Brian Michael Bendis has been a busy man. Between taking over both of DC’s premiere superhero’s titles and bringing his Jinxworld imprint to DC, there’ve been a lot of releases with his name on them. The Wonder Comics imprint, a line designed for younger readers, is his latest idea. YOUNG JUSTICE #1 is his contribution to said line, with art by the great Patrick Gleason, reuniting the teen heroes of the ’90s for an adventure in Gemworld!

Warning, potential spoilers for YOUNG JUSTICE #1 are below!

Gemworld Wants Out in YOUNG JUSTICE #1

YOUNG JUSTICE #1 opens with a council in Gemworld, where someone is speaking about a familiar planet. Earth has been affected by seven Crises. These Crises have radically changed the planet, as well as Gemworld, and not for the better. It becomes clear to the council that Earth needs to be dealt with.

Meanwhile in Metropolis, a new resident makes her presence known. Jinny Hex, presumably a descendant of Jonah Hex, is stopped by police. As they talk, Gemworld strikes. A few armored beings arrive via a portal and issue a challenge for Superman. They attack the city, and Jinny tries to hold them off. Tim Drake (AKA Robin) shows up, and he helps in the fight. Slowly, other teen heroes arrive to fight: Cassie Sandsmark (AKA Wonder Girl), Bart Allen (aka Impulse), and new hero Teen Lantern all round out the group. Finally, the Gemworld soldiers beat a hasty retreat. YOUNG JUSTICE #1 ends with the team following the villains to their planet and in the process, they get scattered. Robin encounters someone from House Amethyst, and Bart encounters… Conner Kent?!

Bendis Adds Interesting Wrinkles to DC Canon

YOUNG JUSTICE #1 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The mix of young heroes is a bit more of a direct correlation to the Justice League as legacies: we have the teen protégés of Wonder Woman, Batman, Jonah Hex, Flash, and Green Lantern. Add to that the return of the teenage clone of Superman, and it’s a very different mix than the original YJ, which included characters such as Arrowette, Secret, and Kid Lobo.

Bendis used a novel concept for the introduction of the antagonists. The idea that the Prime DC Universe has been through seven Crises, and that they’ve adversely affected Gemworld, is innovative ground. There are consequences to the actions of DC’s heroes, and we get to see them unexpectedly.

Tweaking Beloved Classic Characters

The new heroes are a bit uneven. I found Jinny Hex to be a nice nod to the past. However, there wasn’t enough of Teen Lantern for me to really get a feel for the character; I’d need to see more of her to make a judgment.

The older characters were a bit of a mixed bag. Bendis captures the core essences of Tim and Bart. Tim is truly Batman Junior: a great fighter, a tactical thinker, and a determined hero. Tim’s characterization was probably my favorite of them all, and it’s nice to see arguably the best Robin ever reclaiming his title. Bart Allen is also terrific as the hyper, irreverent speedster. He’s a bit like Deadpool, with cultural references that border on fourth wall breaking. Your mileage may vary on that, whether it appeals to you or not.

Then there’s Wonder Girl. We don’t get much of her character at all, just a long-lost-friends moment with Tim. Wonder Girl was hesitant to jump into the fray, which was an unexpected character choice. Bendis seems to be setting up a new, if confusing, arc for Cassie. She’s not quite as into being a hero, at first. She still joins in later, but it’s only because her friends — and the city of Metropolis — need her.

Gleason Knows How to Draw Young Heroes

YOUNG JUSTICE #1 pages 6 & 7. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Gleason has had a great decade or so in comics, and a lot of it has been spent drawing young heroes. From the New 52’s BATMAN & ROBIN to SUPERMAN and SUPER SONS, and now YOUNG JUSTICE. Gleason mixes heavy line work and inks with frenetic action and great facial rendering. Alejandro Sanchez helps to balance the inks with bright colors, reflecting the bright and colorful nature of both Metropolis and the Gemworld invaders’ powers. Gleason is an interesting choice because he’s capable of a darker, grittier style (see BATMAN & ROBIN), but he reins it in and does a great job here. It’s not quite as cartoony as the original YOUNG JUSTICE artist Todd Nauck’s style, but it does the job. The Impulse pages in particular really capture the feel of the character.

YOUNG JUSTICE #1 Hits Right in the Childhood

The original YOUNG JUSTICE debuted in 1998. I was a young fourteen-year-old back then, arguably the target audience for this book. I have a lot of fond memories of Peter David’s original run, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Connor, Bart, Tim, Cassie, and the rest of them. Marvel and DC had a dearth of material for younger readers, but with books like MS. MARVEL, CHAMPIONS, SUPER SONS, and now YOUNG JUSTICE, there’s a great opportunity to create a new generation of fans. The addition of Gemworld is also a perfect way to revive the AMETHYST franchise, which has been dormant except for a brief revival attempt a while ago. YOUNG JUSTICE #1 is a good start and definitely worth a pickup!

YOUNG JUSTICE #1 by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, and Alejandro Sanchez
Brian Michael Bendis revives the teenage team of the late '90s! The opening story is exciting and doesn't talk down to younger readers. There's a lot to like from this opening salvo!
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