Wednesday, August 9, 2017

SpyBoy/Young Justice #1

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Pencils
Jamie Mendoza Inks
Guy Major Colors
Clem Robins Letters
David Nestelle Designer
Philip Simon & Tom Palmer, Jr. Assistant Editors
Phil Amara & Eddie Berganza Editors
Pop Mhan Cover Art
Special thanks to Neela Weber at DC Comics

I'm not usually a fan of Pop Mhan's art, but I think this wraparound cover turned out nicely. On the front, we have SpyBoy and Robin, the leader of Young Justice. On the back, SpyBoy's mentor, Prime Number and Young Justice's mentor, Red Tornado. And for a bit of random fun, Impulse is zooming by to help fight this horde of skinheads. Unfortunately though, these random skinheads do not appear in this story.

So, since this is a DC/Dark Horse crossover, this story is not in continuity. But the timeline for Young Justice suggests this is happens right before Our Worlds at War (without the imminent threat of said war). Anyway, our story begins at the secret headquarters for an organization called S.H.I.R.T.S. (Secret Headquarters, International Reconnaissance, Tactics, and Spies). A helicopter flies over the building and lets down five doll-sized figures that resemble Robin, Superboy, Impulse, Wonder Girl and Arrowette. The "chibi" Young Justice sneaks inside, running past Prime Number, who's having a discussion with SpyBoy's father, Sean, about pushing the teen too hard. Apparently SpyBoy is really a normal kid named Alex Fleming with a sleeper identity that can make him the most efficient and deadliest espionage agent in the world.

Prime Number spots the small figures running past him, but before he can stop them, "Arrowette" shoots a tiny arrow into his chest. She wonders if she should kill him, but "Robin" tells her to keep moving. Prime manages to press an alert on his watch, but by the time more soldiers show up, the tiny intruders have already downloaded the data they needed and made their escape.

We then cut to Mount Rushmore, which has apparently been repaired since Match blew up part of it, and still serves as the headquarters for A.P.E.S. (the All-Purpose Enforcement Squad). Agent Donald Fite asks Agent Ishido Maad if he's coming over for Christmas dinner, but Maad is mad at Fite for not telling him that his daughter was Empress. As Fite tries to explain his reasoning, a gas bomb goes off in the hallway. Right before he loses consciousness, Maad manages to catch a glimpse of three tiny figures resembling SpyBoy and his female companions, Bombshell and SpyGirl.

Fite and Maad later visit Young Justice at their Catskills resort to tell them about this break-in. None of our heroes have heard of SpyBoy, believing him to merely be an urban legend. Impulse, however, isn't paying attention to anything, as he's working through a big stack of Game Boy games, occasionally saying, "Done! Next!" as he swaps out cartridges. Fite and Maad continue the briefing, saying that they don't know what SpyBoy stole from them. And when they contacted S.H.I.R.T.S. about it, they were only met with a denial and an accusation that Young Justice broke into their headquarters. Eventually, Maad gets sick and tired of Impulse's video game playing, and he takes the Game Boy away, placing it in his pocket. Bart's furious to his toy imprisoned, so he quickly steals it back, trying to pull off an innocent, angelic whistle when Maad looks at him.

The agents admit to Young Justice that they don't believe the teens broke into S.H.I.R.T.S. headquarters. And they're willing to accept the possibility that both Young Justice and SpyBoy are being set up by someone else. To try to get to the bottom of this, Fite and Maad suggest they send someone in undercover to SpyBoy's high school in New Jersey. Fite points out that even though he trusts Young Justice, the A.P.E.S.' upper echelon is still suspicious of the team, and a little cooperation would constitute serious fence mending. So they agree to send in Robin, Empress, Wonder Girl and Secret, keeping out Superboy because he's too recognizable and Impulse because he's just too ... Impulse.

We head over to Julius Rosenberg High School, where Alex (SpyBoy), Yukio (SpyGirl), Marta Hari (Bombshell) and Butch Moody are consumed with finding dates to the Mid-Winter Dance. Well, actually, Alex doesn't want to go, but Yukio wants to go with him, and nobody wants to go with Butch, who passionately cries out for someone to go to the dance with. Anita steps forward and offers to go with Butch, but then Cassie (dressed as a goth) claims him as her own. Thrilled to have two girls fighting over him, Butch offers to take both of them, which Anita and Cassie readily agree to.

As Butch walks away with his two new girlfriends, Alex is approached by "Rob Roy," a new student dressed in a preppy vest with glasses and a goatee. Rob asks the class president to tell him where "the happening stuff" around the school is. But Alex's SpyBoy persona (represented by a mini version of himself) becomes suspicious. As do Yukio and Marta, who quickly usher Alex away to a class president meeting.

We then go to the Sea of Japan, where a shark-shaped submarine serves as headquarters for a petite villain named Annie Mae. She is working with a mysterious figure named REMbrandt (REM as in the sleeping REM). He apparently tapped into the subconscious of Young Justice and SpyBoy and worked with Annie Mae to create the little troublemaking duplicates. But Annie Mae feels REMbrandt is withholding information from her, so she threatens him with her bodyguard, Slackjaw, a beefy half-man/half-shark. But REMbrandt counters with his own bodyguard, Rip Roar, the four-armed thug who originally stole the Super-Cycle, then was imprisoned in hardened lava. REMbrandt explains he freed Rip Roar from his "self-made imprisonment" and watches with glee as he easily overpowers Slackjaw.

Back at the high school, Alex, Yukio and Marta have snuck outside to discuss the new kids at school. They correctly assume these kids are Young Justice in disguise, referencing the intel Prime Number gave them earlier. But before they can formulate a plan, Principal Reichenbach calls them back inside. Secret was disguised as steam rising from an air vent, and is pretty upset she just missed hearing SpyBoy's plan. At lunch, Yukio flirts with Robin and ruffles his hair, while Butch complains to Alex that his two new girlfriends only want to talk about Alex. Butch correctly assumes this is another matter for SpyBoy, and he begs Alex to let him join this mission. Alex gives in, even though his inner SpyBoy knows he'll regret it.

So what happens when you leave Impulse and Superboy alone? They get up to no good. Well, it's more of a harmless prank. They invite Cissie out to the Catskills resort and encourage her to enjoy some private time in the sauna. This gives Bart ample time to steal Cissie's clothes, replace them with her Arrowette outfit, and chemically treat her towel to dissolve when it reaches 180 degrees. Bart worries that Cissie's going to kill them, but Kon believes she needs to be pranked back for masterminding Anita's date with Lobo. Besides, Kon really wants Cissie back where she belongs.

Cissie emerges from the sauna, sees her clothes have been replaced, and announces she'll just stay in her towel until she gets her clothes back. Right on cue, the towel dissolves, and just as Bart predicted, Cissie vows to kill him and Kon. While she yells at them from the locker room, Bart and Kon are meeting up with the rest of Young Justice, hearing about their undercover mission. Robin reports that Secret learned SpyBoy is on to them, and Impulse is impressed with how quickly they figured that out. Empress and Wonder Girl aren't sure, though, believing Yukio was genuinely attracted to Robin. As Robin recalls his interaction with her, he suddenly realizes that she placed a homing device in his hair. Suddenly, there's a big explosion, and SpyBoy, SpyGirl and Bombshell come bursting through the window.

So this was an interesting concept. I'll admit I've never heard of SpyBoy before this, and I personally would have preferred a Young Justice/X-Men crossover, but this actually worked out quite well. There are quite a few similarities between SpyBoy and Young Justice, which might be inevitable since Peter David is the writer for both those books. In any case, he did a good job of fully utilizing those similarities to make these teams feel as equal as possible (even though Young Justice has more members). David also did a good job of giving newbies like me enough material to grasp the basics of SpyBoy without bogging me down in too many details.

The story itself was silly and odd. True, we have seen Young Justice go undercover in a high school before, but it's still fun. And the great lengths Impulse and Superboy went to to bring Arrowette back were probably unnecessary (YJ already has enough members), but once again, it was fun. In crossovers like this, it's tradition to have equal representation for not only the heroes, but the villains, as well. Annie Mae and Slackjaw are for SpyBoy, and on the Young Justice side, David dug deep to find one of their earliest and most-likely forgotten villains, Rip Roar. I appreciate the callback. REMbrandt, however? Well, I won't spoil it just yet.

The oddest part of the story, though, is the miniature versions of the heroes. I guess it's funny, but it's mostly weird. And it makes no sense whatsoever that two separate groups of highly trained government intelligence agencies would even for a second mistake those little guys for the real teenage heroes. I mean, even in a quick glance, the first thing you'd notice, is these figures are only about two feet tall. And even if that tiny figure looks like SpyBoy, you'd have to know that the real SpyBoy is not that short!

The production of this book was mostly good. Todd Nauck on pencils is always a beautiful thing. But when you switch out his regular inker and colorist, you can tell there's a difference. Impulse's hair suddenly had the shape and color of straw. Also, this comic was produced by Dark Horse, meaning it used different paper, different binding and different ad placement. It's funny how much those little things can affect your reading experience when you're used to the DC methods. And speaking of ads, we get a nice balance between house ads for DC and Dark Horse:

From the pages of Hellboy. Mike Mignola's B.P.R.D.

Starman: A Starry Knight.

SpyBoy: The Deadly Gourmet Affair and SpyBoy: Trial and Terror.

He's lived a thousand lives, and been a hero in them all! Hawkman by Geoff Johns.

United we draw. The greatest writers and artists in comics. An unprecedented coalition of publishers. 9-11. Two volumes reflecting on a tragedy that changed the world.

At last — a full-service super-hero firm you can count on! The Power Company.

To the death! Batgirl #25. Cassandra Cain vs. Lady Shiva. The rematch you've been waiting for!

Things from Another World. The hottest comics! The newest movies! The coolest collectibles!

Horsepower. This letter column talks all about the new villain for Star Wars: Episode II, Jango Fett, and how he's cooler than his son, Boba. (They're right. Boba Fett doesn't do anything.)

The Dark Knight Strikes Again statue.

Next time, we'll return to the world of DC with Impulse #81.

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