Sunday, June 25, 2017

Superboy #91

War Letters

Joe Kelly Writer
Pascual Ferry Pencils
Keith Champagne Inks
Jason Wright Colors
Digital Chameleon Seps
Comicraft Letters
McAvennie Editor

Cover by Pascual Ferry & Keith Champagne. Now this is an appropriate cover for Our Worlds at War. It's dark. It's bleak. It's depressing. And it perfectly matches this story. Young Justice is stranded on the hellish planet of Apokolips, where half their team has been kidnapped and two of their members have essentially been killed. We're in the Casualties of War phase, and Young Justice has been hit as hard as any superhero team.

This issue is divided into three stories told concurrently. One is told by one of Superman's robots, detailing Krypto's efforts to save people around the world and protect the Fortress of Solitude from an Imperiex probe. The other story is a letter Guardian is writing to the families of the fallen soldiers who joined him and the Human Bomb in an attack against an Imperiex probe in South America. But the story we care about is a letter from Superboy to his friend, Serling.

Superboy starts his tale with Young Justice rescuing the injured JLA from space. (Apparently Superboy can manipulate his tactile telekinesis to create a "space suit" for himself.) Kon is creeped out by the Martian Manhunter's mangled form, and he personally carries Green Lantern into the Paradocs, where we see Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and the Flash being treated. In his letter, Kon admits to feeling guilty about thinking of rising through the ranks to replace fallen members of the JLA. But in his mind's eye, he doesn't see Young Justice surviving this war, either.

We then see Young Justice in Impulse's spaceship, The Max, abruptly change course to follow the Black Racer and Steel. Superboy explains that he's the best fit to lead Young Justice on this mission because he's had the most experience with adventures in outer space. He writes that Robin began to crack under pressure, and he says that even though he doesn't want to be on Apokolips, it's his duty to put his head down and get the job done.

As we're given a flashback of Superboy, Wonder Girl, Cissie and Impulse arriving at Darkseid's citadel, Kon tells a joke about a soldier saying, "War is swell." The soldier's partner is shocked to hear him say that, but then he sees the soldier has a piece of shrapnel in his mouth and was trying to say, "War is hell." Superboy admits it's a bad joke, then moves on to describe what happened to Impulse, prefacing it with, "Something bad happened."

Superboy takes responsibility for Impulse's accident, saying if he didn't push Robin and act like a big man, then he wouldn't have killed one of his best friends. After staring helplessly at Impulse's shaking, quivering body, Superboy begins to weep and flies up into space to get away from this horrific scene. But to make matters even worse, Superboy sees the entire planet become enveloped in a boom tube and transported away from Earth's orbit and to the other side of the universe. Seeing that it's now become even harder to return home, Superboy slumps down on a building. Never having felt so scared or helpless, Kon writes, "Wake me up, please. This isn't fun anymore."

I really liked this issue. It didn't cover a whole lot of new ground, but it did provide an emotional insight into Superboy's thought process during this whole event. And Pascual Ferry gave us a unique, haunting image of Bart's scout dying. That panel alone is worth the price of admission. I also enjoyed the other two stories in this issue, but I would preferred to have given all the pages to Superboy's tale. It would have been nice to have seen even more of Young Justice rescue wounded heroes before going to Apokolips. And, not to spoil too much of next issue, but we will see that the rest of Young Justice will also have been kidnapped by Granny Goodness off page. This issue would have been the only logical place to show that, and I'm sad we didn't get it.

This issue joins Young Justice #36 and Impulse #77 in the Superman: Our Worlds at War Book Two trade paperback. One advantage this trade has over the first one is that it devoted a whole page to each issue's cover instead of squeezing two on a page. However, the covers are relegated to the back once again, creating a few awkward transitions. This trade also suffers from an exclusion of some really important issues that showed important moments in the fights against Imperiex and Brainiac 13. The omission that hurts most for this blog is Young Justice #37, which will show how our teenage heroes get off Apokolips. Instead of that, we do get a couple of pages at the end of World's Finest: Our Worlds at War #1, drawn by Todd Nauck showing Young Justice make it back to Earth. It's an emotional scene, but it doesn't include Impulse, so we're not covering it here. Finally, the biggest problem with this trade paperback is the cover. It is drawn by Mike Wieringo, and it is drawn well. It just portrays a completely insignificant fight in the midst of a massive that had so many huge moments and casualties.

Ultimately, though, I am glad that Impulse earned the status of having a "death" in a massive, company-wide crossover. And in this trade paperback, Impulse was a major part of three of the ten issues inside, which I think is huge for a character who was only ever a background character in the previous DC events (beside Sins of Youth). For the most part, I'd say I did enjoy Our Worlds at War. It's big, it's wild, the stakes feel real and the costs are devastating. However, because this event lacked a dedicated miniseries, it suffered from pacing problems, clumsy transitions and continuity flubs. Reading the two official trade paperbacks will give you an incomplete picture of the story, but reading everything marked with Our Worlds at War will waste a lot of your time with nonessential filler.

By sheer coincidence, Our Worlds at War wrapped up just before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I wonder how this story would have changed if it were written after 9/11. In any case, I do see this as a time of transition for Impulse, Young Justice and DC as a whole. It's hard to go back to simple, silly stories after going through such serious, traumatic events both in the comics and in real life. As DC shifts into a darker tone, the light-hearted series of Impulse, Superboy and even Young Justice will begin their countdown to cancellation.

Next time, we'll move to comics with a November 2001 publication date, beginning with a very quick cameo in Flash Secret Files and Origins #3.

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