Most Heroic w/ Jesse Blume

R.I.P ‘Young Justice’

This past weekend saw the broadcast of the season finale for Young Justice‘s second season. Unfortunately for the fans, it will also serve as the finale as the entire series, as Cartoon Network decided to cancel the show months back, alongside its fellow DC Nation project, Green Lantern: The Animated SeriesThis week’s installment of Most Heroic will focus on this particular series, what made it special, and why it really is a shame that it’s being cancelled like this.

It’s Not What You’d Expect

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Pictured: Robin, Batman, Green Arrow, Speedy, Aqualad, Aquaman

Young Justice was a bit of an oddball in terms of superhero cartoons. It focused on a team of sidekicks to the major superheroes who formed their own super-team to help fight crime. Despite focusing on the younger counterparts to the Justice League, the show’s content wasn’t geared towards the younger children. In fact the show’s more complex and mature storyline would be best suited for kids over eleven and even some teenagers.

The story actually extends over the course of the two seasons to form one story arc, instead of focusing on a series of shorter arcs. This kind of approach is practically unheard of, even in the best superhero programs like Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League: Unlimited. Throughout the duration, there was plenty of opportunity for great character development and some decent drama between the team members.

CHARACTERS

YJ trod off the beaten path in a bunch of different ways. For one, you’d think that this team of sidekicks would tend to handle the littler fish of super-villains, but instead, Batman and the League actually form them into a black-ops group to operate behind the scenes, since the Justice League are too-high profile to work in the shadows. In the process, they end up facing some really heavy hitters like Bane, the Kobra Cult, Mongul, and the League of Shadows.

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Left: Jackson Hyde in “Brightest Day”, Kaldur’ahm in “Young Justice”

They also tended to use some different choices in terms of their character. Since the team is composed of teenagers, they do end up taking some roles similar to the ones in high school. Kid Flash is the Class Clown, Miss Martian is the Sweet Girl Next Door, Artemis is the alternative chick. However, the leader of the team isn’t Robin, the most experienced of the sidekicks, but instead Aqualad. Yes, you read that right. Aqualad is the leader of the team.

Another interesting divergence is Superboy. Like his comics version, he is the clone of Superman. However, instead of him being the team’s Jock archetype, they chose to make him the Bad Boy. They justify this by adjusting his relationship to Superman. The Man of Steel is understandably shocked to see that he has been cloned, and he’s a bit freaked out that he technically has a son. Since he doesn’t feel ready to be a parent, he at first keeps his distance, which confuses and hurts Superboy.

The most important thing that the creators of the show did was focus on developing the characters. The viewer gets to know the core team very well, and they are all a good group of kids that you want to root for, and you’re heartbroken when bad things happen to them. When someone turns on the team, you’re as shocked and surprised as they are.

PRODUCTION

The voice acting is great across the board, as is the animation. I have a very soft spot in my heart for hand-drawn animation, and YJ’s animation is nothing short of great. In fact, they even won an Emmy for the pilot episode!

The Flaws

Even though YJ is a fantastic series, it’s not without its own set of problems.

My first complaint with the series is really a big pet peeve of mine. Season 2 of the series is set five years after the ending of the first one. This device is called a time jump and I hate them as a general rule, but I really disliked its usage here. In between that time, three of the team’s original members have left, and they introduce TEN new members of the team, and some other scattered allies.

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Left to Right. Third Row: Robin, Wonder Girl, Lagoon Boy, Bumblebee. Second Row: Blue Beetle, Beast Boy, and Batgirl. First Row: Superboy, Miss Martian. Center: Nightwing

In doing so, YJ falls victim to some of the same pitfalls that Justice League: Unlimited did. By attempting to use so many characters, they end up giving a lot more focus to some while excluding others. There’s some very good stuff with Blue Beetle and Impulse, but overall we don’t get to know the “freshmen” of the team as well as we do the “seniors” in Season One.

I also feel that both the season finales and a few of their preceding episodes felt rushed, and ended up trying to tie all the loose ends together all at once. Some story-lines seem to just end, and others really seem to come from out of nowhere.

Some of the best episodes and ideas for YJ seemed to be some really daring and bold choices like killing off major characters, or a major betrayal, but too often the resolution ended up being something much safer. I would have really respected the series if they actually did go with some of the gutsier choices.

WHY THE CANCELLATION SUCKS

Executive Mismanagement

My major problem with YJ’s undue cancellation is that it doesn’t really seem fair. For one, the series was scheduled at 10am on Saturday mornings. Nobody, not even kids, are watching television that late on a Saturday morning.

There were also several six-month delays in production and the debut of new episodes. If you wait too long to produce new episodes, the fans might not be there to watch the new material when it actually does debut, especially if you don’t advertise it quickly.

No Closure

After watching the series finale, it is painfully obvious that they weren’t intending to have the series end where it did, especially with the reveal that literally happens at the very last second. With the confirmation of such a massive Big Bad in the mix, it frustrates me that we won’t get to see what happened next. Based on everything we’ve seen beforehand, it would have been great.

The Replacement

When Cartoon Network made the announcement that YJ and the Green Lantern: the Animated Series were getting cancelled, they also announced what would their replacements would be. GL will be replaced by another CGI-animation series entitled Beware the Batman, while YJ will be replaced by a re-imagined version of the Teen Titans series from a few years ago, Teen Titans Go!

A promotional image for "Teen Titans Go!"

A promotional image for “Teen Titans Go!”

What’s most baffling of all is the premise of TTG. It won’t focus on the heroes fighting the villains or anything like that. It’ll be much closer to being an animated sitcom. Here’s the quote from the official press release.

“The character-driven comedy series focuses on the funny that happens in between saving the world and living together as teenagers without adult supervision. The comedic mayhem of the animated series is punctuated by pranks and the occasional need to fight crime, but it will also deal with the everyday issues of adolescence. With epic staring contests to decide who does the laundry, a series of quests and battles to construct the perfect sandwich or fighting crime in Jump City, one thing is for sure, these Titans will always be ready for an adventure inside the house and out.”

So instead of getting some really good, intelligent, character driven programming, we’ll get a household sitcom based on a watered-down version of Teen Titans.

Professor Ivo with his robot monkeys

Professor Ivo with his robot monkeys

Now, don’t get me wrong, I did like the original Teen Titans show. It had a lot of goofy humor, fun stories, and some really intelligent, heartfelt episodes, but it was meant for kids first and foremost. Young Justice, on the other hand, can be enjoyed by anyone. And even though I did mention how the show was very serious, there was still plenty of opportunity for fun. Heck, I only realized that I outright loved the show when Superboy fought an army of robot monkeys!

 

It really makes me mad that they’re replacing something so good with something that looks so half-assed. 

CONCLUSION

In short, we have lost another well-made, creative, and intelligent program to executive mismanagement and poor marketing. In my opinion, Young Justice deserves a lot more than two seasons. It’s up there with Firefly and Veronica Mars as shows that left us far too early. Thankfully, those shows got their own kind of closure in their resurrections. Firefly had Serenity, and Veronica Mars will finally be getting its own movie thanks to its own rabid fanbase. I only hope that we could end up with a decent final TV movie for Young Justice, or something else special.

I’m Jesse Blume and Young Justice is Most Heroic.