Young Justice: Initial Thoughts

Okay, I’m not gonna lie: the first time I saw ads for Cartoon Network’s latest DC show Young Justice, I pretty much assumed the same thing I did when I Justice League was airing—“Okay, it’s only got a handful of my favorite heroes, so why bother when I can watch those characters’ own individual shows instead of seeing them share the spotlight with all these nobodies?”

In general, the history of DC’s animated works is a rather interesting one, picking up around the time when the golden age of comics was waning. Shows like Batman: The Animated Series as well as Superman: The Animated Series paved the way for other superhero shows at the time, able to entertain a rather vast demographic with excellent story-telling, which in turn did an excellent job of fleshing out characters that have already been immortalized in their previous comic book adaptations. But what made DC’s superhero animated shows stand out was the fact that they had continuity among their shows. Exact characters and backstory from the Superman series took place in the same universe as that of Batman and even later shows such as Justice League and Static Shock. Hell, I’ve even heard convincing arguments shoe-horning Teen Titans into the same DC animated universe as the others. The fact that the characters weren’t limited to their own show really made viewers feel that they were watching an entire world unfold in front of their TV screens.

Enter DC’s later years of animated works. Sure, you still have your occasional voice consistencies, with Batman having the same voice actor in every cameo he’s been in, but with a majority of DC’s animated works nowadays being in the forms of direct-to-DVD releases, you’re given the feeling that what was once such a large world open for exploration has shrunken significantly. Add to this the changing times taking place on the Cartoon Network itself, what with their sudden change in demographic (which still remains unclear to me who the target audience for some of these shows is, honestly) and it is clear that the Golden Age of DC animation has long ended.

Don’t get me wrong, though. While “direct-to-DVD” doesn’t necessarily suggest an upper crust level of entertainment, there still remain some diamonds in the rough when it comes to DC’s latest releases, including Batman’s Under the Red Hood and even JLA’s Crisis on Two Earths. When it came to television series, however, DC has started to venture into further separating their all star characters, what with Batman’s numerous revamps as well as a couple shows that never really stood a chance (if it weren’t for Wikipedia, I wouldn’t even know about Legion of Super Heroes). Mathematically speaking, I guess it was only a matter of time before DC came out with something at least halfway decent to air.

Enter Young Justice. While initial thoughts preceding any actual viewing of the show were along the lines of this being the Tiny Toons to JLA’s Loony Toons, the series so far is able to stand well enough on its own two feet, making a point of using any non-teen superheroes sparingly.

While the core of the series is teenage versions of DC’s superheroes, the series is far different in tone of the off-the-wall Teen Titans, already flaunting such with its PG-rating at the start of each episode. But to say that the series’ tone is “more serious” isn’t to imply that what with its teenage cast, everything is incredibly angst-ridden. On the contrary, the main cast, initially comprised of Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Superboy, and Miss Martian, all provide something different to the table, only starting to dabble in the angst when there’s a reason for it. My only minor annoyances would be towards Miss Martian’s character’s typical teenage girl mannerisms, though that could just as easily be explained by her own similarities to Martian Manhunter’s tendencies to sticking to tropes and the like as observed while watching television.

What I especially like about the first episodes in particular is the character of Speedy—Green Arrow’s “too cool to join the rest of the sidekicks” sidekick. Without taking viewers out of the action, he’s able to bring up any and all considerations I was willing to use against the series, in particular the fact that the sidekicks have joined the Justice League only to be given the second banana card once more when their big counterparts give them their own League comprised of nothing but sidekicks. I don’t know if you’d call it “meta” but considering the number of plotholes in other series where viewers tend to scream at the TV about why certain characters don’t think about this or that, I don’t know what else to call it.

Wow, so four episodes in and already we’re hitting material that woulda never passed ten years ago (maybe 20 years ago, but not ten years ago). Sure, we’ve still got lasers over guns, but the fact that an entire episode is based around what’s essentially a drug bust combined with some cultists is pretty intense. Was it only six years ago that people were complaining about Brother Blood and Trigon’s stories being rewritten for the TV version of Teen Titans?

A minor fear before starting the series was the portrayal of Superboy. In general, I’ve never been all that big on Superman and what with the failure that was Supergirl’s backstory in DC’s Apocalypse, I wasn’t all that willing to give him a chance. Upon watching though, the guy’s been given a pretty interesting backstory as well as has become the sole source of teenage rage. The fact that Supes and Superboy are voiced by the same guy is a nice touch.

The other characters fit their roles nicely. Robin is pretty much what we’ve all grown used to by now, so there’s not much to talk about there (unless you consider losing his Teen Titans spikey hair and iron-rimmed shoes something to write home about). The same goes for Kid Flash—the comic relief of the group as expected. The only real curve ball in terms of characters so far is Aqualad, who’s been rewritten as a completely different character than any of his comic book versions. For one, he’s voiced by Teen Titans’ Cyborg but (drum roll…) isn’t heavily blacksploitated. They even had the gall to make him group leader. I know, blasphemous.

Conclusion: Well, I pretty much got caught up in one mini marathon, so yeah, expect this to be my new go-to for episodic reviews this TV season.

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