Young Indiana Jones: Omnibus 1
by Les Martin & William McCay
Set in 1913, when Indy is 14 years old, this book collects the first three volumes of the Young Indiana Jones series; 'Young Indiana Jones and the Tomb of Terror', 'Young Indiana Jones and the Circle of Death' and 'Young Indiana Jones and the Plantation Treasure'. Here we see our young hero in Egypt trying to prevent the looting of an ancient tomb with help from his new friend Sallah, visiting Stonehenge and matching wits with an order of evil druids and helping a disenfranchised Southern beauty reclaim her family's lost wealth.
Although intended for younger readers, these are entertaining adventure stories for an adult too with enough diversity between them so that they don't feel like the same story rehashed. The best element of the book is Indy's interactions with his sidekicks in each story, be it his enfatuation with Lizzie Ravenall, the back and forth pull of priorities between him and Herman (the fat kid from the opening of '...The Last Crusade') or his instant and equal partnership with Sallah. In fact it is the beginning of his friendship with Sallah, a character who is integral to Doctor Jones' big-screen adventures, that is this book's best element.
For reasons that escape me, 'Plantation Treasure' is presented third in this book, which is baffling since it was the first book of the series and takes place before the other two stories. It's the sort of needless editorial oversight that really irks me and if you're the same, make sure you skip to that story first and then go back to page one!
Another thing I disliked here was just how blatant Indy's encounters with the supernatural are. Don't get me wrong, the supernatural is an important part of the Indiana Jones mythology, but it's hard to understand his scepticism about the Ark in 'Raiders...' when supposedly the character had a magical duel with a Black Druid and blew up a ship with the undead power of a long-dead pharoah back when he was a teenager. I know we all try to forget the stupid stuff we did as teens, but this stretches believability.
However, for all the supernatural goings on, I was pleased to see that these stories genuinely try to educate about the historical elements they're referencing, in particular the aftermath of the American Civil War and the Underground Railroad.
4 out of 5
Young Justice: A League Of Their Own
by Peter David & D. Curtis Johnson
(Art by Todd Nauck, Ale Garza, Larry Stucker and Cabin Boy)
The first book following the newly formed Young Justice, beginning with Superboy, Robin and Impulse but growing to include Secret, Arrowette and Wonder Girl. Trying to find their way and bond as a team, Young Justice have to confront a long-buried alien supervillain, the new villain Harm, Mr Mxyzptlk, Despero and the judgment of the JLA.
This book begins fairly poorly, with Peter David seemingly trying to pull off a Deadpool-style fourth-wall-breaking comedy vibe but falling into a series of unfunny and increasingly irritating puns. The fact that two of the three (at that point) main characters are also deeply irritating doesn't help either. Superboy is arrogant, misogynistic and his mid-90s design is just awful, whilst Impulse just zips around saying obvious things and being the writer's guesstimation of what 'quirky' should be. I have to say that the references to youth culture also felt painfully like a middle-aged adult trying to be hip and down with the kids but failing miserably.
Things get a bit better when the female members join up, following the devastatingly unfunnily-named chapter 'The Issue Before The One Where The Girls Show Up!'. However, even the female members start off like bad adult interpretations of what teenagers of the day are like. Cassie, who is the Diana and Donna Troy-approved Wonder Girl don't forget, goes all misty-eyed and weak at the knees as soon as she sees Superboy. Yes, teenagers do get strong crushes, but no superpowered teenager trained by legends would become that instantly vapid.
Things do pick up in the last third of the book as the team gels together and the writers stop trying to force in teen angst and instead focus on the idea of young heroes just starting to find their feet in crimefighting. I particularly liked the fact that Robin becomes the de facto leader since he has the most crimefighting training even though he's the only one without powers. The quality of the last third is marred a little by the weird inclusion of a parent-teacher conference between the guardians/mentors of Young Justice and their overseeing JLA member Red Tornado. It just felt totally at odds with the developing maturity of a group who just defeated the Despero-possessed Martian Manhunter.
3 out of 5