Brian Michael Bendis' move to DC Comics has been mostly centered around his work with Superman, with the famed writer taking over multiple Man of Steel titles. However, his role with the publisher grows bigger this week with the debut of Young Justice #1, which was illustrated by Patrick Gleason and will act as the flagship series of the author's new, younger-skewing DC imprint, Wonder Comics.
On the surface, this book seems like another half-hearted Teen Titans rehash, another feeble attempt from a comic publisher to get young people invested in comics. Once you've seen one teenage team-up, you've seen them all, right? Well, on the part of Young Justice #1, this doesn't appear to the be the case, at least not yet. After one issue, Bendis' new series is looking a lot less like a spin on the ever-so-average Teen Titans franchise, and a lot more like DC's answer to Marvel's Champions. (If you've been following my reviews for any amount of time, you'll know that comparing anything to the current iteration of Champions is a massive compliment.) Bendis flexes the same muscles he used when creating Miles Morales, and proves that he can still write teenage characters as good as anyone.
Young Justice is a mix of established DC youngsters and new, albeit exciting, characters. Robin (Tim Drake), Impulse (Bart Allen), and Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark) lead the way with this new team, and the fan-favorite Conner Kent joins the fray at the end of the issue. These original four accidentally join forces with two less-familiar faces, Teen Lantern and Jinny Hex, descendant of Jonah Hex.
The story begins with Jinny arriving in the big city of Metropolis, looking to make a new life for herself. When invaders from the Gemworld arrive downtown, she takes up arms to try and defend the lives of those around her. As it turns out, the entire team was in Metropolis for one reason or another, and they quickly start working together to rid the city of its new villains.
Look, the bad guys in this first issue don't really matter too much, and neither does the story itself, at least for right now. The overarching journeys and plotting baddies will come in time, but this issue should be all about establishing solid characters and a fun team dynamic that will get readers, both young and old, to buy another comic. Fortunately for DC, Bendis and Gleason do exactly that.
Tim Drake and Bart Allen are written well, which is to be expected. Wonder Girl doesn't get much time in this first issue, neither does Conner Kent, but that's OK because people know these characters and their logos enough to understand who they are and what they should be about. Young Justice is a good comic because of the charm of Jinny Hex. Period. Teen Lantern is great in the time she's given, and I'm excited to see what she gets do alongside characters her own age, but Jinny Hex is a cult hero in the making. She's got all of the grit, confidence and dangerous antics that accompanied Jonah Hex, but with the spunk and dialogue of Squirrel Girl. She's genuinely one of the most fun new character to come out of DC Comics for some time, and she is worth the cost of a second issue all on her own.
Gleason is also a massive standout in Young Justice. Bendis has some good ideas and solid banter between characters, but it's Gleason's artistic choices that really give this book the teenage charm that it needs. It's a little rough around the edges, in the absolute best way possible, and gives young people characters that feel so incredibly relatable. It's got a sort of Runaways feel to it that I can't shake.
This is not to say that Young Justice is instantly as good of a book as Champions, which is already one of the best books of 2019, but it has the potential to get there. There is room for these characters to grow into stars who carry the Wonder Comics brand for years to come. It all depends on what Bendis chooses to do in issue #2, and he's already off to a solid start.
Published by DC Comics
On January 9, 2019
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Patrick Gleason
Colors by Alejandro Sanchez
Letters by DC Lettering