Friday, February 19, 2016

Young Justice in No Man's Land #1

"Road Trip"

Chuck Dixon & Scott Beatty Story
Andy Kuhn Pencils
Chris Ivy Inks
Digital Chameleon Colors & Seps
Comicraft Letters
Joe Illidge Associate Bat-Guy
Eddie Berganza Young Jedi
Scott McDaniel & Danny Miki Cover

This cover was used as the house ad for this issue, and thankfully, they corrected the red nose Impulse had on that ad. But it's still a pretty mediocre cover. Nobody really looks that good — except perhaps Lagoon Boy, but who cares about him? I like the idea this cover is trying to convey, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

DC's big summer event of 1999 was No Man's Land — a massive story spilling out of the Batman books detailing the chaos of Gotham after a devastating earthquake. This one-shot special can be hard to find and I'm not even sure exactly what to call it. Some sites just call it Young Justice Special #1 without a mention to No Man's Land, and others just omit the word Special altogether. This issue is also included in DC Comics Presents: Young Justice #2, and Batman: No Man's Land Vol. 2.

So, without further ado, let's begin our story, which opens somewhere east of Gotham. The green scaly teenager Lagoon Boy has decided to journey from Atlantis to Gotham City by himself just to see what it's like. But on his way, he encounters a bunch of submarines belonging to a group called Kobra Prime. (Apparently the followers of Kobra are still active despite being defeated by Flash and Impulse quite a while ago.) Kobra Prime perceives Lagoon Boy as a threat and launches several missiles at him. The fishy boy manages to escape with minor injuries, but he vows to strike back.

While somewhere in the Cave H.Q. of Young Justice, Superboy is showing Impulse a poster of a sexy robot and quoting Monty Python: "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!" All Impulse can say is that she looks pretty shiny. Superboy calls him a moron, so Impulse tries to show he does like the poster by sticking it to the wall with a million pieces of tape.

Superboy notices that Robin is too sullen to even lecture him on the evils of objectifying women, so he calls on Impulse to cheer up the Boy Wonder. Bart begins by throwing on a very large chef's hat and an apron that says "Cookin' with gas" to make a very sloppy cake with pink frosting. He then dresses like a clown and juggles a bomb, an axe, brass knuckles and anvil. Finally, Bart dresses like a female cheerleader with the letter I on his chest, pom-poms in his hands, and a sign that says "Fly Robin Fly." But Robin ignores all this.

However, Robin does finally tell his friends what's bugging him. Batman has kicked him out of Gotham, and things have only gotten worse since the earthquake. The government has blown the bridges and sealed off the city, declaring martial law inside. And now Batman stands alone against the food riots, Arkham escapees and looting. Robin knows this is too big for Batman, but he's too stubborn to ask for help. And now Robin has to live in Keystone City with his dad.

Impulse points out that Keystone isn't that bad, while Superboy is glad he doesn't have to deal with the rules of being a sidekick. Impulse says Max calls him a "juvenile ward," and Superboy tells Robin he should go solo, be his own man, follow his heart and feel the force. But Robin angrily slams his fist down, shouting that he's banned from action.

So Superboy starts putting two and two together. Robin is sidelined from helping Gotham City, but Batman never said anything about teammates — never once mentioning that Young Justice should steer clear of Gotham or Robing would be waxing the Batmobile. As Superboy works this out, Impulse mimics his every move, and Robin reluctantly agrees that Superboy is technically correct. This is enough for Superboy and Impulse, who declare they've found a loophole and immediately rush out the cave before Robin can stop them.

Superboy and Impulse buzz past a surprised Red Tornado, and Robin tries to catch up to them on the Super-Cycle. But first he stops to ask Red Tornado to tell Batman they're not there if he calls — and that they're not in Gotham City, either. Red asks the young detective where they will be, and Robin admits they'll be in Gotham, but he begs the android to not tell that to Batman.

We then return to Lagoon Boy, who has lost the Kobra submarines and has decided to happily return to his quest of being a tourist in Gotham. But when he emerges close to the city, he's shocked to find it in ruins. Even though he knew all about Gotham's famous cheese fries, he apparently hadn't heard about its cataclysmic earthquake. Lagoon Boy is soon spotted by a U.S. Marshals helicopter, which mistakingly orders him back to Gotham. The green fish boy complies, and the soldiers simply consider him an ugly resident and proof that the city needs to be quarantined.

The helicopter then spots Superboy flying in and Impulse keeping up by running on the water. Superboy notes the heavy security and he warns Impulse to be on the lookout for mines in the harbor. Impulse thinks this is pretty cool, and he sets them off for fun. The soldiers in the helicopter realize they can't catch these intruders, so they decide to let them go, not being able to imagine a worse punishment than allowing them to enter Gotham.

Once inside the desolated ruins, Impulse says it looks like Level 50 of Doom, and he fetches a turkey dinner for an old man wearing a sign that says, "Will work do anything for food." Superboy then sees smoke rising over the horizon and flies up to get a better look, with Impulse joining him by creating mini-tornados with his hands. The boys see the fire coming from the zoo, which has been overgrown with vegetation. As they race over there, Superboy recounts that Gotham's had plagues, earthquakes and infernos, and now all it needs is raining frogs, which Impulse thinks is pretty funny.

Turns out the fire was caused by a group of hungry people looking to make a meal of the zoo animals. Superboy and Impulse confront the heavily armed men, and Superboy jokingly speculates they must be burning everything for weed control. Impulse says they could be fighting roaches, but in either case, Superboy has a feeling these men skipped the five-day waiting period for their guns, so he has Impulse confiscate them. With the guns out of the way, Superboy tells the guys to go home since it's a school night. But when they try to leave, they become entangled by vines. The boys then see the forest is being controlled by a beautiful plant woman, which Superboy calls a "prickly pear" and "veggie supreme."

Robin finally reaches Gotham on the Super-Cycle, and once again the U.S. marshals give up trying to stop this latest intruder. Robin quickly comes across Lagoon Boy, who is being chased by an angry and hungry mob (at least one of them thinks the fish boy will taste like tuna). Robin doesn't recognize Lagoon Boy, but he decides to rescue him anyway. Lagoon Boy, though, has heard all about Robin and is quite awestruck to be saved by one of Gotham's heroes. Robin tells his new friend that he should blend in with all the freaks of Gotham, despite the recent evidence to the contrary. The Boy Wonder then decides to let Lagoon Boy tag along until Robin finds his friends.

We cut back to Superboy and Impulse, who are now being attacked by the plant lady. She starts wrapping a bunch of vines around the heroes, and Impulse actually tries to reason with her, saying they're here to help. But he gets covered in vines anyway. Impulse sarcastically says, "Oh no. Drat. You've got me." before vibrating free with a very '90s "N-n-n-not!" He then starts to free Superboy, when Robin suddenly arrives and takes out a few vines with his batarangs before hitting the plant lady with the Super-Cycle.

Lagoon Boy is having the time of his life and asks to go fight the Joker after this. Impulse, meanwhile, grabs a large weed whacker to use on the plant lady. Lagoon Boy mistakingly calls Impulse the Flash, and Impulse proclaims that "Miss Herbal Life is getting her hedges trimmed — or my name isn't ... Bart ..." He kind of trailed off at the end of gloat, not because he realized he was giving away his secret identity, but because the plant lady caused a large tree to suddenly sprout in front of the speedster. Impulse crashed hard into the tree, causing Robin to cover his eyes, Superboy his ears, and Lagoon Boy his mouth. Lagoon Boy thinks this is all a big game and that Impulse said his name was Bark. Robin groans that Nightwing never had days like this with the Titans.

And then Robin's worst fear comes true — Batman arrives. Armed with a gas mask and a special glove, Batman addresses the plant lady, saying he knows this is Poison Ivy's turf, and these boys are just lost. He suggests they say they're even and call it a night. Lagoon Boy is simply overjoyed to see the Dark Knight in the flesh, and is really hoping he can see Poison Ivy, as well. But Robin calls it quits and says he's done.

The plant lady doesn't listen to Batman and grabs the still dazed Impulse. Batman gives Impulse his gas mask and begins fighting the lady. Superboy wants to help, but Robin tells him he'll just get in the way. Sure enough, Batman has little trouble with the plant lady, easily freeing Impulse before blasting the lady with some herbicide from his glove. As the plant lady shrivels and dies, Batman explains to the boys that the locals called her Ferak, and she was one of Poison Ivy's creations — never truly alive. Batman then tells the boys the same thing he told the JLA — to get out and stay out of his city. He promises to talk to Robin more about this, then swings off, while the boys sadly load into the Super-Cycle, with Superboy bemoaning the loss of the beautiful Ferak.

As the boys fly back home (somehow avoiding the U.S. marshals), Robin complains how they just got their butts kicked by a plant lady, and now Batman is going to come up with new ways to punish them. Impulse is trying to sleep in the back, but he's disturbed by Lagoon Boy excitedly talking about how this was the best day of his life. He recounts his adventures, including his run-in with the Kobra submarines, which prompts Robin to slam on the brakes.

Robin asks Lagoon Boy where he last saw the subs, then decides to redeem the day by doing something useful. He orders Superboy and Lagoon Boy to dive in the water and lead the charge, while he converts the cycle into a submarine. While Superboy begins smashing up the Kobra subs, we get one small panel showing the girls of Young Justice wondering what the boys are up to. Secret and Arrowette are reading Super Hunks magazine, while Wonder Girl works out with enormous weights. (I'm 90 percent convinced this panel was a last-minute addition to the comic because the writers genuinely forgot those characters existed.)

Back to the fight, Robin has taken the Super-Cycle underwater, but he's still worried about Impulse. But Impulse says he and Kobra go way back (which is true), and he wouldn't sit this out for anything. The cycle then provides Impulse a video game controller and visor to man the weapons, and he gleefully mocks Max for saying video games have no educational value.

With their subs sinking, the Kobra cultists decide to abandon their plans of conquering Gotham and instead destroy it with their bio-chem torpedoes. Impulse blasts all the torpedoes, while Lagoon Boy is joined by one of his Atlantean friends — Blubber, a whale with robotic arms and legs. Lagoon Boy excitedly starts bragging to Blubber about how he met Batman, and Superboy has to remind the two "Land Lovers" that they're the good guys, which means they need to make sure all the Kobra cultists safely escape the sinking subs.

All the Kobras get away, and one of them shouts that the Naja-Naja will triumph. Our heroes have a hard time hearing him, and Impulse thinks he said, "Nyaah nyaah," which Superboy calls "bass ackwards." With no talk of actually putting the Kobras in custody, the boys of Young Justice bid farewell to Lagoon Boy and Blubber. Robin admits the day wasn't a total wash, and Impulse says the only downside was that they hacked off Robin's dad, Batman. This gives Robin a big laugh, which Superboy and Impulse think must be caused from him spending too much time in caves.

This was a pretty fun one-shot that did a good job of giving Young Justice a taste of No Man's Land without interrupting the regular series. Of course, Peter David would have remembered that there are six members of Young Justice, and Todd Nauck's art would have been much better. But what we got wasn't that bad. I'm not that big of a fan of Andy Kuhn's style, but I will give him credit for making sure Impulse was constantly doing something hilarious in the background.

The biggest disappointment in this issue was Lagoon Boy. He showed up for no reason and ultimately did absolutely nothing. Even when he was in the water, supposedly helping fight the submarines, we never saw him throw a single punch. If DC was trying to promote Lagoon Boy as an equal of Young Justice, then they should have shown him as more than an excited fanboy.

There aren't any letters or editor's notes, so let's dive in on the few new ads:

The original super team ... reborn for the new millennium! JSA.

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Where were you when you first saw this comic? Giant Batman Annual.

Superman faster than a speeding bullet ... to an ARC distributor near you. Begin your Superman die-cast collection with this Jeff Gordon NASCAR replica.

Next time, we'll return to the full team with Young Justice #10.

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