Hey, Youngblood’s back! And this time Joe Casey’s got ‘em. Hmm, what’s that silence I hear? Is it apathy that I’m hearing? Yeah, ol’ Rob Liefeld isn’t working on this revival, for what it’s worth, but Joe Casey is writing it, and the comic’s not too bad, really. Unfortunately it’s not that great or original either.
The comic’s all about the government manipulating the Youngblood team members into becoming media stars. Members are chosen for their photogenic appearances and not their fighting skills, and seem to be intended by the Federal government to be used as propaganda tools rather than fighting heroes. As the next issue blurb succinctly puts it, “is the new Youngblood a bona fide force for good… or just another marketing scheme cooked up by the U.S. government?”
The problem is that this idea would have been fresh eight or ten years ago, but in 2008 it feels like ground that’s been trod a few times. Casey himself has done more interesting variations on the superhero archetype with his work on two volumes of Wildcats and we’ve seen other comics mine this territory in other interesting ways than we see in this issue. Of course, it is hard to judge a story based just on its first issue. There’s a mysterious scene between Shaft and an interstellar woman that’s intriguing, and the villains at the end of the issue could be interesting. But there’s just not that much fresh here to grab onto.
I also can’t escape the feeling this issue that all the media saturation just comes too easy. We have an administration now that can’t help but continuously shoot itself in the foot, and that makes it hard to imagine a government that’s able to get heroes on Oprah or the cover of Time or Nike ads. Basically readers are given the impression that all the media saturation happens very quickly, but there’s no feeling of momentum behind the story, nothing that indicates why these characters are so tightly embraced by corporate America.
Derec Donovan’s art does nothing to add to the comic. It’s perfectly fine and functional artwork, but doesn’t have the slickness or pizzazz necessary to really sell this story. This story really calls out for artwork that’s a bit outlandish and larger than life, but Donovan just delivers work that’s simply functional.
This isn’t a bad comic, and it has some potential, but this first issue is kind of lackluster.
Until, that is, the section in the back of the book, a five-page preview of the Youngblood Volume 1. In this preview we get five pages of Liefeld art in all its glory, from a time when Rob’s popularity was at his height. We get Rob’s famous manic energy, horrible costumes, impossible musculature, poor panel rendering, the whole bit. Man, I can look at those pages forever. There’s a crazy kind of genius in Liefeld’s artwork. If only Rob could have drawn the front part of the book. Now that would have been memorable.