Young Justice (2019-) #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Chri Anka, Patrick Gleason, Even Shaner, & John Timms
This issue continues the series’ trend of advancing the main plot and team action while also zeroing in on a particular character. For #5 the spotlight is on Tim Drake, who has returned to the simple identity of Robin. As the conflict with Dark Lord Opal heats up in Gemworld, flashbacks reveal what the third Boy Wonder has been up to since his last major appearances in James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics, which included making some important discoveries about the state of the DC Multiverse.
The Tim flashbacks bring in the issue’s two big guest-stars. First, there’s Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. Spoiler. As established at the end of Tynion’s run, the two are happily reunited and in love. It’s not all romantic bliss, however. Instead of going to college as they told the Bat-family they were, Tim and Steph are on a walkabout searching for answers about their lives in the pre-Flashpoint timeline. This search brings them to the Hall of Justice to get help from Zatanna. Zatanna is able to detect and reveal the memories of the previous timeline stored within Tim’s mind, resulting in an immensely satisfying splash page of the Peter David-era Young Justice team (even members previously unknown to exist in the Rebirth continuity like Arrowette, Empress, and Slobo) and the Grant Morrison-era Justice League.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given both the authority writer Brian Michael Bendis has been given since arriving at DC and the confusing recent continuities of many of its characters (as well as the long delays of Doomsday Clock‘s conclusion), Young Justice has emerged as one of the series giving one of the clearest and in-depth (though gradually unfolding) explanations of the changes occurring to DC continuity. That makes the book likely to be heavily scrutinized, though I think most would have to agree that what Bendis is doing is working. All the changes being made and secrets being revealed are rooted in the young characters trying to put their lives together, and that makes all the sci-fi, alternate universe metaphysics a lot easier to ingest and enjoy.
That said, development isn’t spread quite as evenly among the ensemble as it has been in proceeding issues. A lot of #5 is strictly devoted to Robin and Spoiler. Still, everyone gets a few good Bendis quips in the big action scene and Jinny Hex and Bart/Impulse briefly shine by contributing a lot to the fight. And, it’s hard to complain about so much time being spent on the Tim and Steph story when it’s this good. This is a rare time in the couple’s history when their relationship is defined not by passion, conflict, and miscommunication, but by real, committed love, support, and mutual respect. Bendis demonstrates his innate skill writing complex, adolescent characters by putting great challenges in their way and allowing them to face them in ways that are mature but still dramatically interesting. This issue seems to be setting Stephanie up to return to the book and I really hope that’s the case. Bendis would even do well to make her a main cast member. Her and Tim’s relationship could be a very strong emotional cornerstone for the series. The issue’s final page when they tell each other they love one another and promise to reunite as soon as possible is one of the most affecting moments I’ve read in a comic in a while.
It’s unfortunate when a book has to resort to fill-in art this early in its run. Still, the look of the ensemble scenes is consistent enough with what’s come before, and the characters remain expressive. Kris Anka’s work on the Tim-Steph-Zatanna scenes sticks out more though tonally he is still a decent fit for the romance-heavy subplot.
Inconsistencies in art aside, this is a very impressive issue that proves again why this is one of the most fun and emotionally engaging superhero series out there at the moment.
Young Justice #5
Young Justice #5 is another very strong issue with important ramifications for the DC universe that will be particularly special for fans of the Robin/Spoiler duo, and makes the case for the latter being made a member of the main cast.