On black Friday numerous big named cartoon launched, including G.I. Joe Renegade, Transformers Prime and Young Justice. The latest DC animated team show breaks out the gate with a strong opener that aside from a couple hiccups is not to be missed.
When reviewing Young Justice (YJ) you are essentially breaking the show down into three categories, production, the show and comic accuracy. The three issues are important issues when dealing with a well known property.
The hour-long pilot for the series is a great start for any series. The level of animation is far greater then we have seen in previous DC animated shows, and as a Bruce Timm fan that says a lot. The animation is clean and crisp; raising the bar of what an action television cartoon can and must do. The animation is on par or even above what we have seen in direct-to-dvd releases from both DC and Marvel.
The pilot has appearances from literally dozens of hero and villains in the episode. There are two dozen Justice Leaguers, seven young heroes, several cold-themed villains (Captain Cold, Mr. Freeze and others), and a variety of other characters demanded new designs for the series or are complete surprises. The voice actors were well chosen with exceptional praise going to Phil Lamarr as Aqualad and the superb casting of actor/teen-pop-singer Jessie McCartney as Robin.
The hour long pilot starts like most teenage team shows would. The young heroes meet up for the first time, disobey orders from their legendary mentors, investigate things on their own, discover a new ally deep behind enemy lines all while causing heaps of trouble, all of this to set up the entire series. The writing was solid with each character, including the similar ones, are well defined as unique characters.
For some the true example of the exceptional writing was that of Superman. The pilot partly circles around Conner Kent, the teenage clone of Superman, and when the two finally meet the confusion, awkwardness and uncertainty of the situation perfectly illustrates how human Superman really is.
Despite the good first episode there are some flaws that come with the show and DC continuity. DC has been trying to make an YJ cartoon for a while, and I can understand why. Take the third generation of superheroes and put them together in a team for the first time. At an age when responsibility and puberty hit at once, and friendships and alliances (which truly define DC and their characters) give birth, these are the ingredients for a stunning show. Sadly due to the choice made by the production crew the YJ cartoon, despite it excellence on its own, become little more than a renamed Teen Titans.
YJ had a several defining traits. Impulse and him living up to his name, Robin and his leadership and wisdom, and the all powerful Superboy being the dominate powerhouse and egocentric force of the trio. This three way bro-mance is what YJ was built on in its comic form. Other friends came and went, and eventually girls were introduced to the comic, but at its heart there was no YJ comic without Tim, Bart and Conner.
The show doesn’t carry that over, at least not yet. YJ comic also held with it a strong sense of humour and silliness that can only come from a gang of 14 – 17 year olds hanging out. Jokes about ancient mystical artifacts that turned a book-wormish woman into a voluptuous and buxom Amazon (booby trap), the detective skills of Impulse (I just ran across the entire world until I found you), and the constant declaration of Superboy’s ‘Tactile telekinesis.” The comic also put a lot of emphasis of the legacy aspect of DC. Each of these heroes were one in a long line of big names cape legacies. Timothy Drake was the third Robin to work with Batman, Bart was the sixth in the Flash line, and Conner, while being the first male sidekick, was the fifth in the ‘Super’ line of Superman. Each do have other former sidekicks to talk to, (Dick and Tim are like brothers) but even they have become legends in their own right. Young Justice provided each of the sidekick’s fellow young heroes in the same position as they are. Sadly these defining traits are lost in the show.
The show also suffers from a confusion of timeline, era and appropriate cast. The robin acts and dresses like Tim, but is suppose to be Dick Grayson. Kid Flash is a redhead which can only make him Wally West. Speedy is male, which makes his the future amputee drug addict Roy Harper, and the first female is Miss Martian. Future announced character will be Artemis (instead of the traditional Arrowette) and Wondergirl, who seeing the current trend of casting will be Donna Troy instead of Cassie Sandsmark (although I do suspect they may choose Cassie to keep the Superboy-Wonder girl romance intact.)
While these choices for cast can be viewed as beneficial for DC in a business manner, using the Robin most people know from TV and film, it does hurt the Young Justice brand. The Robins, despite death and termination, were not interchangeable and neither was the feel of YJ.
So to wrap things up the cartoon is an exceptional piece of work and a definite DO-NOT-MISS for any superhero and DC fan but if you are expecting the Young Justice from the comics, you will not find it here; if you can enjoy a re-named Teen Titans then by all means tune it.