Dark Crisis Young Justice #4
Young Justice against the world! The fake reality that Superboy, Impulse, and Robin are on has completely turned against them, sending the combined might of the JLA and the Titans they grew up with against them. It will take all of their combined might to fight through this onslaught and find out who is responsible for their imprisonment. Wonder Girl, Arrowette, and Red Tornado head to San Francisco’s Titan’s Island in search of assistance but all they find are bad memories.
Superheroes use fights as therapy sessions so often that it probably qualifies as a trope. Sometimes they fight each other. Sometimes they fight other people together. But in either case, the fight is filled not with amusing banter but with introspection about their relationship and past trauma. When done well these exchanges plumb deeper depths in the characters and, with the fight being a metaphor for the characters’ emotional struggle, a resolution of some kind typically accompanies the end of the fight. Dark Crisis: Young Justice #4 attempts to build a story atop this trope but without much success.
Dark Crisis: Young Justice #4 is told mostly through Conner’s eyes. His view of the fake world being better than the real world because he didn’t die has not changed since the end of the previous issue, and it’s this disagreement that forms the basis of the dialogue between Bart, Tim, and Conner as the three fight doppelgangers of their friends and allies.
The three characters talk past each other most of the time, much as they did at the end of the previous issue. The dialogue is also not very compelling. For instance at one point Tim is trying to convince Conner of how impactful his death was and lists off the ways he responded to the trauma. The final thing Tim mentions is his costume change. But listing consequences in this way is typically done to build emphasis to the most significant item coming last. Tim acting like a costume change was a bigger deal than him attempting to clone or resurrect his best friend undermines the entire exchange and makes Tim look somewhat petty.
There are several such instances in Dark Crisis: Young Justice #4 where Fitzmartin’s dialogue choices keep the character story at a superficial level. And every time it looks like the conflict is approaching a resolution, Fitzmartin deals a reverse. First Conner is upset that he didn’t mean more to Tim but when Tim seems to convince him otherwise, Conner becomes upset that he meant too much. When Tim and Conner appear to be nearing a breakthrough, Bart interjects and reframes the discussion (which he hadn’t been participating in at all) on himself. Eventually the character drama and the physical fight facilitating it drift out of sync with one nearing resolution and the other left dangling. Ultimately this doesn’t matter, though, because the end of the issue makes the action involving Tim, Bart, and Conner feel like filler.
While all of this is playing out for the three men, Cassie and Cissie continue in their subplot searching for them. Here Fittzmartin finds greater success. The conflict between Cassie and Cissie reaches a turning point in more natural fashion as the women face the specter of death–not just of the people they’ve lost but of the near-inevitability of their own. Fitzmartin finds a level of honesty with these characters that she never does with the others. And it doesn’t take a flashy fight to do it–just a couple quiet conversations. When Cassie and Cissie don’t 100% resolve their situation by the end of the issue it feels like an acknowledgment that trauma cannot be easily resolved with one conversation rather than in the issue’s other story where it felt like Fitzmartin intentionally interrupted the characters’ to prevent a resolution.
For the second issue in a row Braga’s strong art elevates a comparatively weak story. She continues to depict very expressive characters. I connected better with Cassie and Cissie in this issue than ever before. While a component of that was definitely their developing arc, a large part was their appearance. Braga accompanied their emotional growth in the story with a corresponding increase in expressive nuance. This has been something that Braga has been fairly successful at with Bart, Tim, and Conner throughout, but in this issue I feel like that talent finally caught up to Cissie and Cassie.
The Cassie and Cissie scenes are also elevated by a high level of detail. Braga draws them inside a fully realized world which is quite different from the empty and somewhat flat setting in which Bart, Tim, and Conner are fighting. In a strange way, Braga’s work is strongest in the scenes where Fitzmartin’s work is strongest, and vice versa. But even so, the fight sequences and their uninspired dialogue are improved by the expressiveness of the main characters involved.
Dark Crisis: Young Justice #4 is a further drop in quality for the series. Baraga’s art remains consistently strong, and the traumatic events Fitzmartin is grounding the story in are ripe for exploration. But where Fitzmartin has interrogated these issues in a meaningful way with Cassie and Cissie, the quality with which she has handled the other characters both in overall story and in dialogue has dropped with each issue. In this issue specifically it may have been a mistake to attempt to hash out these deeply emotional issues in the middle of a fight.
Dark Crisis Young Justice #4: Punching as Therapy
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10