By: Kevin Hopps (story)
The Story: Even they’re supposed to be DC’s runaways, where’s the mind-controlled dinosaur?
The Review: Before we get down to anything else, we really have to talk about this impending cancellation for Young Justice. I’m really rather surprised DC hasn’t stuck a “WTF Certified” stamp all over that one. After all, it was only last year that Cartoon Network started its DC Nation bloc, and the whole period has been riddled with erratic scheduling, only to climax in this utterly baffling sudden turnover.
Granted, I don’t really have the numbers for the show in front of me, and I’m not really sure I’d understand them even if I did, but how badly could the series have done to be get canned just midway through the second season? And if it was doing that badly, then why?
Ultimately, I think it has everything to do with the hyper-maturity with which YJ conducts itself. In all the time I’ve watched the show, I’ve never seen its heroes act completely ridiculous or stupid. In fact, I’ve regularly complained about the lack of personality you get out of the characters. As time went on, the show made up for the lack of zaniness with solid dramatic conflicts and tight plot-work, achieving a consistent tension that reminds you of a cartoon version of a CW superhero-soap.
YJ, too, suffered from the weight of its cast. The team initially started with six core members, then added Zatanna, Rocket, and (sort of) Captain Marvel in the first season, and now sports an entire second-gen team that’s even bigger than the first on top of the original core. And that’s not even counting the latest set of young metahumans YJ saved from the Reach, who are almost fated to join the gang down the line.
Justice League Unlimited had a similarly inflated cast—even more so, in fact—but it found a terrific formula for giving everyone equal exposure: using each episode to feature a pairing between a veteran (one of the original Justice League members) and a rookie. By mixing and matching in endless combinations, the show could deliver almost any kind of story, whether dramatic or purely entertaining (Booster Gold singlehandedly saving the planet, unnoticed by his peers, comes to mind).
Yet you can also argue that these same shortcomings allowed YJ to achieve the sophisticated storytelling it’s become so well-regarded for. It can get away with portraying the Reach runaways as impulsive and immature because the rest of the cast is so well-grounded as heroes. It can sell moments of betrayal, like that of all the varicolored Beetles, without feeling melodramatic or cheesy because it takes its characters seriously and because these scenes are a result of months of careful plotting. The show’s technically amazing action sequences don’t feel like pure fluff or filler because there’s always an emotional context for them; the runaways return to the besieged S.T.A.R. Labs out of a sense of loyalty to each other and even to the people they resent. I’ll be very sorry to lose this kind of animated entertainment each week.
Conclusion: It perhaps takes an adult sensibility to appreciate Young Justice’s virtues, and unfortunately, Cartoon Network’s target audience is not adults.
- Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - I don’t know why Virgil’s comment about Jaime’s maxed-out volume was so funny to me, but at any rate, it sure saves the show a lot of time on exposition.
- I was inordinately excited to hear “Sam’s” clunky Japanese in the episode, as it feels like a response to all those anime which sported butchered English at some point in the series.