Superman on Television

Young Justice: Episode Reviews

Season 1 - Episode 1 & 2: "Independence Day/Fireworks"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

There's no justice like "Young Justice" like no justice I know. Teen Titans they are not though their initial team line up mirrors the original Titans lineup from their first appearance in Brave and the Bold. The team lineup only tells part of the story. Like recent seasons of "Smallville" this show has the potential to become an animated template for the entire DC Universe.

Even without Bruce Timm at the helm, the show builds on the nuances of "JLU" by having a Justice League with an incredibly huge lineup. There are the heroes with the kids - Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, The Flash, The Martian Manhunter, and Superman. But this League includes just about everybody it seems - cameos abound by Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Captain Atom, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the Black Canary, Red Tornado, even John Zatara, a character who appeared in Action Comics #1 along with Superman's debut and is Zatanna's Dad.

The animation is very classic with fluid lines and realistic musculature unlike, say, the "Teen Titans" cartoon with its manga influence. The heroes appear in very classic representations of their costumes.

The pilot sets the stage for the first season by very quickly introducing us to the classic kid sidekicks and using Superboy as the catalyst for the season's big mystery. If you read the comics you already know part of that mystery may be whose DNA is combined with Superman's to make Superboy. Two different human culprits have been implicated over the years - on the cartoon, whether it's one of those two or someone else entirely remains to be seen.

Who are the Light? The obvious suspects are Darkseid and the New Gods - it'd be just like Darkseid to take on a persona the veritable opposite of himself (light versus dark). Darkseid has a pre-established connection with Project Cadmus. Or it could be a certain Superman bad guy with the initials L.L. The writers did a bang-up job of maintaining the mystery without tipping their hands too soon.

I wish we'd seen more of Superboy's personality though he did have moments to shine in the episode. The breakout character was Aqualad, voiced by Khary Payton, who was also the voice of Cyborg on Teen Titans. He has some great lines in the episode - "being like Superman is an admirable goal" being the one that comes to mind. He brings a subtlety to the kid from Atlantis here and a gravitas that makes you want to see him as leader, something that's not an easy feat given the natural propensity to put Robin the Boy Wonder in that role. Robin is portrayed more like a kid than we've ever seen in animation before. He's clearly super intelligent but there's a whirling dervish devil may care attitude that reminds me of who the character was at his inception in Detective Comics #38.

There's been some debate as to which versions of the kid sidekicks are on the show. Is that Dick Grayson as Robin? Wally West or Bart Allen as Kid Flash? Then does that make the adult Flash Barry Allen? You'll recall that, on "Justice League," similar secret identity mysteries weren't revealed until the end of the second season and the three-part "Starcrossed". It's enough here, as it was there, that these are iconic representations of the characters. Who they are under the masks will naturally reveal over time.

It would've been nice to see the entire "Young Justice" team in action from the get-go. The introduction of Miss Martian at the eleventh hour along with the absence of the mysterious Artemis (thought initially in press photos to be Arrowette) is unfortunate and may reveal the writers' unease with writing female characters. The pilot is certainly an all-boys show even among the adult JLA'ers. Wonder Woman and Black Canary appear but have no dialogue. Hopefully the dynamic between the sexes will even out a bit over time and future episodes.

"Young Justice" returns in January 2011 with new episodes. I'll be back then too with episode synopses and reviews. Until then, Titans Toge... wait no, that's not right. Um, Young Justice Unite!

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