Saturday, June 17, 2017

Young Justice #36

Kissing on the Apokolips

Peter David – Writer
Todd Nauck – Penciller
Marlo Alquiza – Inker
Ken Lopez – Letterer
Jason Wright – Colorist
Digital Chameleon – Separations
Tom Palmer, Jr. – Assistant Editor
Eddie Berganza – Editor

Our cover is by Todd Nauck and Marlo Alquiza, and although I always prefer Lary Stucker, I do have to say that Alquiza does a really good job filling in. I love the concept of this cover — putting our characters in black and letting only a few colors peek through. We've officially moved into the Casualties of War phase, and the darkness of the cover reflects the darkness of the story. Our four main heroes are front and center, with the others near the wreck of Impulse's spaceship (now decorated with the Paradocs symbol). I especially like the effect done on Secret to make her look semi-transparent. The only nit I'd pick on this cover is the color scheme. They're on Apokolips, which always has had a very red color scheme (including inside this book). But then again, I do appreciate the symbolic darkness we have here, so I'm torn.

Our story begins probably just seconds after the image on the cover happened. Young Justice has just crash landed on Apokolips, and, to everyone's horror, Robin and Superboy have begun attacking each other. Wonder Girl is the first to try to break up the fight, reminding the two that they're friends.

Robin says a friend wouldn't have crossed them up like Superboy did. Superboy insists he only did what he thought was right and the only reasons he hasn't used his tactile telekinesis on Robin is because he's his friend. But when Robin angrily flips Superboy off him, insinuating that he'd still beat him even with his powers, Kon prepares to attack again, vowing to not hold anything back this time. Wonder Girl steps in front of Superboy and Secret creates a barrier around Robin. But Robin bristles at the girls' help and blames Superboy for bringing them to Apokolips. He also points out that the last time Superboy sabotaged the team, he turned out to be Match, so Robin wonders what his excuse is this time.

Superboy suggests that Batman may have given Robin some tips for handling them, and Wonder Girl tries to tell him not to bring up this topic, while Lobo lazily plays with a yo-yo. Robin insists that Superboy elaborate on his comment, which Kon gladly does. He reveals that the entire team heard about how Batman kept secret files, detailing all the weaknesses of each member of the JLA. Since then, they've all been wondering if Robin, as Batman's protégé, also has files on his teammates. Robin says Batman has his own way of doing things, and he turns to the others to see what they have to say on this topic.

Impulse is the first to speak up, saying it's only natural to be a little worried, considering Robin's association with Batman. Cissie says that even though this doesn't affect her directly since she's no longer Arrowette, she does understand the concern. Robin directly asks Cassie what she thinks, and she nervously says that as Wonder Girl, it's only natural for her to wonder. Secret says she trusts Robin implicitly and doesn't care what the others say. Empress points out that if any member of the JLA had been taken over by an outside force, then everybody would have been thanking Batman for his foresight, and, by extension, Robin. Lobo sees that everyone's taking sides, so he chooses Robin, because he didn't back down when Lobo got in has face. Of course, Lobo clarifies that he's not respecting Robin for his courage, but that he views the Boy Wonder as dumb as a rock and therefore not a threat. Robin still thanks Lobo for his support, though.

So Robin finally comes clean and tells his teammates that he does not have files on them. He says that he actually has friends, whereas Batman merely has associates, something that's becoming more clear to him. With that out of the way, Robin says they now have two issues to worry about. First, since they're on Apokolips, they might as well try to save the person they came looking for. Luckily, this hero is wearing armor that was equipped with a standard-issue Paradocs tracker, and Cissie has a scanner that has located their missing person about 20 miles north of them. The second problem Robin points out is their ship, which needs to be repaired before they can even think about leaving Apokolips. Lobo reports that he spotted a small ship port just south of them as they were crash-landing. He believes that they can find whatever parts they need down there to fix Impulse's ship, The Max.

Robin orders Superboy, Wonder Girl, Cissie and Impulse to find their patient and bring him back, while the rest of them help Lobo with the ship. Superboy points out that Robin just happens to be sending away the four people that don't trust him, but Robin justifies his decision by saying he chose two of the strongest members, the fastest member and the one medical expert for this recon mission. Superboy admits this makes sense, and he starts to apologize, but Robin brushes him off, saying that Kon got them into this mess, and now he's trying to get them out of it. If Superboy doesn't support his efforts, Robin contends, than that says more about him than Robin.

We then jump back to what really is the beginning of our story. Young Justice has already been working for a bit as the Paradocs' Search and Rescue team, and now they've been given the assignment to retrieve the wounded members of Suicide Squad from the Moon. It takes The Max long enough to fly there for Robin to play a game of Solitaire and for Anita to braid Cissie's hair. Lobo is the pilot, Impulse the co-pilot, and Superboy the loudest critic of being asked to rescue supervillains. Lobo thinks Suicide Squad is a stupid name, and when Impulse asks what he thinks about the name Young Justice, he says it's even dumber. Cassie is still trying to get Cissie to be Arrowette again, but it seems now she's taken a more joking tone, coming up with silly archer-related names instead of Arrowette. But the girls' brief moment of levity is spoiled by Secret suddenly growing stiff, staring wide-eyed into the distance, and reporting the arrival of Death. On skis.

Lobo also says he sees Death approaching, so Robin orders everyone to battle stations (taking time to compliment Cissie on her hair). However, none of the scans pick up anything, and even Impulse in the co-pilot seat can't see what Lobo can see and Secret can sense. That is, until a black man on skis appears in the ship, with the unconscious body of Steel trailing behind him. Superboy steps in front of the Black Racer to try to save Steel, but the Racer just phases through him like the Super-Cycle would. Secret then tries to stop him, but even she fails. The Black Racer (and Steel) then pass through the ship and back out into space. Superboy demands that they change their course to go after Steel, but Robin insists that they stick to their mission. While they argue the merits of rescuing heroes over villains vs. duty and obligation, Lobo steers the ship in the Black Racer's direction, claiming a personal history with the embodiment of death. Robin tries to stop Lobo, but Superboy physically pulls Robin back, saying they're doing the right thing even if Robin doesn't agree.

Robin wasn't surprised by Lobo's erratic behavior, but he was genuinely hurt by Superboy's betrayal and the fact that no one, other than Secret, stepped up to defend him. However, Secret's intervention was too little too late, as The Max has arrived at Apokolips. And is promptly shot down. Luckily, Lobo is an amazing pilot, and he was able to land the damaged ship without anyone being injured. And that catches us up to where this issue began.

Superboy, Wonder Girl, Impulse and Cissie have headed north to find Steel, while Robin, Empress and Secret are headed south to find spare parts for their spaceship. To save time, Robin has left Lobo behind to get a head start on the repairs. Robin and Empress have a tough time crossing a field of exploding lava rocks, but they do make it to the shipyard in one piece. Secret scouted out the area (which includes a chunk of armor from a fallen Imperiex probe, as well as tons of ships straight out of Star Wars and Star Trek), and she reports that the place is empty. Robin asks Lobo over the radio what parts they need, and as Lobo rattles off a very complicated list, Robin realizes the fatal flaw of his plan: he has no idea what any of these items look like. So the Boy Wonder asks the Top Teen to come join them.

As soon as Robin makes that request, he, Empress and Secret are surrounded by an army of parademons. Our heroes fight valiantly, but are simply outnumbered. Secret is captured in some sort of energy field, and both Robin and Empress believe they are going to die. When all hope seems lost, Lobo jumps down from his Spacehog, wielding his famous hook and chain. The leader of the parademons says that Granny Goodness had ordered them to take in the humans alive. And since Lobo is not a human, they should kill him.

Lobo fights viciously. But the endless armies of parademons match his ferocity, shooting each other just for a chance to hit Lobo. As Robin and Empress are put in chains, Lobo fights until every inch of his body is covered in blood. Finally, he falls to his knees, and he actually seems to rejoice at the sudden appearance of the Black Racer, calling out, "At laaaaaast!!!!" But the Black Racer does not take Lobo away. And before the horrified eyes of Robin, Empress and Secret, Lobo falls to the ground dead. The parademons lead our heroes away, and as Lobo's blood spills from his lifeless body, it begins boiling and churning. And it appears that dozens of little Lobo faces are emerging from his blood.

Holy cow. What an issue. Lobo is dead. Half the team has been captured — on Apokolips, no less! And the other half of the team has basically turned their backs on Robin and are off facing who knows what. This issue perfectly demonstrated the horrors of war and the difficult choices that have to be made during war. We also had our first casualty in this series, with Lobo receiving a fitting, heroic end that he seemed to crave. But as we saw on the last panel, Lobo isn't necessarily gone for good.

Superboy's desire to save Steel may derive from his ignorance of the Black Racer. If he understood that Steel really was dead, he probably wouldn't have insisted on following him to Apokolips. Then again, in an earlier Our Worlds at War tie-in, Superman also begged the Black Racer to release Steel, so it's only natural that Superboy would be guided by the same principles. The other shocking aspect of this issue was the reveal that half the team didn't trust Robin because of Batman's actions. Sadly, this idea was not developed in the Young Justice series, probably because the last handful of issues had the team separated and everybody basically doing their own thing. I suppose one could argue that the team was hesitant to do much together because of their distrust of Robin, and it was only being drafted into war that forced them to come together again.

This issue is included in the trade paperback Superman: Our Worlds at War Book Two (as are the next issues of Impulse and Superboy we'll be reviewing). One unfortunate aspect of this issue, in regards to being in a trade, is the fact that it starts in the middle of the story, then backtracks to the beginning. I don't mind it when individual issues do this, but it becomes disorienting when that issue is part of a larger story. It creates a lot of needless jumping around through time. For whatever reason, a lot of the Our Worlds at War issues used this technique, creating some awful, whiplash transition. (In Book One, we end one issue with Superman dramatically coming face to face with Darkseid, but on the opposite facing page, the next issue begins with Superman punching General Zod.)

Our letters to the editor begin with Justin Asbell praising Young Justice #32 not just for providing the origin story for Empress, but also giving a funny story with Bart's hypnosis. Justin says Impulse and Lobo are the perfect tandem for mischief and fun.

Augie de Blieck Jr., of North Haledon, N.J., always considered Impulse a superhero sitcom, and now he considers Young Justice to be one, as well, pointing to the sitcom classics of an ill-fated date, clichéd hypnosis and a happy ending, relatively speaking. Augie is also excited to learn more about Empress since she doesn't have her own series.

Robert Acquarulo called issue #32 one of the best to date since the Lobo/Empress date had him laughing out loud. He hopes Peter David doesn't run out of ideas to make him laugh.

Mikki Grolemund, of East Amherst, N.Y., says she's been a fan since the beginning and asks for the Star-Spangled Kid to join the team. She also requests a miniseries for Wonder Girl. Eddie Berganza says Courtney Whitmore can't join Young Justice because she's already on the JSA. He cites the period when Wally West was on the Titans and JLA, and DC apparently received a lot of negative feedback for it.

Chrissy Bachmann isn't much of a comic book reader, but after following her fiancé into a shop, Young Justice stood out to her for being refreshing, clever and beautifully drawn. She calls issue #32 the funniest she's read, and begs for Lobo to stay on the team. Now for the new ads:

We have a four-page DC Fall Fashion Preview, drawn by Eduardo Risso, written by Amy Keyishian, and colored by Lee Loughridge. The main thing that sticks out to me is a skateboarder that vaguely resembles Bart Allen, accompanied with the question, "How big are your pants?" Yes, I do remember the time when bigger pants were better.

Make them your own. Levi's Carpenters. I did specifically shop for Carpenter jeans. Something about those extra straps and pockets on the sides were really cool. Trust me!

Ge boned! Monkeybone now on video and special edition DVD.

Next time, we'll see what the rest of Young Justice was up to in Impulse #77.

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