In November of 2010, I heard news of a new animated program that was going to be released in January 2011 that would follow the adventures of the sidekicks in the DC universe. I will admit I was not very enthusiastic about the prospect, because I remembered that there was another animated show that had done something very similar (called Teen Titans) and I was not a great fan of it. For me, the best of comic book animated shows was at the dawn of the DC Animated Universe, created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, when Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League: Unlimited all premiered. These were what I called quality programming and had great fights, magnificent character moments, and fantastic voice actors who made their characters memorable even to this day. In my initial opinion, I did not feel that this new show, called Young Justice, could match or even compare to those great works; but I followed to see if I was wrong…and wrong I was.
Young Justice, which was created by Greg Weisman (Gargoyles and The Spectacular Spider-Man) and Brandon Vietti (The Batman), was made to follow the lives and exploits of a group of teenage protégés attempting to make their own name as superheroes. Commanded by Batman, ‘The Team’ goes on covert missions for the Justice League and learn to function as a group while also dealing with the harsh realities that their mentors face while dealing with the typical problems accompanied with adolescence.
Before I go into why I was wrong about this show, and why it is essential that all who read this must watch Young Justice immediately, I feel it is my duty to at least try and forewarn all about the few negative aspects of the show in order to sound objective. One problem, if you could call it that, is that Young Justice is in fact a Saturday morning cartoon. Despite how you can try and describe the quality of the show and its episodes, there is no escaping this harsh truth. Meaning it would be quite embarrassing, as I have found out, to discuss this show in public as people will undoubtedly ask, “Why are you, an adult, watching a Saturday morning cartoon?” Sadly, there is no other response than to say confidently, ‘Because it is awesome!’
The other problem is the show is not canon to the comics at all, nor are they even trying to be as the whole story takes place in a ‘parallel universe’ of sorts, dubbed Earth-16. The show makes references to the comic books, either in regards to characters or major events, but nothing that follows the storyline faithfully. This will no doubt cause some diehard fans to be disappointed or angry with the many liberties and changes made due to creative prerogative, but that is unavoidable with any show or movie based on a written template.
Despite these minor flaws, Young Justice is a very strong and surprisingly mature show. The main attraction of the show comes not from its action, but from its story. Weisman and Vietti have written a smart, concise and well thought-out series with great character and story arcs. Each member of the team gets to have at least one episode devoted to exploring their development, which also relates or connects to another member of the team in some way. The writing and character moments are fun or goofy as a smart children’s TV show at times, but the show does go darker than some of its predecessors and also gives a surprisingly adult feel to the way the story progresses. This mature story is also very intricate, which causes one to have to see every episode to truly enjoy the climax at the season finale; resulting in an animated series that uncharacteristically has no filler, or standalone, episodes. This is even more prevalent now, as the show is well into its second season, and all the information from the first season and the new episodes seem to be building up to another amazing season finale. If you are not as interested in story or character development, then Young Justice will entertain you with their impressive array of supporting characters and villains, the imagination and use of the variety of powers available, the ensemble battles sequences, and the many fun references to the comics.
Due to its strong writing and smart direction, Young Justice is able to satisfy the kid in all of our hearts while also acknowledging and respecting our adult minds. The writers create elaborate and sometimes very familiar scenarios, but they go about them in new and interesting ways by fully explaining why and how things have gone the way they have. This results in leaving very few plot holes in the story, which allows the audience to watch and enjoy the series with their brain turned on instead of off. Those who have watched this show can be amazed the same way they were when they were kids watching their favourite superheroes fighting the good fight in the previously mentioned shows of the DC Animated Universe. Young Justice is the true successor to Timm and Dini’s universe, and builds on their work with intelligence and creativity the way a new level would on established pillars.