Monday, December 14, 2015

Young Justice 80-Page Giant #1

First Memory

Written by Peter David
Art by Justiano with Cabin Boy, Andy Lanning and Kevin Conrad
Color by Jason Wright and Digital Chameleon
Lettering by Comicraft
Cover by Humberto Ramos & Wayne Faucher
Cover color by Richard and Tanya Horie
Edited by Eddie Berganza with Alisande Morales

It's always nice to see Humberto Ramos return to an Impulse-related project. But this cover is not his best work. The focus is on Red Tornado, as it should be, but he's an emotionless android, making his face quite boring. An easily overlooked detail is the purple energy surrounding Red, which we last saw with Bedlam during World Without Grown-Ups. On the side, we have three of the various dreams Young Justice find themselves in. Unfortunately, Ramos didn't seem to coordinate very well with the respective artists for each story, as there are numerous inconsistencies between the cover and the inside pages, most notably Arrowette wielding a gun. But I am glad that Impulse's story made it to the cover, even though he and Wonder Girl look completely different inside.

As is the norm with these 80-page giants, this issue is split into seven 10-page stories. The main story, First Memory, is split into two parts, which bookend the five separate "dreams." So without further ado, let's dive in!

Our story is narrated by the large, purple entity/genie that possessed Matthew Stuart and turned him into Bedlam. For simplicity's sake, I will refer to the entity as Bedlam, although it technically doesn't have a name. Bedlam begins his tale by asking us to think our first memories. He shows several examples, including a young girl wearing a Flash T-shirt at the Haly Circus. But Bedlam doesn't have a first memory. He has always existed from the dawn of time. He just needed to be defined and given form and substance, which happened when an Atlantean sorcerer tapped into Bedlam's primal energy. But that sorcerer was defeated by Arion, who imprisoned Bedlam in a crystal chamber, which eventually made it's way to Matthew Stuart on his 13th birthday.

Bedlam gives a very quick recap of World Without Grown-Ups, and explains that Matthew, the human vessel, was defeated, but the energy of Bedlam remained. Weakened from the battle, Bedlam sought to hide himself from the heroes. His fascination with human sentience kept him close, despite his jealousy of their emotions and imagination. Luckily for Bedlam, he found a nearby solution that gave him the best of both worlds — the offline Red Tornado. As an android, Red Tornado provided the sentience Bedlam craved without any of the painful emotion.

But Bedlam's presence within the machine caused it to begin to dream. First of electric sheep, then humanity. These dreams grew into a desire of awareness, which Bedlam granted, reactivating Red Tornado and making him more human than before. When Red Tornado was with his daughter, Traya, on Halloween, Young Justice inadvertently caused Mr. Mxyzptlk to change the world. But Bedlam protected Red Tornado and Traya from this reality-altering event, making them two of the few people who recognized the changed world.

A few days later, Red Tornado was attacked by Harm — an assault that reminded him he was just a machine. Red Tornado began to grow cold and distant after that, only going through the motions with Young Justice. This feeling was increased tenfold by the attack from the Psyba-Rats. And now Red Tornado's disinterest in humanity has made Young Justice quite concerned.

The kids brought in Traya and her mother, Kathy, while suggesting that Red Tornado take some time off to spend it with his family. But the android brushes them off and goes back to watching the cave's monitors. Superboy angrily lashes out at "Reddy," saying none of them know what's inside him anymore. Secret says she knows what's inside him, saying she noticed a purple energy in him when she went looking for the bomb Harm put in him.

Robin demands to know why Secret didn't mention this earlier, but she didn't think it was unusual. To redeem herself, Secret re-enters Red Tornado and finds Bedlam, ordering him to get out. Bedlam complies, but he erupts from the android with a blast. Having used his long rest to recover and scheme, Bedlam immediately attacks Young Justice, capturing them in a whirlwind inspired by Red Tornado. To gain more strength to remake the world in his image, Bedlam forces the words "And suddenly ... " into the teens' minds. Those two simple words were carefully chosen for their potential to trigger ideas, notions and imagination Bedlam could feed off of. And suddenly ...

The Totally O.K. Corral

Beau Smith Writer
Sergio Cariello Pencils
Keith Champagne Inker
Pam Rambo Colors
Jack Morelli Letters

The kids of Young Justice "blonk" into the wild west, where Robin is the marshal and Superboy is his  slow-speaking sidekick. Both of them are confused about their new location, costumes, and compulsion to talk in old west slang. A toothless old man warns Robin of the arrival of a band of robbers called the Clantons, and Impulse, who's in jail for some reason, asks to be released to help out. Robin agrees, and Superboy arms him with a paddleball.

Meanwhile, Wonder Girl is out shoeing a horse when she sees the Clantons come storming in. They immediately try to hang an old man, but Arrowette (who's basically a white Native American) shoots an arrow through the noose. Some of the Clantons begin terrorizing the school house, but the teacher, Secret, scares them away. The boys meet up with the girls in the street and agree to team up to kick the Clantons out of town, forming Young Frontier Justice.

Our heroes approach the bad guys, and Robin tells the sidewinders to throw down their guns real slow and follow them to jail or they'll end up siftin' sunshine through their guts. The Clantons naturally refuse to surrender and draw their weapons. Robin knocks away one gun with his batarang, and Impulse takes away the rest.

Wonder Girl smashes a couple of guys' heads into each other, and Secret sends two of them up in a dusty whirlwind, which surprises her for some reason. Arrowette pins four of them to the rocks with her arrows, and Superboy ties up six of them with a random steel girder (there sure are a lot of Clantons). Impulse uses his paddleball to terrorize one guy ... and ... strip him down to his underwear? Robin knocks out the final two with a cattle prod, and before our heroes can figure out what's going on, or even what they're saying, they all "bloink" away. And suddenly ...

My Gun Is (Super) Quick

Jay Faerber – Writer
Tommy Lee Edwards – Artist
Melissa Edwards – Colorist
John Workman – Letterer

Bart finds himself in a suit, in an office, with a beautiful woman declaring him the best private eye in the city. Bart admits she's boring him, and he asks where they are, what year it is, and what happened to the color. The woman assumes this is an example of Mr. Allen's famous wit, while Bart frantically begins searching for Robin and Superboy. The woman continues to try to seduce Bart, which would be an uncomfortable situation, but luckily it's interrupted by someone screaming.

Turns out the scream came from Wonder Girl, who is horrified to find herself wearing a dress and working as Bart's secretary. Bart doesn't see what the problem is with this, and the impatient woman finally gets direct with Bart. She introduces herself as Mrs. Eva Wattington, and says she saw her husband kill his brother last night. Eva is afraid to go to the police because she thinks her husband will kill her before his brother's body can be found. Bart wishes he could press a reset button, and reluctantly agrees to help Eva, even though he's worried it'll take long.

So Bart rides with Eva in her slow car to her house, where he's supposed to protect her. But all Bart cares about is whether the place has a PlayChannel 65 or a PlayStation (I find it odd that they used one fake video game name and one real name). Wonder Girl, meanwhile, actually does the detective work by visiting the alley where the murder allegedly took place. She can't find any blood at the scene, but she does come across a clue pretty quickly.

Eva continues to try to seduce the bored and oblivious Bart. Before things can get two awkward once again, Eva's husband comes marching in, accompanied by his two henchmen, Robin and Superboy. Mr. Wattington pulls a gun on Bart, who quickly snatches it away, lecturing the man that while the old-time guns may be silly-looking, they can still hurt people. So Mr. Wattington orders Robin and Superboy to attack, and they reluctantly obey. Bart quickly ties up Robin and begins wrestling with Superboy when Wonder Girl suddenly comes crashing through the window.

Cassie explains that she met a very nice wino in the alley, who sleeps there every night and attested that there was no murder there last night. So Cassie tracked down Wattington's brother, Donald, and found him alive and well on vacation. Bart's still confused by this convoluted plot, so Wonder Girl elaborates. Eva was trying to trick her rich husband into thinking she was having an affair with Bart so that they'd kill each other, leaving her with all the money.

Mr. Wattington thanks Bart for saving his life, and congratulates him for being every bit the detective he claims to be. Bart shakes his hand, and says, "No problemo," even though Wattington had just tried to kill him a minute ago. Cassie flips out over this, saying she deserves the credit for cracking the case and doing all the work. And suddenly ...

We enter an old silent film about Nosferatu and "wampirs." But it only involves the girls and none of the boys, so we'll skip it. And suddenly ...

Rock 'em Sock 'em ... Robot?

Lary Stucker Writer/Inker
Keron Grant Pencils
Felix Serrano Colors
Jack Morelli Letters

Arrowette finds herself the lord of a spaceship, and is informed her giant robot, the X-J23, has been sent to destroy Earth, and the traitor is ready for his execution. When Arrowette learns the traitor is Robin, she insists on carrying out the execution personally. She also tries to recall the robot, but it's too late. The X-J23 begins wreaking havoc, and Superboy is recruited by the army to stop it, which he thinks is way more fun than being a hired thug. For some reason, Wonder Girl, who is now Joe Joe the Circus Monkey, is inside the X-J23, but she's unable to stop it. We then catch up with Impulse, who shares Superboy's enthusiasm for this new dream.

However, Impulse suddenly becomes distracted by a puppy. Robin, meanwhile, tries to escape Arrowette's prison, but he's electrocuted. Fortunately, Secret arrives to save him. For some reason, she's a cat, but even more perplexingly, she doesn't know what cats are. But she is glad to not be battling wampirs anymore, and Robin suggests she become knock-out gas to take down the first person to enter his cell. And that person is Arrowette. Secret apologizes for knocking out her teammate, and Robin scoops her up as the three of take off in an escape pod.

Robin, Arrowette and Secret land in proximity to the battle between Superboy and the X-J23. Superboy finds that his tactile telekinesis has been amped up to the point where he can send out powerful energy blasts. And he's not the only one. Robin, Arrowette, and Secret all attack the giant robot with energy blasts, but nothing really happens. Wonder Girl finally gives up trying to stop the machine and pops out to join the others.

Impulse finally arrives and excitedly shows off his puppy, which is actually a small dragon. But then Impulse pulls water on the dragon, causing it to grow to enormous size, big enough to take down the X-J23. Once the day is saved, the dragon shrinks back down, and Impulse asks if they think Red Tornado will let him keep his puppy. And suddenly ...

Our Justice at War

Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils: Dietrich Smith
Inks: Jaime Mendoza & Sean Parsons
Letters: Albert de Guzman
Colors: Matt Webb

It's December 16, 1944, in Lanzerath, Belgium, and we open with an American soldier named George  Poulos. George is a huge superhero fan, reading All-Star Comics and wearing a Flash T-shirt underneath his uniform. When he spots three figures approaching his bunker, he challenges them with his own special password by asking them to name a member of the Justice Society of America. Naturally, the three figures are Superboy, Robin and Impulse, and they manage to answer the question correctly, albeit awkwardly.

The boys are welcomed into the bunker, which is full of wounded soldiers. Superboy and Robin are shocked to see the soldiers aren't much older than they are, and Impulse, who's not very good at history, thinks they're in Iraq during the Gulf War, despite the swirling snow. George explains that all the commanding officers have been killed, so he's in charge, even though he's just a private first class. And to make matters worse, this little band of soldiers has no way of getting the wounded to safety.

They soon fall under attack, and Robin has Impulse pull the wounded out of firing range. Then he, Superboy and Impulse directly engage the German forces. Robin takes on a couple with his R-shaped batarangs, and Impulse knocks out a handful before deciding to focus on the tanks. Bart pulls the soldiers out of the three tanks, and Superboy lifts them up to hurl back at the enemy.

Unfortunately, one German grenade gets past the boys, and George dives on it to protect his wounded comrades. As George bleeds out in the snow, he jokes that his Flash shirt didn't make him fast enough, but maybe a Spectre or Doctor Fate shirt would have helped. Robin then focuses his efforts on organizing a retreat, sending Superboy to find some trucks and having Impulse gather up all the wounded.

They load all the soldiers into a truck, and Superboy flies it away, with George awkwardly wedged between him and the truck. Impulse pulls a second truck behind him in his slipstream. George comments on how beautiful it is up in the air (even though all he should be able to see is the underside of the truck) and before our heroes can save him, George appears to die. And suddenly ...

The entity known as Bedlam feels he has captured enough power from the imaginations of Young Justice, so he spits the heroes out of his tornado while he grows in size and rips off the top of the cave. The Super-Cycle catches the teenagers, and Bedlam continues to grow in size and power, preparing to remake the world in his image. Red Tornado embraces his family, and Traya cries out that she doesn't want to be without her daddy.

Red Tornado then flies up to Bedlam and says something interesting. He argues that the young ones had the opportunity to live their dreams but he didn't. (I would consider these "dreams" to be more like the random dreams you get when you fall asleep, not real aspirations, but whatever.) Red Tornado demands that Bedlam turn him into a human so that he can die with his loved ones as one of them. Bedlam grants his wish, turning Red Tornado into a bald white man. Bedlam watches closely as Red embraces his family, and suddenly ...

Bedlam finds himself fascinated with this creature, this android who was outside of humanity but so attached to humanity that he chose to spend his final moments. Bedlam begins to question himself, and for the first time in his endless eternity, he speaks, wondering aloud what it must be like to be human. And for the first time, Bedlam begins to imagine something, which then became reality.

A large purple whirlwind surrounds Bedlam, and everyone just manages to get away on the Super-Cycle. The genie feels himself slipping away as the winds intensify, ultimately leading to a large explosion. The world rearranges itself. The cave is repaired. Red Tornado is an android again. And where Bedlam was, a baby boy lies in his place. Arrowette picks up the infant with purple eyes, and Bedlam feels his thoughts float away. But he embraces this change, calling it a reward. And he closes his story by tying it back to the beginning with his talk of first memories. Bedlam now has a first memory — that of being born.

That was a pretty serious ending for what was mostly a pretty goofy comic. Without a doubt, the framing narrative of Bedlam and Red Tornado was by far the best part of this issue. I loved how Peter David fully explained how Red Tornado was activated once again and how he avoided the changes caused by Mr. Mxyzptlk. These weren't huge problems for me, but it is really nice to get answers to them all the same. The entity of Bedlam is a really confusing, vague concept, and it is very easy to make him even more confusing if you think too much about it. But I felt like it worked well enough for this story.

What didn't work, surprisingly, were all the "dreams" the kids were thrown into. In theory, this comic should have been a smash hit, showing our lovable heroes in completely different and random scenarios with unique art and writing styles. But the art was generally poor across the board, and none of the dreams really stood out. And the inconsistencies really got to me. How come some of the characters were omitted from some dreams? And why were they compelled to act a certain way in some dreams, but had more freedom in others? Plus, I never knew whose dream we were in at a given time. Did Bart dream of himself becoming a private eye, or was that Wonder Girl's dream/nightmare of watching him take all the credit for her hard work? This issue had so much potential, but didn't live up to it.

There aren't any letters to the editor or new ads of note, so I'll see you next time, when we return to Chain Lightning in The Flash #148.

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