Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Young Justice: Episode 1 & 2 (Independence Day & Fireworks)

I've been watching Young Justice. I'm really enjoying myself, so I decided to start reviewing the episodes.  (I'll be reviewing episodes as I watch them, and avoiding spoilers as much as I can.) I'm going to review the first 2 episodes in this review, since it's a two-parter. Warning: this will be long.

Ten word summary: Great episodes, fun characters and excellent animation. A solid beginning.

Massive spoilers behind the cut.

Episode Overview: We have four short scenes with heroes and sidekicks taking out ice-themed villains. Batman and Robin take out Mr. Freeze. Speedy and Green Arrow take out someone who I think is Icicle. Aquaman and the new Aqualad take out Killer Frost (I think). Kid Flash and Flash take out Captain Cold. Each of the sidekicks are excited because "today is the day."

Two hours later, at the Hall of Justice. (I'm dead serious: it's the Hall of Justice from Super Friends, except with much better animation.) The sidekicks and heroes pass by a bunch of tourists and enter the Hall of Justice, which the sidekicks are being allowed in for the first time. Kid Flash points out that it's the first time the 4 sidekicks have been at the same place, and Speedy snaps at him not to call them sidekicks. Between this and his whining in his first scene, I'm already beginning to dislike Speedy.

Red Tornado and Martian Manhunter show up to show them around, and tell them they now have access to the League's library, galley and gym. This is their first step towards League membership.

Batman (and everyone in the audience above age 5) sees the four ice-themed villains attacking at the same time as suspicious, and has the League go to a door for "Justice League members only" so they can discuss it.

Speedy gets mad that they aren't allowed to come along, and reveals that the Hall of Justice is just a tourist trap and that the real headquarters is the Watchtower satellite. He wasn't supposed to know this, but Green Arrow told him anyway. He is the only sidekick to know about the Watchtower at all, so when he whines about not getting any respect, it falls pretty flat. (Hey, Roy: you have to earn respect, and whining is not a good way to earn it.) Green Arrow asks Batman to make an exception, and allow the sidekicks to come along to the Watchtower.

Aquaman tells Speedy to stand down and calls him "son." Speedy immediately says "you're not my father". He then shows what an ungrateful brat he is by saying that Green Arrow isn't his dad either and storming off, saying he doesn't want to be Green Arrow's partner anymore. Good riddance.

Superman contacts the League and tells them that Cadmus is on fire. Batman mentions he has suspicions about Cadmus, but is interrupted by Zatarra saying that Wotan is using a magical artifact to attempt to blot out the sun. (I'm disappointed that we don't actually get to see Wotan, since I enjoyed his appearances in All-Star Squadron.) Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad are left behind, and they are annoyed at not being allowed to leave. Aqualad shows himself to be rather dignified and respectful. He calls Aqualad "my mentor, my king," and comes across as genuinely hurt that Aquaman doesn't trust him.

Robin hacks the Hall of Justice computers to find out what Project Cadmus is (it uses the same system as the Batcave). It takes about 5 seconds. Nice computer security there, Bats. Did you use the exact same password, or did you just forget that your sidekick is an über-hacker?

The three decide to go to Cadmus. They save a couple scientists, and Aqualad spots someone with grey skin and horns leaving on the elevator. (There are 52 sub-levels.) Once they get off the elevator, they immediately run into some huge hulking . . . things that are obviously not natural.

We cut to Guardian talking to a scientist named Desmond, and the creature that Aqualad saw earlier. We find out that the little thing perched on his shoulder is a "genome," a creature with telepathic powers. It also has mind control powers, since when Guardian tries to leave him behind, a genome uses mind control to make him take it along.

Aqualad points out the myth behind the name "Cadmus," and I grin because I'm a huge mythology nerd. Robin easily hacks Cadmus' computers before being interrupted by Guardian. Guardian wants to just call the League, but one of the genome's forces him to attack them instead. Robin runs off ahead while Aqualad and Kid Flash fight, and they travel down to investigate "Project Kr." Aqualad realizes that this is out-of-hand and suggests contacting the League.

The horned creature from earlier attacks them, and they retreat down one of the hallways. It helpfully ends in a door labeled "Project Kr" so they enter. Anyone with knowledge of the comics (or the periodic table) is unsurprised that Project Kr is Superboy, a clone of Superman.

Superboy is 16 weeks old, but was rapidly aged to a teenager and fed an education by the genomes. Kid Flash points out that Superboy is essentially Superman's son, and Aqualad decides that it's now time to get the League involved. Naturally, they're signals are being jammed, so it doesn't work.

The three set Superboy free, and he immediately attacks them thanks to the nearby genomes controlling him. It's a great fight scene, and it shows how hopelessly outgunned the three are by Superboy. Aqualad lasts the longest, showing off his powers before getting knocked. Superboy rips open the door.

End episode 1.
Episode 2 begins with Desmond contacting "The Light", a mysterious group which is apparently in charge of Cadmus. He asks what to do with the sidekicks, and is told to clone them and to "dispose of" the originals.

The three sidekicks wake up thanks to a telepathic voice, and see that Superboy is watching them. We then cut to the scientist and Guardian. Guardian sees nothing wrong with Superboy "stretching his legs" but the scientist disagrees and uses a genome to get Guardian to put Superboy back in his pod.

Back to the sidekicks trying to convince Superboy that they're on his side. Aqualad figures out that Superboy probably isn't in full control of his actions, and Superboy talks to them. They try to convince Superboy to turn on Cadmus by pointing out that he's never even gotten to see the sun or experience life outside his tube. Superboy reveals that his purpose is to replace Superman if he dies, and to destroy him "if he turns from The Light", and Aqualad tells him that emulating Superman is a worthy ambition.

They offer to show Superboy the sun and to introduce him to Superman. Of course, they get interrupted and Guardian is told to "get the Weapon back into its pod." Superboy looks annoyed, but is forced to comply by a genome. We then see them actually extracting blood from the sidekicks for the cloning process. I'm honestly surprised that they were allowed to show blood. And in the first episode no less.

We find out the horned creature from earlier is named Dubbilex. He's told to ensure the cloning process goes alright and to kill the originals after the clones are done and they're memories have been downloaded by the genomes.

Aqualad talks to Superboy, and Superboy hears him thanks to his super-hearing. Aqualad tells him that he has a choice about whether he wants to be a weapon or a person. ("What would Superman do?") Superboy goes back to free them.

Kid Flash asks whether he's going to help them or fry them. Superboy squints and says:  "I don't seem to have heat vision, so I suppose helping is my only option." Superboy's snarky. I like that.

Robin tells Superboy to free Aqualad, and Superboy does so (although he tells him not to give him orders). Aqualad simply thanks him and gives me one more reason to like him. He's seems to be very good at reading people, and he's definitely the most level-headed of the bunch.

They leave and blow up the cloning pods. The scientist has every genomorph in the building activated to deal with the four. They go up the elevator shaft, and Superboy discovers that he can leap tall buildings in a single bound but not actually fly. Superboy hears telepathic suggestions about where to go, and leads them to an air vent which they use to escape through.
They eventually get stopped by a large group of genomorphs, and Dubbilex suggets that Superboy make up his own mind "for the sake of all genomorphs." Turns out, Dubbilex is the one who's been helping them (and he's the one who set the fire). They lift the mind control on Guardian, and Superboy chooses freedom rather than remaining at Cadmus.

Desmond uses Project Blockbuster, some sort of serum. He drinks it and proceeds to hulk out. (I'm getting flashbacks to Justice League Unlimited and General Eiling.) His skin rips off to reveal a stone-like body underneath. Pieces of his skin are still hanging from his face and shoulders, which is just as creepy as it sounds.

Guardian attacks Desmond, but gets knocked out quickly. Superboy attacks next, and the two break through the ceiling. We get a really nice fight scene, with each of the characters getting a chance to show off their powers (or in Robin's case, his skills at strategy).

They end up winning by collapsing the ceiling on Desmond. They end up exhausted, hurt and with ripped costumes, but they win the fight. Superboy gets to see the moon for the first time, and then Superman shows up with other superheroes. (Red Tornado, Captain Marvel, Zatarra, Martian Manhunter, Captain Atom, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Black Canary, Aquaman, Batman, Green Arrow and Flash.)

We get a very nice, silent scene. Superboy approaches Superman and shows his "S" to him. Superboy's expression is faintly hopeful, and Superman looks surprised, then suspicious. Superboy is obviously hurt by the suspicion. Then Batman further ruins the moment by asking "is that what I think it is?" (Tactful, Bruce.) Superboy announces "I'm Superman's clone" and everyone looks surprised.

A little later, some of the heroes cart Desmond off, while Superman, Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman talk. We don't hear any of what they say, but we get another excellent use of body language to convey the mood. Superman's obviously not happy about being cloned, and he obviously has no clue how to deal with Superboy.

Aqualad points out that they did good work there, and they attempt to convince the adults that they should be a team. Superboy shows a distinct lack of tact by telling them to "get on board or get out of the way." Cut to 4 days later at "Mount Justice," which was apparently the original home of the Justice League.

Red Tornado volunteered to supervise them, and watch over the team (although they haven't actually been called Young Justice yet). Black Canary will train them, and Batman will deploy them on covert missions. They will be working for the League on covert assignments that the League can't do for themeselves.

We then get introduced to the fifth member of the team: Miss Martian, who is introduced as Martian Manhunter's niece. Kid Flash flirts with her, but Miss Martian already seems to like Superboy.

End episode.

Animation: I love the animation. There are some really nice moments that were great purely because of the visuals. Superman’s reaction to finding out Superboy is his clone is excellent, and almost entirely visual. The fight scenes were fun and energetic. No complaints here.

Voice Acting: The voice acting was strong, and I recognized several of the voices. (Desmond was voiced by Odo, Aqualad is Cyborg, etc.). There were several points where Robin seriously creeped me out since he has a habit of laughing in a manner which keeps making me think of Return of the Joker.
Characterization: The characterization was excellent, giving us an idea about what the characters are like. Robin has a habit of running ahead and not communicating with others, and he finds being a superhero fun. Kid Flash is impatient and impulsive but also excitable, friendly and a bit of a goofball. Aqualad is mature, level-headed and dignified. Superboy has a problem with authority and a temper problem. He's proud of being Superman's clone, and Superman's initial reluctance to accept him hurt and angered him. We even get some nice character moments for several of the adult superheroes, even though they have very little screen time.

Favorite Character: Aqualad is officially my favorite character on the show. He’s mature, respectful, and intelligent. He didn’t attempt to plead or demand Superboy free them; instead, he made it clear that Superboy did have a choice and didn’t have to serve Cadmus blindly. Plus, it takes real guts to use electricity when you’re a water-based superhero.

Least Favorite Character: Speedy is by far the most annoying character in the first episode. He’s a whiny little git, and I really hope we don’t see much of him in later episodes. He was obviously the sidekick who had the most information, but he still managed to be ungrateful about it. And it’s a low blow to play the “you’re not my real father” card to the man who took you in and raised you. At least in the comics he had an excuse for disliking Green Arrow. Here, he's just a brat.
Fun Moments: One of the tourists points out that Speedy being Green Arrow's sidekick instead of Flash's makes no sense.

When they're getting ready to clone the sidekicks, Robin says: "Pass. Batcave's crowded enough."
Dumb Moment: Green Arrow calls Speedy "Roy" while tourists are watching through a window, and they discuss the Watchtower in the same place, even though it's supposed to be a secret. I really hope none of those tourists can read lips.

Confusing Moments: Mr. Freeze refers to other ice-themed villains as his family. (In the comics, they don't have anything to do with each other.)

I’m not quite clear on the source of Aqualad’s powers. He can control water and make hard water constructs. He also has the ability to generate electricity, although that seems to be generated by some gadgets he’s wearing. I have no clue whether his water powers are natural or controlled the same way or not. The water-breathing is definitely natural, though, since he has gills on his neck and webbed fingers and toes.

Wild Mass Guessing: I wonder if Aqualad's blond hair is significant. (In the comics, Aquaman was abandoned as a baby due to having blond hair, which Atlanteans considered a curse.)

Miss Martian is introduced as Martian Manhunter's niece. In the comics, she's a White Martian (who are evil), but choose to join the side of good and disguised herself as a Green Martian so others would be more likely to trust her. This could lead to two plot elements which I would love.

1) She's actually a White Martian, and she's lying about being J'onn's niece.

2) She actually is J'onn's niece, and she's the daughter of J'onn's brother, Ma'alefa'ak. (Ma'alefa'ak is J'onn's evil twin brother, who was the one responsible for killing off almost the entire Martian race.)

I doubt either will happen, but it would be cool if they did.

Conclusion: We're already getting hints about future storylines, and we've got a good idea what each of the characters is like. I suspect that most non-comics fans are going to be horribly lost about what’s going on, but as a comics fan, I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

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