By: Thomas Pugsley (writer)

The Story: YJ embarks on a psychedelic journey through the magical world of Dr. Fate—it’s exactly as weird as it sounds.

The Review: Here is what friends do: talk with each other about each other behind each other’s backs, argue about ridiculous, often inconsequential things, and make fun of each other’s weaknesses.  And when the friends involved are teens, these elements pop up threefold.  It’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds.  Without these things, much of the spice of life would be missing.

That’s why it’s such a relief to see the YJ-ers finally ranking and razzing on each other (that’s right—I’m bringing back lingo from the late nineties; in my defense, they were totally solid back when I was, like, eight).  I think Artemis has a lot to do with that.  Besides how she’s naturally sarcastic to begin with, she also allows for a clear separation between the girls and the guys, which opens up a whole new layer of intrigue to the team dynamic.

Up until now, Miss Martian being the only girl, and a sweet one at that, has kind of forced the guys to tiptoe around her a little bit.  But now she has a new BFF, it frees her to show some snap and self-awareness.  It also brings in the inevitable girl talk, which we all know is code for talking about boys.  Fortunately, their mutual attraction to Superboy hasn’t brought resentment to their early friendship—that’s a ship I’d be fine with not sailing.

The best part of Artemis’ membership is her banter with Wally.  Rom-com dialogue tends to lean toward the obvious, especially when writers are obviously pushing for a specific matchup, as they do here.  Pugsley wisely keeps things good-natured, rather than mean-but-secretly-loving-it, and he avoids having them squabble pointlessly over nothing, choosing instead to let Artemis pick at Wally’s hypocrisy in claiming to believe in magic just to impress Miss Martian.

On that note, the issue of magical belief offers some good character bits for the team.  Wally’s scientific bent is something you’d expect more out of tech-wiz Robin, but his increasingly elaborate technical explanations for the magical effects they encounter gets pretty fun.  Some nice factoids are also revealed about Miss Martian and Aqualad’s upbringing in cultures that value and practice sorcery—let’s hope these things turn up again later.  Superboy steers clear of the magic debate, but the growing signs of his vanity (a mainstay of his original character in the comics) is evidence that he may turn out to be a real boy after all.

Magical villains always pose big challenges, so faux-magician Abra Kadabra and crazed Klarion the Witch Boy feel like the first truly big-league opponents for YJ.  Thankfully, Pugsley sets up some ground rules for how the Lords of Order and Chaos must operate, so you don’t get the sense of randomness that often accompanies magical tales.  Dr. Fate kind of takes the battle out of the team’s hands in the end, but that’s fine.  The scene of Kent Nelson sacrificing time from joining his late wife at last has a lot of sentimentality, and the layers it adds to Wally’s till-now strictly comic character is much appreciated.

Conclusion: Thanks to some fun banter and personality bits from the characters, and with the action and plotting still high on the quality, this episode shows the series has found its groove.

Grade: A

– Minhquan Nguyen