By Andrew A. Smith

Scripps Howard News Service


Cartoon Network’s Young Justice cartoon isn’t your daddy’s Teen Titans. It’s not even your older brother’s.

 

Young Justice is its own animal by virtue of playing mix and match with the various teen sidekicks from different eras of DC superhero comics, plus inventing a couple more. For example, the show features the original Robin at age 13, even though in the comics he hasn’t been that age since the 1950s. By contrast, YJ features the contemporary comic-book version of Superboy, a teen cloned from Superman in 1993.

 

One new character is a black Aqualad, although the original in the comics was white (and is dead). Evidently DC liked what they saw, since the new guy was recently introduced as Aquaman’s partner in the comics, too. Another new character may be confusing if you know too much; she’s a girl archer named Artemis who is NOT A) the Amazon warrior with that name in Wonder Woman comics, or B) the girl archer in the 1998-2003 Young Justice series named Arrowette.

 

But you don’t need to know all that to enjoy the cartoon. The ensemble cast is fine without prior knowledge, and entertains by depicting the interactions of an immature Robin, a reckless Kid Flash, a brooding Superboy, a flighty Miss Martian, and so forth. The flirting, fighting and search for identity and acceptance all ring true.

 

My one complaint is how they portray the Justice League. The show’s premise, you see, is that the sidekicks had demanded to join the League and be treated as adults. But that wouldn’t create a show starring that all-important demographic, the teenager. So story considerations required heroes like Superman to refuse to associate with the kids, and force them instead to become a covert superhero team. That’s not only more dangerous, it’s cruel. Thankfully, these jerks masquerading as super friends don’t show up much, except for Batman (assignments), Black Canary (combat trainer) and Red Tornado (supervisor).

 

And it seems to be working; Young Justice has been renewed for a second season. If you can’t wait, Warner Home Video released the first four episodes on DVD July 19 as Young Justice: Season One, Volume One ($14.97) and DC Kids has launched a companion comic book.

 

REPRINT ROUNDUP

 

* Sweet Tooth is ongoing mature-readers series set in a post-apocalyptic America where a plague has wiped out most of humanity, and animal/human hybrids are being born. These hybrids are immune to the plague, and are pursued by the ruthless human survivors for their secret. The eponymous star is one such hybrid, a boy with antlers who loves chocolate. Hence, “Sweet Tooth.”

I have to say I’m not a fan of the impressionistic art style of writer/artist Jeff Lemire (Nobody). On the other hand, my wife is crazy about every aspect of the book, so it’s really a matter of taste.

 

You can judge for yourself with the latest collection, Sweet Tooth Vol. 3: Animal Armies (DC/Vertigo, $14.99). Collecting Sweet Tooth #12-17, this volume sheds some light on the plague’s origin, re-unites Sweet Tooth with the big man who’d sold him for experiments (and has since had a change of heart) and begins a quest to learn Sweet Tooth’s origins.

 

Naturally, all of this complicated by the usual inhabitants of an apocalypse: brutal survivors, religious fanatics, mad scientists and rogue militias. Which, in Lemire’s hands, feel fresh. I may not care for the art, but Sweet Tooth is an absorbing and disturbing read.

 

* When Deluxe Comics re-launched a beloved 1960s series in 1984 as Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, I bought them while holding my nose. I was a purist, you see, and was irritated by the title and concept, because Wally Wood – the heart and soul of the series – had died in 1981. I didn’t think of these characters as the “real” agents of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve.

 

Now DC has reprinted those five issues as T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives Volume Seven ($59.99), and I was surprised: They were much better than I remembered. With work by Rich Buckler, Dave Cockrum, Paul Gulacy, Jerry Ordway and George Perez, it is more consistent in quality than the original 1960s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, which featured two or three superstars (like Wood) but also a whole lot of drek. Given that DC has re-launched T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents currently with the welcome revelation that all previous stories remain in continuity, this volume of obscure stories is simply that much more necessary for any hard-core comics fan.

 

Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at capncomics@aol.com.

Views: 355

Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on August 15, 2011 at 8:52am
That 1984 Deluxe Comics series was the first T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents I read, so I didn't have the same reaction to as you did. the first volume of the new series just came to an end last week (with issue #10), but is slated to return with a second volume. If DC would reprint these in the Archives format with matching trade dress, that would be ideal.
Comment by ClarkKent_DC on August 15, 2011 at 10:13am

Likewise, the 1984 Deluxe Comics version of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was my introduction to the concept, and I found it pleasant and interesting enough. 

 

And there aren't many titles or concepts that I think are so intrinsic to an artist or writer that I'm not open to somebody else taking a crack at it. Granted, I'll get thoroughly bent out of shape if I think they're doing it wrong, but I don't think it's a crime against nature for them to do it in the first place.

Comment by Captain Comics on August 15, 2011 at 2:08pm

I was in my 20s when the Deluxe version came out, so A) I had really fond memories of the original, and B) I was a twentysomething comics fan, so I Knew It All. I've matured a bit since then, plus I've re-read the originals (many of which don't hold up so well), so now I'm looking at the Deluxe stuff with new eyes, and I rather like what I see.

 

OTOH, I thought they overplayed Raven (not a major player in the original) and gave him narration that was annoying. All that stuff about luck and so forth -- Jeebus, dude, give it a rest, just go do your mission. And the Lightning angst about Kitty dragged on too long, I thought. Either kill him off, retire him, or let him get over it. With "normal" superheroes that's part of the package, but these guys are supposed to be professionals, which includes regular psychological exams or at least supervision by management. No professional organization would allow Raven or Lightning into the field with all that baggage dragging behind them.

Comment by Captain Comics on August 15, 2011 at 2:13pm
Also, I was probably confusing the Deluxe books with yet another revival by another company. There were at least three appearances in JC Comics (John Carbanaro) that were not included in this volume. Given that the next volume will be reprinting the current DC series, I guess DC was unable to get the rights. If I remember right, it was T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1-2 and a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents/Justice Machine Annual #1 (published by whomever was publishing Justice Machine at that point). I've got those somewhere in the Comics Cave, but don't remember a thing about them. Which is a bad sign -- they probably weren't very good. And I probably conflated them with the Deluxe books.
Comment by Philip Portelli on August 15, 2011 at 3:55pm

As for Young Justice, it's a pretty good series though Superman is an insensitive "deadbeat dad" in it. Yes, you didn't know about Superboy and you didn't want a clone but guess what Clark? He's here! Deal with him! And you have to get parenting tips from Batman!!! :-0

I still have no clue about Miss Martian. Is she really J'onn's niece? Why does she act more human than him? I thought in the comics anyway, that she was a White Martian!

Comment by Philip Portelli on August 15, 2011 at 3:56pm
And why no Wonder Girl for that matter!
Comment by Captain Comics on August 15, 2011 at 6:14pm

Yeah, Superman's behavior really bugs me.  Not only is it insensitive and cruel, but he's taking the chance that this kid will grow up to be a supervillain, plus it's the exact opposite of what happened in the comics, where Supey was delighted for his small family to grow a little. In the cartoon, it's pretty clear that Superboy could benefit from some serious counseling, and a sense of family.

 

Not that Batman's any jewel. His conversations with the kids are beyond brusque, well into abuse. And sending them on covert missions is insane. Send them on minor missions where they can learn, sure, but undercover? Without any experienced mentors along? And in foreign, hostile nations? That's a recipe for disaster and death.

Comment by Captain Comics on August 15, 2011 at 6:17pm

As to Miss Martian, the episodes I've seen treat her like she's genuinely J'onn's niece although -- as you say -- she's really a White Martian in the comics, and J'onn doesn't have any relatives. Similarly, we have virtually no explanation for Artemis. Those could  be long-running mysteries, or just bad writing.

 

I'm guessing no Wonder Girl for legal reasons -- her rights are probably tied up with whoever it is that filmed that recent Wonder Woman pilot.

 

And one more thing: No supervision for Red Arrow? He's still a minor, isn't he? Letting him run around as a loose cannon is also a recipe for "How to Make Teens Turn Out Badly."

Comment by KSwolf on August 18, 2011 at 1:56pm

Cap, they did eventually start giving us some hints about Artemis' background.  In one of the last episodes before the lengthy hiatus, they revealed that she's actually established DC character, Artemis Crock -- a long-time Infinity Inc. and JSA foe, and the daughter of the Sportsmaster and the Golden Age Huntress.

 

Comment by Captain Comics on August 18, 2011 at 2:01pm
Hmmm. My DVR failed to record that one, I guess.

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