Young Justice Reviews: "Independence Day/Fireworks"
First off, let me start this review by apologizing for its lateness. I meant to have this up a few weeks ago, but it kept getting pushed back thanks to some annoying personal issues. I figured that I owed you guys two episode reviews this first week instead of one. And that actually really works out, as these two episodes basically serve as one complete pilot to the show.
Like I mentioned in my introduction, I'd never seen an episode of Young Justice. I have a few siblings who are big fans but by 2010, most superhero cartoons were passing right by me, unnoticed. But I grew up with the great DC animated shows: Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series. None of these shows are perfect, but they still set an incredibly high bar for all DC animated projects that followed. And I gotta say, I was skeptical if this show could live up to that. I wasn't a Teen Titans person, and this seemed basically similar to that. Would it really grab me? The answer, thankfully, was a resounding yes.
The first thing that struck me about the show was its willingness to portray some of DC's most famous heroes; Batman, Green Arrow and even to some extent, Superman, as kind of...crappy parents. Not literal parents, of course (except maybe a bit in Supes' case), but as the parental figure to their sidekicks. "Independence Day" opens with Robin, Aqualad, Speedy and Kid Flash incredibly excited to finally take their first steps to become real members of the Justice League, only to find that they're basically being given a glorified tour of the fake Justice League headquarters. Not even the cool one in space, the old decoy now meant as a tourist attraction! It's easy to make teen characters like Speedy shrill and unsympathetic, but I have to say, when he gets angry at the heroes here, I found myself siding with him. All these sidekicks have more than proven their worth in battle time and time again, yet they found themselves shut out with no real reason given. Of course it's frustrating, and the episode does a fantastic job of selling you on that right away. I wanted the sidekicks to team up and assert themselves against the grumpy Batman and company.
Our heroes are hungry to prove themselves and set off together to investigate Cadmus, a very shady company that seems to have more monsters than actual products. There, we're introduced to a new hero: Superboy. Not the fun-loving Smallville kid of Golden Age comics, but a genetic experiment grown in a lab to serve Cadmus' purposes. It probably wasn't the best idea for the gang to immediately wake him up, after all, test tube Superman created by evil labs are probably left alone, but it does show the sense of moral integrity our leads have. They saw someone in pain, being deprived of a real life, and sprang into action to save them, no matter the consequences. Predictably, this leads to a fight scene where Superboy pretty easily crushes them. Which leads us to the weakest part of these two episodes: the villain.
Mark Desmond AKA Blockbuster is kind of a one-note baddie in these episodes. His every line feeling very Bad Guy 101. I'm far more interested in his boss, "The Light", which I'm sure we'll learn more about throughout season 1. But Desmond's transformation into Blockbuster just feels silly. Out of nowhere he just has this potion that turns him into a raging monster on the drop of a hat? Pretty par for the course for a superhero show, and it gives the episode a third-act battle, but it felt forced. Hopefully this is something the show improves on with future episodes.
I'm willing to forgive all of that, thanks to the final few scenes. I absolutely loved Superman not knowing how to respond to his newfound prodigy. It's clear Superboy really looks up to his namesake and wants to be just like him. But Superman, blindsided by this weird development, just can't quite embrace this new kid made from his DNA. He gives him a polite (Clark Kent still has his Kansas manners of course) but quick brush-off. Superboy is clearly pretty hurt. It's a good moment and it's played with surprising subtly for a show like this.
Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of these episodes and am pretty eager to see what Batman's missions and especially Miss Martian, who we briefly see at the end, bring to the table. I may have missed Young Justice in 2010, but with it being brought back this year, it really looks like there's never been a better time to dive in.