Young Justice: A League of Their Own

I’m doing a little happy dance right now because this is the 150th trade I’ve read (and written about) from “the shelf” since beginning this project.

Not too shabby for just over nine months’ work.

I’m happy to report that this momentous occasion was met with a pretty fantastic comic.  So good, in fact, that if the “Young Justice” tv show I’ve heard about is anything like this comic, I may just have to add it to my watch list. *Edit: I’ve since learned that the show is not like the comic. That makes me a sad panda.*

Young Justice is essentially a rebooted Teen Titans-esque story.  Collecting issues 1-7 of the new title, it focuses on a new team of young heroes uniting and battling the forces of hormones… and evil too, sometimes.

Comics like this live or die with how the characters are presented, and I was happy to see that Peter David and D. Curtis Johnson approach the concept of a teen superhero group with the same lightheartedness and skill as Wolfman and Perez did with The New Teen Titans.  The kids are snarky, sarcastic, and all-around funny, which is exactly what would be expected when a bunch of teenagers get together.

From issue #1 I knew I was in for an enjoyable read.  The plotline is straightforward, not getting lost in a convoluted backstory.  Superboy, Robin, and Impulse decide to use the old JLA headquarters as a hang-out/home base for their new superhero club.  Soon joined by Wonder Girl, Secret, and Arrowette, the group forms a ragtag team of heroes who are still trying to feel each other out but who just inherently work well together.

Every young superhero team needs some sort of adult mentor to help guide them and lend a hand when things get a little too serious, and this time the supervision is in the form of Red Tornado.  Tornado, who had been hiding out in the JLA headquarters for quite some time, takes the young heroes under his wing.  Having felt as though he lost all of his humanity, Tornado explains rather succinctly why he feels he owes our young heroes something.

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Feeling emotion, even annoyance, gives Tornado a sense of the humanity he thought long gone, and for that he becomes the Young Justice’s unofficial chaperone.

The stories collected here are filled with action and excitement, but they also have plenty of comedy and absurdity.  After all, this is a group of teenagers we’re talking about, and the jokes and teasing would undoubtedly be nonstop between them.  That being said, the writers take it one step further, fully embracing the humor of their target audience and often including outlandish scenarios purely for the sake of a laugh.

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Such ridiculous humor would be out of place in a “grown-up” comic, but here it fits perfectly.

Young Justice also serves a key purpose in the overall continuity.  Up until this point, the last teen superhero team I had read about was The New Teen Titans.  Well, those kids are all grown up now, and just as there was a new wave of adult superheroes, so too are we greeted with a fresh crop of kids to take up the good fight.  This was never more apparent than when the JLA shows up to observe the group in action and decide whether they are worthy of calling themselves Young Justice.

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Flash and Nightwing’s appearances are especially meaningful, as each was a former member of The New Teen Titans and has since moved on to become a full-fledged superhero.  They quite clearly have passed the torch on to the new generation, one who is just as obnoxious, snarky, and well-meaning as the last.

This comic was fun to read, pure and simple.  The stories don’t  try to be anything other than what they are: great entertainment.  Our heroes are kept fighting more localized threats, never going up against paradigm-shifting menaces or threats to the entire universe.  After all, these kids are still sort of in training.  With less complicated threats to explain, the focus can be instead on the heroes themselves, which David and Johnson handle exceedingly well.   Each character has their own distinct voice and personality, and their interactions feel natural.  So far nothing feels forced or over-dramatized, keeping the stories from devolving into drama-filled teen drivel.  Instead, we’re left with fun stories about imperfect yet hugely entertaining kids, who are just trying to do something right in the world.

Somehow, through all the comedy they manage to accomplish something far more meaningful than all the comics that are simply trying way too hard to be thought-provoking.  The heroes are simply allowed to be, creating characters and stories that are more engaging than just about any I’ve read recently.

Here’s hoping they lasted much more than seven issues.

-Jess

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