Young Justice #2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Patrick Gleason, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
When you think about it, Brian Michael Bendis and Young Justice makes perfect sense.
You’ve got the witty teenage banter of Ultimate Spider-Man. You’ve got the decompressed, character-focused structure of All-New X-Men. You’ve got the team dynamics of New Avengers - but without the expectation of setting the tone for the rest of a superheroic universe. But most importantly, you have the history of Young Justice itself - an irreverent and fun title that never took itself too seriously, but instead captured readers’ hearts thanks to its characters’ personalities. When you look at it that way, not only is Bendis the best choice to pick up the torch from Peter David and Todd Nauck’s fan-favorite series… he might just be the only choice in the business.
A good litmus test about whether or not you’ll like Young Justice #2 is with the issue’s first double-page splash, featuring Red Robin Tim Drake riding on a jeweled pegasus from the planet Gemworld, leaning back with a smile on his face and a pure enthusiastic shout. For a character who’s so often been defined by his traumas, it’s telling to see Tim just having fun - and that’s a quality that readers will likely share reading this series. While last issue Bendis clearly relished writing the return of Impulse, this issue he splits his time between the fledgling team and Cassie Sandsmark, who we haven’t seen much of since her tenure on Teen Titans.
The team-building pages, while decompressed in true Bendis fashion, provide some glimpses at what already looks to be an engaging cast - a page of Jinny Hex quietly freaking out after being shunted to an alien world, winds up being a comedic gem in the hands of Patrick Gleason, and even though we haven’t seen Teen Lantern’s face yet, she hits the right balance between awkwardness and snark as a brand-new hero who still somehow has her act together a little bit better than these seasoned veterans. But it’s Bendis and Emanuela Lupacchino’s interlude with Wonder Girl that shows the series’ truest potential, as Bendis deftly reimagines Cassies’ relationship with her grandfather Zeus as something that’s immediately endearing and warm… while still injecting a level of intrigue and manipulation that’s sure to pay off in future installments. Like Peter David before him, Bendis instinctively keys in on what makes these teenage superheroes human - which in turn makes them instantly compelling.
And while I usually frown upon artist changes so early in a series, Patrick Gleason and Emanuela Lupacchino’s tag-team take on the art actually feels relatively seamless - it’s not that their styles are identical to one another, but colorist Alejandro Sanchez does a terrific job at keeping the two artists in a similar wheelhouse, while still giving each of them room to call these pages their own. Gleason seems to be having a ball with the team sequences on Gemworld - for an artist who’s already known for turning in fluid and expressive pages, he really raises the bar for himself here, with these characters already digging their hooks into your heart even without the benefit of Bendis’s prodigious dialogue. Lupacchino, meanwhile, situates herself with a style that almost feels at home with George Perez and Phil Jimenez - her openness with her linework and her densely packed panel compositions put her in some very good company in the Wonder Woman pantheon, but there’s a modernity thanks to Ray McCarthy’s inks that keeps Cassie a product of her own time and her own generation.
If there’s anything that holds Young Justice back from perfection, is that the plot progression is still moving fairly slowly - and while Bendis’s interlude with Cassie is a fun one, there’s still some narrative fat that could be trimmed to fit in a little more character work, whether it be more of Tim Drake swashbuckling his way through Gemworld, a little more insight into Teen Lantern, or checking up on Impulse and Superboy, who don’t appear in this issue at all. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to be too upset by the decompressed pacing, because Bendis, Gleason and Lupacchino’s handling of these characters is so sublime, you’d never even think of dropping them for another book. Looking at Bendis’s strengths as a writer and what makes this title special, putting him on Young Justice isn’t just a match made in Heaven - it’s a match made in history.