In honor of Image’s 20th Anniversary, creator Rob Liefeld returns to both the company and the comic that launched it.  ‘Youngblood’ sold millions when it first debuted, but quickly faltered with too many spin-offs and long delays in publishing.  After numerous restarts, reboots and cancellations, Liefeld is attempting to get back to his roots and jumpstart this title, with a streamlined team roster and a fresh start.

Liefeld proves he’s not too egotistical, as almost from the start, the characters take potshots at “Youngblood” the super team, which are really directed at its creators, who were savaged by critics over the years. “Youngblood fits in somewhere between the Kardashians and Snooki on the scale of cultural importance,” the character Gail Cook muses.

The book starts with Gail, a writer, hired to pen an article for ‘Entertainment Now’ that would help rehabilitate Youngblood in the public’s perceptions.  “They’re also considered a long-running joke by legitimate superheroes like Supreme,” she comments.

Meanwhile, three Youngblood members, Photon, Cougar and Die Hard stop three escaping thieves.  It seriously takes four pages for three super powered heroes to take down three unarmed men, who aren’t fighting back.  At one point, Cougar quotes the Honey Badger and plugs Youtube, one of their corporate sponsors.

Back at their base, Vogue is attempting to seduce new team leader, the straight-laced Shaft.  (I guess Shaft II would be more appropriate, though Cougar prefers “Not Shaft.”)  “Stop posing like a Penthouse centerfold,” he chides, in another wink-wink to the audience.  See?  They’re in on the joke!  This would actually work, if in that very panel, they didn’t show Vogue’s ass over Shaft’s shoulder and in the next we get a nice closeup of her rack, complete with hard nipple visible under her ARMOR.  Realizing that Shaft isn’t interested in her, she starts sexting.  When the others return, she tells Die Hard she saved him a seat “on my lap.”  Cougar then smacks Shaft and sends a grenade arrow flying.

He catches it as Gail enters with Handler, who appears to…er handle the team’s actions.  Cougar is instantly smitten with Gail and scoops her up as they race off on a mission at a shopping mall.  (They still have those?)  On their craft, Vogue tells Gail that she grew up in Russia idolizing American celebrities, “Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCartney and Paris Hilton.”  Paris Hilton?  How old is she?  Twelve?

They reach the mall and find people being attacked and beaten by dozens of the same girl.  Photon deduces that they are clones, meaning that the team can cut loose.  Cougar locates the original, Fawn Nixon, a contestant in a beauty pageant who had used her power to replicate as her talent in the show, but lost control.  Cougar knocks her out (“in front of the press” as Shaft points out), eliminating the threat.  On their craft, back to their base, Photon tells Cougar she is anxious to experience sex in her new body.  Cougar reacts, “Did you really have to remind me you used to be a man?”  Finally, Gail asks the burning question, “Whatever happened to Badrock?” referring to the group’s most recognizable member.

I certainly give them props for acknowledging the criticisms leveled against, not just ‘Youngblood’ but comics in general.  As soon as I saw the shot of Vogue to the left, I thought “Really?!”  But then Shaft makes the centerfold comment and I thought, “Maybe they’re being ironic.”  But the cheesecake and sexual comments keep coming.  Perhaps generously, I’m going to hope that it’s a joke.  “People complain about over sexualizing women in comics, let’s really overdo it!”  Am I naive?  Probably.

I felt the same way about Gail and Handler.  These are supposed to be business women, but both are wearing super short, super tight miniskirts (Handler’s has added slits).  Handler is dressed like a waitress at a tacky casino cocktail lounge, but she’s wearing glasses so you know she’s actually smart.

The rest of the plot?  Once again, props for taking shots at yourself.  But it’s just lazy and muddled and dated.  The idea of them seeking redemtion but behaving like horny teenagers could be interesting… but it isn’t.  The jokes aren’t funny.  No one in the book is likeable, not even Gail.  The art by Jon Malin and Liefeld is in Liefeld’s typical style, very over-stylized.  It may appeal to some.  I’ve seen worse.

All in all, I can see where they were going with this.  Some ideas border on “clever” but never quite get there.  Clunky dialogue.  Uninspired plotting.  Shallow characterization.  I wish I could be more generous.

Verdict: Burn

Story by John McLaughlin
Art by Jon Malin and Rob Liefeld
Cover by Rob Liefeld and Matt Yackey