Credits: Dan Raspler (writer), Dev Madan (penciler), Keith Champagne (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Scott Baumann (colorist)
I realize they’re under the covers, but I wonder if this was the first and only time DC ever presented two coital characters on the cover of one of their comics?
Young Heroes in Love opens with the resident dimwitted tough guy, Thunderhead, badgering chain-smoking bad boy, Off-Ramp, for an opinion on his costume. Off-Ramp is too busy leering at Monster Girl to notice. If you’re looking for action, you’re out of luck, because the issue has fewer fight scenes than Superman Returns. In fact, there’s no fighting at all, and the only action takes place in a brief flashback. If the title and cover didn’t make it clear, you’ll know by the end of this issue that the series is aimed at readers who care about characters first and action second (a distant second, at that). Some might argue that those readers really shouldn’t be looking for these stories in the superhero genre, but it’s hard to deny the draw of the soap opera dramatics. A large portion of the audience is bored with the fights by the time they reach adolescence. They need something else to keep them coming back month after month. Young Heroes is all about the drama, and not the implanted memories/swapped bodies/exiled from the future kind.
The plot of issue one details the seven cast members coming together for the first time; some of the characters already know each other, and others have secret relationships that will be unveiled in future issues. Thunderhead, Off-Ramp, and Monster Girl are already friends. They’re waiting to meet Hard Drive, the square-jawed, blonde leader with telekinetic powers. Hard Drive suggested forming a superhero team to Off-Ramp after they met during a road show (using their powers to save drivers from a massive pile-up, the lone action scene in the issue), so Off-Ramp has brought his two friends along. Meanwhile, Hard Drive is training Bonfire, the young superhero fangirl with pyrokinetic powers. They’re joined by Junior, a diminutive hero who still gets rides from his mom.
Eventually, the six heroes meet on a rooftop. For the benefit of themselves and the audience, the characters recite their powers to one another. This could’ve been Secret Wars level corniness, but Raspler has a knack for natural dialogue, and the light tone makes the exposition fairly painless. We discover that Monster Girl can literally change into a monster, but she’s insulted when anyone refers to her as a “shape-shifter.” After everyone is introduced, and the two female members gossip behind the male members’ backs, Off-Ramp uses his powers to open a teleportation portal to remote Canada. Riding in his pet car, Roadshow, the team arrives in Chicoutimi. There, they meet Hard Drive’s final recruit, Frostbite.
Frostbite’s affinity for the cold has an odd reaction to Bonfire’s heat powers. It’s an instant attraction, which doesn’t bode well for Thunderhead, who already has a crush on Bonfire. Oddly enough, Hard Drive isn’t so happy about this either. He’s so bothered by their connection, in fact, that after he introduces the team to their warehouse headquarters, he pulls Bonfire aside for a “conversation.”
After their little chat, Bonfire’s forgotten all about the freak with the nipple rings and speedo. She’s moved on to Thunderhead. They’re going out on patrol and everything, you guys! Hard Drive’s pleased, Frostbite’s upset, and Thunderhead is ecstatic. Regardless, the team’s ready to begin adventuring, but there’s only one page left in the comic. In case you thought that cover was merely symbolic, Raspler and Madan wheel out the sex on the final page. (I’ll avoid any obvious “climax” jokes.) And which characters are under those sheets? None other than Hard Drive and Monster Girl. But wait, didn’t they just meet?
It’s a first issue without any fights, no one gives a lengthy angst-ridden origin story, and not a single established superhero shows up to guest star. It makes you care the old-fashioned way, by presenting engaging characters and pairing them off in interesting ways. Anyone in the book may or may not be what they seem, and the stories could go in any conceivable direction. Isn’t this what you liked about comics in the first place, before you discovered what “illusion of change” meant?