Young Justice Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Young Justice – Outsiders
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Jesse McCartney, Danica McKellar, Nolan North, Khary Payton, Stephanie Lemelin, Zehra Fazal, Troy Baker, Jason Marsden, Greg Cipes, Alyson Stoner, Mae Whitman, Zeno Robinson, Tara Strong, Bryton James, Jason Spisak
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Young Justice is an excellent series about the younger superheroes and protegees of the major heroes in the DC Universe – don’t call them sidekicks. The show had two popular and critically acclaimed seasons on Cartoon Network before being abruptly canceled because rumor said the show didn’t “sell enough toys”. Fans set out to bring the show back, and it finally arrived on DC Comics’ new streaming service DC Universe.

The new season is just as good as the previous ones – and gets back to the feel of the first season, with references to The Light, Vandal Savage, Darkseid, and even War World (which is now under the control of Savage). But many of the episodes concentrate on the characters – and what it means to be a teenager, especially a teen with superpowers. Starting in Markovia, where Nightwing hopes to break up a meta-trafficking ring including a lab to “activate” the metagene, the operation doesn’t go to plan. The King and Queen of Markovia who have opened the border to refugees from the rogue state of Qurac and announced an anti-trafficking initiative are murdered. Their second son agrees to have his metagene activated so he can protect Markovia. Their oldest son takes over but is under the control of his general – a conservative Xenophobe who wishes to exile the protected refugees and not only turns a blind eye to meta-human trafficking but was behind the lab in the first place (in collusion with Lex Luthor and the Light). The older brother exiles his younger brother. Also, their younger sister, Tara has been kidnapped and is still missing. She also is a meta. Brion, the younger brother, now a Meta, eventually using the code name Geo-Force, joins the team.

Next, the team of young heroes is contacted by Orion of the New Gods because something is happening on his home planet of New Genesis. The team discovers that someone is impersonating Orion and other New Gods and intimidating the “bugs” who live on the surface of New Genesis. Forager, one of these bugs helps the Young Justice team and joins them, in part because he can’t stay on New Genesis – it’s too dangerous.

Also, joining the team, a young girl, named Violet, whom one of the team sees dropped in a pit with other dead teenagers but she isn’t dead. It isn’t quite evident immediately what Violet’s powers are. She has a Halo around herself (thus her superhero name of “Halo”), can make shields and defensive weapons. She also cannot die, as her healing powers bring her back. Eventually, it’s discovered she is fused with a Motherbox from New Genesis and she can make Boom Tubes.

The season alters between episodes about the various characters – checking in on characters from previous seasons, and also developing the new characters. Violet’s character takes several episodes to develop – we know some things about her immediately, but not everything. Fred Bugg/Forager is a marvelous character and a bit more complicated than he seems at times. Prince Brion/Geo-Force spends a lot of time insisting the team find his missing sister, Tara, but when they do – it becomes very complicated since she’s under the abusive thumb of Slade Wilson. Brion is also exiled from his own country. This season also introduces Victor Stone – Cyborg, who is having a very hard time adjusting to his new identity. The season also opens with Batman withdrawing from the Justice League in protest to Lex Luthor’s restrictions on the League placed through his role as president of the United Nations. Batman takes several people with him to form “Batman Inc.” Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning, retires at the same time after thinking he killed a teenager who had been turned into a Meta. Nightwing takes Black Lightning under his wing, no pun intended, and he joins the Team unofficially.

Batman Inc. isn’t really seen, but it’s clear they are manipulating events, behind the scenes to give the Young Justice team good publicity (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t) and to battle The Light and G Gordon Godfrey – a tabloid television journalist who’s a real pain.

Halfway through the season, once Tara is rescued and reunited with her brother, and Cyborg joins the team but is still learning how to control his powers that come from a Fatherbox, Beast Boy proposes a new direction for the Young Justice team. Calling themselves “Outsiders” – they are to generate good publicity for all metas, including young meta teens who have been rescued from meta trafficking and are being housed in the Justice League’s Teen Center. Beast Boy’s day job is playing “Commander Tork” on “Space Trek 3016” produced by GW Goode Studios run by Gretchen “Granny” Goode. Early in the season, the Young Justice team discovers the Virtual Reality goggles her company is producing are being used to tempt young potential meta children and teens away to be kidnapped by traffickers. Later, they discover “Gretchen” is none other than Granny Goodness from  Apokolips. Beast Boy is in charge of the positive image campaign and social media for the Outsiders.

At this point, there are multiple teams: the traditional Young Justice covert ops team, the Outsiders public PR team, and Batman’s Batman Inc. undercover team. It’s not clearly spelled out who is on what team, and there is overlap – but the show now has much more intrigue and covert operations feel to it, much like the first season. This doesn’t overshadow the character relationships though, which are really what makes Young Justice special. The series also has an extremely large cast, with pretty much any and all DC characters appearing at least once. The core for season three though is: Nightwing, Superboy, Tigress (Artemis Crock), Violet, Brion, and Forager, Beast Boy (Garfield Logan), Will Harper, Cyborg, M’Gann, El Dorado, Impulse (Bart Allen), Static, Wonder Girl, and Terra (Princess Tara).

I highly recommend Young Justice as a whole and Season 3 in particular. It is a series that is complex and multi-layered and you do need to watch each season in order to really catch everything that is happening and all the connections and characters. Seasons 1 and 2 are on my re-watch list at which point I will need to see this a second time. Highly recommended.

Teen Titans Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Teen Titans
  • Season: 2
  • Date:  2004
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Ashley Johnson, Ron Perlman
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers Animation

The second season of Teen Titans consists of two discs that have very different attitudes to the story presentation. Disc 1 has the characters one at a time dealing with typical teenaged stuff: fitting in with others, being themselves, teenaged bodily changes, finding time for friends, etc. Killer Moth even threatens the Teen Titans unless Robin brings his bratty daughter, Kitten, to her Junior Prom (only for everyone to discover the spider-headed villain the Titans were fighting at the beginning of the episode is her boyfriend). The style of these episodes is also very much like traditional cartoons, rather than realistic animation – when characters are surprised their eyes literally bug out, a character in love has hearts in his eyes, confused characters have question marks over their heads, etc. And every episode has a major fight scene.

The second disc is done in a more realistic animation style, and in general the stories are more serious, or not focused on teen issues for the most part. The series introduces Terra, the ill-fated teen hero who can manipulate the Earth. When she arrives Terra is not in control of her powers, however, the Titans aren’t quick enough to offer to help her – and she leaves. Terra falls under the influence of Deathstroke who teaches her to control her powers. When Terra returns she quickly becomes friends with the Titans – especially Beast Boy who falls in love with her. In the season finale, though, she proves to be working with Deathstroke and gets the Titans to separate (they go after various villains who have appeared before and whom she and Deathstroke released) so she can defeat them. The Titans know Deathstroke is controlling Terra but in a bit of a double-standard, only Beast Boy believes they should help her anyway, after all the same thing happened to Robin the previous year. The rest of the Titans feel too betrayed to trust Terra and to try to help her.

In the end, the Titans work together to defeat Deathstroke. They convince Terra to come back to them. But as the fight in Deathstroke’s underground liar has stirred up a volcano – Terra stays behind to stop it. She’s turned into a stone statute. The Titans vow to find a way to release her from her stone prison and lay a stone at her feet calling her a true Titan and a true friend.

The scenes of Deathstroke controlling Terra are actually truly terrible though: he offers her something she truly wants – to learn to control her powers. But he also continuously tells her she has no friends, that no one cares about her, that she’s alone – and only Deathstroke would even dare to work with her. His manipulation is very abusive. He also constantly tells her the Titans aren’t her friends and don’t care about her. Deathstroke isolates Terra – then tells her no one wants her. He’s the classic abusive “boyfriend”. And he uses her power for his own gains. Deathstroke even electronically controls her “Slade suit” and has her wear an earpiece to be in her ear and her head all the time. The manipulation and abuse is terrifying.

Overall, even with the inconsistencies, Teen Titans Season 2 is pretty good. There are some interesting concepts and episodes (I loved the green, alien, talking dog). Recommended.

Please read my Teen Titans Season 1 Review.

Teen Titans Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Teen Titans
  • Season: 1
  • Date:  2003
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Ron Perlman
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers Animation

Teen Titans is based on the DC Comics book of the same name. This animated version features the characters of Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy, with the season-long villain of Slade (aka Deathstroke, although that name is not used in the season). The five teen-aged superheroes are based in Titans Tower, where they do what superheroes do – they solve crimes and stop super villains. The first few episodes of season 1 are focused on team-building, as well as introducing Slade as the villain for the season. Then there are a series of episodes that focus on individual characters. Starfire’s episode introduces her older, cooler sister, Blackfire – though Blackfire also turns out to be a thief. Cyborg’s episode focuses on his custom-built car which is immediately stolen and destroyed. Raven’s episode, “Nevermore”, is perhaps the most interesting, as Starfire ends-up in Raven’s subconscious during her meditation. In Raven’s subconscious we meet Raven’s emotional spectrum selves and her demonic father, Trigon. The season concludes with the two-parter, “Apprentice”, in which the team goes after Slade, only for the entire thing to be an elaborate trick by Slade to get his hands on Robin. Slade then exposes the other Titans to destructive nano-bots – and threatens to kill them if Robin doesn’t do everything he says, including being his apprentice and stealing for Slade. Slade also forbids Robin from even talking to the Titans. However, at the conclusion of their fight on the top of the Wayne Enterprises building, the other Titans realize that Robin is being controlled. They go after Slade to rescue Robin. Robin exposes himself to the same dangerous substance as the other Titans, knowing it will stop Slade from hurting or killing his friends. The Titans win out, but no doubt Slade is still obsessed with Robin.

Teen Titans has a Japanese Anime styled theme tune (which is performed in either English or Japanese depending on the episode). The animation style is also closer to anime than other DC Animated Universe series (which have a traditional American animation look). The series also, at times, uses animation to express the characters emotions – when one character gets extremely angry at the rest of the Titans and yells at them – the rest of the Titans are drawn to be very small and frightened-looking. If a character is surprised or shocked his or her eyes pop-out of their heads. However, this isn’t distracting but rather emphasizes the characters’ emotions.

Watching Teen Titans, I couldn’t help but compare it to Young Justice, a show that I dearly love from the same team. The characters in Young Justice seem slightly older than the ones in Teen Titans – although both shows revolve around teen-aged superheroes. Young Justice is much more serious, and that show is a master at the “last few minutes reveal”. Titans, by contrast, tends to be lighter, though episodes like, “Nevermore” and “Apprentice” are a bit more serious. Also, in Teen Titans the characters always appear in their costumes, and thus are always called by their superhero monikers, rather than their real names. I missed having any sort of connection to these characters other identities. Certainly, as they are living in Titans Tower, the characters would kick back and relax occasionally. We see them playing video games, watching movies, and eating pizza, but always as Robin, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy – never as their alter egos. I wasn’t even sure which Robin this is. I’m going to assume it’s Dick Grayson until proven otherwise, though the behind-the-scenes interviews also mentioned Tim Drake but didn’t specifically state this was Tim Drake’s Robin (Tim would eventually take the name, “Red Robin”, and was more of a computer/electronics expert and hacker than a fighter, though like all the Robins he could certainly take care of himself.) I thought it was a missed opportunity to not include more about the characters’ civilian backgrounds.

Still Season 1 of Teen Titans is Recommended and I have ordered Season 2.