Friday, May 27, 2016

Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #5

The Subs Part One

Geoff Johns & Lee Moder Writer/Storytellers/Penciller
Dan Davis Inks
Tom McCraw Colors
Bill Oakley Letters
Heroic Age Separators
Mike Carlin Editor
Courtney Whitmore created by Geoff Johns & Lee Moder

Step aside, Young Justice! Star and S.T.R.I.P.E. rule this cover, as do their artists, Lee Moder, Dan Davis, and Richard and Tanya Horie! It is a fun concept for a cover, especially for an issue that prominently guest stars the top teenage team. I'm just not a fan of Moder's work. Everyone looks wonky here. The execution dampens the excitement.

Last time we saw Young Justice in this series, they began making plans to check out this new Star-Spangled Kid. Well, now is apparently the day to do just so. The entire team, including Red Tornado, has decided to visit Blue Valley High School. They hide the Super-Cycle in a swamp near the school, which I find odd because Blue Valley is in Nebraska, not exactly known for its swamps, and the Super-Cycle could simply fly away and come back when Robin whistled for it.

Anyway, Superboy and Impulse take a quick peek at the girls of Blue Valley High, and Superboy says this is definitely a mission for him. Impulse doesn't get it, and Superboy gives him a hard time, saying Wally, a legendary ladies' man, should have taught him a thing or two about such things. Robin gets their attention by throwing a batarang at their heads, then asks them to help cover up the Super-Cycle.  Impulse wants to quickly do the whole job himself, but Red Tornado tells him not to use his super-speed, saying it'll cause more harm than good.

Robin then orders Impulse and Superboy to get into their disguises. Robin will be a blonde named Jeremy Johnson, Superboy will be a geek named Carl Grummet (in honor of Superboy creators Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet), and Impulse will be a skater named Wade (in honor of Impulse creator Mark Waid). We don't get a last name for "Wade," but it probably was something close to Wieringo. Sadly, I can't think of any specific comic creators Jeremy Johnson is a reference to.

Superboy and Impulse still don't see the need for this elaborate undercover mission, so Robin explains. Their mission is to find the new Star-Spangled Kid, see what he's like and see if they can count on him when they need a helping hand. And Robin wants to do this subtly to avoid the all-too-often big fist fight between superheroes.

Superboy is willing to concede to that point, but he's still upset that he has to play the geek. Robin strokes his ego by saying he has the necessary acting skills to pull off the geek that Impulse lacks. The three boys then bump into Courtney Whitmore, and Robin nearly drops a device given to them by Doctor Magnus that's supposed to pick up residue from the Star-Spangled Kid's power belt. (This is another odd bit of this story, as Young Justice has never had any interaction with Doc Magnus previously.)

Meanwhile, Wonder Girl, Arrowette and Secret are out scouting in the swamp. Wonder Girl and Arrowette complain about all the bugs, but Secret seems to enjoy the mud. Robin reminds them about the cosmic residue out there that their radar picked up, which he believes could be the Star-Spangled Kid's hideout. And Superboy and Impulse remind the girls that they drew the short straw. And Red Tornado tells everyone to get back to work, while he creates fake school records for the boys and searches the existing school records for any Pembertons.

The boys head to their first class, which is a bit unruly because it has a substitute teacher. Impulse enjoys the chaos, and Superboy has a hard time figuring out if the sub is a man or a woman. And Robin is perplexed when his device starts going ballistic around the teacher named Pozer. Out in the swamp, the girls, aided by their own device, come across a large alien spacecraft, and they wonder if they should call Red Tornado. We then see that at least one teacher is working with a shadowy figure who is aware of Young Justice's visit to the school. But the villain doesn't want to attract any attention to his schemes, telling the teacher to wait to enact his plan until after the heroes have left.

The boys' next class is gym, which also has a substitute teacher, who also causes Robin's device to go off. The sub has the class play dodge ball, and Superboy is immediately struck out because he was too busy making fun of Robin for not going on any dates. Impulse seems distracted by the game, and Robin tells him this is a good opportunity to work on his focus. But Bart loses track of the ball and gets knocked out, too. Robin tells Impulse not to feel bad for losing his concentration, saying it took him years to perfect his. As soon as he says that, though, he gets distracted by Courtney again, and gets hit by a ball. As he walks off the court, Robin remarks that Batman would kill him for that.

After school, the boys are hanging out in the gym where the cheerleader tryouts are set to begin. Superboy thoroughly enjoyed his day at school, saying they should do this more often. Robin tells him they're not there to flirt with girls, but Superboy counters by pointing out how Robin became smitten by Courtney. All the substitute teachers then suspiciously march through the gym, talking about an emergency meeting away from all this "variety." Robin's device goes wild once again, and Impulse finally asks, "What are we waiting for?" Courtney also noticed the odd behavior of the subs and decides to investigate as the Star-Spangled Kid.

The subs meet in the faculty lounge and quickly reveal themselves to be blue aliens with a device that will transform humans into other Laroonians just like them. The boys burst through the window, Courtney bursts through the door, and Robin calls in Red Tornado to help. Robin is surprised to see that the Star-Spangled Kid is a girl, but is still happy to fight alongside her, anyway.

Courtney's stepfather, Pat Dugan, picks up an alert on his watch that Courtney has activated her power belt, so he quickly arrives in his S.T.R.I.P.E. suit. Red Tornado mistakes this as an enemy, but Courtney quickly vouches for him. Impulse pauses to compliment her on her cool robot, but this leaves the two of them vulnerable to the Laroonians' ray gun. The Star-Spangled Kid and Impulse are blasted with the blue ray, and are transformed into bald, blue aliens. Courtney moans that she does not need this, but Bart thinks it's pretty cool that he now has pointy ears.

This was a pretty fun, but slightly frustrating issue. The school day went by surprisingly quick, and the heroes of Young Justice were surprisingly slow on the uptake. Why did it take Red Tornado all day to sort through the school records? Why didn't the girls report to Red or Robin that they found an alien spaceship out in the swamp? And what were they for the rest of the day? I know this is just a fun, light story, but it seemed a bit too simplistic for me, and made Young Justice look incompetent. And Moder's art nearly ruined the whole issue.

None of the letters to the editor mention Young Justice (unsurprisingly), so let's head over to the ads:

They were the heroes of tomorrow. Full of dreams and ideals. United to protect a near-utopian galaxy. Then the blight came. Legion of Super-Heroes. Legion of the Damned.

He inherited the power. But can he fill the boots? Son of Superman.

When you're at the top of the evolutionary ladder, there's only one way to go: down! JLA Primeval.

Next time, the team will once again don civilian disguises, although in a much more serious story in Young Justice #15.

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