The definitive issue-by-issue comic book collecting guide and reading order for Youngblood in omnibus, hardcover, trade paperback, and digital comics. Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics Guide to Collecting Indie & Licensed Comics. Last updated March 2023 with titles scheduled for release through August 2023.
Youngblood was the first ongoing Image Comic, which kicked off Rob Liefeld’s multi-decade journey to recapture the lightning in a bottle of his transformation of New Mutants into X-Force.
Many comic fans love to make light of Rob Liefeld’s artwork – especially the way he draws teeth (so many!) and feet (if they even appear on panel). However, Liefeld’s true strength has always been as much as an “Idea Guy” as an artist. His ideas, built upon the bedrock of Claremont and Simonson, are what turned New Mutants into a title facing impending cancellation into one of Marvel’s hottest comics and made X-Force (1991) #1 one of the top-selling comics of all time.
While some of those ideas were unique to the Marvel Universe, some of the characters and designs had been simmering in Liefeld’s brain and on his sketchpads for nearly a decade. You can see many recognizable designs in Youngblood, not only for Marvel characters like Cable, Deadpool, & Sabretooth, but also for DC characters from Liefeld’s fizzled pitches there before forming Image Comics.
As ideas go, Youngblood was a great one – even ahead of its time. It combined elements of Captain America -style super-soldiers, a government-sanctioned team like 80s Avengers or 90s X-Factor, and the concept of superheroes as major media stars. (Ironically, Liefeld’s own X-Force would later run with this idea as it transformed into X-Statix). Even within that mash-up there were many other plots – including Russian spies and heroes indebted to hellish characters.
Altogether, Youngblood had all of the ingredients to be the Avengers of the Image Universe to Jim Lee’s WildCATs as the X-Men.
The unfortunate thing about Rob Liefeld being an “Idea Guy” is that his ideas don’t often come paired with follow-through when he is self-publishing. If he has a chief legacy in comics beyond the creation of Cable and Deadpool, it’s that his own series very rarely reach a conclusion. This was evident from the start with Youngblood, which took nearly three years to release just 10 issues.
In fact, every Youngblood ongoing series ends teasing a next issue or story before disappearing into sudden cancellation. This is true of the original Image series, the Maximum Press and Arcade comics years, and all three of the subsequent Image Comics revivals of the 00s and 10s!
If there is a positive side to the many failed iterations of Youngblood, it’s Liefeld’s stubborn dedication to his pet project. He always recruits high-calibre talent to write Youngblood, which peaked with Alan Moore briefly driving the franchise at the turn of the century. While this has generated some bona-fide hits with books like Prophet and Glory, he can never seem to allow Youngblood to move on without tinkering with it himself.
And, even as the franchise changes creators with each iteration, Liefeld has ensured that Youngblood’s continuity (such as it is) has never been fully rebooted. Every subsequent series launches as some form of a continuation of what came before (and went unresolved), often progressing in real time alongside the real world rather than using a sliding time scale. That means the 25th Anniversary reincarnation in 2017 really was set decades after the book’s debut!
Unfortunately, the ability to continue Youngblood’s story is now out of Rob Liefeld’s hands. The rights to the team are administered by Terrific Production LLC, a production company with little to no inclination to produce any actual comic books.
There may never be a complete and completely-satisfying Youngblood comic series. Yet, the roughly 100 issues that have been published since 1992 are packed with a tantalizing mix of character designs and plot threads. Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood may not have always told the best stories, but it had some great ideas.