Young Justice

There is another addition to the roster of animated superhero shows: Cartoon Network`s Young Justice (officially premiered Jan. 7, though the first two episodes aired on Nov. 26).  This one focuses on the younger heroes in the DC universe.  It`s a different  kind of  set-up than the famed Teen Titans: this group is a younger auxiliary  of the Justice League.  Set in the alternate universe of Earth 16, the main premise here is that the older Justice League members` sidekicks have formed their own  team, since they want more independence in their crime-fighting duties.   But the adults  ( mainly Batman, Black Canary, and Green Arrow) still supervise and mentor them, which is met with varying degrees of acceptance and rebellion by the kids.  It`s decided that they will work mainly with covert operations, since the adult superheroes are too well known for undercover ops.

The core team consists of leader Aqualad, Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, and Miss Martian (niece of the Martian Manhunter).   An interesting early plot line has former Green Arrow sidekick Speedy quit the group, disgusted with what he views as “babysitting” by the adult League members.  He adopts the name  Red Arrow and goes solo, but keeps returning to help and protect his friends.   This is just one of several interesting story arcs. Instead of self-contained episodes, Young Justice has more of a serial format with continuing plots.   A lot of original things go on here, notably the conflicts experienced by the characters as they try to balance teen issues with superhero lives.

One of the stories I`m most   interested in is that of Superboy.  He is actually a 16-week-old clone of Superman in this universe, though he has not yet developed every  super power.   A recent episode focused partially on his anger and ambivalence about his relationship to Superman.   Batman/Bruce Wayne talks to Superman about mentoring Superboy, specifically suggesting that the young man needs a father figure.   Superman says firmly that he`s not the boy`s father and walks out, though later Batman hints that he may “come around” to the idea.  You don`t get to see the DC heroes as parental figures in the mainstream re-tellings very often, so it will be intriguing to see how this plays out.

The other young heroes have a lot of potential as well. Miss Martian takes a little getting used to at first. She`s bright and independent, but you keep expecting someone with advanced telepathic powers to be very serious-unlike her bubbly personality.  It seems to work for her, though.  Robin is MUCH younger than the others-in fact, he`s supposed to be about 13.  It`s weird at first, until you recall that the first Robin of the 30`s Batman books was quite young as well.  He`s still an energetic youth who has a lot of the wit and confidence of the adult Robin/Nightwing.

In general, Young Justice has superior writing and a lot of fast-moving action.  And the animation is  very detailed.   Artists do not use a cute, semi-caricatured style: the look is much more realistic.   Costume colors leap from dark, shadowy backgrounds, somewhat like the beloved WB Batman series.  I must say that I envy today`s kids for getting to grow up with such technically beautiful cartoons. With all this going for it, YJ should have a bright future on the animated horizon.

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