When I was sixteen, I started reading comics. The first series I read were Young Justice, Ultimate Spiderman, Superboy, and Legion of Super-Heroes. These choices would set me up for a lifetime of disappointment and canceled titles, and I will surely one day write something bemoaning the fate of my favorite books. But today is not that day. Today I am here to share the gift that is the return of Young Justice #1. Hats off to you, Bendis.
My Love For Long Dead Books
As a general rule, I’m the type of comic fan who avoids recommending people to read comics. Comics are great and all, but they are also in a constant state of reboot, self-referential meta-wank, and general decisions made in poor taste. Especially after the 90s. Outlier runs occur but are generally short. As a comic fan, I satiate my need for long, continuous storytelling via the back issues of the good Bronze Age series. Young Justice holds a special place in my heart. I own, in paperback, the entirety of Superboy and Impulse.
They were some of my earliest comics, and along with Blue Beetle and Ultimate Spider-Man really defined my taste for teen heroes. Superboy — and the character he was allowed to grow into — was the one who introduced me to the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I normally point to as my official nerd cred card. Unfortunately, Superboy and Impulse have both on again and off again been rebooted out of existence or into the speed force. Robin, my Robin, Tim Drake, has had his backstory and character development smashed into itty bitty pieces with the launch of the New 52 and no matter what Rebirth tries they can’t seem to fix it.
Gone is the snarky, dorky, smart, ninja wannabe of my youth. When I heard Bendis was going to relaunch Young Justice I was tentatively excited. Say what you will about his writing, Bendis is a nerd to the core. When they released the first promotional images of Superboy I lost my goddamn mind. “He’s back!” I shouted to my nearest, very confused friend, “with more belts!” So obviously I picked this issue up immediately. Here’s what you should know.
The ‘Bendis Continuity’
Right off the bat, Bendis tosses out a lot of what average readers might consider normal continuity. He’s pretty firmly ignoring what’s going on in Detective Comics in favor of his own story. But here’s the catch, if you’re a longtime Young Justice fan it will feel like he’s bringing continuity back in. The tricky thing about opening this book is that the current DC landscape does not support Young Justice. Or Superboy or Bart or Tim, for that matter. DC has so monumentally destroyed any semblance of continuity for many of these characters that trying to use their backstories as told by the current DCU (Tim being in witness protection for instance) would destroy Young Justice#1.
So Bendis ignores it. And in this case, rightfully so, and it works. It feels so good to see Tim walk up to Cassie and tease her about Zues being a deadbeat who won’t pay for college. And even better to see Cassie with a life outside of super heroes (something that defined her in Young Justice and set her apart from Conner when they were both supers in civies). He brings in Bart with little to no explanation, and finally drops a Superboy on us. The good news? He plans to explain it soon. The bad news? I’m not a mind reader so I can’t promise those explanations will be good. Frankly, I don’t care, but to each their own, in terms of continuity.
Should Tim Be Robin?
A quick aside, I noted that some people are worried about Tim being Robin again. I agree. I don’t like the name, but the Red Robin series defined Tim for me post-Robin. However, his Detective Comics costume was so Robin like already I’m willing to wait. Better than whatever messed up backstory the New 52 was forcing writers to contend with.
A Young Justice #1 Speedy Introduction
This story simultaneously takes off at lightning speed and does absolutely nothing. It brings all the characters together very quickly. And we needed that. I like Jinny Hex and Teen Lantern so far, and I needed to see how all these characters ran into each other. Is it forced? Yes. But it’s delightful, and given that Bendis tends to be a decompressed writer I’m glad for the pace. If this gets canceled after twelve issues, I don’t want to have spent six months dawdling on getting the team together.
There’s a pure joy in the writing here that cannot be overstated. Bart is talking a mile a minute, Cassie sounds like she’s starting college, and the casual references to Superman make everything feel oddly lived in. These teens have grown up in a world with superheroes, and it shows. Also, Amethyst Princess of Gemworld is back as if I needed more of a reason to adore this story.
The Young Justice #1 Art & Conclusion
Reading the artist’s notes, I am so glad Patrick Gleason took this job. His inner geek is shining and it’s so obvious he loves these characters. I don’t love his Tim design but reading what he has to say about it makes me fall in love with the art and the characters all over. Gleason is also the unsung hero fighting to keep Kon in leather so he can pretty much do whatever he wants.
Honestly, all the characters look great, and Cassie, who I worried for most in terms of costume, really works when in motion on the page. I’m eating up every panel. I didn’t realize how starved I was for this team until I saw it rendered in Gleason’s breathtaking style, but I don’t think I could ever go back. So the book was good. Pretty much hands down.
Unless you absolutely loathe Bendis, teen heroes, or fun, you should support these characters. Here’s to cheering the two on for the next issue.
Young Justice #1 by Brian Micheal Bendis and Patrick Gleason
If you like Young Justice, Impulse, or Superboy, this book is off to a rollicking start, and will hopefully continue to be a standout. Worst comes to worst at the very least you'll have some exceptionally pretty art for these characters to look at for a long time to come.