Today is the day…well, FRIDAY was the day, but I’m feeling the aster.
In one of the biggest TV show revival movements in recent memory, Young Justice returns to continue the story that they were forced to halt back in 2013. YJ premiered in a weird, transitional period for action cartoons as we know them, as they were slowly moving out of broadcast TV and being replaced by more comedy-focused like Teen Titans Go. Despite rumors of the cause of the cancellation being due to the show appealing to a female audience that the studio execs didn’t want watching it, the real reason turned out to be because of the failed toy sales of the 2011 Green Lantern movie. Luckily, because of rampant demand for a return from fans, staff, and cast, the show was revived on DC’s new streaming service made for fans of those properties. After the mixed reception of their first original series “Titans”, Young Justice may be the first big reason to give this service a try.
After the successful rebellion against the invading forces of The Reach and clearing the reputations of the Justice League, The Team is on top of the world. This wasn’t without sacrifice, as the final battle cost the life of Kid Flash AKA Wally West, and Lex Luthor (a known associate of series’ antagonists, The Light) has become the UN’s Secretary-General. Jump ahead two years and things have only gone downhill from there. Luthor has made efforts to block the League from doing their jobs at almost every turn, even in humanitarian missions, and allowing a metahuman trafficking ring to spread galactically. Because of these limitations, Batman leads a walk out of several members to make his own group, Batman Incorporated. While the League runs damage control, Dick Grayson recruits a team of old and new friends to uncover the trafficking ring and its connection to the royal family of Markovia.
The Markovia plot itself takes up the majority of these first three episodes, that being the grouping DC Universe will be releasing throughout the month of January, and it’s honestly the least interesting part of the story so far. As one of many awaiting the continuation of this story, what ended up grabbing my attention more was all the changes that have occurred for returning characters, which will hopefully be further touched on as the season goes on. For example, M’gann and Conner are now back together after their dramatic break up that permeated through last season, and he even proposes to her before he heads off with Nightwing (which I would say is a big red flag that Conner will die this season, but the wounds are still fresh from Wally, so it’s up in the air). Others are seemingly smaller, like Barbara Gordon going from Batgirl to Oracle, which may open up a slot for a certain favorite of mine from the comics, but we’ll get to that if and when she shows up.
That’s not to say the time in Markovia doesn’t have substance or importance, as it gives us the first time in years of seeing these versions of these characters in action again. Dick, who may or may not still be Nightwing, is still his charming but committed self. Artemis, now taking on the Tigress identity fully, is still a snarky spitfire, and Superboy is still the handy muscle who’s learned to handle his anger issues. The nation of Markovia and its royalty also has inherent significance to eagle-eyed fans of Teen Titans, though it seems they are not going to obvious route with its most famous member, at least for now. As for the plot itself, the backstabbing of family members for political gain goes pretty much how you’d expect if you’ve ever watched Lion King or Thor, though is not completely resolved, leaving things open for further development and subversion down the road.
CHARACTER AND STORY ARCS:
In a move showing how creator Greg Weisman is taking full advantage of the show’s new adult audience, the first few minutes of the season show a young girl being smuggled into human trafficking in order to be turned into a goopy lava abomination to fight against the Justice League off world. She encounters Black Lightning, whose power is pure electricity (in his pants), who kills her and is horrified to learn soon after that he just killed a human girl. He ends up quitting the League in disgrace, then goes on to join Dick’s team in Markovia, which gives him a shot at redemption. He’s prominent in the show’s advertising and got a spiffy new redesign (going from being bald and hairless to an afro and beard during the two year time jump), so I think he’ll be around to develop for the long haul of the season. Especially since he is one of the better known members of the original iteration of the titular “Outsiders” from the comics, along with upcoming new members Katana, Metamorpho, and this week’s new protagonist, Brion Markov.
Brion, or Geo-Force as he’s known in the comics, succeeds in outing his uncle as responsible for the deaths of his mother and father and being connected to the trafficking ring that seemingly kidnapped his sister, but because he has been outed himself as a metahuman at a time when they are publicity poison for his family, he is exiled while his twin brother becomes king. This is very clearly not the end of that story or his own, as Brion is looking to get a spiffy new hero costume as part of the main cast. I have my guesses about where his arc may be going in regards to who his sister is, but I’ll save that for when we touch on that next.
The Justice League/The Team vs. Batman Incorporated and The Outsiders:
Batman’s walkout hints at a bigger conflict that we will likely see play out across major events of the season. While the League, now led by former Aqualad-turned-Aquaman Kaldur’ahm, is struggling for relevance as it tries to work within the system Luthor’s restrictions have made for them, Batman’s new planned team is taking some heavy hitters with them in order to work outside that system. This will no doubt lead to MCU-Civil War type encounters as both teams try to find the right way to be a superhero team when the law seems to be against them. This also leaves room for Dick’s slowly forming group that will eventually become “The Outsiders”, fulfilling The Team’s original purpose of performing black-ops operations the League couldn’t normally pursue. Not sure where this will end up in terms of theme, but it will at least be full of deep cut cameos comics fans will love to gush about.
We have no reason to believe Luthor isn’t still working with Vandal Savage and the remaining members of The Light, as Luthor’s restrictions help the cause of the trafficking ring, which is using weapons and tools from Apokalips, where Savage was last seen in the final seconds of the second season talking to Darkseid. Needless to say, this will be touched on.
On a minor note, it’s cool to see nearly everyone from the cast is back to voice their characters (aside from notable exceptions such as the late Miguel Ferrer) and they all still bring the same amazing performances to the point it feels like they never left. However, there are some cases where it seems like they just couldn’t get enough bit parts in time for the air-date. There are several scenes of actors talking to themselves across key roles and minor ones, like Troy Baker as both Brion and trafficker Simon Ecks, Steven Blum as Count Vertigo and henchman “Henchy”, Khary Payton as both Black Lightning and Aqualad/man, and so on. As much as I love these actors, it happens way too much to not be a bit distracting. Hopefully this will be remedied over the course of the season.
The new season of Young Justice hits the ground running with a far darker tone and plenty of surprises for longtime fans, but while it’s great to see these characters back in action, this first batch’s main story is pretty standard fare for its type, while the subplots and mysteries surrounding are far more engaging and intriguing. A fine start and well worth the wait, but I expect things to start picking up speed from here.