By: Brandon Vietti (story)

The Story: Who says girl groups are dead?

The Review: Obviously, the biggest difference between this and last season is the team’s roster, which has grown a little bigger and a lot more colorful.  The writers have so far kept the focus on the returning characters, though they’ve wisely given the newbies substantial parts to play, getting us used to their presence.  Now seems the right time to get to know the rookies better, as they do represent the future of the team—unless we get another time jump in season three.

Of all the new members, Blue Beetle is a natural to break out.  His versatile power set, bizarre origin story, and racial and urban appeal make for a potent combination, and thanks to a cult-favorite ongoing and a Smallville appearance, he’s perhaps more familiar to us nowadays than you might expect.  But I’d say the biggest factor in his favor is he gives the show access to a whole realm of stories it’s only just now exploring: the socially relevant.

Of course, this show is still a cartoon at the end of the day, so it doesn’t really set out to rock boats with truly intense, dark plots, but that hasn’t stopped it from playing with some real-world problems in a thoughtful way. Last episode, Roy’s obsessive search for his original self, leading to his isolation and physical debilitation, was a thinly veiled analogy for addiction.  Here, around the edges of Jaime’s search for his runaway pal, are issues of family dysfunction, domestic abuse, poverty, urban crime, and, at the far reaches of the story, race inequality.

Vietti never really addresses these issues head-on, but he makes them clear undertones to the plot at hand, which already goes above and beyond duty where writing for a Cartoon Network show is concerned.  Even without all that, he allows Jaime to be a centered protagonist with lines and motives beyond bickering with the Scarab or “ethnic” lingo.  Though his investigation leads to a dead end, that can only mean he has more opportunity to prove himself in a later episode.

Anyway, this episode has plenty of glory moments, and it’s encouraging to see the girls get pretty much all of them.  While the boys really dominated the show last season, the new female members are too recognizable and assertive to be overshadowed by the likes of Lagoon Boy or Blue Beetle.  While it’s a huge vote of confidence that an all-girl squad victoriously take on a major mission with few mishaps, Vietti makes it clear no extra pride should be had because they’re all girls.  As Batgirl slyly remarks to Nightwing, “…would you have felt the need to justify an all-male squad for a given mission?”

Each heroine gets an opportunity to show what she’s made of, often in surprising ways.  Even though Wonder Girl is the most impulsive and closest to being the archetypical teen hero overeager to make her name, she impresses you by dutifully following orders she’s unhappy with, thus rightfully deserving the praise she receives at the end.  Sadly, while Batgirl gamely keeps up with her more empowered comrades, she doesn’t quite establish a role for herself within the team.  It’s actually Bumblebee who shows leadership material, her tactics proving critical for the mission’s success.  And thankfully, Miss Martian avoids the psychic aggression we’ve already seen too much of in the last few episodes.

Conclusion: While the big baddies’ goals remain as inscrutable as ever, we get yet another intriguing hint of their endgame, as well as nice glimpses of our heroes’ abilities to face it.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Okay, I enjoy a cold glass of water as much as the next person, but Mr. Longshadow takes it to an extreme I find a little disturbing.

– I can’t believe I nearly forgot that Batgirl and Nightwing traditionally have a romantic tension going on.  Good thing her sass and his awkwardness reminded me of that.