Thursday, August 27, 2015

Young Justice Secret Files and Origins #1

Take Back the Night

D. Curtis Johnson Reporting
Ale Garza & Cabin Boy Visuals
Tom McCraw Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Comicraft Readouts
Eddie Berganza Project Director
Cover by Humberto Ramos, Wayne Faucher and Digital Chameleon

It is always wonderful have Ramos back. Not only is he one of the best Impulse artists of all time, but he does a great job drawing the entire Young Justice. I think everyone looks great here, although I am a little confused as to why some of them are happy while others are serious — especially Impulse. He's never the serious one. And there is one real error on the cover — Arrowette is still wearing her old costume. I guess Ramos drew this before seeing the new design.

Even though we just had Young Justice featured in an 80-page giant that detailed all their origin stories, we're getting a full-fledged Secret Files and Origins issue. And I'm not complaining. I'm just surprised that DC devoted so many special issues to this team. As with all Secret Files and Origins issues, this 48-page special contains one main story, a "Day in the Life" feature, some "Lost Pages" a tour of the headquarters, and a bunch of profile pages. This issue is not yet available digitally, but you can find the main story in DC Comics Presents: Young Justice #2.

That 100-Page Spectacular also includes Young Justice: The Secret #1, and another story we haven't covered yet. And the cover is actually from Young Justice #19, a completely unrelated issue we also haven't covered yet. So, without further ado, let's dive in to our story.

When we last left our heroes, they were dealing with a new villain named Harm. But at Secret's beseeching, they decided to put Harm on hold and help Secret rescue some kids from the Department of Extra-normal Operations. Fortunately, it's not a school night, so nobody feels bad about sneaking around upstate New York late at night.

Superboy is growing impatient, but Wonder Girl thinks it's quite romantic to be in the wilderness under the moonlight. But Superboy brushes her off, saying he's worried about Arrowette's shoulder, which had an arrow sticking through it just an hour ago. Impulse quickly scouts ahead, and within minutes, the team arrives at the dreaded D.E.O. Wabe Facility. Secret again thanks the teens for helping someone they don't really know. Impulse says they know her better than anyone, but Secret sadly says that's because she doesn't know anyone. Robin notes that the facility looks pretty tough, but he's confident they can still sneak in.

About the same time, inside the massive base, we're introduced to two girls, Casey and Claire, staying up past their bedtime. Claire has the ability to create portals, which she is currently using to watch TV from the guards' room. The show is D.E.O.'s Greatest Fugitives 2, which is talking about Plasmus and the Clock King tonight. The girls complain that the DEO agents on the show are much better looking than the ones they contacted in real life. And even though they both chose to join the DEO, the agents constantly treat them like they're going to try to run away.

Note: It's really hard to keep these two girls straight because the creators of the comic kept mixing them up. The one I'm going to call Casey is a psychic, and she senses something is off about this place. Claire assures her she's just feeling homesick, and in no time the DEO will help them become amazing heroes with code names and costumes. But Casey has heard some bad stories about kids at the DEO, and she is particularly afraid of Dr. Charles and Major Lutwidge. Claire tries to relax her roommate by using her portals to show her how goofy those guys look when they're asleep. But Claire can't find Lutwidge or Charles in their quarters. Instead, they're in the main security area because half the base is apparently on alert.

Turns out Young Justice aren't quite as stealthy as they planned to be. Unaware of how closely they're being monitored, Robin enacts his plan, first by sending Impulse to vibrate through the walls and try to find some vans they can use for their getaway. Robin has Wonder Girl fly up to the guard tower to make sure the guard stays asleep or distracted. Secret then helps Robin up the wall, while Superboy very happily assists Arrowette. Noting the motion sensors on the ground, Robin has Arrowette shoot a line across the yard.

We then check in with Major Lutwidge and Dr. Charles, who have already identified the intruding heroes (Secret is listed as Subject 2TDNII). Charles is thrilled to be able to study some outside heroes up close, and is even more thrilled to have his suspicions confirmed about the boys hiding Secret from him. Lutwidge is worried when the teens enter an unmonitored room, but Charles has a good idea of where they're headed, and he assures the major that the kid will show up on their monitors in a couple of minutes.

Impulse reunites with everybody in the unmonitored room, and he reports that he not only found vans, but helicopters and tanks as well, but Robin says the vans will be fine. Wonder Girl also comes back, and is quite happy with how well things are going. Suddenly, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow and Green Lantern appear, and they're not happy. The JLA tell Young Justice they shouldn't have come here, and Robin notes that something's wrong with them. Impulse points out that the JLA are preparing to pound the stuffing out of them, so Robin tells everyone to get out into the open and hold off the JLA until they figure out what's wrong with them. Superboy tries to create a debris barrier, but Superman instantly tears it down. The Flash starts chasing after Impulse, calling him slow. Impulse tries to get Wally to remember him, but he doesn't listen.

Wonder Woman and Green Arrow take on Wonder Girl and Arrowette, respectively, and Green Lantern creates a vacuum to suck up Secret. But just when each teen hero is captured by his or her mentor, the adult heroes turn into pink goo and disappear. Impulse says it's as if the JLA was never there, but the damage remains.

Claire and Casey then arrive, and Casey apologizes for scaring them with her illusions. The two girls only wanted to warn Young Justice that they're heading into a trap, but Casey's illusions, which were intended to be reassuring, somehow turned hostile. Claire explains that once they leave this room, they'll be seen by the DEO again. Claire used her portals to transport Casey and herself there, which gives Secret and Robin an idea.

Back in the security room, Lutwidge becomes worried when Young Justice don't reappear on their cameras. Charles tells him to be patient, and boasts of their detailed files on the kids that will prevent them from being surprised. But Charles is proved wrong when a breach is reported from the server room on the opposite side of campus. Lutwidge loads up a large assault rifle and says he'll take care of the intruders his way now.

Our teenaged heroes gather around a computer, in hopes that Robin can find a way to shut down the security for the whole facility. Instead, Robin comes across the detailed files the DEO has on each of them. And the files they see are the same files we'll get later in the issue. Robin and Arrowette are pretty horrified by all this, and Robin decides to send the files to the JLA and destroy everything he can here. But Robin needs time for all his computer hacking, so he urges everyone to begin the breakout plan now.

Claire sees Lutwidge and his men approaching them, and Casey suggests they head back to their room. Claire wants to stay and help, but Secret tells her they've done enough. Secret then takes charge, telling Wonder Girl and Arrowette to cover Robin, Impulse to count to 6 million then intercept the guards, and for Superboy to burrow a tunnel to the cells below them. But Claire offers to take Superboy down there with her portals instead.

Claire and Casey are shocked to see so many grotesque, mutated kids being kept in small cages right below them. Casey realizes she was picking up on their misery, which caused her illusions to turn hostile. Upon this shocking discovery, Casey and Claire decide to keep helping Young Justice through the end. However, Secret's plan is ruined when Impulse gets carried away counting on his fingers, and is well on his way to 12 million when Lutwidge and his men arrive at the server room. Luckily, Robin finishes his computer work just in time, and leaves behind a small bomb to distract the guards while all the heroes escape through Claire's portal.

Dr. Charles watches Young Justice tear open all the cells, and he orders Lutwidge down to the area. But Lutwidge's path is blocked by a brick wall, curtesy of Casey. Charles suspects it to be an illusion, which Lutwidge confirms by sticking his hand through it. Once Lutwidge and his men get through, our heroes are ready for them, and easily take down all the guards. Young Justice lead all the captive kids to freedom, just as Dr. Charles realizes all his files have been destroyed.

All the mutant kids are loaded into the vans Impulse found, but surprisingly, Claire and Casey decide to stay behind. Despite seeing how horribly the DEO treated their peers, these two girls still believe the DEO is the best place for them to learn how to use their powers. Even more surprising, Robin fully supports their decision, although Secret is worried the DEO could start mistreating Claire and Casey. So Wonder Girl and Superboy lift up the vans and fly everybody to safety.

We get a bit of an epilogue that shows Director Bones and Agent Chase investigating the Wabe facility six hours later. The DEO is a large, complex and unwieldy organization. While most of the DEO may be good, no one within the organization was able to recognize the corrupt branch ran by Charles and Lutwidge. And although Bones and Chase suspect corruption, they are unable to punish Charles and Lutwidge. The two scoundrels are simply transferred to another facility on the other side of the country, leaving Bones and Chase to just hope they don't do anything bad again. All the remaining kids from the Wabe facility are also relocated, and it is hinted that Casey and Claire will return as heroes sometime. But that never happens. Those girls, and all the kids that were rescued, will promptly be forgotten in the ensuing months and never mentioned again.

I have to say I'm a little disappointed in this main story. After teasing to this for so long, what we finally got felt rather lackluster. After spending so much time sneaking around, when Young Justice finally did fight the guards, it wasn't really much of a fight — ending just as quickly as it began. And we barely even saw the kids our heroes were rescuing. The victims of the story should have been the focus. It was nice that almost everyone in Young Justice had at least one moment to showcase their powers, well, except for Secret. Although she did help Robin plan things out and kind of took charge for a minute there. I did not like the way the story ended, and I really didn't like the art. So we'll have to count this as another miss in the hit-or-miss Secret Files and Origins series.

Day in the Life: "Impulse's Trip to the Justice Cave"

Writer: Joseph Illidge
Penciller: Craig Rousseau
Inker: Dexter Vines
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colors: Tom McCraw
Separations: Digital Chameleon

In Manchester, Alabama, Bart receives a Justice alert on his watch, and he resolves to get to the Young Justice headquarters before Robin so he won't kill them. On the road, Robin complains about always being the first to arrive at their meetings despite being the only one without superpowers. In Venice Beach, California, Superboy receives the alert and plans to strong-arm Robin and Impulse if they get on him for not cleaning the cave.

So Bart takes off, but forgets his GameBoy, and has to head back. He takes off a second time, and passes through Fawcett City, where he saves Billy Batson from a lightning bolt, not realizing that Billy was summoning the lightning to transform into Captain Marvel. Bart's GameBoy dies during the trip, and he stops by Guy Gardner's Warriors' restaurant in New York City for a drink. Bart complains to Guy about all the chores he has to do and how Max won't let him have any fun. Guy says he's lucky his uncle is from this universe, saying he used to have to take orders from a bunch of alien midgets.

As Bart leaves Warriors', he realizes he's hungry, so he stops by the 61 Flavors Ice Creem Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the store only offers free ice cream to JLA members, but it seems Bart bought the ice cream anyway, as he later let out a huge burp. Bart then heads to Africa for some reason, and makes friends with a monkey, which hitches a ride on his shoulder for the rest of the story.

Bart then randomly heads to the lost and found section of The Slab, the island prison for supervillains. He tosses aside the Riddler's jacket and decides to take a boomerang and a cape that could have belonged to Doctor Polaris. Then Bart somehow gets lost, and even his monkey friend can't help him find his way on a map. So Bart heads to Bl├╝dhaven, where Nightwing points him in the right direction. Finally, Bart arrives at the cave with his monkey, cape and boomerang, and Robin and Superboy are ready to kill him.

This was a delightful little two-page spread, appropriately drawn by Craig Rousseau. Pure goofiness is exactly what Impulse is all about. My favorite joke was the Captain Marvel one. Although Bart has met both Billy and Captain Marvel, I don't think it's ever been explained to him that they are the same person. And even if he knew that, it is doubtful Bart would know that Billy needed to be struck by lightning to transform. So what Bart thinks is a good deed, is actually preventing Earth's Mightiest Mortal from saving the day.

Profile Page: Impulse

Writer: Matt Brady
Pencils: Humberto Ramos
Inks: Wayne Faucher
Colors: Tom McCraw
Separations: Digital Chameleon

It's always a welcome sight to have Humberto Ramos return to Impulse, even for something as brief as this. I know that image is pretty tough to read, so I'll type it up. Keep in mind, though, that this is the DEO file on Impulse, and they don't quite know everything.

Top speed appears to be near the speed of light. Has achieved speed Wally West never approached at the same age. Appears to think only after he acts, if ever.

Real Name: Bart (last name unknown)
Occupation: Apprentice hero
Base of Operations: Manchester, Alabama
Ht: 5'1"; Wt: 110 lbs.
Eyes: Yellow  Hair: Brown
First Appearance: Flash #91 (June, 1994)
• Wally West/Flash
• Mercury, Max
Clearance: Top Secret

While the backgrounds of many speed heroes can be traced to the lineage of Barry Allen, Impulse's familial origins and early years are unknown. His earliest appearance coincided with a chronal discharge in the Keystone City region. It is unknown if the two are related. Impulse is localized in Manchester, Alabama, and supervillain activity has increased since his appearance. Of the younger heroes, Impulse stands out for his immaturity and reckless behavior — the fact that he has survived to the present is most likely due to luck than skill. Impulse has been under the guidance of Max Mercur; however, as none of his senior Flash "family members" are in Young Justice, it is unknown who is guiding Impulse in the use of his speed powers or behavior. A.P.E.S. field agents have already witnessed one occasion where Impulse recklessly used his powers with dangerous results (see reports of Fite & Maad). If apprehension becomes necessary, Velocity 9 capsules will be issued.

So you can see the DEO got quite a few details correct. (Although I'm not sure how they knew which comic book issue he first appeared in.) The other profile pages are on Robin, Superboy, Red Tornado, Secret, Wonder Girl, Arrowette, Bedlam, Old Justice (who are supposed to appear in Young Justice #10) and Rip Roar. One odd thing I noticed is that Impulse, Robin, Wonder Girl and Bedlam are all 5'1". And both Superboy and Arrowette are 5'7". I would have liked a little more variations in their heights.

The Lost Pages section shows us that Mighty Endowed has been taken to the A.P.E.S. headquarters inside Mount Rushmore. Every scientist within a 1,000-mile radius has volunteered to study the former Nina Dowd and help return her to normal. But Mighty Endowed can hypnotize anyone who stares directly at her massive chest. She attempts a daring escape, but is easily stopped by Fite 'n Maad, who call her a routine bust.

Tour of the Justice Cave

Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Todd Nauck
Inker: Lary Stucker
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colors: Tom McCraw
Separations: Digital Chameleon

For some reason, Superboy is filming a tour of the official Young Justice headquarters, formerly the JLA's Secret Sanctuary. Superboy wants Impulse to do it, but he apparently had something else to attend to. So Superboy shows off the library, the gym, the locker rooms (and accidentally walks in on a changing Wonder Girl), and the meeting chamber. The room is a bit of a mess, with junk food and Animaniacs comics on the table, a Xema poster on the wall, as well as a Hanson poster, which Impulse has spray-painted a big "not" sign over (he really hates that band). Superboy explains that they've set up monitors to show them any major crisis around the world, and, of course, ESPN.

Superboy then shows off some statues he's made of himself, Robin and Impulse, and they are the very same statues we saw in Young Justice #1,000,000. Superboy says he'll be making statues of the girls soon enough, and we know he'll do a good job because they will last for more than 83,000 years. Superboy then shows off the lounge and kitchen, then heads up the front hallway, explaining that their location is safely hidden inside a mountain. But when he gets to the front, he finds that Impulse has decorated the main entrance with neon signs advertising the home of Impulse and his friends, Young Justice.

The final page, usually a timeline, is another DEO file written by field agent Scott Beatty. He chronicles every major adventure Young Justice has been on, starting with Robin's first meeting with Superboy. Next is Robin's first meeting with Impulse, where they stopped Piotr Vilk from launching nuclear missiles at Russia. The file then mentions how Robin, Superboy and Impulse helped the Legion of Super-Heroes defeat C.O.M.P.U.T.O., and it even talks about their adventure to the Marvel universe where the three boys and Wonder Girl were fused with other heroes. (If the DEO knows about parallel dimensions that even those involved with have forgotten, then you think the organization would be able to figure out that Bart's last name is Allen.) The timeline concludes with details on the boys defeating Bedlam, rescuing Secret (which actually happened before Bedlam), discovering the Super-Cycle and defeating Rip Roar.

So even though I wasn't the biggest fan of the main story, I do like this issue overall. Ramos and Rousseau came in to give us some nice Impulse images, and Peter David and Todd Nauck did a great job on the brief, but fun Lost Pages and Tour. I normally would be upset by the gimmicky, incomplete Profile Pages, but it works in this context, mainly because we just had an 80-Page Giant detailing all these heroes' origins. So I'm actually glad that they weren't too repetitive here.

Next time, we'll finally return to the epic crossover, JLA vs. The Titans #2.

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