From the Bookshelf...
by Nicolas Juzda
Sins of Youth
As an amateur critic of various things, I sometimes find my over-all reaction to a work differs from what it should based upon a critical examination of its elements. Such is the case with Sins of Youth, the trade paperback collection of the fifth week event.
Despite a series of problems with it, I enjoyed the book. It's not Watchmen or Crisis On Infinite Earths, or even World Without A Superman, but it made for good light reading.
The basic plot is that the long-running plotline in Young Justice about a growing distrust of teenage superheroes combines with the long-running plotline in Superboy about the sinister Agenda and an old-time foe of Etrigan The Demon named Klarion (bum bum bum) The Witch Boy. The result is the JLA and JSA (and a few other incidental characters) are turned into teenagers and Young Justice into adults. Lots of running around trying to fix matters ensues.
The collection includes the two book-end specials, the eight skip week one shots, the stories from the related Secret Files one-shot, and an issue of Superboy that crossed-over into this. That's a nice sized package, give 'em that.
However, the reprint editor of this messed up. He put the Secret Files story before the JLA Jr. one shot, when it goes after it (or, technically, between the third-to-last and second-to-last page). This actually does disrupt story flow.
My biggest problem with the story itself, as opposed to the TPB packaging, is that all of the newly youthful heroes act like the worst stereotypes of teenagers combined with the worst stereotypes of seven year olds. It varies a bit from author to author, but they're mostly depicted as lecherous, impatient, and quarrelsome half-wits.
In a story whose message is that kids need to be respected, that was a frankly inexplicable move. Considering that some of these heroes have been depicted as teens before and acted nothing like this, it's disrespectful to the characters. Perhaps the most offensive was Cyborg, who managed to be not just an insulting stereotype of teenagers, but an insulting racial stereotype too.
I'm not sold on the sudden maturity of the Young Justice members either. Sure, Robin was born sensible, but Impulse? He wasn't flaky because he was a teenager; it's because he's a two-year-old raised in a virtual reality video game his whole life. That he has the body of a teen but not the maturity is the entire point of the character. Giving him the body of an adult shouldn't change that.
I'm not usually a Young Justice reader, but the book managed to bring me up to speed on the YJ plotline that feeds into this. I am a Superboy reader, and I do have those lead-in issues, but I get the sense that without them I'd have been lost. Certainly, the most emotional moment in the book revolves around a character who readers unfamiliar with Superboy would have no cause to care about at all by the time it occurs. This trade paperback simply does not contain that background. I'm not saying that it could have without including a lot of otherwise irrelevant Superboy comics, but it does bear mentioning. Caveat emptor.
Starwoman And The JSA and Aquaboy And Lagoon Man were the two best of the one-shots, I found, mixing humour and drama and giving good character insight. Not coincidentally, they also both went somewhat against the physical age = maturity equation that generally ruled this story; Aquaboy is still generally responsible and intelligent, while Lagoon Man and Starwoman retain some immaturity.
Batboy and Robin wasn't so much the worst as thoroughly out of place. The humour that marks the rest of the book is completely absent, and it very nearly doesn't matter that the ages have been reversed; you could have had Batman and Nightwing switch costumes instead and told this story pretty much as is. Oh, and Zatanna's spells have got the word order reversed, which is incorrect, as only the spelling should be backward. Since I automatically adjust for the way her spells normally come out (I can read Interlac unaided too! I *am* a geek!) I found that annoying.
The only comment I've got on the other one-shots is that the reaction of the Flash's girlfriend Linda to his de-aging, namely declaring their relation platonic for the duration of his renewed youth, raised issues that might have been interesting to address but were instead glossed over.
Finally, the running subplot of the book that has Klarion de-aging villains has no pay-off beyond a cursory two page spread of a fight scene. That's bad story-telling, plain and simple.
Despite those problems, there were quite a few things I liked. I found much of the humour at least mildly amusing, my favorite bit being when Batman correctly guesses that his uncharacteristic actions were because he had been possessed by Deadman only to have Superman mock that as a lame excuse. There are also several nice nods to those of us who know way too much about old comics, including Superbaby's speech patterns, the two Silver Age costumes of Wonder Girl, and the title of one of the one-shots being "The Adventures Of Superboy When He Was A Man" in a cute reversal of the old Superboy comics' slogan.
So, yes, I did enjoy the book despite it all. What can I say? Maybe it's the kid in me.
Fiction editor Nicolas Juzda
is currently studying law in Saskatchewan. He fills the void that was left in
his soul by contributing to Fanzing. He has twice been among the winners in
the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by Nicolas Juzda.
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