Not all comics have to feature Earth-shattering moments of superhero action for them to be entertaining. No one has to die, or be revealed as a traitor, or come back from the dead to earn fans' money month after month. Of course, these things certainly help in keeping engagement levels high, but when comics work best is when they build connections or, at the very least, reestablish them. The opening pages of Young Justice #3 does just that, picking up from the pervious chapter's cliffhanger reveal of Conner Kent being trapped in Gemworld before continuing with a rather sweet reunion between old friends.
Bart Allen's reaction to seeing Conner feels like a scene in a war film where two separated soldiers discover each other is still alive in the third act. Sure, it's saccharine and somewhat rote, but stuff like this works. Reunions between friends, family, or lovers pluck at the old heartstrings, and it feels even more tender-hearted when it's between young people. Despite their amazing powers, the members of Young Justice are just kids. They face similar threats as their adult counterparts, but they're still developing as people, which is something I can't even fathom.
I am well aware the fifteen year old version of myself would not be able to balance the dichotomy of being a dumb teenager and a noble hero at the same time. Young Justice touches on this idea through dialogue and character interactions and makes it believable. Bart Allen and Conner Kent don't have to speak in slang or make references to memes to transmit the fact they're kids. Instead, their genuine reactions to seeing one another says it all. There is an innocence in their enthusiasm, one that even battling world-ending threats has yet to quash.
Brian Michael Bendis has pretty much mastered the art of writing teenagers. To be fair, he has sometimes fallen in the all-too common trapping of doing so by tapping into whatever the kids are hip to in order to craft in-the-moment dialogue which ages horribly (go read some of the stuff Flash and the other kids at Peter's high school say in Ultimate Spider-Man if you don't believe me). Young Justice #3 eschews most of that, and presents its characters as something more than pop culture relics. Bendis seems to understand the history of these characters and their relationships are more than that. He builds upon that history, and he does so with humor and warmth. It's easy for a group of teenagers (of the superhero variety or otherwise) on the page to come off as annoying or disingenuous to jaded comic book readers. Young Justice works really hard to ensure this doesn't occur.
The bulk of Young Justice #3 is dedicated to Conner Kent catching Bart (and the reader) up to speed as to where he's been and how he got there. It's all good stuff, but from a pacing standpoint, it's easy to write this issue off as nothing more than filler since nothing "big" really happens. The team has been in Gemworld for the bulk of the series' pagetime thus far, and we haven't really gotten into the larger implications of this fact. We'll get there, of course; Bendis and artist Patrick Gleason are just taking their time, and that's okay. The story is fun and vibrant, and the characterizations are strong.
Young Justice #3 has a couple pencilers attributed to its credits. Series regular, Patrick Gleason is joined by Viktor Bogdanovic (Action Comics, Batman: Arkham Knight). Gleason illustrates the current day pages and Bogdanovic handles flashback duties, which feels pretty appropriate. Bogdanovic has a heavy late '90s/early aughts-inspired aesthetic (Greg Capullo and the late Michael Turner come to mind) that evokes a sense of yesteryear, while Gleason's work is great as always.
Young Justice #3 is yet another solid installment in what is shaping up to be a pretty great teenage superhero team book. The characters feel real, the art is outstanding, and when there is action on the page, it's always impressive. Bendis, Gleason, and Company have something special on their hands. It's youthful and frenetic, but moves at a pace that helps build upon its characters instead of leaving them in the dust.