This is a book I have been excited to read since its announcement. When I was first getting seriously into comic books, the Image movement was just starting. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the Spider-Man and various X-Titles. I followed McFarlane, Lee, Liefeld, etc. in a big way in those days and I still have all the various #1’s for Youngblood, Spawn, Wildcats, etc. I was a big Rob Liefeld fan at the time and I’m not ashamed to admit I still am. For whatever faults critics give him in the area of anatomy, feet, etc., I see an artist whose enthusiasm and love for the business come out in the work he does. The original Youngblood could be described as the epitome of the 90s, it was bold, action-packed and colorful. I totally ate it up as a kid.
A main component of the original Youngblood was its attempt to be modern. It attempted to treat its heroes as if they existed in the real world. The idea of the media and paparazzi following larger than life heroes seemed novel for its time and Liefeld tried to appeal to a young MTV audience. It was a great idea seeing heroes treated like film stars and major athletes with all the trappings that go with that lifestyle.
Now onto the 2017 version of Youngblood. My excitement going into this issue was very high and I wasn’t disappointed. Like its predecessor, it attempts to be modern and in this version uses conventions such as apps, messaging, emoji, 5-star ratings, etc. extensively in a quasi-realistic fashion. One of the characters is even prepping for a Ted Talk. In many ways, this book is more Kick-Ass than Youngblood, but it works.
The pace of the book is high, but it’s not all splash pages and macho poses, one of the early pages is 15 panels, with mostly dialogue and facial expressions to move it along. I found myself intrigued with the story and the possibilities the modern theme of the book opens itself up to. We start the story with a hero by the name of Man-Up who responds to requests for assistance through a protection app called Help!. He corresponds with another hero who goes by the nickname Gunner. Man-Up goes missing, and his 5-star profile has been deleted. Gunner tries to get assistance from the police and the makers of the Help! app but can offer little detail since she has only ever seen him in his mask and costume and doesn’t know his real name. The issue goes into greater detail about how Gunner finds out who Man-Up is and her search for him. While introducing these new characters, we are also reintroduced to old favorites, such as Vogue, Diehard, Badrock, and Shaft. The story does a great job of not getting caught up in nostalgia and moving the story along. It also doesn’t reveal everything in the first issue. After the main story, a page written by Liefeld is included explaining what Youngblood has meant for his career and the history behind its inception. Finally, a four-page prelude titled “As It Should Be” with story and art by Rob Liefeld is also included.
The art is great. It’s done in a more traditional style than Liefeld’s work, and it lacks his energy, but I was pleased with the results. The framing of panels is intriguing, one of the early pages has the panels tilted to the left, while on a tilted background. It looked good and added some movement to the page. The characters are drawn in a clean, animated style that reminded me of Chris Sprouse’s art on Legion in the 90s. From what I read, Jim Towe was an unpublished artist that caught Liefeld’s eye with a redesign of Youngblood through a tweet and got the job. That’s a great story on its own and Jim deserves kudos for his work on this issue.
I give this issue 4 out 5 stars. It’s a fun, modern story with great art and a fast pace. The characters are an intriguing mix of old and new and the story doesn’t give everything away. This is a great start for Youngblood.
Written by Chad Bowers
Art by Jim Towe
Published by Image Comics