By: Kevin Hopps (writer)
The Story: Our young heroes wonder if their team will be more than a metahuman Key Club, and face their first super-powered whack-job–good times.
The Review: We’ve only gotten through the first few episodes, so there’s still a long ways to go for Young Justice to prove its long-term success. Even so, it looks like there’ll be two big positives going for it: terrific animation and outstanding action choreography. Everything pops with vibrant color and clean lines, and all the character movements are slick and kinetic. In battle, the characters are in constant motion, getting into position to support each other with appreciably unexpected uses of their powers and skills. These elements will always be major pulls for the show, no matter where it ends up going.
There’s a lot of promise on the writing side of things too. This episode takes the first baby step forward to establishing the characters’ default personalities and the overall team dynamics. Kevin Hopps makes use of a tried-and-true plot structure to give the characters their first outing as a team: an up-and-coming villain wants to make waves in the super-crime world, so he tests his mettle against the untried, rookie heroes.
The premise may be a bit cliché and low-stakes, but Hopps executes it with surprising nuance. The idea that the adult heroes set up this team as a meaningless distraction for their sidekicks gets tackled early on and is mostly banished by the end of the episode. After all, Mr. Twister turns out not to be a set-up by the kids’ mentors, and they get to deal with the formidable villain on their own terms. Red Tornado’s determination to not interfere and let them figure out their problems themselves is a pretty cool move; it respects YJ’s freedom and aptitude, definitely bucking the trend in superhero fiction of adults not taking teens seriously. The revelations about Mr. Twister’s origins also introduce us to the big baddies of the season, promising even bigger, more important challenges for the team.
This episode is a great showcase for Miss Martian, who shows up at the tail end of the pilot, so you know least about her going in. Her eagerness to fit in gets a little too cutesy at times (baking cookies—really?), but her proactive role in fighting Mr. Twister shows off her competent side, and her value to the team. Kid Flash’s snappy jokes and constant lines on Miss Martian are hit-and-miss, but offer most of the episode’s humor. Robin strikes the right balance between teen hijinks and the professionalism required of a Batman accomplice. There’s not much to Aqualad other than an admirable, slightly off-putting seriousness. Superboy remains angsty and temperamental, but his apology to Miss Martian for his earlier freakout at her telepathy—a stiff “Sorry” and immediate exit—shows how his social awkwardness can be played for chuckles.
The characters you’re getting are still pretty raw, but that leaves plenty of room for them to grow in. What the show really needs is some more comic material (besides Robin and Kid Flash’s corny ribbing, I mean) to lighten up the somewhat somber tone it’s got so far. Maybe once the characters get more comfortable with their roles as part-time heroes, they’ll approach their work and bounce off each other with more gusto and energy—we’ll have a fairly melodramatic soap of a cartoon otherwise.
Conclusion: Young Justice tries for the semi-sophisticated drama of Justice League and mostly succeeds, but it could use some of Teen Titans’ bold goofiness. There’s a lot to like: great action, deftly interweaving plotlines, familiar characters that may develop in unexpected ways in this brand new world. Add a dose of zest and a clear mission statement, and the show will be as good as gold.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Please don’t make “Hello, Megan!” an ongoing catchphrase. It’s really not that adorable.
– I’m not sold on the opening titles. Too techy, not enough epic, and doesn’t give much insight to the overall tone and feel of the series or its characters.