You know something’s wrong when you have to pull out the prior issue of a book and look at the end in hopes of understanding what’s going on in the current one. I found the beginning of this story so confusing that I pulled out issue #7. It didn’t help. That’s unfortunate because there’s a lot to like in this story.
In the prior installment, the courts of Gemworld sent the Young Justice team into the multiverse with no way home. The story ended with the Justice League of an alternate Earth attempting to send them to the proper reality. Unfortunately, Dr. Fate made a mistake, so the team ended up on Earth-3, which is dominated by the Crime Syndicate, a group of gangs led by evil versions of various DC characters.
The action opens with YJ’s Wonder Girl, Cassie, fighting the Wonder Girl of Earth-3. The narration, captions with white text in purple boxes, begins here and runs through most of the book. I figured it had to belong to one of the characters on the page, but it didn’t fit either one. Confused and wondering if I’d forgotten the narrator was introduced at the end of issue #7, I pulled out that book and looked. Nope. No narrator. As I read issue #8, I was so distracted by trying to figure out who was narrating that I couldn’t focus fully on the team’s battles with their Earth-3 counterparts. We don’t learn who the narrator is until near the end of the book. I understand not wanting to spoil their surprise arrival, but showing the character in silhouette and establishing that this was the narrator would’ve made the entire story read more smoothly.
As far as the actual story goes, I enjoyed the characterization of our heroes and villains quite a lot. The YJ team backed each other up, as we would expect of teammates, and the dialogue included engaging banter. When Earth-3 Wonder Girl talks about the joy of punching a smug version of herself, Cassie says she wants to try that. At one point, Bart asks Tim, “Did you see evil me? Ugh!” And then Tim responds, “No, I was too busy getting shot in the face. And I always thought YOU were the evil version of you.” I loved lines like that! This short, quick exchange, of the sort possible only between close friends, reminded us they trust each other, and it added a bit of humor without slowing the pace.
Meanwhile, the Earth-3 characters’ disdain for their YJ counterparts served as a nice contrast to the Justice League’s more cooperative approach in the last issue. The difference helps keep this leg of the quest to return home from seeming too much like the last one. It also provides a serious challenge for the heroes, which is good because stories are boring when the heroes have it easy. The Crime Syndicate members help each other out but, unlike the members of Young Justice, don’t seem to be good friends. Not. One. Bit.
I especially enjoyed Tim’s battle with Earth-3’s Snapper Carr. Original Snapper Carr wore a t-shirt and a brown leather jacket, and he slicked back his brown hair. First seeing this world’s very different version, with his pink Mohawk and punk clothes, was a whoa moment. His finger snaps now actually create more fighters, who all attack Tim. I loved that twist on a familiar and mostly forgotten character. Here, I’ll save you the Google search and link you to the Wikipedia article right HERE.
There were other highlights. Although I would’ve liked to see a little more of Jinny Hex, Amethyst, and, especially Teen Lantern, the story gives every YJ member at least a brief moment in the spotlight. I particularly liked the scenes with Conner, a character I didn’t know much about before I started reading YJ. He makes it plain he doesn’t appreciate being attacked by the Crime Syndicate and loves unleashing his full power on these super-strong opponents. His rush to aid Cassie and his decision to hold back until he knew he didn’t have to appeal to me.
In the fight sequences, artist John Timms used perspective effectively. There’s a scene with Jinny Hex and Amethyst in the foreground. Above them, in the background, Cassie crashes into a billboard, and the billboard’s smaller size shows how high it is and how far away they are. There’s also a great image of Tim hurling his batarang and taking out an opponent. Tim fills the foreground, with his opponent small in the background. The use of perspective emphasizes the power and accuracy of his throw beautifully. My only quibble was that, because of an interruption in the action, I wasn’t entirely sure who he’d hit! A different use of perspective in the panel below, with Tim’s figure moving from background to foreground in such a tight sequence, makes the fight feel as though it’s moving closer.
Another good fight scene featured Tim and Earth-3’s Drake. The shadowy figures and blank background in the panels below focus the eye on the characters, showcasing their acrobatics and fighting skills. If you imagine walking through this sequence with a staff in your hands, rotating it as one of them would, the movements flow smoothly from one panel to the next. The only exception is one figure going airborne in the fifth panel, attacking the other from behind when they were just face to face. The silhouettes are a cool effect and pop against the plain red backdgrop, but they admittedly do make it hard to tell who’s who…
- You can tolerate the narration and focus mainly on the panels.
- You like alternate worlds stories.
- You enjoy heroes fighting their evil counterparts.
All things considered, this was an interesting, engaging story with lots of fun character interplay, but the narration undercut it severely. If that had been on just a couple of pages, it would’ve been a relatively minor problem. Since it pervaded the book, however, it was a huge stumbling block.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.