Monday, March 25, 2013

Young Justice (TV) (2010–2013)

It's not always satisfying being a faithful viewer of American cartoons. Very rarely do shows end on their own terms. More often is it the case that some suit will pull the plug upon determining that additional episodes will not result in additional toy tie-in sales. So it was for Teen Titans (2003-2006) and Legion of Super Heroes (2006-2008), and so it is now for Young Justice.

Created by Greg Weisman (creator of the cult favorite Gargoyles) and Brandon Vietti (director of the highly competent Batman: Under the Red Hood), Young Justice cranked up the best aspects of Teen Titans—the arc-based structure and character-driven melodrama—but did away with the slapstick humor and frenetic anime-influenced look, opting instead for a more mature tone and realistic art style. In other words, it was a more straightforward adaptation of the Teen Titans comics. Although focusing on DC's teenage heroes/sidekicks, it was, in some ways, the most grown-up DC cartoon yet, with a surprisingly heavy emphasis on characters hooking up. My favorite, almost kind of racy line was delivered by the teen archer Artemis, at one point finding herself without her trusty bow: "I feel naked, and not in a fun way." (Season 1, Episode 14 "Revelation")

From the second half of season 1 on, the show also went big—appearances by just about everybody who's anybody in the DC universe, a five-year time-skip that changed everything, and some staggering attention to continuity, with tons of twists and turns that, more often than not, the show would have to spell out through explanatory dialogue, knowing that the callbacks might otherwise go over a lot of weekly viewers' heads. More than any superhero show before it, it really conveyed a sense of a "superhero universe," beyond just the core team and its mission. Major names like Batman and Superman could be presences on the show without having to appear in person all the time, but when they did get involved, they would fit right in with the regular characters and just feel like an established part of the world.

Admittedly, the rapidly ballooning roster of characters meant that less and less time could be devoted to exploring any individual character in depth, and the end of the second season (and, as it turned out, the series) was rather anticlimactic. Still, the show was really a lot of fun, and I'm sorry to see it unceremoniously cancelled. For me, it struck almost the perfect balance between the intimacy of Teen Titans and the scale of Justice League Unlimited. And, maybe I just read into it what I wanted to, but I could have sworn there was even an homage to my favorite superhero comic of all time, Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways.

1 comment:

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[…] the Young Justice cartoon was not part of the Bruce Timm DC animated universe that began with Batman: The Animated Series, it […]