Rob Liefeld's relaunched five of his titles this year ("Prophet," "Glory," "Supreme," "Bloodstrike," and "Youngblood"), but it was only the last one that he's taking a bit of an active role in. "Youngblood" was also the only book that had been published fairly recently; in 2008, Joe Casey and Derec Donovan brought the title back, only to have their run abruptly ended as Liefeld stepped in for an issue that threw everything out and moved in a different direction. And then, just as quickly, it ended.
This mini-history lesson about "Youngblood" is important because unlike "Prophet," "Glory," or "Bloodstrike," the new issue of "Youngblood" is picking up right where the last "Youngblood" left off. ("Supreme" did so too, but that may had more to do with still owning one last Alan Moore script for the title.)
The end result is it's the only of the five titles that I wouldn't recommend, unfortunately. I know John McLaughlin has some strong screenwriting credits to his name, but you wouldn't have guessed it based on "Youngblood" #71. This feels like we've dipped back into the early '90s Image titles, and that's hardly an era that needed to be plumbed. Dialogue is clunky and forced, and McLaughlin doesn't seem to have found that (ever elusive) balance between superheroes and media sensation that "Youngblood" always promises to explore. Instead we get moments like Cougar making a "Honey Badger" joke and calls it "the most popular viral video in America today." Well, it was in spring 2011, but now it's so removed from the moment that it was actually viral, this attempt at a topical reference just makes the comic feel even more outdated and out of place. And the less said about the recently-gender-swapped Lady Photon announcing that she's "anxious to experience sex in this new body," the better.
Jon Malin draws the majority of "Youngblood" #71, but some pages are drawn by Liefeld; perhaps leftovers from the last "Youngblood" series that were never published. Liefeld's pages are at least energetic and look finished, but that's not the case with Malin's contributions. There's a moment where the team is fighting a series of clones of a woman, while accompanied by "Entertainment Now" reporter Gail Cook. The problem is, Gail and this other woman look absolutely identical. (At first I thought they were all supposed to be clones of Gail, but that's not the case.) Earlier in the issue, there's also a scene where the bad guys are driving away, and one of them is hanging out the window and shooting, except at one point he's so far out the window that unless he could hang on with his toes he'd have fallen out entirely. Then again, this guy also teleports all over the car (he goes from the right front window, to the left front window, then back to the right front window) so I suppose anything is possible.
I'm glad that "Youngblood" #71 showed up well after "Prophet" and "Glory" were re-launched (the best two of the five titles), because if this had shown up first I might have assumed that all five comics would be business-as-usual. I understand that "Youngblood" is Liefeld's #1 baby and so the chances of it moving too far away from his original comics was slim. Nonetheless, this is still a huge disappointment. Writers like Casey and Moore have shown in the past that there's still something good to be done with "Youngblood," but this is most definitely not it.