Yale Stewart’s JL8 web comic is wonderful company. His web comic follows the adventures of a few of DC’s most recognizable heroes and heroines such as Batman, Hal Jordan, Power Girl and The Flash. But there’s an adorable twist that reminds me a bit of Powerpuff Girls: all the heroes are in elementary school.
There are so many things to love about Stewart’s comic strip; many of the characters maintained their adult personalities, but as kids. This was actually a big fear of mine as I was unsure if Stewart would make them too child-like (and thereby unrecognizable personality wise) or make them too much like adults, making them seem like miniature versions of themselves instead of children. Thankfully, Stewart strikes a really great balance, which we see in the interactions between Batman and Superman (who seem to be the closest friends), as Batman is trying to advise Clark on how to approach his crush, Diana.
Which brings me to Yale’s art; often times when I see an art style that seems simplistic, I have to remind myself that it’s still a complicated process worthy of respect. Stewart’s technique is no different; while the characters are drawn simply, none of the kids ever come off as chibi (ie: anatomically deformed) and it’s obvious that a lot of time and energy is put into each panel. Another great feature of JL8 is the lettering; Stewart has made it very easy to follow around with whomever is speaking and it switches up based on the situation. For example, the lettering and bubbles are unique in the panels where Batman is whispering and Clark is only moving his lips. It’s really fantastic to me and lets you know there’s something different going on.
Another interesting aspect in JL8 is the coloring. The web comic has this rustic feel to it that makes it seem older. Maybe it’s just me, but it looked like something that would appear in a newspaper in the funnies section, instead of something that you would’ve found online. Compared to some of the more contemporary web comics I’ve read thus far, this is an interesting departure and I love it.
My main – and only – complaints deal with the character selection; I always wish John Stewart was the current Green Lantern for recent Justice League incarnations instead of Hal Jordan. This is almost entirely race based – I’d love to see a less racially monolithic line-up of DC heroes in the future, and it would’ve been nice to also have Vixen as a heroine for this reason. Additionally, I didn’t recognize any of the villains who made brief appearances (except Poison Ivy). This probably has everything to do with the fact that I don’t read superhero comics, but I did find it distressing because it pulled me out of the comic as I tried to figure out who was who (and I still have no idea).
Ultimately I would recommend JL8 to DC fans specifically or anyone looking to engage with superheroes outside of traditional comic books; JL8 is an adorable, funny and a well-drawn webcomic.