Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Young Justice: Our Worlds at War #1

Comedy of Eras

Writers Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Penciller Todd Nauck
Inkers Ray Snyder, Terry Austin, Randy Emberlin, Jaime Mendoza, Walden Wong, John Stokes
Letterer John F. Workman Jr.
Colorist Tom McCraw
Separations Digital Chameleon
Assistant Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

Cover photo: Jae Lee and José Villarrubia, colors.

So here it is, the big event of 2001. Our Worlds at War was primarily a Superman story, but it included basically the entire DC Universe. Unlike previous events, such as Genesis or DC One Million, Our Worlds at War didn't have its own miniseries. Instead, it played out in the regular issues of dozens of titles and included a handful of one-shots, such as this one. Our World at War was also divided into three parts, Prelude to War, All-Out War and Casualties of War. This is part of the Prelude to War. Confused yet? Don't worry, we'll be spending plenty of time in this big event to give you a chance to figure it out.

By the way, I'm not a fan of this cover at all. Very rarely do I ever enjoy a Jae Lee piece, and this is not one of those times. I do like the war motif, although it seems someone should be playing the fife (preferably Impulse). Of course, that would give it a much sillier vibe than it currently has, but then again, how serious can you really be with an old, 13 colonies flag and Superboy with a snare drum? Plus, the story inside is rather silly, itself (unlike the whole of Our Worlds at War). Ultimately, though, I think Lee just made Young Justice look too young. Superboy looks like he's six. Everybody's heads are too big, their arms are too short, and in general, nothing seems to work.

Our story picks up with the ending of last issue of Superboy at the abandoned Cadmus facility outside Metropolis. Superboy is in big trouble for kidnapping the infant clone of Guardian, and somebody has apparently sent Young Justice after Kon (sadly, we never find out who told Young Justice to attack their teammate). Wonder Girl and Robin yell at Superboy for absconding with top-secret government property, but Superboy wonders when babies are considered property. Lobo is eager to get the actual fighting started, so he lifts up a huge box and prepares to smash the Kid with it.

As everybody rushes forward to stop Lobo, they're suddenly frozen in place. Liri Lee of the Linear Men appears and tells Young Justice they've been drafted. Apparently a renegade artificial intelligence is ravaging the timeline and is threatening to annihilate the entire continuum. Liri says Young Justice was the only superhero team the Linear Men have been able to contact and she gives Robin a  temporal compass (looks like half a steering wheel with an electronic display in the center). Liri explains that the compass will take Young Justice to the moment in time when this evil consciousness is at its weakest, and they need to stop it to save everything they know and care about. She disappears, and a moment later, our teenage heroes also vanish into thin air.

Young Justice is flung into the rainbow, psychedelic world of the time stream. Robin angrily says he does not need this right now, while Impulse cheers, "Weeeeee!" Lobo asks Robins to get them to "fly straight," and Robin starts pushing buttons to try to stop them from spinning out of control. Wonder Girl begs Robin to try faster, and Impulse (who has had his share of time travel experience) comments on how time traveling always makes his head hurt. Lobo grows impatient, grabs the temporal compass from Robin, and pushes something that makes the display say, "Alert! Coordinates reset!"

The team falls into a quiet cornfield. Robin makes sure Empress is alright, then demands that Lobo give him back the compass. Wonder Girl says this doesn't look like a place where an artificial intelligence would make a stand. Impulse has fallen on top of Lobo, who threatens to put "Bart-brat" in diapers for the rest of his life if he doesn't get off him. Superboy calls Lobo "Spaz-bo" and jumps on him for getting them lost in time. Bart warns the two to stop fighting for fear of breaking the compass. He takes the device from Lobo and reads that they're now apparently in Mexico, circa 1500 A.D. Bart asks where Mexico Circa is and wonders why his head is pounding.

The source of the pounding is a fleeing army of Spanish conquistadors, so frightened they don't even notice the teenage superheroes they're trampling. Lobo, Superboy and Robin begin fighting for control of the compass again, but they're immediately interrupted by the arrival of an army of Aztec warriors with jet-bikes, laser guns and artificial wings. Lobo is hit by one of the jet-bikes and drops the time compass. Robin dives for it, but he is also hit by a passing warrior, and is knocked out.

When Robin wakes up, he finds that he and his teammates have all been captured by the Aztecs and are secured with energy bands on their wrists and ankles (Secret is in a glass tube). Lobo and Superboy are still shouting at each other and Wonder Girl yells at them to shut up, saying she doesn't want the last thing she hears before she's sacrificed to be them crabbing. The temporal compass is in the hands of the leader of the Aztecs, who offers a prayer to the "Disk of Fire" and vows to remove the living hearts of his enemies.

The leader, who is a green robot, moves to begin the ceremonial executions, so Robin signals the team to escape. And ... I'm not exactly sure how they escape. Secret flies out of her prison with no problem, and then we see Impulse running around and breaking everyone's bonds, but I don't know how he got out. It kind of looks like Superboy undid Impulse's ankle bond, but then how did Superboy get free? (I know, this isn't that important. I'm just surprised to see a rare moment of unclear action from Todd Nauck.)

Anyway, our heroes break free and Robin orders them to recover the time compass. Superboy adds to not let "Slo-bo" mess with it. Lobo warns "Stupid-boy" to watch the mouth, and Wonder Girl asks where the Aztecs got this "Az-tech." Empress speculates that this is the work of the renegade computer sentience they've been sent to stop. As everybody fights the Aztecs, Secret flies up the air and begins blocking out the sun. Superboy makes his way to the robotic leader, and before their fight begins, the robot shuts down. Apparently the robot and all the "Az-tech" was solar-powered, and with Secret's cloud cover, they're now obsolete. Superboy takes the compass back and destroys the robot with a single punch. Impulse says, "Superboy's broken their leader. Can we go now?" Robin agrees and asks Kon to hand over the device, but Superboy insists he can handle it and pushes a button that sends everyone flying through time once more.

Impulse, Superboy, Lobo and Secret pop out on top of an enormous robot that is one of several marching across a desolate landscape. Superboy reads the compass, which says they're now at the Russian Steppes, circa A.D. 2500, the era known as the "Great Shut-Down." Lobo continues berating Kon, and Secret and Impulse try to get them to stop fighting. Eventually, Secret is forced to physically separate Superboy and Lobo, and she asks Impulse to try to find a way into the robot. Impulse's initial search comes up empty (I'm not sure why he didn't try vibrating through it), so Superboy and Lobo begin trying to bust a way in. Secret, however, finds a small crack and slips through it.

Inside the robot is Empress, Robin, Wonder Girl and a massive army of Red Tornado robots. Just as Secret catches up with her friends, a hologram of a green robot's head comes on, announcing himself as Brainiac 13. He orders the slave units of the sovereign robotic nations to prepare for the execution of the memory-wipe of the Great Disruptor. Robin speculates that Brainiac 13 must be the renegade consciousness the Linear Men sent them to stop, but Wonder Girl feels he might be a bit out of their league. She also notes the similarity of Brainiac 13 to the "Aztec priest guy" and asks who the Great Disruptor is.

Huge doors open up on the enormous robot, and dozens of robots come flying out. Not only is there the army of Red Tornados, but tons others based on the Metal Men, Amazo, Cyborg, Hourman and Metallo. The robots fly toward an opposing army of equally large red-and-black robots, and a fierce battle begins. All our heroes are reunited, and while Lobo is thrilled by the carnage, everyone else seems a bit nervous, especially Impulse. Robin believes they're still not where they're supposed to be, and he angrily demands that Kon give him back the compass. But a panicked Bart has stolen it and desperately begins pressing buttons. Impulse manages to hit the right button just a split second before a huge laser blast obliterated the robot Young Justice was standing on.

For the third time, our team is hurtling through the time stream. But this time, they pass by a peculiar sight — Nightwing and Oracle in an old car. Bart asks for a ride to Manchester, Wonder Girl and Oracle say, "That isn't ... is it?" And Robin and Nightwing say, "Naaaaah." Finally, Young Justice land in a new place, this time the JLA Watchtower on the moon. But both the station and the moon have seen better days. Bart begins running around everywhere, unable to find anybody else. Robin gets him to slow down and read the display on the compass, which says they're in the year A.D. 2020. Superboy suggests they turn on the links to the video feed, which Bart quickly does.

On the screens, our heroes see adult versions of themselves desperately battling the same red-and-black robots they just escaped. The adult versions of Young Justice are fighting alongside the Ray, Blue Beetle, Power Girl, Doctor Fate, Lagoon Boy, Beast Boy, Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, Plastic Man, Atom, Captain Marvel Jr., the Star-Spangled Kid, Damage and a few others I know I'm missing.  Lobo is dismayed to see he's still on Earth 20 years later, Superboy says this is just like Sins of Youth all over again, and everyone else stares in awe at their adult selves and the Armageddon they're battling. Everyone except Impulse. He notices that his adult self is nowhere to be seen on the monitors, and he repeatedly asks in a panic where he is.

Superboy points out the enemy they'd supposedly be battling in 2020, and Robin reads the JLA computer that identifies him as an Imperiex probe. Feeling the gravity of the situation, Superboy starts to explain to Robin why he took the baby Guardian. But he's interrupted by the literal destruction of the Earth. The Imperiex probe had placed a bunch of large devices around the planet that hollowed it out. The hollowers convert Earth into energy, which is then sucked up into Imperiex's planet-sized ship. The Earth, now completely dead, is just an empty husk leftover that quickly collapses on itself and becomes a black hole. As the black hole begins to destroy the moon and Watchtower, Wonder Girl grabs the compass from Impulse and puts everyone back in the time stream.

Our heroes end up in a spaceship in United Planets territory in A.D. 3004. They're immediately confronted by Tarok, the Persuader, Mano, Validus and the Emerald Empress — a.k.a the Fatal Five. Everybody prepares for a battle, but they're suddenly stopped by a young man wearing a Superman outfit. Young Justice thinks he's Superboy, but Kon recognizes him as Valor, or M'Onel as he goes by now. M'Onel doesn't know how Young Justice arrived here, but he is thrilled to see them, saying he and his team are in desperate need of some help. And he introduces Young Justice to the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Bart is reunited with Jenni Ognats, who asks how her favorite time-lost cousin is doing, but Bart first has to clarify that she is talking about him. Empress and Wonder Girl are having fun conversations with their hosts, while Lobo sizes up the Fatal Five. Robin, Superboy and Secret are talking to M'Onel, who explains that they're facing a threat so fierce, they were forced to team up with their old enemies, including the Fatal Five. He also adopted the old Superman costume to try to be a source of inspiration during this war against, you guessed it, Imperiex. Brainiac 5 (another lost friend of Impulse's) has somehow fused with Brainiac 13 and is coordinating the Legion's battles in 97 separate locations. M'Onel asks Young Justice to stay and help them fight, but Robin believes they'll help out more by completing their original mission. And now that he's finally got his hands back on the temporal compass, he can actually send them to where they are supposed to go.

Young Justice arrives in a black void, and Robin reports that the compass says they're at a time so remote that dates as they understand them no longer apply. Superboy interprets this as nowhere and nowhen, and criticizes Robin for bailing on the Legion when they needed help. As Robin explains his rationale, our heroes are surrounded by large, green circuitry and odd mechanical orbs. They're soon met by Waverider, who says he's been tracking their time-hops and he's pretty upset that they've delayed their attack on Brainiac 13. Our heroes are surprised that Waverider wants them to battle Brainiac 13, and Robin explains that, based on their "unscheduled stopovers," it appears that Imperiex is the true threat.

Waverider criticizes the children for being ignorant, and he plays them a video showing that in this time, Brainiac 13 has remade the very fabric of the cosmos into his computerized image, leaving the last few vestiges of organic life to struggle in a pitiful existence until they are hunted down and exterminated by Brainiac 13. But right now, Brainiac 13 is a giant robot just below our heroes, vulnerable because he's downloading his consciousness throughout time to wage his war against Imperiex. But this still doesn't convince Young Justice. Robin says that even though Brainiac 13 obviously isn't a hero, the universe seems to be benefitting from his presence. Wonder Girl points out that this future is just a possibility, with nothing written in stone, and Superboy questions the Linear Men's real agenda.

Waverider is exasperated by their defiance, but he sees an Imperiex probe approaching, which he believes will destroy Brainiac 13 for him. So he takes off, telling Young Justice they're no longer required. Robin encourages the team to stick with their principles and follow their gut instincts that tell them to stop Imperiex. Everybody enjoyed this plan, especially Superboy, who wants to have a conversation about following your instinct after this is all over. So a big fight ensues, but nobody is able to make even a dent on Imperiex. Empress tries to use her psychic powers to stop Imperiex's movement, but she apparently needs to draw power from living organisms around her, of which there are none in this bleak future.

Superboy eventually asks Robin to find a way to get Brainiac 13 to help them out, and somehow, someway, Robin is able to rig the temporal compass to send Brainiac 13 a warning through time. Robin's plan works, and the giant Brainiac 13 comes to life to fight the Imperiex probe, which grows in size to match its foe. Brainiac 13 gains the upper hand and rips off a chunk of Imperiex's armor, causing a huge release of energy that would surely be deadly for our teenage heroes. Luckily, Robin is able to send them all back home right in the nick of time.

As everybody falls down in the abandoned Cadmus facility, Robin expresses second doubts about their choice. Wonder Girl exclaims that Imperiex clearly was the bad guy, and Empress asks if they really did just save the world. Impulse once again asks where he was in the future, and Anita and Cassie assure him that the future's not written and anything can still happen. Superboy resumes his conversation with Robin, who agrees to go with his gut and let Kon off the hook. But he does remind him that he's now going up against the U.S. government. Lobo decides to remind Superboy of what will happen, and he lifts up the big box he had at the beginning.

The last page is an article from the National Whisper called, "Growing pains for Young Justice? Psychic says immaturity may be team's downfall." The article quotes Bella Fortuna, who claims the problems will begin with Superboy, who may be too young to be a father but has a young boy in his future ... or is it an older man, perhaps his grandfather? As for Robin, Fortuna foresees a lack in confidence, shattered self-esteem and perhaps a weight gain of 200 pounds. Fortuna says Wonder Girl will meet a nice young man and outgrow Young Justice, but she has a friend with a secret and a dark side that may be too much for her to handle. As for Impulse, Fortuna says, "He runs too fast. My visions of him are all blurry, and they give me a migraine."

This issue once again shows the amazing power of Todd Nauck. He cranked out this 38-page time-traveling adventure without missing a beat on the Young Justice series. This issue also shows me how valuable inker Lary Stucker and letterer Ken Lopez are. I never appreciate such aspects of comics until I see someone else handle them. Still, though, the inking wasn't that bad in this issue, especially considering that the tight deadlines required six inkers.

As for the story? Well, I was a little mixed on it. It was a lot of fun to have Young Justice constantly bickering as they're flung around through time. And it is always neat to see a bunch of possible futures. But I did have a few problems. First, who sent Young Justice after Superboy for absconding with government property? It feels completely against their character to side with the government over one of their own. Remember, one of the very first things they did as a team was lie to the government and the JLA about Secret. Second, I didn't like how Young Justice instantly and unanimously decided to side with Brainiac 13 vs. Imperiex. Can't these kids recognize that this is a complex matter and both Brainiac 13 and Imperiex are awful beings that would each destroy the Earth? Third, it was just a bit too convenient for Robin to completely master the temporal compass like that. I know he's good with technology, but being able to send messages to Brainiac 13 in the past? Seems a bit much.

Ultimately, this story's biggest weakness was that it was entirely inconsequential. (Which is why it wasn't included in the Our Worlds at War trade paperback.) But think about it. Young Justice didn't do anything in this issue. They got a glimpse of the destructive power of Imperiex and Brainiac 13. Then they went back to right where they began. The most interesting thing, actually, was the implication that Impulse might not survive this war. As we saw in the most recent Impulsive Reactions, this was a rumor DC was playing up at the time. And I kind of like. It's sort of a badge of honor to be considered significant enough that your death would have an impact in a big event comic. Barry died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally almost died in Zero Hour, will Bart die in Our Worlds at War?

Naturally there aren't any letters to the editor, so let's check out the new advertisements:

3,000 years in the making. Magic: The Gathering – Apocalypse Invasion Cycle Book III.

Sooner or later you're gonna have to be "skins." Oxo Balance shower gel.

Hey, Kids! Comics talks about Our Worlds at War, promising three months of crossovers. It also talks about a 240-page anthology called Bizarro Comics.

Win instantly a trip to WWF WrestleMania through Corn Nuts.

The Vans Warped Tour a family classic!

Are you getting enough? Six Flags.

I believe comic book heroes walk the earth. Unbreakable out on DVD.

Next time, we continue the Prelude to War with Superman: Our Worlds at War Secret Files & Origins #1.

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