Thursday, May 10, 2012

Young Justice is Served

Have you been watching the Young Justice cartoon on Cartoon Network?  No?  Hello, Megan!  In a nutshell, all the sidekicks -- but don't call them sidekicks -- are off on their own weekly adventures with minimal adult supervision.  Their ranks keep growing and the main team consists of Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis.  Some satellite characters are Red Arrow (or Speedy), Zatanna, Rocket, and that scene stealer Captain Marvel.  The focus is on the youngsters, but members of the Justice League also make their appearances.  Batman dishes out the assignments, Red Tornado is den mother, and Black Canary is in charge of combat training.  Superman shows up too, but he's a little freaked out about Superboy.  Since the cast is full of teens, you get a full dose of the emotional angst you'd expect without, surprisingly, compromising the story.  Actually, the romantic relationships, insecurities, and immaturity only adds to the interest.  Superboy is doing "drugs".  Miss Martian has trust issues.  Artemis has some questionable family ties.  Sounds like it could be a disaster, but thanks to the skillful juggling act of the writers, it's definitely "aster".
And then you have the action figures.  They stink.  Or, should I say "stunk", as in past tense, since the line has been canceled by Mattel.  You have to go back to the 1970's to find figures of such limited articulation.  I know Mattel released larger sized figures with more articulation, but their proportions are all screwy.  Robin looks like a munchkin wrestler with those broad shoulders.  Seriously, if you wanted to collect the whole line of figures, you'd have to stick with the smaller guys.  Plus, these figures came with individual pieces to build your own Hall of Justice backdrop display!  That was a stroke of genius.   I soooooo wanted to buy me some Young Justice figures too and from a distance, at first glance, they looked promising.   Upon close inspection though, you'll notice that the arms, legs and chest pieces were repainted and recycled over and over throughout the line.  Somehow Mattel got away with this for the Justice League Unlimited line, but we won't be fooled again.  Paint application was also a problem.  Has anyone seen a Black Canary figure with her face stamped on straight?   She looks like her eyes and mouth were applied with the technological precision of Easter egg dunking decals.  And, what was with that dainty pinky hand mold?  I don't recall any tea cup accessories with these figures.  Needless to say, I was less than "whelmed".

The toys are one thing, but you can't argue that this cartoon has raised the bar and set new standards of what a super hero cartoon can be.  Below is an abbreviated version of my favorite parts and episodes.  Mostly, these are just little details that I've come to expect from the creative team behind the series.  I tried to disguise the spoilers for those who have to catch up, but those who have seen the series, it's a little walk down memory lane.

Independence Day - It's a fun fanboy moment as each hero defeats their designated cold villain in the first 3 minutes of the show.  When that same incident is revisited in Episode 11, it's no longer a throw away moment.  I got a kick out of the common confusion of Speedy being the name of the archer instead of the speedster.  This first episode gives you an idea of what you're in for.  The Justice League will NOT be playing an overwhelming role in this series.  The focus is definitely the young-ins.

Welcome to Happy Harbor - I love how Red Tornado sounds.  His voice has that cool resonance that reminded me of the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica , Soundwave from the G1 Transformers cartoon, and the communication system between X-wing pilots in Star Wars.  I started to hate the catch phrase "Hello, Megan!" until it all made sense 18 episodes later.

Drop Zone -  This was the episode where I knew I was hooked.  When Mammoth's skin actually rips due to the accelerated muscle growth brought on by the Kobra Venom, I knew I was hooked on this series.  The gang is still having trouble working as a team and it gets them into trouble, as it should.  I also liked how Bane spoke Spanish.

Schooled - I thought I was having deja vu when the episode opened with an out of control yellow school bus nearly launching itself off a red suspension bridge.  It was just like the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve.  Then we see Superman, through the windshield, fly across the front of the bus in a shot identical to the movie I start laughing.  Like the brass statue of Shakespeare in Bruce Wayne's office, it isn't an accident, but an homage.  As one of the best episodes, I used "Schooled" as a recruiting tool to get my friend to watch.  He liked the concept of Amazo, an android that could mimic the powers of any super powered being it came in contact with, but he hated how Amazo called out the names of the heroes when using their powers.  I told him that was for the viewers, so they knew what was going on.  He countered that Amazo should just stay with Superman's powers.  I couldn't argue that logic and decided it was better to enjoy the show alone.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whupping Black Canary dished out during training, and how the lesson came full circle in defeating the bad guys.

Downtime - Clayface still has the same wet, mucky sound effect from Batman The Animated Series.

Terrors - This was a whole episode dedicated to the "fish out of water" concept.  You don't expect to see super heroes in prison.  The bad guys are thwarted, but unbeknownst to the good guys, the ultimate goal has succeeded and another chess piece is moved into place.  I love how everything is happening just below the surface, and the good guys don't always win.  Star Wars the Clone Wars should try out this concept.

Alpha Male - Captain Marvel steals the show.  The team's reaction to Marvel wanting to "hang out" is totally misunderstood and hilarious once the ending comes around.  Aqualad officially becomes my favorite character of the main group.

Failsafe - Knew what the ending was going to be, but still loved the ride.  Miss Martin is a powerhouse.

Misplaced - Billy Batson hops a fence when he could have just walked through the open gate 10 feet beside him.

Agendas - Didn't know Superboy's back-story in the comics so I got plenty of surprises. That "Red Sun" phrase comes in handy.  The backwards "S"  has an interesting origin.

Performance - A great stand alone episode.  Upon multiple repeat viewings I noticed that there wasn't a wasted sentence spoken.  Every line was relevant and all the pieces fit perfectly.

Usual Suspects - Everything pretty much comes to a conclusion and then goes totally berserk.

Auld Acquaintance - Did anyone else notice the heroes that came through the stargate?  All they were missing was the Flash.  Then again, maybe they were going for the Justice Lords.  The toe to toe battles were awesome. Was I the only one who was yelling and cheering at my screen?

I haven't seen this quality of storytelling since the first season of Justice League Unlimited.  No doubt when the whole collection of Season 1 is released in a single package, I'll lay my money down.  Like Wally, I want a nice souvenir of these adventures. Season 2, Young Justice:  Invasion, has already started and is just a few episodes in.  We have even more characters, new hair styles and outfits, and, oh yeah, it takes place 5 years in the future!  I'm not complaining.  From what I've seen, they'll get around to filling in the gaps.  I don't know how their going to improve on what we've already seen, but I'm willing to wait and see.

Steve R. Ticulation

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