Young Justice Book Four (2019)
Reprints Young Justice #20 – 32
Written by Peter David, Jay Faerber, Chuck Dixon, Brian K. Vaughn, and Todd Dezago
Art by Todd Nauck, Sunny Lee, Coy Turnbull, Eric Battle, Patrick Zircher, and Scott Kolins
One of the problems I think Peter David encountered as the writer of Young Justice was his inability to develop or change his flagship characters because he was borrowing them from other titles. Superboy has his own ongoing series, which wouldn’t end until 2002. Robin had a very popular ongoing written by Chuck Dixon that ran from 1996 to 2009. Impulse was under the umbrella of Mark Waid’s Flash family with a solo book. Wonder Girl was a recurring cast member in the Wonder Woman title. That left Waid with characters like The Secret, Empress, and Arrowette to have the freedom to develop. However, the book wasn’t going to sell if those were the people on the covers. Yet, by continuing to spotlight characters outside of David’s control, the book never really felt like it went anywhere.
The best way to describe this volume in the Young Justice series is that team goes from one adventure to another, just sort of letting fate have its way with them. The book opens with the aftermath of the Sins of Youth event. The newest addition to the team is Lil’ Lobo, the infamous space biker left in teenager form even after most Klarion’s magics were reversed. There’s also Empress, quickly revealed to be Anite Fite, one of the APES agents’ daughter. There’s a brief moment where a new Young Justice team shows up, comprised of Beast Boy, Flamebird, Lagoon Boy, Captain Marvel Jr., and Batgirl. But that story doesn’t really go anywhere. The Wonder Wagon pulls the team through a Boom Tube where they meet the Forever People of New Genesis, and that doesn’t really go anywhere other than a gag about cars having babies.
The most interesting character in this book is Cissie King, formerly Arrowette. Due to events in preceding volumes, she has given up her superhero identity and is trying to live as a civilian. There’s an extended storyline with her qualifying and attending the 2000 Olympics in Sydney on the archery team. Her mother was also a would-be archer heroine and did win gold at a previous Olympic Games, so we have a lot of pressure from her single parent. These very humanizing elements are what make Cissie such a high point to read.
There was some great potential for a storyline involving the Zandian Olympic Team. Zandia was a nation introduced in Wolfman & Perez’s New Teen Titans run that is a haven for supervillains. Led by Doom Patrol villains The Brain and Monsieur Mallah goes about trying to pull off a heist, but the story, like so many plots in this book, just devolves into a joke.
As I’ve stated before, I can enjoy light-hearted superhero fare, but there are literally never stakes in a Young Justice story most of the time. There’s never the sense that any character is actually in peril or that the conflicts that play out with ever have long-lasting implications beyond an issue or two. It might work if the tone was not all over the place, with some moments wanting us to take them incredibly seriously, but then a few pages later, it’s implied we should laugh and forget about it. I think Peter David was attempting to evoke the sense of goofy Silver Age stories in Young Justice, but that lack of tonal consistency makes it a head-scratcher.
The collection’s final issue was probably my favorite, a date between Empress and Lil’ Lobo. It’s used as a framing device to get Empress’s origin, which is a reasonably compelling story. It helps flesh out her character, and the chemistry between her and Lobo is pretty funny. When Peter David can have those psychological, grounded character moments, you see why he is beloved by very devoted fans. I really appreciate how well he writes the voices of those characters he loves the most, like Arrowette and Empress. But overall, this another very forgettable entry into Young Justice. There’s only one more book to go, and I am not holding out much hope.