First airing on Cartoon Network in 2010, Young Justice was something of an anomaly. What was to be a simple kids’ cartoon meant to sell action figures to young boys became a spiritual successor to the DC Animated Universe, spinning stories far more sophisticated – in terms of content and complexity – than many comic books aimed at adults. The show was a smash hit, attracting viewers of all ages. In fact, it was a surprisingly big hit with female viewers.
Naturally, Cartoon Network cancelled it before its second season was over, because it wasn’t selling enough action figures. They and DC Comics also tried to shoot down the many fan efforts to get the show renewed for a third season, after Season 2 ended with several major cliffhangers. Thankfully, reason won out in the end, and the show was renewed in 2016, with plans to air the third season – Young Justice: Outsiders – on the new DC Universe streaming service.
Now, the wait is finally over. And fans of the Young Justice will be happy to know that it was worth it, based on the first three episodes of Season 3. The voice acting, animation and story are all as strong as ever and it is like the show never left.
A quick summation for the new folks. Young Justice centered upon a team of teenage superheroes – all proteges of various Justice League members. (Don’t call them sidekicks.) The six young heroes – Superboy, Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Miss Martian and Artemis – acted as a covert-ops team for the Justice League, tackling smaller missions assigned to them by Batman while being trained by Black Canary and Red Tornado. The first season ended with the team thwarting an attempt by a super-villain group called The Light to take control of the Justice League using nanite drones.
The second season took place five years after the first season finale and revealed that both the Justice League and the teen team had expanded their ranks. This season came to focus upon the conflict between the Justice League and The Reach – an alien empire that came to Earth under the guise of friendship while secretly planning conquest. The season ended with the heroes repelling The Reach’s invasion, though one hero seemingly sacrificed their life to save the world.
The third season starts two years later, with the world on the brink of war. Metahuman trafficking has become a major problem, with young children being abducted and transformed into living biological weapons that are sold to hostile nations or sent off-planet. Unfortunately, there is little the Justice League can do to tackle the problem, thanks to a series of new regulations instituted by the United Nations’ new Secretary General – Lex Luthor. This leads to several heroes quitting the team, along with Black Lightning, who resigns for personal reasons involving his accidentally causing the death of a teenage girl.
As Aqualad – who has taken on the name of Aquaman along with a position as co-chair of the Justice League – struggles to hold the team together, Superboy and Miss Martian have their hands full supervising the teen heroes. Artemis is retired from heroism following the apparent death of her boyfriend and Dick Grayson, the first Robin, resigned from the team sometime earlier to work on his own as Nightwing.
All of this is neatly explained in the first five minutes of the first episode, which sets up Dick Grayson approaching his friends and Black Lightning about a covert mission in the nation of Markovia. Nightwing has tracked a major metahuman trafficking operation there and has reason to believe that someone in the royal family is involved in running it. Meanwhile, Prince Brion of Markovia conducts his own investigation into the trafficking, hoping to find some clue as to the disappearance of his sister, Princess Tara, who was abducted two years earlier.
Old-school comics fans will see a lot of nods to older series here, particularly Batman and the Outsiders, as we see the origins of new heroes from that series being set-up. Thankfully, the show does a fantastic job of presenting these elements as Easter Eggs. It’s something for the parents and the nerds to enjoy while the kids and the newbies just enjoy the new story, which – it must be said – is fantastic.
The original voice actors from the first two season have all returned and they’re all in fine form. Khary Payton (best known as the voice of Cyborg in pretty much everything and King Ezekiel on The Walking Dead) has a commanding presence as Black Lightning and perfectly captures the trauma of Jefferson Pierce’s PTSD. Troy Baker delivers a similarly nuanced performance as Prince Brion, to the surprise of no one who knows their voice acting. The only sour note is the actor who replaces Tim Curry as news pundit G. Gordon Godfrey, who elected to perform the role while giving the worst Tim Curry impression I’ve ever heard in my life.
Regardless, Young Justice is back and the new season is fantastic. If you haven’t given Young Justice a chance before, now is the perfect time to do so. The first two seasons are also available on DC Universe and the entire series is quite bingeable. There’s also, it should be noted, a wonderful new weekly Young Justice tie-in comic available exclusively to DC Universe subscribers, with scripts by series creator Greg Weisman and art by Christopher Jones.
Young Justice: Outsiders releases new episodes every Friday on DC Universe.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.