Review: Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

To the extent one actually ever considered we might see a Young Justice revival, Brian Michael Bendis' Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld is pretty darn good. I'm not sure "perfect" was attainable, and what hampers this book, if anything, are the giant continuity hoops that Bendis has to jump through that keeps this highly esoteric and prevents the book from just plain getting on with it. But this is still very entertaining and undoubtedly what the DC Universe needs right now, and I hope Bendis continues on the title at least as long as the original.

[Review contains spoilers]

Gemworld, as the name implies, takes place almost entirely on the Gemworld of Amethyst fame. That is to say, though the core Young Justice team gets back together here, there's no return to the base, no camping trip, etc., and the continuity foibles are far from explained. Which is fine, in some respects — Bendis surely wants to give the people what they want without aping Peter David entirely — but at every turn this book feels caught in what it can't say or can't address. That extends to the setting, and also to the fact that it seems this team still isn't headed home at least for another volume after this one.

Bendis re-presents these characters well overall. Without much experience, I'd venture that the dialogue is a little "Bendis-y" — sarcasm, I think, doesn't always translate particularly well, and that sometimes makes the characters sound wooden. There's an instance toward the end where Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark calls Impulse Bart Allen "cutie," an innocuous bit of slang that I entirely believe between two platonic friends, except for particularly coming from Cassie — but neither do I blame Bendis for trying to "hip-ify" these characters and bring them into the modern era, and in all I find Bendis' sometimes roundabout dialogue fun in the way of Sorkin or Mamet.

Though, while Superboy Conner Kent is the one who was dimension-lost and forgotten, it actually seems as though Cassie is the one on whom Bendis is doing the most "remodeling" work in-story. It remains subtle so far, but we've seen Cassie appearing in Metropolis for reasons even she can't totally explain and self-describing as "weird"; new teammate Jinny Hex knows who Beast Boy is in the context of the Teen Titans, but not Wonder Girl. Whereas Conner seems the same, just having been forgotten, Cassie has been appearing for the last few years in the New 52 as a brasher, more unruly version of her former pre-Flashpoint self. I wonder if Bendis is hinting that it is not just memories were changed, but personalities as well, or that the "old" Cassie has of late replaced the "new" Cassie or that both currently co-exist, etc.

Not to mention, while the classic team's hug was heart-warming, Conner and Cassie's reunion was sedate to the point where I wonder if Bendis means to have resurrected these characters from a time earlier than when we last saw them. Bart Allen is back in his Impulse costume for reasons not yet fully explained (not that the DCU needs another Kid Flash at this point) and he rallies the team to re-form Young Justice, not the Teen Titans. While, based on those present in Robin's revelatory vision (a two-page splash of the original Young Justice crew by Doc Shaner, Slobo and all), it seems Young Justice's history is intact, whether such events as Geoff Johns' Teen Titans or Infinite Crisis still are is questionable.

Robin's flashback story here is a highlight, given again the Doc Shaner splash, but the guest art in the rest of that chapter is weak, and Bendis tosses out a few tidbits that seemed discordant. One, Tim Drake calls Spoiler Stephanie Brown's father "the master thief" (as in, "the Master Thief"), which seems an unnecessary and confusing change from "Cluemaster." Also, Tim asks whether Stephanie's father is in jail, when insofar as this (albeit uncertain) continuity is supposed to be concerned, Cluemaster is dead.

Additionally, Tim refers to Stephanie as "Batgirl" and she calls herself a former Robin, neither of which is true in the Rebirth continuity. And we know we're still in that continuity, since Tim and Stephanie talk about having recently seen alternative versions of themselves (in Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 7: Batmen Eternal), which included Stephanie as Batgirl (this can't be Batgirl Stephanie if she references an adventure where she encountered her alternate self as Batgirl Stephanie). It's minor in the grand scheme of the story, but it underscores that there's a lot of moving parts to Bendis bringing these characters back, more perhaps even than he himself can keep up with.

Artist Patrick Gleason kicks off this book, which is quite fine in terms of Gleason's semi-animated, manga-infused style, not trying to make young adults look like adults or the like — and also because of Gleason's long-time work on young heroes like Robin Damian Wayne and Superboy Jon Kent, and on the Super-titles with Bendis. But I was also particularly pleased with John Timms, who comes on in the middle and whose depictions of the team all lined up reminds of original Young Justice affiliate Carlo Barberi, giving a perhaps even better throughway to the past.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld

Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld and Brian Michael Bendis' Young Justice is obviously going to be different than Peter David's. I'm unconcerned, however; we could probably do with a few fewer puns and a mildly more adult aesthetic, a la Geoff Johns' Teen Titans, while still preserving the fun of Young Justice. Clearly, from the depiction of the entire original team, Bendis knows where the heart of this book is at, and I appreciate touches like his afterword at the end. Only, it doesn't even look like the second volume is on the schedule yet — that's a bummer.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs and sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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