginning of the issue, this series is basically a backlash against the increasing trend of grim and gritty comics. But like Impulse's series, Young Justice isn't too goofy for the sake of being goofy. Yeah, this issue is downright hilarious, but it also stays true to the characters and shows off how cool they are. I wish I could go back in time to 1998 and give the 11-year-old version of myself this comic.

On one hand, it is a little surprising that Todd Dezago was not chosen as the writer of this series. He had already done Young Justice: The Secret #1 and JLA: World Without Grown-Ups. And he did a fantastic job on both of them. But it only took me a few pages to make me fall in love with Peter David's writing. He takes the humor up to unprecedented levels — even his narration captions are hilarious. But more than being funny, David demonstrates a deep understanding of who these characters are and what makes them work. And eloquently matching them up as id, ego and superego was pure brilliance. So don't feel too bad about not having Dezago on Young Justice. We're in good hands with David. Besides, Dezago will be taking over Impulse before too long.

And how could I go this far without mentioning the stellar art of Todd Nauck? Combined with the great inking of Lary Stucker and the fine colors of Jason Wright, this issue gives me everything I could ask for art-wise. The lines are crisp and clean, the backgrounds are detailed, the characters are consistent, the faces are emotive. Somehow, Nauck has found the perfect balance between cartoony and realistic. And that's exactly what this series demands. And the best part is we'll get to see Nauck slowly refine and improve his style over the course of this series. The best is yet to come.

Since this is the first issue, there aren't any letters to the editor. But there are a few new ads:

Grab what's real. Always Coca-Cola.

You know the names, but you don't know the secrets of — Tangent Comics.

Hey, feeling good is folding A to B. Fruitopia.

Secrets of two worlds. Jack Kirby's New Gods Secret Files & Origins.

The Dome: Ground Zero. It came from nowhere. It's ten miles wide. It's going to destroy the world.

Deadly ninjas! He-man heroes! Astounding dinosaurs! It all adds up to high adventure in ... Guns of the Dragon.

Now here's a fun house ad drawn by Nauck and Stucker:

This individual issue cost $2.50, but a subscription of 12 issues only cost $23. Unfortunately, this ad also includes Chase, Chronos and Resurrection Man, but not Robin, Superboy and Impulse. That might be because the prices didn't match. I don't know about Robin and Superboy, but Impulse went for only $2.25 at the time. In hindsight, a quarter difference seems really petty. Nowadays, comics are either $2.99 or $3.99. Nothing in between.

Watch This Space does feature Robin, Superboy and Impulse, carefully cut out from this cover. But this lame newsletter really doesn't say much about Young Justice, other than it coming right out of JLA: World Without Grown-Ups.

Who is the Martian Manhunter? Find out.

80-Page Giant. The greatest heroes by the greatest comics talents!

Milk. Where's your mustache? Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. It seems Milk didn't pay for the right to mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so it had to settle for an awkward mention to "the undead."

Next: The boys' wild ride! or Splatter Mountain!

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