THIS WEEK: The past of Young Justice gets a second look in Dark Crisis: Young Justice #2.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Dark Crisis: Young Justice #2
Writers: Meghan Fitzmartin
Artist: Laura Braga
Colors: Luis Guerrero
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Cover: Max Dunbar and Luis Guerrero
As a kid, Young Justice should have been my jam. I loved Robin and Superboy, reading both of their solo series every month. I didn’t really know Impulse, but a book that teamed up the other two? Should have been catnip to me. So way back in 1998, I picked up the first issue of Young Justice. I never bought another issue of that series.
That first issue of the series turned me off so much, that it would be years before I tried the series again, loaned to me by a friend who loved it. I read the whole series then, out of obligation to see what my friend loved about it, and not finding anything worthwhile to take away from it.
So what exactly turned me off of Young Justice those first two times? Well, that very first issue was one of the most misogynistic and immature books I’ve ever read, and even as a 14-year-old the sense of humor felt gross and unnecessary. The plot revolved around a mousy woman named Nina Dowd getting superpowers from an Apokolips Space Rock. What powers? Well, the powers of big ol’ boobies of course. You see Peter David had to make a pun with the character’s name, and Nina Dowd became The Mighty Endowed. And she was defeated by… being too top-heavy and falling over. Because that’s what happens with women with large breasts, they just can’t stand up for more than thirty seconds without gravity taking them down.
That first issue would go to set the tone for the entire series. Even when the series added female characters, they were often overlooked and sidelined, frequently used as plot devices for the boys.
Last month, when the first issue of Dark Crisis: Young Justice dropped, Meghan Fitzmartin and Laura Braga surprised me by bringing back the Mighty Endowed, just to absolutely trash the idea of that villain. It delighted me because it took the thing that was the biggest failing of the original series and poked it so full of holes it looked like a pair of crocs.
But that was only the start of how this series would take a fine lens to the failings of the original series. Dark Crisis: Young Justice #2 pulled no punches as it looked at the history of the series. Fitzmartin took Peter David’s writing to the mat, repeatedly in this issue, while signifying how much these characters have grown over the years.
Our heroes find themselves back in their past when things were supposedly simpler and better. But they find themselves a bit uncomfortable here. Impulse notes that “This isn’t even our past. This place… it’s like our past got the design wrong. And going out of its way to be sexist, racist, homophobic… this place is for immature boys. That’s not us.” It’s really examining the dangers of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses and doing a great service by having most (though not Superboy) of the characters realize that this is not the past as they remember it to be. This is the past as seen through Peter David’s eyes and as such it is much more immature and problematic.
A key moment of this was the interaction that Robin had with Batman. As we saw in Batman: Urban Legends #10, the Bruce that Tim knows was supportive and happy for Tim finding his own happiness with Bernard. However, the Bruce of the Peter Davidverse? Less so, going as far as to call Tim’s sexuality a phase, a phrase that absolutely would have felt right at home in David’s era of Young Justice. That confrontation was Robin’s biggest clue that something was wrong, but wouldn’t be the last thing to examine the team’s past in the book.
Back in the main DCU, Cassie Sandsmark is trying to recruit Cissie King to help her find the boys, and Cissie is the one who most deeply cuts through the issues of the original series. She has two bits of dialogue that are particularly scathing. The first, “I only remember fighting people the Justice League didn’t understand. Like women. People from other countries. Folks who were just doing their best.” really cuts to the point that often the villains in David’s stories were marginalized and misunderstood, and in a world with justice and equity, they wouldn’t have necessarily been villains. This even goes back to the Mighty Endowed. She had no reason to be a villain, she had been a run-of-the-mill archeologist, but sudden big boob powers made her evil before making her collapse.
The second cutting line that Cissie delivers is aimed at Cassie, and how she seems to always be defined by the boys of the group. She’s Kon’s girlfriend or she’s Tim’s girlfriend, or she’s just the girl of the group. During David’s run she never really got to have agency of her own, and that only got a little better during Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans. “I stopped being a superhero because of the toxicity. Your life revolves around those three boys, and you like it. You like the mess don’t you? But who are you without them? I didn’t want my life to end up like yours. I didn’t want my decisions to be overshadowed by three privileged idiots. who had the whole world handed to them on a silver platter, while you and I scraped for any attention.”
We’re only two issues into this series, and it’s already thoroughly dissected the history of the book and the characters, and I look forward to seeing how much more insight is delivered in coming issues.
- Artemis: Wanted was an absolute banger by Vita Ayala and Skylar Patridge. Patridge’s Artemis is huge and intimidating but still undoubtedly feminine. Ayala weaves a compelling story about secrecy and redemption. The Artemis plotline has been the best part of the Wonder Woman books, and this is no exception.
- World’s Finest finished its first arc, but left enough hanging to entice us into the next. Namely, where or when is Dick Grayson. When this series started, I didn’t expect Supergirl and Robin to play such a big role, but after months of Tom King’s Supergirl, having Mark Waid writing her was a welcome change of pace and the Dan Mora art was some of the best I’ve ever seen from him.
- Catwoman #45 continues to be an incredibly engaging story, and it was remarkably fun to see Selina interact with the Batfam in this issue, with all the tensions that are between them.
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