It’s been nearly six whole years since Young Justice fans were left with their jaws on the floor at the conclusion of the animated series’ second season. Thankfully, DC has answered the call and returned the team to us in a new season on their new app, DC Universe. In addition to a prequel comic that bridges some of the gap between Young Justice: Invasion and the new season, the first three episodes of Outsiders premiered on the streaming section of DC Universe on Friday, January 4th! I will be covering each batch of new episodes as the season progresses and I’ll be honest, I’m so excited to have this show back.
Without further ado, let’s dive into return of Young Justice! This week, I’m taking a look at the episodes “Princes All,” “Royal We,” and “Eminent Threat.”
This week on Young Justice!
The premiere takes its cues from Young Justice: Invasion‘s debut episode “Happy New Year” by revisiting the last time we saw the team before jumping ahead in time. Like last season, we aren’t immediately filled in on all of the changes that have taken place with all of our heroes, but context clues and conspicuous costume changes help clear some things up.
It’s a solid introduction to the new status quo for the Justice League, showing us changes in membership and the world’s current distrust of superheroes. Much of this uneasiness is due to the supervillain cabal known as the Light manipulating the League in the past, but the episode’s clever use of television broadcasts helps to bring us up to speed without relying too much on heavy-handed exposition.
YJ has always been very dialogue-heavy and continuity-dense for a superhero cartoon, which is one of the things that immediately set it apart from its more punching-focused contemporaries. All of that careful plotting is done in service of its characters. The members of the team have been allowed to love, lose, and evolve in ways that many other shows of its kind simply would not allow. Nothing in this show remains static (except for Virgil Hawkins, badum-tss).
Speaking of loss, the way this first episode handles the gravity of death is astonishing. Divorced from a Saturday morning airtime, the show is able to get a little more “real” with its themes. In a quiet moment early in the episode, we see that Artemis still has not moved on after Wally’s apparent death in the Invasion finale. Meanwhile, Khary Payton’s vocal performance as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning is fantastically heart-wrenching, completely believable as a man who unintentionally crosses a lethal line in battle.
As a fan of the series, it’s so great to see most of the first episode focusing on Dick Grayson getting the band back together, so to speak. It’s a brilliant way of reintroducing us to the cast while moving the plot forward. Speaking of, the voice actors haven’t missed a beat. It feels like they never stopped playing these characters, while also modifying their performances in subtle ways to show maturity and the passage of time. Of particular note is Jesse McCartney as Dick Grayson. He’s come a long way from the aloof Boy Wonder of the first season. While still warm and genial with his friends, it’s easy to buy him as a globetrotting hero more in line with Tim Seeley’s take in the pages of Grayson (by the way, did anyone else catch the Spyral Easter egg in the second episode?).
Taking cues from Mike W. Barr’s original Outsiders origin story (which also involved Baron Bedlam and a Markovia in crisis), the Justice League is fracturing. This leaves Grayson and co. to show us how a real superhero team takes care of business. Though they have presumably been separated for quite a while, they don’t miss a beat and still operate like a well-oiled machine.
One interesting thing to note, however, is that Dick seems to be the only one aware of Oracle’s involvement in the whole operation. I am very curious to see how this pans out. Perhaps whatever event that caused Barbara Gordon to leave her Batgirl identity behind (if it’s different in the YJ universe) has forced her to continue her heroics in secret. What promise is she breaking? Does it have anything to do with Batman’s new attitude toward the League’s effectiveness? Without drawing direct attention to these issues, this first batch of episodes raises some tantalizing questions, ones that will hopefully be addressed as the season continues. If there’s one thing Invasion proved, it’s that show runner Greg Weisman and his team love to play the long game with character-driven mysteries.
While Invasion dealt with a global storyline, this season already feels more worldly. Much of the plot in these first few episodes deal with a conspiracy to take the throne of Markovia, as well as rising tensions in the United Nations, which has expanded to include representatives from Atlantis and Themyscira. It’s an excellent storytelling device to show the audience just how far-reaching the consequences of our heroes’ actions are without devolving into the kind of droning pontifications seen in movies like The Phantom Menace.
The action sequences that make up much of the second and third episodes are a blast, fluidly animated and interestingly choreographed. There’s a fight sequence in the third episode that is mostly obscured by smoke that still manages to be visually interesting and doubles as a subtle character moment. In the first season, Dick Grayson’s Robin was a bit of a trickster; he enjoyed sticking to the shadows and enemies were only aware of his presence because of his carefree laughter. It was at this moment that I realized: Dick Grayson isn’t laughing anymore. Sure, he’s still charming, light on his feet, and enjoys dissecting the meanings of words (“feel the aster”), but there’s noticeably a bit of joy missing from his heroics. He’s here to do a job. This, coupled with a moment in the premiere where he detonates a warehouse full of baddies, barely giving them time to escape, makes me wonder what else may have occurred in the last few years to harden the former Leaguer.
Even though it’s been gone for a while, Young Justice feels like it hasn’t lost any of the ingredients that made it special in its original run. The intrigue and strong adherence to its own continuity are still in full effect and the addition of new characters and the looming threat of a metahuman arms race have set the stage for quite possibly the show’s best season yet.
- It’s fantastic to see the Milestone characters still on the show. I missed Icon, but Rocket, Static, and Hardware are still accounted for. I think Dwayne McDuffie would have been excited.
- The choice to cast DC Daily host Whitney Moore as Courtney Whitmore (STARGIRL, Y’ALL) and portray her as an All Access-style host is, honestly, a stroke of genius.
- Okay, one thing is lacking: Tim Curry. The king of camp is sadly less active since his stroke and his sneering performance as G. Gordon Godfrey is sorely missed, though James Arnold Taylor puts in a valiant effort.
- The show is significantly more violent in its third season, no doubt a result of it no longer being edited for Cartoon Network audiences. I hope this isn’t a major focus of the show, since many of the recent DC Animation films have suffered from focusing on gore over story. Edgy does not equal quality. Luckily, these first few episodes don’t fall victim to that.
- “Well, now we know why he’s called COUNT Vertigo.” – Genuinely the hardest I’ve laughed at anything in a minute.
What did you think of the premiere? Are you excited for the return of Young Justice? Sound off with your fan theories and excitement in the comments! See you next week, team!