Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Todd Nauck
Inks: Lary Stucker
Colors: Jason Wright & Digital Chameleon
Letters: Ken Lopez
Publisher: D.C. Comics
The book opens with Red Tornado's adopted daughter Traya discovering the horror that is the ending of the film "Old Yeller", as we see she is staying over at Anita's house with the girls of Young Justice. We then see that this slumber party is interrupted by the arrival of her father's boss, who has come to tell Anita that her father & his partner have gone missing. The man then goes on to explain that the two men were investigating a smuggling ring down in Louisiana, and that both men have been missing for forty-eight hours. We then see rejoin the group at Young Justice's headquarters, where the entire team has gathered to help look for Anita's father, while Anita performs a voodoo spell to locate her father. We then learn that Anita's father has fallen into the hands of a villain who was responsible for the death of Anita's mother. As Anita's spell directs the team to the house where Anita spent her childhood, we see Young Justice arrives just in time to keep Agent Ishido Madd from being consumed by the local wildlife. However, the team discovers that they may have arrived too late to save Anita's father.
I remember an interview that Peter David gave rather early in this book's run about how a comedy-based title needs to get deadly serious every so often if it wants to survive in today's market, and looking back on this series, I can see that he's been fairly good at following his advice. Now yes nine out of every ten issues have been straight out comedy, but the opening visit by Harm, Arrowette's murderous hunt for her teacher's killer, and Secret's rather sinister origin issue are all good examples of Peter David being able to inject more serious-minded ideas into the book. Now this issue starts out as a pretty amusing read, as we see the girls of Young Justice enjoying a slumber party, but after Special Agent Manning's arrival the book becomes more & more serious, until it finally arrives at its shocking final page. Now there's still funny elements in this issue, from Peter David's playful teasing when it comes to showing us the team's new leader, to the team's collective reaction to the more chilling aspects of Anita's voodoo spell. However, this issue does look like it marks the return of the more serious material to these pages.
In the interests of preserving the surprise for readers who might not have read this issue yet, I'll make my comments on the final page shocker as veiled as I can. Needless to say, the events of the final page are sure to impact at least one member of Young Justice a great deal, and I do think that this character's response is likely to result in their departure from Young Justice. In fact if this story is going to do anything it's likely to have the entire team questioning whether it's wrong to kill someone that's as unquestionably evil as the principal villain of this arc. One also has to wonder if Slo-bo is likely to keep in line, given he is linked to Lobo, who kills people who even think of looking at him funny. Oh and just so I can work in my monthly rant about Impulse still not finding his way back into this book, I feel that I must point out that if Impulse had been with the team, the tragedy of the final page wouldn't have seemed quite so dire, which I'm not sure is all that great an argument to get Impulse back on the team. Still, I miss Bart's presence in this title, and I'm starting to get more worried the longer he stays away, that he won't be returning.
Todd Nauck has become such a regular presence of this title that it's rather easy to overlook what he brings to this book. Even with his lighthearted style, Todd Nauck is one of the more impressive artists working today when it comes to simple storytelling. I mean from the opening page with the gunshot going off on a rain-soaked night, to the following page where we learn to source of this mystery weapons fire, this issue is full of examples that Todd Nauck is a masterful storyteller. His characters are expressive, without becoming overly cartoonish. His art also does a nice job on the more serious-minded elements of the issue, as the villain's interaction with one of his young captives is quite chilling, and the final pages of this issue are even more so. The humor is also well conveyed by the art, as the panel where the girls react to the idea that Anita's father was investigating an operation that deals with human body parts was a cute visual, as was the two panel bit where Superboy's foot meets an annoyed Wondergirl. The scene where the attacking bobcat meets the hungry alligator is also a nice piece of art.
With the Captain Marvel contest, and the rumored return of the pre-Crisis Supergirl grabbing the attention for Peter David's other titles, this book seems to have been lost in the shuffle, and with both "Impulse" & "Superboy" getting the ax, one does have to be concerned about this book's future. However, this issue has me eyeing the ever looming 50th issue, as this opening issue certainly gets the "Fighting Maad" arc off to an explosive start. Based on this first chapter it's quite easy to believe that this is going to be a fairly grim & gritty affair, and here's hoping that when the dust settles this book has undergone a fairly major status quo shaking, as while I've enjoyed the previous issues, lately the book has felt a like it was a bit desperate for ideas. A membership change-up, some tension within the ranks, and maybe even a shocking death, or two are exactly what this book needs, and based on this issue, it certainly looks like all three are entirely possible.
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