EPISODE REVIEW: Young Justice: "Independence Day" (Pilot)

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Tonight brings a sneak peek of a new Cartoon Network show that starts up in January. As I'm the likely person to review it when it airs, I thought I'd go ahead and get started… This show looks like it's laying the groundwork for a new DC Animated Universe… and they've gotten off to a good start.

Recap

A metric ton of ice based villains attack the various home bases of our heroes. In quick succession, we meet Batman and Robin, Green Arrow and Speedy, Aquaman and Aqualad and Flash and Kid Flash. All the sidekicks seem impatient to be somewhere else. And we quickly find out why. It's the day that they are given access to the Hall of Justice. Speedy is impatient, he wants to go to the real league HQ. Apparently the Hall of Justice is a front for tourists, where the real action goes on in the Justice League satellite. The main heroes don't want the 'kicks up on the satellite, and this hacks Speedy off. He yells a bit at Green Arrow and quits. A couple of missions pop up on the big screen. The Leaguers decide to handle the major one and allow the local authorities to take care of the minor one- a fire at Project Cadmus. Left alone to their own devices, Robin notices that Batman seemed a bit concerned about the Cadmus fire… so he hacks the JL computer and finds out a bit about Cadmus. The fire is suspicious because Cadmus is super secure. The young heroes head for Cadmus, and rescue a few people as cover to breaking in. They soon find that Cadmus is breeding and engineering living weapons. While in the sub basements, they find Guardian, a Metropolis hero, in charge of security. He is wearing a G-Gnome, a telepathic creature that also seems to exert some kind of control over him. After some telepathic prompting, the Guardian unleashes a host of weird critters on the 'kicks. After a scuffle, they penetrate deeper into Cadmus security, leading to a vault deep in Project Cadmus: the Kr project. They break in, and find a force grown clone of Superman, one that he undoubtedly knows nothing about. They break him free, and he proceeds to wordlessly stomp them in a not unexpected manner. The head of Cadmus talks to the 'Board'. They instruct him to clone the 'kicks and dispose of the originals. Meanwhile, The Superboy, talks with the 'kicks, outside of his pod. Robin and company convince him that there's a life outside. This leads him to something resembling independent thought, and he helps the 'kicks escape. As they escape, it turns out that Superboy doesn't have all the powers of his genetic 'father'. They battle their way up through oll the Cadmus sublevels, only to wander into a room full of Genomorphs. Dubbilex, a telepathic genomorph, reveals that he set the fire to lure the 'kicks into rescuing Superboy. Dubbilex wants Superboy to be a hero for the sake of all the genomorphs. The director of Cadmus decides that since everything else has fallen apart for him, that it's a good time to pull a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. He transforms into a horrible creature that gives them a hard battle, until Robin masterminds a way to bring the roof down on him. They escape, and Superboy gets to meet Superman and the rest of the League. His presence creates something of a conundrum for the League. Even moreso, the sidekicks aren't willing to sit down and shut up this time. They reason "Why are we being trained if we aren't supposed to use the training?" As a result, they are given the League's first headquarters as their clubhouse, they get a supervisor (Red Tornado) and a trainer (Black Canary). Batman will be deploying them on missions. They also pick up a new member, Miss Martian, J'Onn J'Onnz niece. Cadmus is rising from the ashes as a 'kinder, gentler' Cadmus, under the guidance of Guardian. However, the board of directors is still pulling the strings, in subtler ways.

Observations

My first impression is "Wow! This is the biggest universe DC animation has premiered yet!" If you'll recall, when Justice League premiered, there were only seven heroes… and they'd built up to that for years through the Batman and Superman series. When they brought in Teen Titans, there was not that much of a bigger universe outside Titans Tower. This show, in a quick count, featured at least fifteen adult heroes, including two Green Lanterns, the Hawks, John Zatara, Captains Atom and Marvel, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado, Flash, Aquaman… I know I'm forgetting some, but that's the gist. This is a big universe with a lot of heroes doing hero-y stuff. Something that's kind of interesting about this show is DC has given the show (and one assumes, ancillary spinoffs) an actual place in DC continuity: Earth 16. This is significant- I don't think any other media project has been given it's own 'Earth-X' designation. This is a universe where the main heroes have only been operating for about half a dozen years. This is a world that has a continuity that is purposefully different than the mainline DC universe… So, lofty plans aside, was it any good? Yes. I actually enjoyed this more than the Teen Titans show for a few reasons, not the least of them being the feel of a bigger universe. Also, that annoying chibi animation style is gone, gone gone (with one funny exception). The series feels like it's aimed at older kids, with plenty thrown in for those of us who are young at heart (Or in a state of arrested development, depending on who you talk to). The characters were developed nicely, with some subtle touches. Let's take Robin, for example. This is Dick Grayson- he is confident, but he knows that accomplishing a lockpicking task in more time than he should have would earn him a Bat-chewing. His computer skills are formidable, yet still whimsical (The one exception to the no-Chibi style are the icons he uses in his computer interface). A subtle touch, though, is his laugh. Before he appears, or after he disappears, there is a spooky, slightly mocking laugh that was a bit creepy. He's learning showmanship from Batman as well, and the way the character is set up, it's very well done. Aqualad is a new version, and man… he is powerful. I'm not sure of the extent of his powers, but as I figure it out, I'll tell you. I'm not a huge fan of all the Cadmus stuff, and the monsters looked less like Kirby designs and more like Ben 10 aliens. I suppose it's okay, but not my favorite set of characters anyway. The writing was sharp without trying to be overly cute. It struck me as being close to the way these characters would talk to each other, without being too Whedon-y or too self referential. All the ice based villains in the opening act must mean something, but I'm content to let that particular mystery develop slowly. All in all, a good first outing. I was expecting some good things from this show, but it managed to surpass those expectations as well.

Will Conservatives Like This Show

No reason not to, ideologically speaking. Teamwork, coming of age, and heroism- all great subject matter, and this show covers them well.

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