Youngblood Imperial #1

Written by Robert Kirkman
Drawn by Marat Mychaels
Published by Arcade Comics

The year was 2004, Robert Kirkman was a rising indie comic-book superstar, his two creator-owned series Invincible and The Walking Dead having been launched a year earlier by Image Comics. Rob Liefeld had discovered his work and hired him to write a new Youngblood series. What Kirkman came up with was a radical revamp of the team, unlike anything that had been done in Youngblood’s many, many, many, many previous incarnations.

A lot has changed in the world. America has become an expansionist nation, currently with 58 states, spread throughout North and South America. Youngblood now has 1000 members, split into different teams, who enforce the U.S. Government’s laws and international interests, and is still run by Alexander Graves (despite him being revealed to secretly be LUCIFER, the devil himself, in an earlier series).

Shaft leads a team comprised of earlier Doc Rocket, Johnny Panic, Rubble, Masada, and Wylder. Another team is led by a new character that Kirkman created called The Free Agent, and includes Glory, Troll, Battlestone, Liefeld’s version of Thor, and Die Hard 2.0. Original Die Hard and Vogue appear and reveal they’re running a team in South America, although we don’t see who else is on their team. We learn they’re married and have two young children, a girl, and a boy.

Psi-Fire is leading a team of reformed supervillains. I recognize a few of them from early Youngblood comics, plus one villain from Alan Moore’s Supreme, but don’t recall their names. I did notice that the Supreme villain, a black and white version of Supreme, is missing one arm, which was bitten off by Supreme’s super dog Radar in one of his issues, which is a nice little nod to continuity. It’s said that this is the ”expendable” team, who are sent on the most dangerous missions like DC’s Suicide Squad, and then we also a team made up of Bloodstrike members Fourplay, Tag, Shogun, Cabbot, Deadlock, and Chapel (who is wearing a hood with his skull design on it over his face).

The issue opens with Shaft’s team raiding a clinic that is illegally injecting normal humans with blood from nu-gene positive humans (basically Rob Liefeld’s version of mutants) to temporarily give them superpowers. Later we see them fighting some supervillains in Canada where they almost get defeated but are saved when Free Agent’s team arrives as reinforcements. There’s also a subplot where Graves sends the Bloodstrike team on a covert mission to go to China and assassinate their President to stop China’s expansion across the world (they’ve already conquered Japan, Russia, India, and Korea). And then the final page reveals Youngblood’s next opponents, the UK’s super-team who are called The Crown and are drawn to look like several British comic-book writers including Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and two other men I don’t recognize (I think one is supposed to be Mark Millar).

It’s a unique and intriguing premise, and I always wanted to see Kirkman explore this world more and see where he was going with it, and how he would reintroduce other Extreme characters into the title. I can’t say that I’m a fan of Mychaels’ art here, which is odd because I’ve liked other comics he’d done before this, but his work just looks rushed in this book. It’s not so bad that he lessened my enjoyment of the story, but it could have been better. However, sadly, no further issues were ever published (an occurrence that any longtime Rob Liefeld fan can recognize), and we’re only left to wonder what if?

The book also includes a 6-page preview of the first issue of a new BRIGADE series to also be drawn by Marat Mychaels and written by Brandon Thomas. But that series was never published.

Anyway, if you’re a hardcore fan of any of the creatives involved in this book, then I recommend tracking down a copy, if you can.


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