Review: Dark Crisis: Young Justice hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Dark Crisis: Young Justice read to me as if written by someone who heard about Peter David’s Young Justice secondhand and then wrote about it based on that secondhand knowledge. I am not opposed to a meta-examination of Young Justice, but there are aspects of this story that feel as though Meghan Fitzmartin does not know the original title as well as someone writing this book might need to. That’s in addition to a variety of general difficulties Fitzmartin’s writing and in the art by Laura Braga.

It’s a disappointing package that doesn’t live up to Joshua Williamson’s main Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths. A “young adults come to grip with their teenage years” take on Young Justice sounds fine indeed, something even more character-driven than Brian Michael Bendis' recent short lived Young Justice series, but unfortunately Dark Crisis: Young Justice is mostly surface-level. In never getting beyond the obvious in the characters, it never has any place to go.

[Review contains spoilers]

A lot of Dark Crisis: Young Justice’s stumbles center around original team member and former Arrowette Cissie King-Jones. Fitzmartin presents the Young Justice group, and particularly Cissie, as estranged, though it’s hard to know exactly how long Fitzmartin thinks they’ve been apart. The first chapter line “We were all together when Conner came back” could variably refer to Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds from over a decade ago (where Cissie was not, as far as I recall, present) or Young Justice Vol. 3: Warriors and Warlords from just a couple years ago where Cissie did indeed make an appearance and which doesn’t seem all that long ago, comics-time.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Charitably, if there was perhaps some overlap between the production of Fitzmartin’s miniseries and the end of Bendis' series, maybe not knowing how long Young Justice had been apart is an honest mistake (though one would think editorial at least might have caught it). But throughout the story, Fitzmartin seems to misrepresent why Arrowette left Young Justice in the original series, certainly available to reference — “Because superhero life is hard,” “because of the toxicity” apparently of the other team members, and “almost killing friends.” That last one is particularly strange because Cissie didn’t leave Young Justice after almost killing a friend, but because she was worried about her own violent tendencies after almost killing the man who murdered her beloved school counselor.1

Fitzmartin is certainly within her rights to reinterpret events — it seemed like this but it was actually that, so to speak. But the circumstances of Cissie leaving the team were very specific and Fitzmartin doesn’t convincingly align the new information with the old — even an “It might have seemed like I was leaving because this, but it was also that” would be better than eliding the original story entirely.

Not to mention that no sooner did Cissie quit being Arrowette than she was back in the Young Justice title constantly as part of their adventures, this being the very trope David was playing with, and on from there. Fitzmartin’s Cissie’s laissez-faire attitude is so far from the original character’s presentation that one begins to wonder just how familiar Fitzmartin is with the characters. Otherwise I can’t see altering Cissie to this extent just to have a foil for Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark rather than finding a way to write the story with more familiar presentations of the characters.

There are similar difficulties throughout the book that come off as either misinformed or just plain sloppy. An imaginary Captain Boomerang taunts Robin Tim Drake, “Can’t take your eyes off the ball, Boy Wonder. Isn’t that how your dad died,” which perhaps sounded good in the writing but doesn’t actually have anything to do with how Jack Drake died in Identity Crisis. Amazonian queen Hippolyta is established as dead at the beginning of the story, but later the characters get Wonder Woman’s invisible jet because “Hippolyta owed me a favor” — at best it’s confusing phrasing and at worst it’s a gaffe. One of Braga’s panels supposed to show Young Justice’s old enemies mostly includes their allies, including team member Empress.

To be sure, the original Young Justice was a product of its time, and where Dark Crisis: Young Justice indicates previous gag bits that could be read now as heteronormative or culturally insensitive, it’s not wrong (Young Justice having come and gone in the same era as Friends, for instance). But when Fitzmartin has Cissie claim she only remembers “fighting people the Justice League didn’t understand, like women, people from other countries, folks who were just doing their best,” I again wasn’t quite sure I got the reference and I don’t think the lack of specificity helps the claim.

At one point villain Mickey Mxyzptlk mentions Young Justice’s “entire generation getting stuck in limbo, like we’re disposable,” which was an idea I wouldn’t have minded Fitzmartin exploring further. In the imaginary world that Myxzptlk creates, we see Green Arrow Connor Hawke and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, too — essentially the 1990s heroes created during this time and then shunted to the background over the long road from Flashpoint to the New 52 to DC You and DC Rebirth to now. I’m equally satisfied with DC’s latest generation and particularly the diversification of their hero set, but I thought some in-story examination of why some of DC’s one-time hottest properties fizzled out, largely to a one, might’ve been interesting.

That DC gave the Young Justice characters another chance so soon after the Brian Michael Bendis series with Meghan Fitzmartin’s Dark Crisis: Young Justice is auspicious, but clearly this didn’t turn out so well. I don’t think I’d be looking for another Young Justice title so soon after this — not really sure how different that is than a Titans title with now-twenty something heroes. At the same time, it might be nice to see a redemption for a few of the relationships here before some of these characters go away for good.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Rating 1.0

  1. Doing my own due diligence, I just went back and read Young Justice #15–16 from that era. You should do the same; they’re great.  ↩︎

Comments ( 1 )

  1. I have such fond memories of the Peter David "Young Justice" run, and I could make an argument that it's one of the comics that made me a fan for life. And so I want to be generous with this book, but you're absolutely correct that it broadly mischaracterizes so much of what made the original run great.

    If we read the book through Grant Morrison's idea of "settl[ing] a moral argument by beating him into the ground," Mickey Mxyzptlk is toxic fandom writ large, and the heroes beat him by remembering what the comics were actually about, repudiating this caricature of a self-serving bad-faith fanboy. And I am completely okay with that as a premise, but the implication seems to be that Mickey represents the subsection of fandom that wants Young Justice back. Ergo, if you are still rooting for Young Justice, you're also leering over Mighty Endowed and harboring odious opinions about Jon Kent. You can like Jon Kent and still miss the Happy Harbor days (I do!). ((Sidebar: I'm reminded of the moment in Bendis's Action Comics where someone in a crowd scene tells Jon, "Hey, you should team up with Robin! That's all you should ever do!" Let's not distort what fans really want, please.))

    And from a continuity standpoint, the big epiphany is that Wonder Girl has secretly been an amazing leader, yet Cassie was the democratically elected leader of the team at the end of David's run, and she acquitted herself quite well. It's disappointing to see this book get bogged down in worrying about who she's kissing. What's more, the villain is the son of Mr. Mxyzptlk, yet I can't believe that no one brings up the fact that Mxy was one of YJ's first antagonists. Meanwhile, if you want a nemesis with reality-bending abilities, who might be interested in rewriting history to keep things mired in the past, with a long-standing hatred for all that Young Justice represents, Matthew "Bedlam" Stuart is right there.

    I don't quite want to say that the Todd Nauck variants were the best thing about this book, but Nauck at least understood the assignment. He's got young Mxy right on the cover of #1, just next to a "Sins of Youth" shout-out. Bedlam's there, too. Empress is with the heroes. Fite & Maad are there, but not as villains. And Secret and Slobo are right alongside the rest of the team, as well.


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