By: Peter David (writer)
The Story: Will Artemis and Zatanna come to “Harm”? It’s a “Secret.” Yeah, I went there.
The Review: Unlike the Teen Titans, which brought kids together to learn the value of friendship and heroism, David’s interpretation of the adolescent vigilante on the original Young Justice comics emphasized their most irritating qualities: distractible, selfish, temperamental, petty, and recklessly impulsive (and not just Impulse either). But he also wrote with great credibility about their capacity for idealism, cleverness, grief, and compassion.
So it’s not surprising he brings a similar mixture of playfulness and darkness to his guest episode. Sadly, he can’t deliver the quite same tone he did on the original comics. For one thing, he works with completely different characters than the ones he wrote back in the day, even though they share some of the same names and origins. Take Superboy; David’s version was a hopeless swinger with a fade haircut; ours is a sullen loner with a major chip on his shoulder.
But our clone has shed some of his angst lately, and David takes advantage of that to bring back a little of his mischievous side, featuring a return of Superboy and Miss Martian’s Happy Harbor High classmates at the same time. As Marvin goes for the “greatest prank ever” at a Halloween dance, the joke turns on him when Connor retaliates with a trick of his own. His brings a surprising amount of enthusiasm to the ploy, even getting M’gann and Wally on the joke too.
All this is really a fun side dish to the main course of Artemis and Zatanna hitting the town. A fun idea, and in the early parts of the episode you do get a kick out of seeing the potent combo of Zee’s magic and Artemis’ martial artistry. But once they run into Harm, a villain David created in the old YJ days, the episode essentially becomes a “Will the girls survive the sadist?” routine.
This would be entertaining in itself, except Harm is a painfully flat character, a case that was true back when he originally debuted. He seems, in the tradition of Cathy, innately and incurably evil. The episode even introduces him as such, since he can wield the sword of Beowulf, which only accepts the pure of heart—“It never said ‘pure good.’” Like anyone who skews toward the extremes of the moral spectrum, Harm is just predictable.
I’m a bit shocked the show allowed David to bring in another of his original creations, Secret, and keep most of her back-story, too. After all, when was the last time you ran into fratricide on a cartoon? Aside from that, though, she doesn’t offer much of the complexity she had on her comics run, spending most the episode repeating her name ad infinitum, sometimes to humorous reactions from her companions (Zee: “Then why did she help me?” Artemis: “Don’t know—‘Secret!’”), but mostly to your own annoyance.
Most problematic is the episode’s timing. While it’s baffling why the producers delayed a Halloween episode to a week before Thanksgiving, the more serious problem is this episode is clearly meant to come before Miss Martian’s telepathic assault on the team and its attendant fallout. To suddenly go from last week’s tension to the levity here is quite jarring, and it also makes Batman’s speculations about the team mole seem that much tardier.
Conclusion: David puts in a good effort, but the episode is hampered by a major scheduling error and a medium which doesn’t entirely suit his particular style of writing.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Poor, poor Captain Marvel. One of these days, the writers should take some pity on him, reveal his secret to everyone, and save him some grief.
– I’d like to say how much I want to hug David and the animators for having Mal Duncan show up in Superboy’s original costume, and then having Connor thoroughly dismiss it: “Yeah—good luck with that.”
– So Wally and Artemis had no idea that Connor and M’gann are a thing? It’s pretty obvious why the mantle of leadership should only ever fall on either Aqualad or Robin.