Warner Bros. // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // December 23rd, 2011
Justice comes of age.
Young Justice is a great show, filled with big action, witty humor, interesting characters, and clever scripts. It's solid entertainment, and I'm really enjoying it. Keep reading, because there's a "But..." coming.
After being denied full access to the Justice League, teen heroes Robin (Jesse McCartney, Alvin and the Chipmunks), Superboy (Nolan North, Assassin's Creed: Lineage), Aqualad (Khary Payton, Teen Titans), Kid Flash (Jason Spisak, Piranha), and Miss Martian (Danica McKellar, The Wonder Years) have been given permission to help the League on side missions while continuing their training. They hope to convince the League they're worthy, fighting not just villains, but their teenage angst as well.
This episode list just stepped out of a boom tube:
The team is put on escort duty, escorting pieces of the android Amazo to safety, where it cannot be reassembled and harm anyone. The android's owner has other ideas. The team soon finds itself against Amazo, who has the powers of all the Justice League members combined. Can they hope to defeat an enemy stronger than themselves?
Teenage archer Artemis (Stephanie Lemelin, The Whole Truth), another sidekick of Green Arrow's, joins the team just in time to protect a scientist being hunted by assassins from the League of Shadows. As no one knows what to think of the mysterious Artemis, questions of trust and secrecy arise.
When investigating the disappearance of Kent Nelson, a.k.a. Dr. Fate, the team is plunged into a supernatural, magical world, which is too much for the scientifically-minded Kid Flash to take.
During a break, Aqualad returns to Atlantis to reconnect with his former life, only to discover that a lot has changed since his time on the surface. Conflicts with friends and family come to head just as the villainous Black Manta attacks.
In recent years, animators have dropped the idea of a shared DC animated universe in favor of stand-alone projects, offering a number of different interpretations of the popular comics characters. It's a risk that's paid off, as each new product comes with an anticipation of "What have they come up with this time?" The hyperactive craziness of Teen Titans is gone, replaced with a "modern comic book" feel. Young Justice is more of a traditional superhero tale, with fancy high-tech bases, colorful costumes, and over-the-top villains.
In just these first few episodes, the creators have gone to great lengths to rebuild the DC universe in their own way. The characters to a ton of globe hopping, visiting real cities and countries across the globe, as well as famous fictional locales like Gotham City and S.T.A.R. Labs. In addition to our young protagonists, numerous Justice Leaguers make appearances, such as mainstays like Batman and Superman, as well as recurring roles for lesser-knowns like Black Canary and Red Tornado. Villains also include DC semi-regulars, including Amazo, Klarion the Witch Boy, the assassin Cheshire, and Black Manta, whose voice is almost as cool as it was back in his Super Friends days. Unlike other shows of this kind, the "too many characters" thing actually works in Young Justice's favor. With the entire DC universe to play with, no two episodes are alike, and you never know what surprises are in store when the next episode begins. (Remember, there's a "But..." coming.)
Grand world building and explosive action are what we love about superhero adventures, but it's in the character development that Young Justice really shines. I love that Superboy doesn't act how you'd expect him to. He's nothing like the always-do-good "Boy Scout" of his namesake. Instead, he's the loose cannon, always ready for a fight and never thinking before he acts. Aqualad is never portrayed as a joke. Instead, he's the stalwart, purely heroic one, filling in the role of team leader. This frees up Robin to be less serious, and more like an average teen, our "audience surrogate" character. Others act more like expected. Kid Flash is the cocky wisecracker and Miss Martian is the caring, positive-attitude girl. As the newcomer to the group, little is known about Artemis, as the writers enjoy dropping a lot of hints about her mysterious past. Overall, the characters are all interesting and varied, and they're distinct enough that their interactions in each episode are the show's greatest strength.
But...all we get on this disc is episodes five through eight of the first season, a small slice of a much bigger pie. The characters are developing over time, and the world and the overall plot grow with each episode. A subplot about whether Red Arrow (Crispin Freeman, Naruto) will join the team continues in these episodes, as does an ongoing mystery tying the various villains-of-the-week together. The fact that Artemis is introduced in this set although she's been in the opening credits since the first episode shows that the creators are taking a "bigger picture" approach to Young Justice, and every episode moves the main story forward. The very nature of the series demands that it be offered in a season set, so that we may enjoy it as a whole. Doling this show out on disc four episodes at a time is, for lack of a better word, an injustice.
The show, what little of it is on here, looks great on DVD. This is bright, colorful animation, and those colors really pop on this digital transfer, while the movements are smooth and fluid, with no pixilation or color bleeding to be seen. Audio is good as well, especially when the laser beams and explosions go off. No extras.
Still wondering which version of Robin this is? Look carefully -- it's revealed in the closing credits for the episode "Downtime."
Great show, but getting only one part of the whole is a disappointment. I recommend either waiting for the highly-likely season set or double dip, or, put the first volume and this one in your rental queue.
Young Justice is not guilty. For this "four episodes per disc" business, however, Cartoon Network has failed to prove itself worthy to the League.
Review content copyright © 2011 Mac McEntire; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site