SINS OF YOUTH WEEK
It's the first company-wide crossover that's done anything for me in a long time. Yes, it's based on the same formula that took movie theaters by storm about 15 years ago, when Fred Savage and Tom Hanks and Kirk Cameron were all switching bodies with people on the opposite end of the age spectrum. While it's a formula that could have gotten stale really fast, the writers on this one used it to suit each individual character's circumstances. The byplay between senior and junior versions of, essentially, the same character that could have been boring was anything but.
The DC Universe is built around families of titles not just in theme, but also in generations. The Flash titles are perhaps the most conscious of this, but they all have generational themes. The younger Flash is expected to grow up to be The Flash. Robin is expected to grow up to be Batman. Superboy is assumed to be Superman's eventual "replacement," in theory. In many cases, these generational relationships are defined best in these books, and decisions are made which could affect these legacies. They're worth reading for that. These books, in the end, matter. Yes, for those who don't like these event books, it's a bit of a drag to miss out on some important plot happenings. I suppose that's the price to pay here.
There's another thing to be learned from these deals: Make sure you're up to date on all the supporting characters' books. I'm a few months behind on SUPERBOY and just had most of the plot secrets from the past few issues spoiled for me by reading SINS OF YOUTH. This is to be expected and is completely my fault. I'm not blaming DC for it. But it is something to keep in mind.
One last thing to keep in mind: There is a certain order to read these books in. It won't matter that strongly, but there are some events for which is makes sense. WONDER GIRLS, for instance, mentions the conclusion of SUPERBOY SR. & SUPERMAN JR. in it. THE SECRET & DEADBOY seem to best lead up into the SINS OF YOUTH #2. The last page of all these issues have plot capsules and the reading order numbers next to the covers. Follow that.
Let's look at them one at a time:
SUPERMAN JR. & SUPERBOY SR.: Superman was never Superboy. Superboy has always been incapable of aging. At the end of SINS OF YOUTH #1, Superboy whines that he's still 16. It seems that in the one issue of SUPERBOY that crosses over with this event, Cadmus ages Superboy to save him from something. I admit I haven't read that one yet.
Nevertheless, Karl Kesel writes an entertaining tale of two Supermen, including many bits of business from the current "re-tooled" Superman books as well as his own SUPERBOY series. We finally get it out in the open that Superboy knows who Superman is, and Kesel has some fun with that.
But the most impressive and most interesting thing about this book is the art from Rob Haynes. Haynes, you may remember, did some backup work in the early issue of THE SAVAGE DRAGON. His style has matured and been refined since then. His art here is a veritable tour de force, and like nothing I see in any other superhero comics today. It seems to be greatly influenced by manga, but not in the usual way that you see the Campbells and Madureiras of the world trying to emulate. I really hope his stuff looks this good when he draws that fill-in issue of DAREDEVIL for Joe Quesada.
Haynes uses a couple of techniques here. First, there are no solid black areas. In black and white, these pages would look like coloring books. And as such, colorist David Self deserves extra credit for his work on this issue in centering the storytelling and filling in the blanks.
Haynes, just to add to this whole effect, does not vary the line weight in his inks. Every line has the same thickness. I wouldn't be surprised if this thing were inked completely with a marker or a Flair pen.
Finally, all the panels are in "widescreen." Sometime there are only three panels per page. Other times there are five. But it's all read up to down. There is no left to right or right to left reading necessary here.
It's quite a striking visual, and I hope somebody picks up on this and gives Haynes a chance to do some more regular work in this way.
The only slight drawback to the whole issue is Ken Lopez's lettering. It's not bad, but it looks like it's his first time behind the computer for lettering. It's often misaligned inside the balloons and some of the spacing is variable, particularly between words. It's not terribly distracting, but for the sake of completeness, I thought I should mention it here.
AQUABOY & LAGOON MAN: I thought this was one of the lesser of the books. Although I think Lagoon Boy is a terrific addition to the Aquaman mythos, I've never been a huge fan of Aquaman, and even Erik Larsen's tenure couldn't change that. So I suppose I'm naturally disinclined to this book.
Sunny Lee pencils this one while Lary Stucker and Norm Rapmund ink it. I know the latter two come from the days of Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios, but can anyone confirm that Sunny Lee does, too? He must. He can't seem to keep certain details straight from page to page. One of the lesser problems concerns the bathing suits worn by the girls on the first few pages. The brunette on the bottom of the first page in the yellow two-piece seems to change suits between the first page and the third. They're both yellow, but they're not the same bathing suit. Where'd the black edge go? Where'd the top half of the top that went over her shoulders go? More importantly: Does Letifos have a shell on her right breast or not?
Just to complete the Extreme Studios threat, it's too bad Richard and Tonya Horie didn't do the coloring. Nope, Tom McCraw did that here. (He does a fine job, too, if not terribly revolutionary.)
In any case, Ben Raab's story is nothing revolutionary, either. Lagoon Man is there for comic relief. This is really an Aquaman story with more about the burden of being king. You can probably skip this one and not miss much. It's the same formula of the two heroes looking for a new way to reverse their age situation and failing in the end.
Ken Lopez's lettering here looks much better and much more natural. I'm guessing this book was lettered by hand on the original artwork.
WONDER GIRLS: Here's another terrific case of a book where the plot was the most boring part of it. The fun stuff was in Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl adapting to their new bodies. It's all about character, as writer Brian Vaughan goes the furthest of the writers for the week to show the difference between young and old, and how they act.
They also go on a quest to talk a mythological beast into helping them. It's cute, but it's just a plot getting in the way of an entertaining comic. I could almost enjoy a comic consisting of 22 pages of the two sitting in Cassie's room and talking more than one with ten pages of that and 12 pages of a chase for a mythological relic.
Scott Kolins' art serves the purpose, although I think he goes a little too far trying to show the older Cassie as being muscular. Yes, part of being an Amazonian is musculature. But there's a fine line between showing it and being distracting with it. Diana is beautiful even with the broad shoulders and strong arms. Cassie doesn't come off that way.
BATBOY & ROBIN: Chuck Dixon writes it, so you pretty much know what to expect. This is probably the fastest-moving book of the week. Lots of short word balloons. The dialogue has an almost staccato pace. The story, too, is pretty easy to digest: Zatanna is their hope to turn back into their original bodies. But she gets kidnapped. Off they go to save her. As is usually the case, the things that happen outside the main plot are the most interesting. Robin, acting as Batman, has a short meeting with Commissioner Gordon, which goes not terribly differently than Superboy acting as Clark Kent and calling Lois Lane.
Dixon also clarifies, for now, Robin's future aspirations as far as the Batman cape and cowl go. Even Bruce Wayne is surprised by what he says. It's almost as if he no longer sees the Batman as his own driving demon, but also sees it as a necessity for the safety of all Gotham. He wants to hand it down to Tim Drake, but does Tim want it?
Cary Nord delivers his own distinctive pencils, with inks from Mark Lipka. It's a good-looking book, filled with lots and lots and lots of black.
THE SECRET & DEADBOY: This is the oddest of the books. Secret is a new DC Universe character. She doesn't have the same well of history to draw upon to make up this story. Instead, she gets paired up with Deadman, whose ethereal nature is similar to her own. It stresses power over genealogy. It also appears to be the most important of the books, as it leads most directly into SINS OF YOUTH #2 and the mystical conclusion meant to save the universe.
Todd DeZago exercises his humorous side for this story, creating a wonderfully impish Deadboy character. Michael Avon Oeming does the art for this one, inked by Jason Baumgartner. I like Oeming's art. Enjoyed it in his brief stints on SUPERMAN ADVENTURES. I'm really looking forward to it illustrating Bendis' new POWERS series from Image. However, here it falls a little flat. I can't pinpoint why it is exactly. There are no strong page layouts. Everything looks slapped together a little bit. And the backgrounds are missing from all but the establishing panels, too.
COMING UP FRIDAY
We'll conclude this look at SINS OF YOUTH with the rest of the Event Week books: KID FLASH & IMPULSE, STARWOMAN AND THE JSA JR., JLA JR., and the SECRET FILES book. All that, plus the grand finale second bookend issue, and a peek at the latest PREVIEWS magalog.