Young Justice is the second (or third, technically) series in my current project of watching all DC Comics Animated series. At the time of writing my piece on the Justice League, I still wasn’t done with this series, still having the second season to go through. And even if I had, Young Justice definitely deserves its own article.
Young Justice takes place in a different universe to that of the Justice League series—something I wasn’t sure about last week—and so it doesn’t follow the same timeline. One big clue is that their Flash is the original, Barry Allen and not Wally West, following the comic book origins of its characters much closer.
Wally takes his original place as Kid Flash, a sidekick, along with Robin, Speedy and Aqualad, just not the original Garth but Kaldur’ahm, a new character created just for Young Justice and who later made the transition to the comics, much like Harley Quinn did from the Batman Animated Series.
Young Justice opens with the sidekicks receiving access to the Hall of Justice, their first step to eventually joining the Justice League with their mentors. Things take a bad turn when Speedy storms out, tired of the lack of appreciation by the league.
To be fair, they only gave them access to the first few rooms in the place, rooms any tourist can see from the other side of the glass. As he so eloquently puts it:
Who cares which side of the glass we’re on?
His reply to Green Lantern’s next line defines Speedy, Roy Harper’s motivation for the entire season, and while he may come across as annoying sometimes, it feels real, and that’s the most important thing:
What I need is respect!
As he leaves, the Justice League receives a message about a mission at the local Cadmus Laboratory, but then they get an emergency call for an even bigger threat and rush out. Using his Bat-training, Robin hacks the Justice League computers, finds out what’s going on at Cadmus and the sidekicks—without Speedy—rush to the scene to help, infiltrating the genetics lab and freeing their latest bioweapon: Superboy, a half-human, half-kryptonian clone of Superman.
The Justice League isn’t happy with what they did, but the kids stand their ground and tell them they will continue operating together even if their mentors don’t approve. Grudgingly, they agree and turn them into a covert ops team.
Much like the Young Justice comic—from which the series takes ample inspiration without directly adapting it—the series never actually uses the name to refer to this group of young heroes, instead using “The Team” during its two-season run.
I mentioned in the Justice League article that those series did a lot in terms of characterisation of heroes and villains, and Young Justice took it a step further by giving each character tremendous depth. During season 1, Superboy’s search for identity when he’s only six months old is a powerful thing, as is his resentment and pain at Superman’s constant rejection—the thought of a clone freaks the Man of Steel out like nothing before and he just can’t face Superboy, not even when Batman outright tells him to get his act together. M’gann M’orzz, Miss Martian, is all about trying to fit in, to find a home among strangers while dealing with terrible memories of her life on Mars. And as we mentioned, Roy’s is about proving himself to the league, to make sure they know he’s ready and worthy.
Those are just three examples, and in season two and its time-leap, there are more characters and the existing ones get deeper and frankly darker stories, with more layers of complexity. But at their core, all the heroes in Young Justice feel like real people, with strong motivations.
Villains get this treatment as well, particularly the main antagonists: The Light, a super-secret cabal of supervillains bent on world domination and with so much pull that they can create an Injustice League to act as a front to their operations, managing to even get The Joker to join in—though this is perhaps the worst adaptation of the Joker so far, and that’s counting the dreadlocked weirdo from The Batman.
What Young Justice does with Black Manta in season two is outstanding, taking a previously quite bland character, and turning him into a villain with priorities and feelings, one you could almost root for.
One thing it the series doesn’t do as well is explore the relationships between the characters and their mentors, something I would’ve liked. Sure, there are the occasional moments, such as Batman playing basketball with Robin for a while to help lift his spirits, but aside from Green Arrow and his tumultuous relationship with Roy, there’s not much of this in Young Justice’s two seasons.
But instead, thankfully, we get a lot of screen time on their relationships with the rest of the team, from mistrust and jealousy to making friends and more. It’s really powerful stuff, particularly during season two when the stories get darker and the stakes a lot higher.
It’s a damn shame that Young Justice only saw two seasons, particularly because the second one ends with a cliffhanger that would’ve made the third one so amazing to watch. It’s been hinted that the show may come back through Netflix, but I think we’ve all heard that one before with any number of series, so I’m not holding my breath on it. UPDATE: SEASON 3 IS COMING!!!
But maybe if we all give the seasons a watch using the streaming service giant, they’ll decide that Young Justice Season 3 is good business and that would be absolutely amazing! And even if they don’t, you’ll still have two seasons of amazing super hero action and very real and human stories!