Young Justice

young_justice_54_coverI don’t know if I am imagining this or if it was true, but back when both Young Justice and The Titans were being published in the very late 1990s/early 2000s, the sentiment was that YJ was the “actual” Teen Titans series and The Titans was somehow robbing it of being that. As someone who was a die-hard Titans fan at the time, I remembering that I bristled at that notion because I felt like I was being personally attacked for liking something that “everyone” considered an also-ran book.

You know, there are times in my fandom where I took things way too personally. I still do to a certain extent, although I think that we all do that when someone rags on something we absolutely love. Anyway, I didn’t read Young Justice at the time so I had no idea if these people were correct–although I think my reluctance to read that book came from simply not being interested instead of thumbing my nose at other fans. But a few years ago, I was reading the Titans Companion Volume 2 and saw that they’d included YJ in their compendium of Teen Titans titles, so I decided that maybe I’d grab a few issues if I came across them in back issue bins.

They weren’t the easiest thing to come by when I was actively looking for them (and for all I know there was a whole run there when I wasn’t), and I only managed to pick up 15 issues in the cheap bins, eight of which weren’t even part of the main title, but were parts of a YJ/JLA/JSA event called “Sins of Youth”; and the other seven of which were from the back end of the series run. But considering that there were many times when I picked up a series after a considerable amount of time had passed since the first issue, reading these 15 issues should gauge whether or not I want to keep reading.

I started with “Sins of Youth” because it was published first. I don’t know where this drops in terms of the series’ continuity, but the basis of the storyline is that Klarion the Witch Boy turns all of the YJ-ers into adults while he turns the JLA and JSA into teenagers. That happens in Young Justice: Sins of Youth #1, which happens to coincide with the team facing some seriously bad publicity. Then, we get into individual specials where one YJ-er teams up with his/her adult (now young) counterpart. That all culiminates in YJ: SOY #2, which I do not have.

Throughout the storyline, hijinks ensue and Klarion seems to be gathering a team of villains, although I don’t know what his motivation is beyond being a pain in the ass. I do know that clearly the second issue of YJ: SOY is going to have the showdown between heroes and villains.

The regular series issues I have–#40, 41, 42, 43, 46, 51, and 54–seem to be at times when the team is growing apart but also when characters created just for the series are facing difficult choices. The one I noticed got the most attention was Secret, a ghost character who is a little bit like the Spectre and a little bit like Deadman (is she Raven or Lilith in this equation?) because there’s at least one issue where we get her origin story, which involves the Supergirl villain/demon Buzz and her sociopath older brother; then, the final storyline of the series (it ended with #55) concerns her accepting some sort of Faustian bargain from Darkseid.

It’s all very fun, and having read more than a few of the Bob Haney Teen Titans comics, I can see where people would say that this was the “actual” Teen Titans book when it came out because it seems like Peter David was doing his best update of those Zany Haney Teen Titans books, but for Millennials. I don’t think I would have read this when it was coming out, to be honest, unless I was a young teenager. Not that The Titans was the most mature book (and let’s be honest, I bought the back half of that book out of obligation), but the height of YJ was one of the lows of my collecting, where I would pick up just a few books–Robin, Nightwing, The Titans, Detective Comics, i–and when I wasn’t focusing my pop culture elsewhere, I was being the shithead that I was in my early twenties.

It’s a really fun series. I kind of shrugged at the “Sins of Youth” storyline because it was very cartoony and disposable, though enjoyable; however, I genuinely liked some of the stories in the main book. Issue #46 is a good story about prejudice in the face of horrific world events, as Red Tornado’s daughter is bullied for being Bialyan after a terrorist attack that country is responsible for the deaths of another students’ parents. It’s cover dated May 2002, which puts it in the same timeframe as some of the post-9/11 tribute comics and graphic novels, and since those did tend to be pretty mature in places, this comic gave the kids or tweens who were reading YJ a message more on their level. The issues with Secret were intriguing because they touched upon characters and concepts that I liked in Peter David’s Supergirl series and I’m a sucker for a powerful character doing a complete heel turn (see also: Raven being taken over by Trigon).

The series, along with The Titans, was canceled to make way for the Teen Titans and Outsiders series that were written by Geoff Johns and Judd Winick. The Titans needed to be canceled and cleared out because despite the best efforts of the creative teams at the time, it was a pretty dismal book. Young Justice doesn’t seem to be worth canceling at the end here and I can only speculate that between Geoff Johns wanting to turn Teen Titans into an arena for his personal fanfic and Dan DiDio’s … well, do you really need an explanation when I mention him … it had to go. That’s actually a shame, too, because I could tell Peter David and Todd Nauck were enjoying themselves.

Despite all of this, I don’t think I’ll keep picking these up. In fact, I think I’m going to pass them along to my son, who is reading the current Young Justice series and might enjoy them. Then, if he’s interested in the rest of the series, we can find them in the back issue bins.

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