This month Young Justice takes a break from stories featuring the full team and focuses on just two characters. Stephanie Brown and Tim Drake, team up to go after Spoiler’s nemesis (and dad), Cluemaster.
The book starts out with Drake joining Spoiler in Central City, but quickly switches to Stephanie explaining how they got to this point. This story is a lot of summary and exposition, but does visually take us back to what happened, and has some nice moments of action. Though, it’s a bit frustrating that it couldn’t have simply been told linearly, especially since it takes up such a significant portion of the book. Comics are a great medium for showing instead of telling, and choosing to give information through Stephanie telling a story really removes some of that ability to show her investigation. Doing it that way would have also created momentum that isn’t broken by the story splitting to start and stop a long flashback. This jumping back and forth thing has been used often in Young Justice and at this point, I think it’s doing more harm than good to the story.
Beyond my gripes about stories within stories, this issue is about Stephanie, her quest to stop her dad, and his own reactions to her meddling. Tim is there, but he’s not nearly as central to the story as the cover pushes him to be. In fact, beyond being made fun of for his choice of costume and name and basically being Stephanie’s ride, Tim has little to do with the plot. He does encourage her, and act as a sounding board, but again, this is more Steph’s story than his.
I don’t mind that it’s not about both of them, because it means Stephanie really gets to be the star. It’s been too long since she’s had a chance to really shine in a book, so it’s nice to see her get some focus. This is another reason I would have loved to see the story follow Steph from the beginning, instead of jumping around. It could have been an excellent opportunity to showcase her detective skills along with her fighting ones. Though, those fighting scenes are a lot of fun to read.
Oeming covers the flashback portions of this story, and has a lot of time to show Spoiler in battle. During these scenes, he really makes her look like a relentless wraith. Something I love about the Spoiler costume is how it covers her head to toe and makes her a dark shadowy figure. Oeming draws her in such a way that all the black in her outfit blends together, and gives her this feeling of being something different, and ‘other’ even if she’s still just human. Especially compared to the thugs Cluemaster has hired. Eltaeb’s colors add to this as we see the thugs in white or green shirts, more detailed than Spoiler, and a nice contrast to the way she blends into shadows. She doesn’t do a lot of hiding in shadows in this issue, but you believe she could melt away like Batman does.
I also want to point out my favorite panels in the issue, since they also are part of the flashback. The story had stepped away from a lot of exposition to show the fight Stephnaie was in, and now moves back into it, but instead of clogging the page with more exposistion text, the art team does some interesting things to transition us. The first panel shows Spoiler’s head centered, but faded out so you can see the background, and we know we’re back in her memory as she explains things. In the second, Abbott puts all the text at the bottom of the panel, in line with the roof Stephanie is leaping off of, making them easy to follow as we also follow her across the roof. It’s a nice pairing of moments that move readers out of the flashback and into the present time of the story.
Back in present day, Spoiler’s goal is to stop Cluemaster from setting up a new criminal organization in Central City. Both her and Cluemaster’s motivations are pretty straightforward. There is some nuance to the story beyond that in the form of complicated family dynamics.
Cluemaster in particular is a bit of a conundrum, but not in a bad way. He sends goons to kill Steph, but only after trying to push her off in other ways –such as having faked his death back in Batman Eternal— and actually expresses some regret in not knowing how to raise her. It doesn’t excuse sending people to kill his daughter, but it is a humanizing moment, even if it is just the briefest of ones. Stephanie is similar in that while her goal is bringing Cluemaster to justice, you can see that desire to have a normal family appear when she tells him she wants him to turn himself in and go to family counseling with her and her mom. None of that happens, of course, but again it’s another moment to see more of them than just the motivations we expect.
While I enjoyed a lot of Stephanie’s portion of the story, there are a few things –mostly towards the end– that I wasn’t a fan of here. For some reason, the rest of the team shows up towards the end to help. In the story it’s because Tim called them as potential backup, but honestly? I don’t see the need for them to be here. This book can exist without having to drag the whole team into it in every issue. It’s okay to just feature a few of the characters. Even within the story, the reason is flimsy. Tim agreed with Stephanie that this was her fight, and still called in the team, which is contradictory in itself. If he believed in her, why call them? Cluemaster really isn’t that big a threat.
Another thing that nagged at me was a moment right at the end where Bendis scrambles to confirm that Tim is Robin again. At the tail end of the story Tim is back in his Robin uniform, and Conner off the cuff tells the team “He’s Robin, don’t ask questions about why, just be happy he’s not Drake anymore.” It brings up more questions than anwers. Why wasn’t Tim drawn as Robin in the rest of the issue? If this was a last minute decision why not save this off the cuff explanation for the next issue instead of throwing it randomly in here? There really should be some physical scene somewhere of Tim taking it back up, of the conversation that happened. And before you say “It happened in the conversation Bruce had with Tim last issue” I’d like to point out that he’s Drake for most of this issue. If Bruce told him he needed to be Robin back then, he would have changed uniforms already. It might feel like I’m making a big deal out of a scene, but things like this really irritate me. This is something that should be a big character moment, and deserves more than what this issue gives it. The way it is now reads like a last minute addition that could have been saved for another issue and actually worked into the story.
The last thing that really bugged me was the dialogue. I’ve had problems with the way Bendis writes dialogue in the past, but in this issue there are some moments that made me cringe. It feels like he’s trying to make the book read like something teenagers would like, and in doing so makes most of the characters sound like teenagers themselves. Only, they aren’t real teenagers, but the approximation of what someone might guess without asking a real teen if they’d say that. This happens especially with the goons Cluemaster has hired. They call Step and Tim “baby bats”, Steph “Baby Cluemaster”, and one of them just says “I peed” when a big criminal shows up to attack them. The awkward, off way people spoke was so prevalent in this issue it distracted me a number of times.
Things wrap up on the note of Tim being Robin again and with Cassie showing up to introduce the next plot point, and an arc that looks to be focused on her. Her character was one I was hoping to see more of over this series, so I’m glad she’s getting at least a little time to shine especially since the final issue for this series has been announced for November. Hopefully she’ll get the time she deserves over the next couple of issues.
- Spoiler is your girl
- You want to see her in action after being out of the spotlight for too long
- Tim and Stephanie working together is something you’ve been missing
This issue makes Stephanie shine. It puts her squarely in the spotlight, and sends the familiar duo of Stephanie and Tim back on an adventure. There are a few details that bring it down a bit, like the need to bring the whole Young Justice team in, and some awkward moments of dialogue, but it’s generally good read when it’s focusing on Stephanie. If you’ve been wishing for more Spoiler in your comics, this is one to pick up.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.