Young Justice Book One (2017)
Reprints Young Justice: The Secret, JLA: A World Without Grown-Ups #1-2, Young Justice #1-7, Young Justice Secret Files and Origins #1
Written by Todd Dezago, Peter David, and D. Curtis Johnson
Art by Todd Nauck, Mike McKone, Humberto Ramos, and Ale Garza
You are likely familiar with Young Justice as the animated series, which aired on Cartoon Network from 2010-2012 and then revived on the DC Universe platform in 2019. That title and most of its characters had their start in this comic book series from the late-1990s. Young Justice in response to the Teen Titans being aged into early adulthood and thus leaving a vacuum for a youth-oriented super-team. A new name was chosen based on the popularity of Grant Morrison’s JLA run, and so we had Young Justice starting as a trio of characters and growing its roster from there.
The collection has three distinct sections: a one-shot prologue that introduces The Secret, a one-hundred-page origin of the team, and the first seven issues of the ongoing series and their Secret Files special. The first three members of the group were naturally Robin, Superboy, and Impulse, the three premiere sidekick characters at the time, all having their own solo series. The framing device of this story is that they are pulled into a situation where the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) is trying to contain an entity that has escaped from a facility in upstate New York. The story allows each character’s personality to be spotlighted and to introduce The Secret. She is an intangible youth who, because of her gas form, can make herself appear frightening but is really a teenage girl.
This is followed by A World Without Grown-Ups, which feels like a pretty stock DC story that serves to formally join the three sidekicks together as a team. A young boy gets an ancient genie and creates a clone Earth where all the adults are shunted to. This leaves kids running the planet, but only the youthful heroes are left to protect everyone. I really liked the inclusion of Billy Batson as the one character who can move between worlds. When he utters, “Shazam!” Billy is suddenly thrown into the gap between planets and flies to give the JLA reconnaissance on what is going down. This is a very extended story that most definitely could have been shorter. I felt myself slogging through the over one hundred pages wanting it to be over already. I think the whole thing could have been a forty-eight-page one-shot.
One misconception I had about Young Justice is that it was always helmed by writer Peter David. However, both the Secret one-shot and this two-parter were written by Todd Dezago. Then, when issue one rolls around of the ongoing series, David is doing the writing, and he’d stay on for the entire series. I did some research but couldn’t find an apparent reason why the creative change was made when it seemed like Dezago was the guy to run the book from the beginning. Instead, Dezago ended up writing Impulse for thirty-nine issues, so it doesn’t seem DC fired him from the company.
The first seven issues of the Young Justice ongoing are…an acquired taste to put it nicely. I go back and forth on my feelings about Peter David. His Hulk run is masterful, and his first and second runs on X-Factor are some of my favorite Marvel Comics. Young Justice feels so offputting with David’s decision to focus on humor and comedy over any meaningful drama. There’s also some weirdly annoying comedy directed at women that it’s full-blown misogynist but just not funny and leans into dumb puns. For example, the villain of the first issue is a woman with large breasts named The Mighty Endowed. You see, her real name is Nina Dowd, N. Dowd, get it? Sigh. There is also a duo of DEO agents that will continually antagonize Young Justice named Donald Fite and Ishido Madd. Fite and Madd. Get iiiiiiiiit? Ugh.
The rest of the collection is in this vein, lots of joking. Things get a little better with the addition of Wonder Girl, Arrowette, and The Secret to the team. I was surprised at the characterization of Cassie Sandsmark as Wonder Girl. When I read and review John Byrne’s Wonder Woman run later this year, I’ll go into more detail on her origins. Here she is portrayed as entirely fangirling over Superboy, who seems oblivious to her affections. I only really know their relationship in the context of Geoff John’s Teen Titans run in the mid-2000s, where they were wholly devoted to each other. I guess this is where the roots of that began, and it’ll be interesting to see how close Peter David got to the version I know.
I can’t say I’m entirely enthusiastic about keeping going on this run. I genuinely hope David tones down the wall to wall jokes and manages to deliver stories with actual stakes in them. If the whole series is just jokey kid heroes, it’s going to get old very fast. Well, I’m committed now. By December, I’ll have read and reviewed all five volumes, so keep an eye for the reviews as they come.