Introducing the next generation of super-heroes…meet Youngblood. This explosive first issue features two teams and two exciting adventures. First Shaft, Die Hard, Bedrock, Vogue, and Chapel must confront the nefarious Four. Then, Sentinel leads Riptide, Brahma, Photon, Psi-Fire, and Cougar into a Middle-Eastern country to put an end to an evil dictator’s rule.
It’s been around 25 years since I last read Youngblood #1, the comic that really launched Image Comics setting off a revolution in the comic industry. Even then, I remember walking away from the comic enjoying the action movie quality art, but rather underwhelmed by the story. 25 years later, that pretty much remains. It might actually be a bit more negative since then.
In honor of Image’s 25th birthday I decided to go back and explore it’s launch titles over the next few weeks and it felt appropriate to start here. While Youngblood #1 is mainly attributed with Rob Liefeld, the comic featured dialogue by Hank Kanalz, and that crediting makes me think Liefeld plotted the general comic doing the art with Kanalz handling the dialogue after. And the comic really feels like that. While the action is over the top, the dialogue is stilted and at times makes so little sense.
There’s a focus in the first story on the briefing the team received. Like, they’re obsessed about it. What might be a witty back and forth in another comic for a panel or two goes on for pages, like this is all that’s on their mind. It gave me a bigger sense that there really wasn’t a script at all and things were written to bit what Liefeld drew.
Broken up in two stories, the comic follows two teams. One is sent on a mission to the Middle East to take on a Saddam Hussein like character giving a clue as to the age of the comic and what was going on at the time. The other story basically is just an introduction to that team mainly focused on Shaft, the “star” of the group. The two stories are diametrically the opposite in style, pacing, and to some extent actual look. Splitting the comic up to two teams was fine, but this first issue feels like one team is given a full story arc and the other just a sliver of a story. It’s odd, really odd. It also very much feels like it embodies the stereotypical 90s comic in a way too.
The art is pure Liefeld. If you love his style, the comic holds up a lot, but even with the style it’s amazing to see how that’s changed over the years. While it’s what I’ll call “action movie” in scenes, Liefeld still generally sticks to panels, not really breaking things or changing up page layouts all that much. It’s kind of fun in a way to return to see this and reflect how he’s shown growth even on his own as well as seeing just how comics have changed. Still, everything stereotypical that Liefeld is known for is there. Lots of bullets, big guns, pouches. If you’ve got a check list of what to look for, it’s here.
There’s a concept toy Youngblood that’s great, an exploration of media and violence, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. This first issue doesn’t really touch on any of that. It’s a debut that doesn’t deliver on what is promised. I don’t remember things getting much better as they went on, but it’s fun in some ways to return and see something from so many years ago… and more importantly reflect on how far we’ve come.
Dialogue: Hank Kanalz Art: Rob Liefeld Color: Brian Murray
Story: 2 Art: 6 Overall: 3 Recommendation: Pass