REVIEW: Young Justice
DC Comics has always had a special place in its heart for the teen sidekicks and since the 1960s, there have been numerous books dedicated to their collaborative efforts. Little wonder then, that Cartoon Network would want series based on Teen Titans and Young Justice. While the former reduced them to far younger incarnations, the latter took the Peter David-written comic and expanded its scope in vastly satisfying ways. Young Justice ran a mere two seasons but retains an ardent fan following so it’s nice to see the entire first season out now as a two-disc Blu-ray package.
The show was developed for the cable channel by former DC assistant editor Greg Weisman, who discovered his forte with animation as witnessed by the wild success of his Gargoyles. Here, he’s partnered with Brandon Vietti, no stranger to translating comics to cartoons. Their premise takes the teens – Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Arrowette – and sees them declare their independence from their mentors and are turned into The Team, covert operatives. The android Red Tornado watches over them in the JLA’s original mountain HQ and they receive missions from Batman so there’s a tight connection to the Justice League which is expanded throughout the first season.
Early on, the teens are on a case within Cadmus and discover the clone named Superboy and his adjustment to life away from the lab is a major thread through the series. The team is rounded out with the arrival of M’gann M’orzz, Miss Martian.
Interestingly, rather than trying to justify their choices to play fast and loose with DC Universe print continuity, the producers declared up front that these adventures occur on Earth-16 in the New 52 multiverse and I’m okay with that, since it shuts down the critics really fast. This certainly explains the new brown-skinned Aqualad, created by Vietti and Weisman, but does not justify his inclusion in the New 52. With that said, there are plenty of nice touches to the larger fraternity of heroes such as Zatara’s appearance in the opening episode. There’s a lovely nod to original Titans as the new team takes on Mister Twister. Episode 10 is touching as Superboy and Miss Martian take on the Conner Kent and Megan Morse identities as they begin their first day of school, meeting Super Friends’ Wendy and Marvin, one-tome Titans Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher, while their teacher is Lucas “Snapper” Carr.
Reviewing these 26 episodes is interesting to watch seeds planted early finally sprout or connections other DC animated series are made clear. Additionally, it’s fun to see familiar behind-the-scenes names such as director Jay Oliva who graduated from episodic stories to the feature animated films including the recent Assault on Arkham. Peter David gets his due by contributing a few episode scripts as well.
Weisman does a nice job with the themes teens experience such as love, jealously heightened emotions and the desire to live up the adults’ expectations while still trying forge a unique identity. He also has a clear through-line for the stories so the chronology ticks off days at a time and is internally consistent unlike so many other animated shows. Secrets that have been introduced previously come into play in the penultimate episode which also sees Milestone’s Rocket join the team. Then comes the season one finale which brings many threads together and reveals Vandal Savage being behind much of the trouble. There’s fighting but also a 16-hour gap when Batman, Hawkwoman, John Stewart, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman were absent and their whereabouts helps set the stage for season two, when the series was renamed Young Justice: Invasion.
While not the best of the DC animated fare, it is among the top five shows and despite its fans does not get its just due. Rewatching these, I was reminded how much fun this series was and it looks great on high definition disc. There are no extras, but that’s par for Warner Archives.