Warner Brother Animation (2011), Warner Home Video (2011), 1 discs, 90 mins, 1.33:1 ratio, Dolby Surround, Not Rated, Retail: $14.98
Aqualad, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Robin, and Superboy teamed up to form Young Justice; associated with the Justice League but it is a training program for the next generation of superheroes. The Young Justice members are still learning how to work together as a team and adjusting to/finding their roles within the group. The addition of Green Arrow’s new protégé, Artemis, only increases the friction, not to mention the growing romantic tension between a few of the teen heroes.
The Sweatbox Review:
Young Justice premiered in the shadow of the child-friendly and overwhelmingly popular Teen Titans (2003-2006). While Teen Titans was geared towards a younger audience, the powers at be decided to create a teenage superhero show with an edgier feel and appeal towards older children. I reviewed the series pilot earlier this year with high hopes and so far they have been fulfilled. However, once the pilot episode has flown, the series must start up with the usual introductory episodes where the characters establish their roles and test-drive their inter-relationship dynamics. Previous DC Animated Universe cartoons were working with already established characters, so only a few episodes were dedicated to that purpose. Young Justice, though, is working with an entirely new set of characters, so they must spend more than the usual amount of time singing the song “Getting To Know You.”
In the first season second volume DVD, we continue to learn about the characters and we are treated to four episodes in that vein: “Schooled,” “Infiltrator,” “Denial,” and “Downtime.” The first in the line-up focuses on Superboy and his ever-rocky relationship with Superman. For those who missed the pilot or are unfamiliar with comics, Superboy aka Connor is a perfect genetic clone of the Man of Steel. The Young Justice team and some Justice League members think of him as Superman’s son, but the older Kryptonian has “daddy” issues. When the two confront each other, Superman barely acknowledges his existence and Superboy sulks in the manner that only a teenager can. While he deals with his inner turmoil, the rest of the team is required to attend a training session with Black Canary. She asks Superboy to join and he states her tutelage is unnecessary, because he has all the power he needs. Black Canary schools the teen by body-slamming him into the ground. Then Batman appears, gives them a mission with a life-changing lesson, and Superboy realizes that he has much to learn about fighting and using their powers. It’s a standard plot to setup a new TV series, it’s recyclable, and teaches a valuable life lesson to the viewers.
For the next episode, “Infiltrator,” we first meet Artemis—Green Arrow’s new sidekick. At first, the team is unhappy to work with her because, because they see her as a replacement for Speedy. Artemis is uneasy and hostile sparks fly between her and Kid Flash, things only get worse when Red Arrow—Speedy’s new alter ego—shows up with news about the League of Shadow’s newest evil plot. The League of Shadows had kidnapped Dr. Serling Roquette to make a viral computer program; fortunately Red Arrows saved her and now he needs Young Justice’s help to protect her. The team immediately forms a plan to guard Dr. Roquette and help her write a counter program. One of the best scenes on the entire DVD takes place when Miss Martian creates a telepathic link for Young Justice to communicate with each other. What’s funny is that the young heroes forget that their thoughts can be heard by their teammates. Awkward moments and mental arguments fly in a manner that only teenagers can pull off.
An assassin named Cheshire comes after the good doctor and she manages to keep the team at bay for awhile, As villains, she’s pretty interesting. Her name is taken form the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, but she has a Japanese ninja motif. I understand that ninjas are like the Cheshire cat, but it’s still two relatively unrelated items. Cheshire happens to know something about Artemis’s past and she uses that to manipulate the new heroine.
“Infiltrator” is the first in the series, other than the pilot, that points toward a continuous story arc with serious repercussions. It reignited my interest in watching the rest of the DVD as did the growing strength in character development. It is a sign of a good animation studio when they create conflict and test their characters’ ire so early in a series. It shows that they are willing to give Young Justice time to mature, develop their strengths and weaknesses, and allow some particularly humorous situations occur.
The same positives were carried over into “Denial” as the team have their first encounter with Dr. Fate and evil magic purveyors: fan favorite Klarion the Witch Boy and Abra Kadabra. Red Tornado, Young Justice’s “den mother,” dispatches them to find Kent Nelson, the bearer of Dr. Fate’s helmet (the original sorcerer supreme of the DC Universe), who has mysteriously disappeared. Miss Martian comments on her fascination with the mystic arts and Kid Flash takes this as an opportunity to make the moves on the green superheroine. Kid Flash, however, is pure disciple of science, and only feigns an interest to win her over. Artemis, smart to the kid speedster’s desire, blocks his attempts whenever she can. The team discovers that the aforementioned villains want to steal Dr. Fate’s helmet to gain control of his near-infinite powers. Young Justice journeys to Dr. Fate’s tower, pass some mystical tests, but the end result requires Kid Flash to don the helmet to fend off Klarion and Abra Kadabra. He is successful and there are overtures that he and Artemis will become romantically involved.
My impressions of this episode were more than favorable as the overall plot moved forward, characters aren’t caught up in introductions, and classic DC characters were welcomed into the series. One of the reasons the DC Animated Universe has been so successful is because they bring in characters straight from comics. Often these characters only have cameos, but many continue to be secondary characters in the series—kind of like easter eggs on DVDs.
So on the tally board we’ve had one boring episode and two palatable ones, to even out the score the last thing watchable on the DVD is “Downtime.” Aqualad, Artemis, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Robin, and Superboy take a break from crime-fighting and the inevitable big villain confrontation that’s on the animated series checklist. Kid Flash, Robin, and Artemis visit their respectful families, Miss Martian and Superboy as the only aliens on the team stay at the headquarters, and Aqualad heads home to Atlantis.
The fearless team leader has been questioning his role in the drydock world and his place on the team. His misses his girlfriend, best friend, Aquaman, and being underwater—as any fish would. He goes to Atlantis, there’s a welcome party, his girlfriend and boyfriend are now an item, he saves Aquaman and the whole of Atlantis from Black Manta, and he comes to term with his place in Young Justice. That’s it. Aqualad is a complex albeit calm character; nothing ever seems to rattle his cool water exterior and he is the true personification of still waters run deep. Future episodes will explore other facets of his character, but for now he remains stoic and nice change in the leader role from Robin (who usually heads DC youth teams). There are some humorous bits from the other heroes, one alluding to the future romance between Superboy and Miss Martian. It’s better than “Schooled,” but I still get that same afterschool special moral at the end.
Out of this quartet sampling, some are more original than the others, but I kept asking myself when will the good stuff start? It is still early in the series, but I feel like the writers over at Warner Brother Animation are relying on old kid cartoon plots to be staples in the main episode intake aka falling back on what’s easy and comfortable. This is not what Warner Brother Animation Studios is known for. Out of the many cartoon series and movies released in the past decade, their stuff is at the top of the list for being the most original, treating the genre with respect, and appealing to both young and old audiences. Having watched more of Young Justice on Cartoon Network, I know that they live up to their hard won reputation and have created an extremely entertaining series, but even then every other episode is well…episodic. The intended age group, pre-teens and teenagers, probably won’t notice it, but older fans will. I stick by my claim that Young Justice is a great series, but it won’t shine as brightly as some of its earlier predecessors.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Contrary to many of the Animated DC Universe DVDs, there are not any special features on this disc. I chock this up to DVDs slowly going the way of laser discs and VHS tapes. Production companies would rather invest their money in the new Blu-ray market. Another reason may be that this disc is the second volume of the first season. Maybe the last DVD reason of the first season will contain all the special goodies.
The DVD case houses a single disc and was made with less plastic than most cases to be considered eco-friendly. The front cover is a brilliant orange with Kid Flash, Aqualad, Artemis, Superboy, and Robin bursting out of the front posed for action in a group image. The series name, season, and disc number are above the teen superheroes. The back images are of Miss Martian and some scenes from the four episodes on the disc. A brief description of the series, the episodes, and an episode list are also on the back. The disc, itself, is the same orange as the cover and has the series name and other relevant information on the top.
Ink And Paint:
These four episodes are basically copied straight off your television and pasted on the DVD. Whether you have an HD TV or a standard cathode ray tube TV, the animation is digitally enhanced with modern new-fangled techniques, so the colors are bold, the lines are straight and snappy, transitions are smooth, and characters are visually appealing in the 1.33:1 aspect. While the quality is decent, it is not improved upon with the TV to DVD transfer.
There are English, French, and Spanish language tracks in basic Dolby Digital mono tracks. Subtitles are available for the hearing impaired in English and Spanish. The sound quality for all three vocal tracks are a good and clear, mostly due to Young Justice being made in the last year. There has not been any time for the series to lose its quality. Let’s see what happens a decade for the tenth anniversary release and see if the sound has degraded at all.
I am not as excited about Young Justice as I was when I first watched the pilot. The best part of Young Justice are the dynamics between the characters, especially when they get on each other’s nerves and are put in situations outside their comfort zone. Animation, sound, and voice acting were superior to the average cartoon, but the plots were lacking in originality and could have been taken from any children’s cartoon. Warner Brothers Animation could have done a way better job of writing these earlier episodes, but maybe that is where the problem is. They have made cartoons for adults and cartoons for little kids, but they haven’t done anything in between. As a first attempt to reach the middle audience, the series is worth watching and many of the episodes are enjoyable to watch again, but I wouldn’t count this DVD among them. Your money would be better spent on buying the entire season in a collected box set, then buying them single.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?