By: Jon Weisman (writer)

The Story: Four red-chromed elemental robots are better than one.

The Review: Nowadays, hardly anyone wonders why, on a league populated by some of the most powerful superhumans on the planet, we need to have Batman around.  No one is naïve enough to believe that his explosive Batarangs will turn the tide in battle or something.  No, the Justice League needs Batman because the guy’s a genius and his prep-time is so off the charts, it may as well count as a superpower.

With that settled, we still have the question of why every superhero team needs at least a couple non-powered members.  Some kind of politically correct, demographic quota?  A reassurance that we won’t all become completely obsolete if people actually do develop superpowers?  Well, whatever the reason, it does mean that at some point, the normals have to prove their worth, usually at the expense of incapacitating the entire rest of their team.

For Artemis and Robin, that point comes in this episode.  Confronted by Red Tornado’s “siblings,” and with no help from their teammates, the two unpowered teens have to improvise their way through twisters of fire and tidal waves of water using only their wit and skills.  Obviously, you get some very high stakes from the situation.  Art and Rob spend most the episode just trying to stay alive, and we all know that mortal stamina can only last so long.

Still, in the back of your mind, you can’t help feeling a little skeptical about the shutdown of their teammates.  Are we to assume Kid Flash hasn’t gotten through Flash Facts 101 and learned how to vibrate through stuff yet?  Or that Aqualad can’t simply use his water-bending on the constant deluges of water Red Torpedo (using the names from the 2009 Red Tornado mini) keeps blasting at them?  It all seems very contrived, but let’s just chalk that up to cartoon magic.

While it’s good to focus on Artemis and Robin for once (if nothing else, it gives us a break from the Miss Martian-Superboy nonsense, except for a brief makeout session at the top of the episode), Robin mostly becomes a cipher to Artemis’ increasingly distraught behavior as the story goes on.  True, the scenes do few favors for her pride (we get a genuinely disturbing moment where she huddles into a fetal position in an air vent), it actually makes sense, given her more emotionally reactive nature and inexperience.

And anyway, she ends up redeeming herself by showing some last-minute chops when the chips are down.  Less successful is the tie-in with her family issues.  Since she hasn’t really been with the team all that long, the scene where she rises up from her panic attack, declaring she has a new family now, feels mostly unearned.  The idea has merit, and would probably have worked in a sentimental episode further down the line, but now it just seems hasty and cheesy.

Returning to the plot, though, the existence of several additional superpowered androids has grim implications for the kids and their mentors.  And with one major loose end hanging by the end of the episode, we have our first “To be continued…” story, y’all!

Conclusion: The show works best when it concentrates on just delivering the finest cartoon action it possibly can.  The dramatics, on the other hand, sometimes float and sometimes sink.  Here, they just kind of fizz in the middle.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I find it really funny that placing your fingertips against your temples somehow enhances telepathic communication.  Why not put your entire hand against your head?  Or your foot in your mouth?

– I’m guessing the show doesn’t have a dedicated joke writer on the writing staff, as most of Kid Flash and Superboy’s taunts fall painfully flat: “You can’t drown a Kryptonian, dumb-bots!”  That said, Kid Flash’s “…before your binary brains can count to two!” is a pretty good burn.