After a number of adventures through various different Earths, the Young Justice team is finally home! But just what have they fallen into exactly, and how does Naomi fit into it all? The answers aren’t simple, but with this team, little ever is.
The narrative in this issue is told mostly through Naomi’s point of view. While there are some moments where this really works, the opening few pages are a mess of confusion, setting the issue up for a number of moments that just don’t do it for me. Things start with Naomi in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of scientists. She doesn’t seem to really know what’s going on, who she’s talking to, or much of anything. She has an entire conversation with Dr. Glory that feels like listening to half a phone call, even though we get to see both sides of this conversation. Dr. Glory herself is a flood of information, while also seeming confused. She mentions Birth World in one panel, then doesn’t seem to know what it means in the next. The whole thing feels like a scene plucked out of a different comic. There’s legitimate information being shared that does point to what’s going on, and gives some of Naomi’s backstory, but it’s drowned out by how confused everything is. It doesn’t help that we have no point of reference for what Naomi is doing here. I’m sure this scene might make more sense if you’ve read Naomi’s solo title, but I haven’t yet, and I really shouldn’t feel the need to read a totally different book just to understand one I’m already invested in. That might not be the feeling Bendis was going for here, but it’s how it came across.
The rocky opening is only the start of the problems scattered through this issue. It almost feels like everywhere I found something good, there’s another aspect to it that seems to miss the mark. There’s humor and some good moments between Naomi and the team, but more often than not I felt confused and stopping to go “But why?”, which led to a growing frustration with the overall narrative of it.
I’ve already talked about the frustrating start with Naomi, but overall I really enjoyed her portrayal here. She takes the center in this issue, and her outsider’s point of view works well to frame the Young Justice team in a different light. I like her curiosity, and willingness to take the shock of waking up to the team sleeping over at her house in stride. She also has a relatable personality, and does what any normal teen might in her situation, by asking Tim why they didn’t just leave for the Batcave. I also loved her tiptoeing around her own house in a curious exploration of the YJ team as they’re sprawled across her home. It’s a series of great moments where we get to see them from someone else’s POV.
The art during the nightly exploration is also particularly nice. John Timms takes advantage of the dark to use shadows and spots of light really well to highlight different parts of Naomi’s wonder, and various characters appearances both before and after they’ve woken. There’s some wonderful character framing done in the spread where she finds Conner and Tim asleep, Conner looking about as relaxed as can be, while Tim’s fallen asleep in the middle of work with his laptop open and batarangs spread on the table. It’s a good visual description of the two, even in sleep.
Naomi eventually wanders outside and finds Jinny and Teen Lantern sleeping in the truck. Her wandering has woken Conner and Tim who join them outside to talk about how the team got to her house, and discuss why they showed up at S.T.A.R. Labs. The outside scene is nice, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder why Naomi wandered out there, and why Jinny and Keli are sleeping out there. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather camp out sleepover style on the floor of someone’s living room than outside in a truck any day. There doesn’t seem to be a lack of room in the house, and there’s no narrative reason given for them choosing to sleep outside or for Naomi to wander out there. It really feels like an excuse to get everyone outside just so Conner can later fly off in a righteous fury. Without some in text reason for it, the whole set up feels weird given how hospitable Naomi’s family has been, and while rendered beautifully under Timms pen and Eltaeb’s colors, it doesn’t make sense.
Through all this, Tim continues to mention the fact that he hasn’t been able to get in touch with anyone. We get a stream of text bubbles from him trying to contact Stephanie, with no response. It’s a nice way to set up that something is amiss in the world, but so much attention is brought to it I couldn’t help but try to figure out what’s going on. Is Bendis referencing the Year of the Villain events? Maybe Leviathan? Or is it something unconnected with any of that, and story specific? If it’s an outside event, there aren’t any editor’s notes to direct a curious reader to an answer. And if it’s an internal issue, it feels very pointed and distracting, especially when the issue does little to resolve that confusion, and actually works to aim the team away from figuring out what might be going on in their world.
Speaking of Tim, I do want to point out a couple inconsistent moments with his uniform that stuck out to me. Through the latter half of the issue, his red D symbol seems to come and go as it pleases. And I don’t mean it happens in background shots that are less detailed, but in some really obvious places, like when the team’s back together in uniform. Then again the next page, it’s not there in one panel and back in the next. Also, the top of his uniform seems to keep transforming from a vest over long sleeves to just a long sleeve top. That’s not too big a deal, since many uniforms can have that problem in the art, but with his outfit change still so new to readers it’s important to keep it consistent. It’s something that naturally draws the eye right now, and problems will tend to divert focus to him instead of to what the story is doing.
Eventually, with Naomi’s help, Conner and Tim start to piece together what might have really been going on at the lab they found themselves at when they returned to Earth. They learn about what S.T.A.R. Labs was researching, and the reappearance of Dr. Glory–the doctor that sent Conner on his trip to Gemworld. With suspicions growing, the team rallies while Conner goes on ahead to confront Dr. Glory, helping draw the issue towards its conclusion.
Conner ends up tricked by Dr. Glory into getting sent to a different dimension again. This is bothersome for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m not entirely convinced Conner would let himself get tricked in the same way by the same woman, even if she played off his desire for some peace in his life. He was far too angry with her to be distracted by her promise of being able to go back whenever. Secondly, it feels an awful lot like Bendis just reset things back to the first arc, with a few differences. I mean, are we really going to to go on another adventure through one or more dimensions not even 24 hours after the team gets back? I like dimension and world hopping hijinks well enough, but this is a pretty steep turnaround time, with little major plot progression. It’d be really nice to see the team settled into their Earth for a little bit to sort some various character things –like Jinny’s box, and everyone’s various reasons for being in Metropolis– instead of jumping right into another off world adventure.
Unfortunately, it feels a bit like Bendis is losing some steam when it comes to Young Justice. The first arc was really strong, and the exploration through the multiverse had its ups and downs, but some of my least favorite habits of his are starting to show up. This issue was often wordy, and filled with confusing moments. With him working on so many titles and projects, it was bound to start to show in even his best stuff. Hopefully next month goes a little smoother.
- Naomi! She was the star of this issue
- You like really pretty night scenes
- You don’t mind a bit of chaos between adventures
Young Justice is in an odd place right now where it’s introducing new characters and transitioning into a new arc. With all that come some bumps and bruises. Things are a little chaotic at the start of the issue, and it continues to have a few problems throughout. Still, Bendis crafts some good scenes with Naomi and the team as they interact and work out what’s going on in Oregon and with S.T.A.R. Labs. While not the strongest issue in this series, it had some fun moments and was gorgeous to look at.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.