Young Justice…Is Back.

No waiting.

No gimmicks.

Young Justice is back and with a title like “Satisfaction,” hopes were high that they’d deliver and they did.  Unlike “Happy New Year,” the episode gets right down to business.  We are dropped into the scene without any smoke and mirrors or confusing new stuff thrown at the screen to throw us off.  Instead, we get answers.  After what feels like eons, we get face time with Original Roy and the Arrows, “Green and Red,” in a scene that packs an understated wallop.  It feels like a throwback to season one; the focus is more on character development and story, with the action and fight scenes included to highlight those points rather than take precedence.

On the whole, I was very pleased with this episode.  The second half of the last season/season one of Invasion seemed to find its feet and get the show back on track after a very rocky start and “Satisfaction” proceeded in much the same way; I’d even go so far as to say that it made a successful leap forward and the show is moving along nicely.  I’m still mourning the loss of the five years, but I found that I wasn’t distracted by that thought while watching the show this time and that’s a nice change of pace.

The themes of the episode were fantastic.  I really enjoyed watching the show explore the mentor-protege relationship, and the many variations such a bond can have; the influences and the bonds between them, or lack thereof.  A lot of character development here, which is something “Happy New Year” sorely lacked.  Red Arrow and Ollie, Speedy and Ollie, Ollie’s own reference to Artemis and his feelings of regret and guilt regarding all that’s happened.  That all seemed very real, and I liked that.

Not to mention the interaction between Blue Beetle and Impulse.  I like how their friendship is starting and how Bart actually relates to Jamie way more than anyone – especially Jamie – realizes, due to his never knowing Flash before the time-travel.  A nice poetic note that Jamie’s point still stands though; Bart does know Flash now, while Jamie, himself, is still alone.  I look forward to seeing more of their friendship develop and play out.  Jade and Sportsmaster’s conversation was, too, interesting.  He, Mr. Crock, still comes off a little two-dimensional to me, but I was impressed with Jade’s reaction; not so much her “I will avenge my sister’s death” bit, but seeing her shed all her layers of indifference, which we started to see with her interaction with Red Arrow, but here we got to see her show some of her true feelings about her father, and made it clear that they’re not exactly on the best of terms, even though they’re working together.  I wonder how much of that was motherhood (prior to and then coupled with her sister’s death)?

One thing I kept thinking during the episode was that I feel pretty bad for Aqualad right now, since everyone seems hell-bent on spilling his guts.  It certainly says how much Artemis was valued.  But also, more than that, I think it says how betrayed they all felt by his actions; my guess is that, like the original team, they all probably thought there was still hope for him, that he wasn’t truly a baddie, but now that he’s “killed” Artemis, they think that he’s not coming back, that he’s really lost and has to pay. Wow.  Deep, YJ.

I gotta say though, the thought of a fight between Cheshire and Aqualad is really enticing.  As I’ve made clear, I’m not usually one who looks forward to the action scenes of this show, but for some reason this idea really struck me.  I hope we get to see that fight eventually, in spite of everything that’s really going on.

Some other details I noticed about this episode:

“We try not to call ourselves sidekicks.”  Very nice.  Not just because it was a cute reference to previous memorable moments in the show (which, lets face it, every fan was cheering after hearing Red Arrow say that), but also because it shows the evolution of his character, and how he’s somewhat sensitive to the situation at hand.  That the anger he is so quick to jump to has ebbed a little.  And this shows in the subsequent scenes – hell, the rest of the episode – as well.  I like that. In fact, I like Red Arrow a lot more now.  Furthermore, I liked that it demonstrated that that sentiment wasn’t completely fabricated by his “clone programming.”  The mission he was given as the mole just amplified a feeling he already had and would probably have manifested at some point all on its own.  But perhaps not quite so vehemently.

And in that same vein, I like that there is a consistency between the Roys; that the “angry” tendencies are cohesive between them, that it’s not just a Red Arrow/mole-driven thing, while that the original Roy was mild-mannered, calm, cool and collected.  It’s who Roy Harper is.

JASON TODD.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.  If this was always the plan, to eventually refer to him, then I’m sorry I ever doubted Greg and Brandon.  Or, if this was added in post-fandom-rants regarding Jason’s noticeable absence from the series, then I’m very glad and appreciative that they listened; did I mention thank you?

In EITHER event, though, it’s such a great thing to see the nod to the second Robin.  Way to go!

I really like that Impulse is becoming a consistent presence.  It’s a nice, smooth replacement for Wally from season one.  I know Wally’s around again, but he’s a very different guy now (not that I’m complaining about that development), and Impulse’s attitude, behavior and interaction with the other characters feels like a throwback to the original team, more so than a lot of other things we’ve seen so far, including the characters from that first team themselves, like Nightwing.  It’s just…different now and I’m still really feeling those differences.  So, again, Impulse’s being there feels familiar and almost nostalgic even though, at the same time, he’s really quite different from both versions of Wally West. And so much the better!

Small thing, but I would have liked to hear Nightwing and Wally speak.  They were there, but I look forward to spending more time with them in future episodes.  In spite of how much I am enjoying the show again, with the – as far as I’m concerned – still-new kids on the black, I miss them, the old gang.

Speedy’s sarcastic comment about Red Arrow being an “original name” was actually quite amusing to me, especially after YJ’s own acknowledgement that “Speedy” seemed odd for Green Arrow’s sidekick.

And lastly, I’m intrigued by the introduction of Wendy.

 

I’m never sure where I stand on the Supermartian ship, but I was surprised at how much I liked the scene between Connor and Wendy.  It felt very organic and realistic and I’m hoping to see more of that relationship develop, whatever direction it takes.  Plus, it was one of my favorite new-character-appearances of the entire show.  It was understated and simple, as opposed to so many of the others, which were practically thrown against our TV screens in most cases.   So I’m impressed with that.

On the other hand, WOW, M’gann seems SUPER concerned about La’gaan.

…or not.

I almost feel like they’re not even trying to maintain her relationship with him and at this point I wonder if he is almost dead weight to the story now.  Reminds me of “Back to the Future,” in that they hadn’t planned to do a sequel, but when it came time to make one, they regretted having Jennifer be in the car as well, because it made writing another installment that much more difficult.

La’gaan’s being held prisoner is clearly part of the overall story arc and will be significant in future episodes; but that’s him independently and not connected to M’gann.  I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

Questions >>>

1. In watching this episode it suddenly dawned on me: why haven’t Red Arrow and Connor been spending more time together?  I realize they’re both sort of loners but at the same time, they also are both, inside, really hurting and dealing with a lot of the same issues.  They’re both clones and are both struggling with the question of whether they are anything more than an insufficient copy of their source material.  Connor’s gotten beyond that a bit, as we saw last season with his interaction with Clark/Superman.  But I think that there could definitely be some interesting scenes between them and that they would make really good friends.  Am I alone in thinking this?  Or am I really behind to getting to this thought?

2. What is Lex Luthor up to?  His game plan with Connor and the shields revealed to be an elaborate scheme; will this be something similar, with his giving the replicated arm to Speedy?

3. For any Gargoyles fans out there, like me, am I the only one who thought that Luthor bore a VERY close resemblance to one David Xanatos in this episode?  And, additionally, that Speedy’s transition into Arsenal seems a bit similar to Demona’s fall from grace?

4. Since we got to see the small reference to Jason Todd, does this mean we might see a reference to “the Red Hood” at some point in the future?  Please?

5. OMFG, Cartoon Network’s graphics.  Can we PLEASE get new graphics for the commercial breaks?  They’ve had almost a year; two seasons’ worth of of time to make new ones that aren’t just screencaps and stills from the first season.  It’s a cruel reminder of the first season for those of us sorely missing that team.  So, seriously, why haven’t they updated their graphics???

In conclusion, “Satisfaction” absolutely satisfied and provided an excellent start to…season three?  Season two of Invasion?  Part two of season one of Invasion?  Whatever; this next batch of episodes.

I’m ecstatic that the show is back and eagerly await the next installment.

“Young Justice: Invasion.” First Impressions.

Image          A few days have passed since the heavy-hitting season premiere of Young Justice: Invasion.  I, like so many other YJ fans, reacted strongly and emotionally to Happy New Year, and I was ready to dash into the blogosphere and spew my feelings and position on both how the episode had opened and presented itself singularly, as well as my concerns, hopes and questions about the future for the series.  I waited, though, because, at the same time, I was numb from those drastic and radical changes from last season.

Image          I processed what I’d seen for a day, then proceeded to investigate the forums and blogs, not for my own review, but to see what others were saying—day-to-day fans, both those who know the comics and those who do not, as well as critics, particularly the folks at IGN.com.  After reading, listening and watching a great many responses, it appears to me that audiences are almost completely split, and there’s not much gray area between the two camps…

On one side, the consensus seems to be positive, that while the five-year flash-forward was abrupt and unexpected, it was a pleasant surprise. It was great to see the new characters and to see Dick Grayson secure in his new role as Nightwing.  We’re left with some questions and loose ends, but overall a good, interesting start to season two.

Image          On the other side, the rest of the fans are distraught…“heavy on the dis.”  In that camp, the missing five years left the audience wanting, with too much left out; the missing characters’ absences are glaring and problematic, and the onslaught of new characters felt erratic, haphazard and overwhelming, with a distinct lack of the development that season one had in spades from the start.

Image          For my part, I still side with the latter.  I wanted, so badly, to come to a different conclusion after I heard opposing opinions, got explanations and DC Comics history, and took in what it was that fans enjoyed in this episode.  I wanted to lessen the disappointment I still feel.

While I no longer outwardly detest the choices and changes that have taken place, have come to respect them from a distance, I still don’t favor them.  I did enjoy seeing Beast Boy, Tim Drake’s Robin is pleasant addition, Blue Beetle managed to stand out among the horde of new characters…and various other bits of the show were enjoyable, but it doesn’t begin to compare to “Independence Day” and “Fireworks.”  I doubt that the show will ever be as good as it was before.

Image          Simply put, I feel that this leap ahead was done too soon, and too much time was skipped over.  Too expand that point, it’s not what happened in the episode that bothers me: it’s what we’ve missed by skipping those five years.  I don’t know if I’m alone, but seeing Dick suddenly appear as Nightwing was like a slap in the face.  It was great to see Nightwing, don’t get me wrong, but I felt as though that not seeing that transition from the 13-year-old Boy Wonder into the grown-up Dick-Grayson-Nightwing was unfair and cruel.  There is so much in those five years to tell, and we’ve completely missed it.

Image          The common response to a critique like that – as, I know, I am most definitely not the first to point this out – has often been, “jeez, relax, it’s episode one, they’ll go back and fill in the blanks.  They have to, right?”

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Based on what I’ve read, it sounds as though this is no temporary situation; the plan seems to be to stick with this premise and this context for a good long while.  According to Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, the dynamic of the show has shifted; the focus of the relationships is no longer mentor-to-student but seniors-to-freshman, within the “young justice league” itself, which strongly indicates that the show we had for all of season one is gone entirely.  Even with flashbacks and memories, it will never be the same again.  And, in fact, it appears that the outline for season two is absolutely jam-packed and hefty with plot, rather than the character-driven style of season one.  Again, from what I’ve heard, the “Invasion” comic series presents a dark future for the characters we have come to know and love.  Young Justice has lightened many of the darker elements of the comics, but, so far, they’ve suited the stories that are being told in their own right, which leads me to point out yet another grievance.  Season one had a massive appeal to both comic-lovers and total outsiders, like myself.  The show seemed to find a nice middle-ground between authenticity to its source material and originality for the new viewer.  The stories were strong, character development was key.  Like with Weisman’s show, Gargoyles, there was a strong sense of community among the group, which walked the line of their being kids and, simultaneously, crime-fighting superheroes-in-training; the realistic vs. the fantastic.  Invasion, however, goes in the completely opposite direction.  Unless you know the comics and appreciate how much homage is being paid to often-ignored characters, or details of the comic-lore, then most of this episode went right over our heads, which is not something we’re used to.  We are used to being able to sink into the world comfortably—maybe having a question or two here and there, but not ones that so disrupt the flow of the episode or affect, badly, your watching experience.  Regardless of where the show might be headed or what might be explained in subsequent episodes, nothing changes the fact that this opening statement was one-sided in favor of the comic aficionados and that seriously hurt the show’s appeal.

When I first viewed this episode, I was so distracted by my confusion and upset that I found it difficult to concentrate on the actual story.  Not that there was much to concentrate on; I agree with the fans that thought it was too much at one time.  Not only are the familiar faces missing or drastically altered in their presentation, but we have dozens of new ones thrown at us, some of which for mere two- or three-second appearances.  And to what purpose?  Just to please the avid comic fans?  I read in one of the IGN articles that, towards the beginning of the show’s production, both DC and Cartoon Network studio heads told the creators that they could only use or reference a very, very small margin of characters.  While this limited them in what they could do, I think the ending result benefitted everyone; much the way that George Lucas’ being limited to invent the effects for Star Wars without fancy computer-generated technology, which led to the classic film trilogy and a style that really hadn’t been seen up to that point.  However, when it came time for season two, the execs all gave the creators permission to do what they wanted and, like Lucas with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, it changed everything.  Hence the blitz of new characters; so many new faces that we can’t even see straight sometimes.  I think the forced restraint of season one was a blessing in disguise.  I realize that by now they must be tired and eager to do more, bring in more characters and more heavy plotlines, but I think they went just a tad overboard.

We’ll find out where Wally is.  Where Aqualad is.  Where Artemis is.  Where Red Arrow is.  We’ll hear more about Dick’s transition into Nightwing.  The missing block of time.  Sure.  What we won’t get, though, is the same team, the same structure or framework that we had before and, in that, there has been something lost that we can’t get back.  Barring some kind of all-powerful reset button—which, even if used, most likely won’t show up until halfway through the season at the earliest—then the way the story was told for all of the first season will never be seen again.  That team no longer exists and to completely uproot the audience from it in one, fell, 22-minute swoop seems cruel.  In many ways it feels like a betrayal.  I loved season one.  It makes me very sad to think that it’s probably gone.

Image          This doesn’t mean I’m done with the show.  I still plan to watch it, but only in the hopes that it gets better from here.  I wasn’t especially thrilled with the new format in its own right.  Watching it a second time, I found that there was very little of it that seemed to have any longevity.  Most of the characters and elements of story seemed to be presented at face-value, shallow and temporary.  Will the show stay like this or improve?  I guess we’ll just have to watch and find out.

But here’s hoping.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

My review on Tumblr