By: Andrew R. Robinson (writer)

The Story: Batman said observe the illegal toxin-producing factory, not blow it up!  Who’s leading this team anyway?

The Review: There are two major things people expect from the superhero genre: loads of action and compelling characters.  As much fun as explosions and fisticuffs can be, the characters involved need some kind of depth to make it more worthwhile to see them do their stuff.  They may put their lives on the line, but unless you know something about what motivates them or who they are beneath the heroics, you won’t care all that much.

Young Justice is beginning to address some of that.  Andrew R. Robinson’s script tackles the all-mighty leadership question in a very refreshing way.  Even though it serves as an important tension for the team during their first mission, it doesn’t take the whole focus of the episode, nor does it portray the characters as petty or immature—for the most part (Kid Flash: “Yeah?  You don’t even have superpowers!”  Robin: “Neither does Batman!”  Kid Flash: “Tchuh—you’re not Batman!”).  And it’s a relief to get that predictable plotline out of the way so future stories can focus on some real personal conflicts among the characters.

What’s really impressive about the show is how it doesn’t undermine how capable and smart these young heroes are.  They try their best to uphold Batman’s strict instructions; when events spiral out of their control, they handle it with a lot of finesse; and they don’t blow Robin’s presumptions about being their leader out of proportion—they even offer some sensible sympathy.  By the end of their mission, you’re really rooting for these kids who are trying their best to show what they’re made of.

Robinson keeps the team occupied, trying to keep their cool under gunfire and hulking mutant attacks—and being trapped in a collapsed mineshaft—but also gives them a few moments to show some personality.  Robin and Kid Flash’s banter sell a lot better with an actual conflict to motivate them, and Superboy’s starting to come out of his shell.  Aqualad still remains strangely distant, while conversely Miss Martian’s crushing on Superboy is made so obvious you feel like you’re being beaten over the head with it.  These are all small steps toward fully-grown characters, but as long as the stories in the meantime are good, you shouldn’t mind the wait.

And this episode clips along at a lively pace thanks to Robinson’s strong storyline, deftly switching between the necessary info-gathering to all-out action (which, rest assured, the animation continues to serve up in awesome fashion).  He cleverly brings in a mix of villains, giving layers to the criminal elements the team faces: the predictably crazed Cult of Cobra and its formidable leader, the mercenary Sportsmaster, and the vengeful Bane (kudos to Robinson for playing up his keen intellect and Latin roots—the strings of Spanish throughout are a classy touch).  The mission also ties neatly into the show’s overarching criminal masterminds, reassuring you there’s a big story waiting at the finish line, whenever it comes.

Conclusion: The show still shies away from any obvious goofiness—no hope for any of the gags and slapstick of Teen Titans Go! or Avatar—but its drama and action will keep you entertained, and there’s clearly a lot of love for these characters.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – The Blockbuster Formula?  The best name they could come up with for a mutagenic drug was inspired by a bankrupt movie rental franchise?  How about Red Box Formula?

– I don’t know how I feel about alien blushing.  It just seems wrong, somehow.