What I Like About You: Peter David’s Young Justice

Young Justice ran for 55 issues from 1998 to 2003, and almost every one of those 55 issues was by the same creative team: Todd Nauck on Art and Peter David on writes. I’d started collecting PAD’s Supergirl, and in their issue 12, they had a crossover. This was my first exposure, and the series charmed right away: a group of heroic kids doing their best. They were actually trying to save people!

I collected the few back issues there were, and added the series to my standing order.

The starting line-up swings into action
Young Justice #1

It was Peter David and Todd Nauck that made the series good; there were scattered issues (annuals, mostly, and a dreary-as Our Worlds At War special) with different creative teams – but they suffered for it. (This is not a knock against later series called Young Justice: I’ve never read those, so will not judge them.) I’ve read few appearances of some of the main characters outside of Young Justice itself (usually Tim Drake, who is my Robin), but the ones I have read aren’t as fun as their appearances here.

Todd Nauck’s art is cartoonish; normally I don’t hold with cartoonish art, but I don’t think this series would (or did) work without it. It suits the tone and he has a developed style. It’s highlighted by bright colours and storylines. At the time, there were a lot of stories out with cartoonish art that just felt like the artist hadn’t developed a style, with dark colours and storylines slapped on top that really didn’t suit.

It had a fun sense of humour – childish as it could be at times. A sense of humour always appeals to me. It went as far as referencing The Princess Bride – so, kudos there.

Lip-reading for beginners.
Young Justice having fun in a silly way.

All that said, it did go dark at times; but when it did, it worked. The storyline that springs to mind here is when one of them – Arrowette – nearly kills a guy in battle. She then decides that if she’s that irresponsible, she shouldn’t be a superhero, and retires. Through the rest of the series, she’s never a superheroine again (maybe once in dire circumstances… I’m honestly a little unsure of my memory at this point). It’s a fairly dark storyline, especially for a teen book, but it doesn’t wallow in cynicism. (I’m not sure it’s all that original, but it’s still good.) Also – she doesn’t leave the series. She still sticks around as a friend of the team.

Secret and Harm have very dark origins, too – but again, the series doesn’t wallow in that. It still has fun.

Speaking of Arrowette, if this comic were perfect somebody would probably come along and nail it to a tree for it. So, here’s one glaring problem for me: Arrowette competed in ‘The Australia Games’ (which just happened to come about at the same time as the Olympic Games in Sydney).

This is not Australia.
This is not Australia, and this ‘kangaroo’ really creeps me out.

Coincidentally (nothing to do with said games) I’d been in Sydney just a couple of weeks before these issues came out; I didn’t notice any alpine mountains or architecture there. Honestly, I look at the portrayal and I think Todd Nauck went looking for research on Australia and got Austria instead – and nobody noticed before it was published.

One of the few original characters created for the team is Empress.

Now that's an entrance!
Empress’s first debut inaugural issue

I just love Empress.

She’s got the look (na na na na na), she carries a sword, she’s mysterious… Those who’ve read my What I Like About You about Alpha Flight have probably seen me go on about Nemesis. So you don’t need me to do it again here. (Though they are very different – no vampiric overtones here.) The concept intrigues me, you get it already.

When we learn more about her, she remains interesting.

Overall, Young Justice was published in a time of everything being grim ‘n’ gritty, but it was just about having fun. And after all, isn’t that what we all (‘we all’ meaning ‘me’) want from our comics?

12 Comments

  1. “Coincidentally (nothing to do with said games) I’d been in Sydney just a couple of weeks before these issues came out; I didn’t notice any alpine mountains or architecture there. Honestly, I look at the portrayal and I think Todd Nauck went looking for research on Australia and got Austria instead – and nobody noticed before it was published.”

    Same thing when Walt Simonson set a scene in Oberlin Ohio (the late Don Thompson’s alma mater, IIRC) and drew a generic city skyline rather than anything that looks like Oberlin.

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