Well, fellow Young Justice advocates—we did it. Online petitions, letters to executives, Facebook support groups, write-ups, and the most painless of all—binge watching episodes on Netflix. Because of all the pushing by fans, Young Justice will be returning after a three-year hiatus. In just two seasons, Young Justice became one of my favorite superhero animated shows. I’ll refrain from deciding if it tops the legendary Batman animated series, only because that show lasted four seasons. I’ve been a massive advocate for seeing this story continue after witnessing that ominous, season-ending handshake. This piece was initially written to drudge up some support for the show, but I’ve happily rewritten it after receiving the good news. Be warned that there are spoilers galore in this write-up, as it is dedicated to the fellow fans who brought it back, and, of course, to the creative team that made such a powerful show that it touched us all. Here are 20 reasons why I love Young Justice and am excited for the next season. Thanks to worldsfinestonline.com for their collection of screen shots.
1. Aqualad, the Ultimate Sidekick-Turned-Superhero
New heroes come and go in the Marvel and DC universe all the time, but right from the get-go this young lad had Justice League written all into him. In a show about sidekicks coming into their own, Kaldur’ahm contains pieces of each of his league superiors. He’s Aquaman’s disciple, has a Green Lantern–ish power over water, magic-based powers and knowledge that put him in Wonder Woman’s territory, the temperance that we expect of a Superman, and when he gives an order you obey him without question the way you would Batman. Who knows if the composite aspect of this superhero is even intentional, because the character is so strong and together that he represents each of these aspects as his own. In season 2, we see that Kaldur’ahm is ready to go to any depths for his mission, literally. Though it might have been Nightwing’s idea, it was Aqualad who infiltrated the Light and played secret villain so successfully that even his old teammates wanted him dead. Season 1 tempted a lot of the young heroes into villainy, but season 2 proved that if there is one character that the team won’t survive breaking bad, it’s Kaldur’ahm.
This is a character we should definitely keep our eyes on as he progresses through season 3, as I fully expect him to enter other areas of DC entertainment as he gets older.
2. An Imperfect League
We like our heroes to be heroes, but also to be a little imperfect. Usually for superheroes, this means struggles related to the power at their disposal. But Young Justice brings in a whole new set of humanizing imperfections to the Justice League. Back in the good ol‘ days when it was just them, all a superhero had to do was wake up, put on tights, and go fight some crime. But the one battle that they were never ready to take on was parenthood. One has to wonder if the reason the league was so against the young adults becoming full-fledged members of the team was because they had no idea how to handle teenaged-superhero hormones. The son of Krypton who can move mountains cowers at the idea of having a son himself, and although Batman does have some tender moments with Robin, the mental training exercise that he and Martian Manhunter arranged was such a nightmare that the team literally needed therapy afterwards. Though they are not the protagonists of Young Justice, the adult heroes’ struggles with their relationships with the young team makes them an integral part of this continuing story.
3. This Is Your Daddy’s Batman
Batman has always thrived on darkness. The young seven-year-old who lost his parents to senseless violence seems to be getting more unhinged with every new media depiction. From Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy to the animated movies based on Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Returns, Batman is getting closer and closer to that line he won’t cross. Even the Arkham games have been pushing the “Batman doesn’t kill” envelope pretty ruthlessly. Injuries sustained from neck suplexes don’t exactly go away in a week. Though these depictions are arguably accurate to what we expect of Batman, they’re a little too much akin to the Punisher to warrant aspiration. But YJ’s Batman is one who has become softer by being a father figure. Aside from the aforementioned nightmare training exercise, after growing up with no parents himself, this Batman is sensitive to the parental needs of Robin and the rest of the team. He spends time with Robin and even tries to convince the Man of Steel to be a little more tender to his own surprise disciple. Batman is the legendary hero without powers who has inspired superheroic actions for generations. It’s nice to have a fully developed Batman that everyone, parents and kids alike, can again aspire to.
4. Lex Luthor: The 1 Percent of the 1 Percent
Anyone who is vaguely familiar with the Superman mythos knows that Lex Luthor is one of the most dangerous people on the planet. But within the YJ universe, Lex Luthor is so charming that he might even be able to convince Bernie Sanders that he’s one of the good industrial billionaires. He is master at manipulating public perception, something the League and team appear miserable at in comparison. To the public, Lex Luthor is the man who stopped a war in Rhelasia and saved the world from an alien threat. Of course, he was partly responsible for the threat in the first place, but it doesn’t seem like the world at large knows that. Roy Harper wanted nothing more than to kill Luthor, and instead Luthor convinced him to take a deal. The Light might not have gained as sizeable a victory as they wanted at the end of season 2, but with their gazillionaire international arms dealer now in charge of the world’s security, Luthor is in the perfect position to advance human evolution through violence and war.
5. Robin Turns Nightwing
Batman reluctantly started training Dick Grayson at age nine to stop him from becoming like him. It’s tough to imagine Batman surrendering to the will of a kid, but Robin proves time and time again that he’s unstoppable, and with or without Batman, he was going to become some kind of superhero. Dick Grayson has literally been a superhero for half of his life. Not that I fully trust that he will be taking a leave of absence, but he certainly deserves one. He is quite the different character in season 2, as the five-year age difference between seasons shows mostly in him. His resourcefulness as the quick-witted gadget-boy is tempered by the responsibility of being the team leader and mentor to the new Robin. Now, with Aqualad taking over again, maybe we’ll see some of the old Grayson return, or maybe we’ll see something different altogether. Personally, I’d be happy just to see him make up a couple more new words again. If he wasn’t such a darn good crime fighter, he’d definitely have a future as a linguist.
6. XX and the Genomorphs
XX and the genomorphs story is the one I’m most anxious for. We haven’t seen a genomorph since Luthor tricked Superboy into discovering their secret city. That was more than five years ago, so what has happened since then? Superboy himself was less than a year old when we first met him. XX proved himself to be a cunning character when he lured the first three team members into saving Superboy, not to mention hiding an entire city of genomorphs under Cadmus’s nose. His psychic ability might still be a secret from the villains, but even so, after his city was discovered, and after failing to convince Superboy to be the hero his “brethren” needed, who can anticipate their place in this expanding story? Whatever it is, we can be sure that it will stir up strong emotions in Connor.
We haven’t seen much of Barbara Gordon yet, but in her few appearances she’s been the team’s ace-in-the-hole. She led the stealth operation that rescued the kidnapped metagene kids, and (although the Light let it happen) she also broke the Reach’s control of Blue Beetle. Season two ends with us being told that she’s been keeping tabs on Vandal Savage, which means she might be a key player in the battle against the Light.
8. Miss Martian
Miss Martian might be the most complicated protagonist of the series, and the most mysterious. A lot of viewers weren’t too fond of her at first, with the “Hello Megan” line, but then when we saw where it came from we became curious about what life was like for her back on Mars. There are 42 years of back story to this alien adolescent, and all we know for sure is that some of those years were terrible because she is an outcast White Martian, which just raises more questions. We want to like her, but then in season 2 she brain fries villains with no hesitation. I’m not ready to cast judgement yet, especially as we know that too many uppity Green Martians already cast judgment on her when she was growing up. “Trauma tends to linger,” J’onn J’onzz once states, and I wonder what trauma Miss Martian went through that we have yet to find out about.
9. Klarion the Witch Boy
Imagine the Joker as an immature, preteen brat with the powers of a god, and you’ve got Klarion the Witch Boy. Asked to create a simple distraction so that the League of Assassins can steal a briefcase (something they might have been able to do regardless), Klarion separates the world into two dimensions. Talk about overkill, but hey, for him it was “fun while it lasted.”
As the most powerful and unpredictable member of the Light, Klarion demands attention, no matter how much you don’t want to feed his boyish ego. Vandal has somehow got him on a short leash, which has got him out of a couple of tight situations. If the team wishes to succeed, the first question they need to ask themselves is how on Earth they are going to remove a Lord of Chaos from the playing field.
10. Artemis and Family
With both parents being supervillains (one of whom retired after she presumably broke her legs) and an older twisted sister carrying on the family tradition, Artemis was destined to be part of the League of Shadows, and her time as Tigress proves that she’d be damn good at it, too. But instead, Artemis tells that destiny to shove it and joins the side of the angels. It’s teenage rebellion at its best. After Wally’s death she has decided to reinvent herself as Tigress, and we have yet to see what that will mean for this young protagonist.
11. Blue Beetle
Scarab: Your concern for this “Tye” is trivial. Our armor is intended for greater purpose.
Jaime Reyes: I’m trying to stop a friend from making a massive mistake, what greater purpose is there?
Now there is a lesson that even non-superheroes can relate to. DC’s own bug-based teen superhero is as friendly as they come. He’s the kid you want living in your neighborhood, who you wish would never grow up. He also introduces us to some of the most real people in the series: Shelly Longshadow and Maurice Bodaway. In spite of all the great superheroics in this show, a question that haunts me is if Maurice did get what was coming to him, and on a more painful note, did it make things better or worse for Shelly? In a sci-fi action show, Jaime successfully takes us on trip back to reality to show us that there are some problems that the human heart can solve better than a high-powered suit of armor.
12. Vandal Savage and the Light
With Savage leading the charge, Vandal’s Light fully believes in their vision to advance Earth through forced survival of the fittest. Savage is the worst kind of patriot with a god complex driving his mission. He is as scary as they come, and the fact that he didn’t just choose the most popular DC villains (Joker, Sinestro, Grundy) to join his cabal makes him and his Light even scarier.
The final scene of Young Justice season 2 was of the manipulative Vandal shaking hands with Darkseid, the biggest alien villain in the DC Universe, whose planet is akin to a sci-fi hell. Vandal has already used every other alien he’s come in contact with to further his agenda. Is Savage going to play nice with Darkseid, or is he planning to stab him in the back, too, and let Earth deal with the consequences?
13. The Mind Frag Episode and Follow-Up
You could tell that this episode was all a dream pretty quickly, and at first it’s tempting to dismiss it like most other dreams. But this episode and the follow-up therapy episode prove to be two of the most intense in the entire series, with costs more dire than an actual mission. In the therapy episode, Dick admits that he no longer wants to be Batman, Connor struggles with not feeling any remorse when his friends die, M’gann fears losing control of her power, and Kaldur realizes that, as leader, sacrificing himself is not an option he can consider anymore. And yet in season 2, Dick adopts a new, more Batmanesque identity, Kaldur throws himself into harms way before the season starts, and Megan is freely using her powers to break people’s minds. For all their bravado and accomplishments, this two-parter reminds us that these kids are still just kids, and their ambition to grow up fast has consequences. All through season 2 I found myself thinking back to this episode and wondering how it influenced the team’s decisions. First and foremost, was it because of this experience that Wally wanted Artemis and himself to retire?
14. My Daddy’s a Supervillain, but He Still Loves Me . . . Kinda
Sure, it took the murdering an old team mate before Black Manta thought his son worthy of his attention, but once that little hurdle was crossed, Manta went to every length possible protect to his son. You would expect the typical supervillain to abandon his offspring once his mind was shattered, but Manta risks bringing one of his most powerful enemies on board his ship to save his son’s mind. As for Sportsmaster, he says ‘protect my rep’ far too many times for me to wholly believe that that’s all his rampage against Manta is about. For all their bravado, these flaws of compassion show that humanity can still coincide with villainy.
15. Adam Strange
Adam Strange recited and acted out Lewis Carrol’s “Jabberwocky” poem on an alien planet. As a spoken word arts activist myself, that’s enough to get him on this list. Besides, what if the Rannian Science Patrol actually finds the dangerous Jabberwock?
16. Political Intrigue
It might not be House of Cards, but from what I can tell, Vandal hires a Czarnian to publicly kidnap a Krolotean who is pretending to be an Earth person, to oust the Krolotean invasion so that Earth instead welcomes the Reach, another hostile alien force, which as a result gains dominion over Earth. This so that the alien Mongul (who hates Reach) brings his Warworld weapon to Earth, which leads to the Reach outing their own secret invasion force, leading to Earth unwelcoming the Reach and Vandal taking control of the Warworld weapon, which he flies to the planet Rimbor and threatens to use against any hostile alien that makes a move on Earth—and yet, Vandal then shakes hands with Darkseid, the most hostile alien ever to exist. Did you get all that? No? Well, that’s politics for you.
17. Team Superboy
A mini-Hulk, a superpowered white wolf, an alien morphing war machine with advanced AI, and perhaps a multi-superpowered girlfriend/partner, as well? These elements have all the makings of a great show all on their own. Superboy has already traded punches with Superman, Despero, and Mongul. With Apokolips on the horizon, just the idea of Connor face-punching Darkseid makes me giddy.
18. The Twists
A Green Beetle? Clone Roy married to Cheshire? Sportsmaster giving even the slightest crap about his daughter’s death? The writing of this show is impeccable, with plenty of surprises that most of us never saw coming. With a growing cast of intelligent characters, each with their own personal agendas and methods of achieving them that conflict with others, we can expect there to be many more surprises in store for us.
19. Personal Clone Wars
The original Roy Harper was put into suspension for 8 years by Luthor. He is now a 15-year-old kid with serious anger issues, a mechanized arm, and a mad desire to singlehandedly crush Lex Luthor. The person we thought was the original Roy was actually a clone made by Luthor, who was used in a grand scheme to betray the Justice League. Red Arrow might have a mad-on for Luthor, but he is more concerned about being a father to his surprise daughter.
Jim Harper is an adult clone of Roy, also a pawn of Luthor and the Light, and all kinds of useless—though he does seem to be a much nicer guy than his jerky younger selves. Each of Roy’s counterparts almost got an individual entry in this list. Whichever redhead you consider to be the real Roy Harper, he is a compelling character, made more interesting through his mirror images that reflect the lives that could have been.
20. The Premise
Okay, I’ll admit it, this actually didn’t grab me at first. A Junior Justice League series? That was not going to follow the continuity of the Justice League? Why even bother? “Just bring back Justice League!” my inner fanboy screamed. But as much as I love the old DC animated universe, that series simply wasn’t built to handle the complex and sophisticated storytelling that Young Justice presents. The kids in Young Justice are orphans, come from broken homes that hint at abuse, come from privilege and the middle class, and are of different ethnicities. They were people dealing with real human issues, brought together into a mini society based purely on their will to do good. Young Justice is a remarkable series. There is no machine that tabulates the effect of art and storytelling on our society, but given the mass support for this series and the outrage against its once cancellation, this is a show that touched many lives and is sure to touch more. It’s one of those shows that raises the bar, and we all have our own list of reasons why we’re excited that it will return. I’d be happy to hear yours as well.