THIS WEEK: YOUNG JUSTICE #8 and WONDER TWINS #7 both mark Wonder Comics returns, so it’s time to ask: how good is this imprint?
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis (Young Justice) and Mark Russell (Wonder Twins)
Artists: John Timms (Young Justice) and Stephen Byrne (Wonder Twins)
Letterer: Wes Abbott (Young Justice) and Dave Sharpe (Wonder Twins)
Young Justice #8 and Wonder Twins #7 returned this week after taking skip months in August, and they were each better for it. While both of these comics are part of the teen-hero Wonder Comics imprint (helmed and curated by writer Brian Michael Bendis), they succeeded this week for very different reasons. I’ll talk about them both separately below. First, however, let me just note that the key difference between them is that Young Justice’s scope is the entire DC multiverse, while Wonder Twins emotional scale is predicated upon the (many many) feelings of a pair of kids in high school.
When it comes to Young Justice, for me the results through the first seven issues have been a bit mixed, and I attribute this entirely to the bit of upheaval with the artists. Bendis’ original collaborator on this comic was to be Patrick Gleason (a favorite of mine), who has since departed DC Comics for Marvel. That’s fine. In fact, I’m actually anxious to see Gleason’s take on the other universe of superhero characters. Still, his seemingly-abrupt exit has meant just a tiny bit of re-adjustment for this title. Now that John Timms feels firmly settled in as the regular series artist, this comic is all the better for it.
As a result, Young Justice #8 reads as the most confident and clear issue of this comic to date. This is a book that like its young heroes is interested in exploring what’s possible, not just in the world but in the wider DC multiverse, and Bendis (himself relatively new to working within that multiverse) is clearly having a blast touching so many corners. With each subsequent issue of this comic, Bendis and Timms are also bouncing more character dynamics off each other, both within the team and with the alternate versions of themselves and each other they encounter on their wayward journey (seriously, does anyone have a map of the multiverse?!). It’s great fun, and there doesn’t seem to be much of an end in sight. Combine that with the central mystery of where these characters have been of late, what’s up with their continuity, and where they will be when they get it all figured out, and you get a book with both an interesting setting and a powerful motor to push readers through it.
Wonder Twins #7, meanwhile, is a different sort of teen superhero comic book all together. Whereas Young Justice is a sprawling adventure that bounces around and through Bendis’ larger Superman epic, Wonder Twins is far more episodic, closer with its form to writer Mark Russell’s previous work on The Flintstones, than it is to typical cliffhanger-heavy superheroics. And that’s serving this book well.
This issue is a perfect example of how. In it, Russell introduces a new (to me, anyway) superhero, a cheery fellow who must be kept in comfortable solitary confinement because he smells so bad. Smelling that bad is also is his super power, enabling him as it does to be a useful tool to quell riots and peacefully disperse dangerous crowds. It’s a great concept, and a rare one that to my knowledge has never been done before within superhero comics.
What I liked most about it, though, was how Russell uses it here to speak to ideas about duty and companionship. I won’t go so far as to spoil it, but I will note that the final page of this comic nearly brought a tear to my eye, so perfect was the emotional tone it struck around both of those concepts, topped as it was with a healthy dose of teen isolation. Moreover, Wonder Twins continues to be one of the funniest comics coming out these days, with genuine laugh aloud moments finding their way into nearly every issue so far. The book also makes for quite the one-two punch with the other Russell-penned comic this week, Riddler Year of the Villain #1, which is similarly character-driven, with the idea of failure taking center stage. All three of these comics are well worth your time today.
So yeah, there you have it…is the Wonder Comics imprint living up to its potential? I’d certainly say so, and not just within these books but also in Dial H For Hero, where artist Joe Quinones is absolutely peaking with some of the best work in all of superhero comics right now.
Verdict: Yes, Wonder Comics is living up to its potential.
In other comics-by-Bendis news, Event Leviathan #4 is the best installment of that series since the Year of the Villain teaser. I’d been wanting the creative team to dole out just a bit more info about the mystery, or, perhaps, a few more clues, and we certainly get that here. For what it’s worth, my own evolving theory is now that the culprit of it all is Sam Lane, with Lois’ reveal of Clark’s alter ego to him serving as the inciting incident. Admittedly, however, I’m yet to lock down how it all ties together. Anyway, the best part of this chapter was the last page, which made me bug my eyes and mutter something about how damn fun this thing is turning out to be.
- This week was really a tale of two Batman books. Batman Universe #3 (by Bendis, Nick Derington, and Dave Stewart) is as rip-roaring (look, I know, but the word just fits) of a Batman adventure story as I can recall in my lifetime, while Batman #78 seems to mark the beginning of the end of three-plus years of intensely psychological interior storytelling. I’m probably more of a Universe sort of reader, but I think it’s great that DC’s glut of high-selling Batman titles provides tonal options.
- Speaking of which, one of the most stylish comics at DC right now is Batman and the Outsiders, both in terms of artwork and story interests. Batman and the Outsiders #5 is probably the best issue yet, too, although I’ve likely said that every week this one has come out. Oh, and I get why Batman is in the title (money!), but the better title for it at this point is Black Lightning and the Outsiders.
- Alex did a great job writing about it a few weeks back, but G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman run has really started hitting its stride of late, even as news broke it would be ending in November. This week’s issue is no exception. This current arc builds on a really compelling (yet simple) premise: the goddess of love is dead—now what happens? I’m into it.
- I hate to say this, because I liked the opening run so much, but Hawkman isn’t quite soaring as high for me at this point. The execution isn’t bad, but the grandiose sense of purpose and mystery that powered the Bryan Hitch issues (along with the Bryan Hitch artwork) is sorely missed.
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