JLA: World Without Grown-Ups

By Todd Dezago, Humberto Ramos, Mike McKone, Todd Nauck & others (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-473-2

There are a lot of different aspects that contribute to the “perfect mix” in the creation of any continuing character in comics. How much more so then, when the idea is to build a superhero team that will stand out from the seething masses that already exist? In the mid-1990s a fresh batch of sidekicks and super-kids started cropping up at DC after some years of thematic disfavour, and as the name and modus operandi of the Teen Titans was already established something new needed to be done with them.

But why were kid crusaders back at all? Ignoring the intrinsic imbecility – and illegality if you count numerous child-endangerment laws – of on-the-job training for superheroes who can’t shave yet, why should young champions appeal at all to comics readers?

I don’t buy the old saw about it giving young readers someone to identify with: most kids I grew up with wanted to be the cool adult who got to drive the whatever-mobile, not the squawking brat in short pants. Every mission would feel like going out clubbing with your dad…

I rather suspect it’s quite the reverse: older readers with responsibilities and chores could fantasize about being powerful, effective, cool and able to beat people up without having to surrender a hormone-fuelled, purely juvenile frat-boy sense of goofy fun…

That’s certainly the case in the adventures of the frenetic trio here. Although pitched as a Justice League miniseries World Without Grown-Ups was really a commercially-loaded vehicle intended to introduce the new teen super-team, Young Justice, where teen issues and traditional caped crusading could be seamlessly blended with high-octane adventure and deft, daft home-room laughs.

This irresistibly contagious fun-fest collects that initial miniseries and also includes a related one-shot that appeared as part of that year’s (1998) skip-week publishing event “GirlFrenzy“.

‘Young Justice: the Secret’ (by the Todds Dezago and Nauck, with inks by Lary Stucker) finds Robin, Superboy and the super-speedster Impulse relating the suspicious circumstances that led them to rescue a young girl composed entirely of smoke and vapour from the supposedly benign federal agency the Department of ExtraNormal Operations – a exploit that would have major repercussions in later tales – before the main event kicks off.

‘World Without Grown-Ups’ sees a young boy use an Ancient Atlantean talisman to get rid of all adults, leaving the planet a responsibility-free playground. The planetary guardians the Justice League can only wait helplessly in some other existence as all the underage heroes left on Earth try to cope with the wave of idiocy and irresponsibility trying to cope with the spiralling disasters caused by a dearth of doctors, drivers, pilots and so forth. Robin, Superboy and Impulse meanwhile seek out the cause, desperate to set things right unaware that the malign entity imprisoned in the talisman has its own sinister agenda…

This canny blend of tension and high jinks, comedy and pathos, action and mystery fair rattles along with thrills and one-liners aplenty courtesy of Dezago, Humbert Ramos & Wayne Faucher (kids world) and Mike McKone, Paul Neary & Mark McKenna (JLA sequences) who combine a compelling countdown to calamity with outright raucous buffoonery.

Kids are all about having fun and this book utterly captures that purest of essences. Unleash your inner rapscallion with this addictive gem but remember not all genies want to get back in their bottle… and not all the Young Justice tales were ever collected.
© 1998 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.