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REVIEW: Young Justice #1 is a Shaky Start to a Potentially Great Title

With the animated series, Young Justice finally getting a third season on the DC Universe streaming service, it only makes sense for the team (or at least some version of it) to make a triumphant comeback to the realm of comics. This happens quite frequently. A comic property makes a splash in another medium, and it's pretty much a given there will be some sort of reboot, relaunch, or reprint to ride the waves of the initial impact, for better or ill. Young Justice #1 is a prime example of how this sort of release (be it serendipitous or not) can be effective, but still suffer from the same trappings their ilk can't avoid.

For anyone unfamiliar with the team's previous incarnation, this book could be rather baffling. We're getting characters who are, for the most, pretty obscure to casual readers, and for newcomers, they might as well be aliens (wait...some of them are). This often can occur with tie-in (or perceived tie-in) books. The larger comic universe marches on with or without the input of film and television adaptations, and with that comes tons of story and pretense to mine. This makes them feel more like continuations than a jumping on point. And this the case more often than not.

Brian Michael Bendis has been riding pretty high over at DC Comics for the better part of a year. His work on Superman and Action Comics has been rather solid, adding previously unexplored depth to the Man of Steel. Now, Bendis, along with artist Patrick Gleason (Batman and RobinGreen Lantern Corps) have tackled the plucky young team of junior Justice League heroes, and for the most part, it works.

Bendis has been referred to as the Aaron Sorkin of comic books. His dialogue splatters across the page, moving like a whirlwind between characters. Syntax and spelling are intentionally tossed by the wayside to make way for realistic and often phonetically accurate speech patterns. Character talk over one another and finish each other's sentences. They toss jokes and jabs in the middle of page-long dialogues as if they're trying to pop the Goodyear blimp with a slingshot. These snipes are not for the other characters -- they're for the reader, and when it all comes together, it's some of the best writing the graphic medium has to offer.

When these elements don't quite gel, however, Bendis' scripts can seem simultaneously too crowded and scattershot. Young Justice #1 is somewhere in the middle. It isn't the best thing Bendis has written, but neither is it by any means the worst. This first issue feels like a case of a writer trying to reintroduce a large cast of characters, build or remind readers of their relationships, and get them all in one place to start a new adventure.

Comic books have been doing large events that now need six issues to tell in the matter of twenty-two pages for decades, but Bendis revels in creating dialogue that doesn't necessarily move the plot along, but helps craft his characters' personalities. And there's nothing wrong with that. However, when the snappy dialogue is being tossed around in a massive action sequence which takes up the bulk of this issue, it's too frantic to build character traits through individual actions, at least not to the same effect.

Thankfully, Bendis handles juggling all the moving parts admirably, making the story cohesive, funny and moving at a fast clip. However, that last bit might be the biggest issue we have with Young Justice #1: it sometimes moves a little too fast. The issue gives the same weight top both retiring and new characters, and as a result, might leave new readers feeling like they should know more about the likes of Ginny Hex or Teen Lantern than they reasonably could, resulting in an experience that is more confusing than intriguing.

Patrick Gleason's work keeps up with the pace of the script (but would you expect it not to?). His character and costume designs are fantastic, and when he gets the chance to draw a splash page, it's simply awesome. His attention to detail is always strong, and in the final page (which we won't spoil here), he truly knocks it out of the park in terms of emotional weight and sheer aesthetics. Gleason is one of those guys who was just born to draw superheroes, and his enthusiasm for rendering gonzo action and outlandish costumes zipping across the panel bleeds through every page, and we love him for it.

Young Justice #1 may not be a great fresh start for those unfamiliar with the titular team, but it covers enough ground, brings in enough new players, and hints toward a brighter future for the book. The creative team behind this issue is simply stellar and might sell you on the book whether you care about Young Justice or not.

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