Sunday, January 2, 2011

Young Heroes in Love # 1-17

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Young Heroes in Love # 1-17 (DC, 1997-98).

Clearing out boxes of comics that I have not read in many years, I came across the seventeen-issue run of Young Heroes in Love, a book that I enjoyed during a period where I was a little more patient and willing to try DC books than I am today. At least back in the late nineties, people say, it was possible to read a run of funnybooks without constant references to other funnybooks. Oh, nostalgia. If only that was true.

To be fair, YHIL holds up, not very dated, and those references to other DC books are not very intrusive. There are guest appearances from the likes of Superman and the Scarecrow, and one of the characters is a wealth of DC trivia and can tell you the order of the known Green Lanterns, but this should all basic, entry-level stuff. At least it would be, if DC didn't insist on the Superman who hangs out with the Young Heroes being the one from that frankly ridiculous period where Superman was blue and had electrical powers. It briefly flirts with a line-wide crossover event called Genesis for some insane reason that didn't work. Put another way, rereading YHIL from the otherwise safe distance of twelve years reminds me of everything there is to hate about DC Comics.

And it certainly shouldn't be that way, because if it wasn't for the "shared universe!" idiocy, this is a pretty good comic book and it has aged surprisingly well. It helps that the main cast are all new characters - if I understand the book's indicia, they remain the copyright of the book's creators, Dan Raspler and Dev Madan - a small group of newly-emerged superheroes who have assembled at the behest of the charming, blond, best-and-brightest Hard Drive, sort of the Ken Jennings of the caped crowd. As soon as this group of costumed twentysomethings get together, certain members of their gang start eying each other and considering their bedroom prospects. It's probably a much more honest look at how this sort of thing really would work in the comic book universe, but it's not like DC Comics wants everybody at the Hall of Justice portrayed that way.

Over the course of the book's year and a half run, there are all sorts of fun subplots that develop, because it's made immediately apparent that some of the characters have their own agendas. About the only character who isn't letting bad ideas or bad boyfriends influence his decision is the group's resident tough guy, presented as an innocent who regrets gaining additional mass and super strength, as it means he can no longer play guitar to relax. Everybody else is up to something. Honestly, the day-to-day plot beats and superhero tropes feel less important almost instantly than the interaction, which feels like a backstabbing, albeit still mostly good-natured, take on NBC's Friends than the Justice League.

Cancellation was a sure bet for the title very early on. Despite some notable promotion from the publisher, DC released it during a period where several new titles, all operating on the fringes of the existing DC Universe, were all competing for attention. Books like Aztek and Chase proved equally tough sells in a market where the A-list characters already had several books each demanding readers' money. Launching new, hit properties in such circumstances is practically impossible, but DC gave this book a few more months than many others that they had tried.

I do wish that Raspler had seen the writing on the wall sooner and started wrapping up subplots earlier than he did. Instead, most of them reach very rapid, rushed conclusions in the book's final issue. I was reminded of the way that a later DC title, Jamie Delano's Outlaw Nation for Vertigo, similarly had to swiftly conclude its "long game"-styled subplots in an unsatisfactory rush. So it doesn't end well, and you can see the effect of the last-minute cancellation from a mile away, but it was, genuinely, a pretty fun ride getting to the end. Recommended.

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