When I started to write about Season One of Young Justice I decided to take a big-picture approach and cover the entire season of 26 episodes in a single post. That ended up running long and so I divided it into four topic based sections. Now while watching Season Two, it seems necessary to resort to an episode-by-episode write-up to cover everything that is happening in this fast paced show. As usual in these posts, I will be looking at three topics: how the episodes relate to the comic stories that inspired them, how the plot and story develop, chapter by chapter, in this ongoing serial, and how the personal arcs of the characters progress as the larger, external events advance. That final, third story element being the one that makes Young Justice a superhero adventure worth the attention.
One thing that is engaging about superhero comics is the way individual comic titles are used as the interrelated storylines of one “shared universe.” Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics have done this for decades. It’s become a given of the genre. The Marvel Cinematic Universe successfully applied this to feature films: each Marvel movie interconnects with the others and acts as a chapter of one giant story. The problem with this storytelling form, which goes on year after year, is how to handle time. Even as a child reading comics in the early 70’s, I was aware that Superman had been published since 1938, so if these comic books were all just one story, Superman should be well over 60 years old. DC Comics has traditionally dealt with this with “Parallel Earths” (on “Earth Two” Superman was in his 60s, while the new comics featured the younger “Earth One” Superman) or “reboots” where time itself gets reset or re-written and stories can make a fresh start. Marvel has a “sliding” timeline where historical events just updated on a continual basis (Tony Stark became Iron Man in the Vietnam War, then the Gulf War, then in Afghanistan, etc).
The world of Young Justice is separate from the main continuity of DC Comics. It has its own history that does not need to match up with any other comic, cartoon, movie, or historical event. A lot is very similar to what has happened in comics, but significant differences crop up. This separateness also frees the show to develop things in an organized, planned fashion without having to synchronize with multiple ongoing comic stories (stories that these days are increasingly shaped by huge “event” storylines that force writers to connect a book’s individual plot with a larger, often overblown or sensational mega-story that the publisher is promoting).
Young Justice takes the development of its characters and the progression of their relationships seriously, so the passage of time has always been important to its storytelling. Every episode is given a specific date to emphasize this structure. So when Season Two jumps ahead 5 years from where Season One ended it is a very big deal. It is also an engaging story telling technique. We’ve come to know these characters pretty well, seen them mature, and watched them progress through some of their personal issues. In seeing them after the passage of five years, they’ve become more mysterious again. We want to watch not only to see what happens (the first season ended with a lot of unresolved plot questions) but also who these people have become. Keith Griffen along with Mary and Tom Bierbaum did something similar in 1989 when they restarted the Legion of Superheroes comic. The first issue of their run began with a full page of only the words “Five Years Later.” These stories took things even farther since readers were dropped into a world which, one issue ago had been something of a bright sci-fi utopia guarded by superpowered teens, but had now become a decaying, broken dystopia of war and distrust. Five Years Later in Young Justice things have not gone so drastically awry. Since a lot happened just during the few months that Season One depicted, it isn’t a big surprise that many things are very different.