I am looking at Season Two of the Young Justice animated series, examining its origins in comic book lore and how the show develops its complex mixture of characters and plots. I’m writing as I watch each episode, so Spoilers for everything up to that far in the season.
Besides all the superheroes, villains, monsters, space aliens, etc., the fictional world of the DC Universe has a cast of ordinary, everyday folks. These characters are often associated with a particular hero and their immediate domain — Lois Lane in Superman comics, Alfred in Batman stories. Some might start that way, and then eventually graduate into the world at large. In Season One of Young Justice whenever a TV new report was used for exposition, it would be Cat Grant reporting. Grant got her start as a Daily Planet gossip columnist, and is now a national reporter and anchor. Bibbo Bibbowski is another Superman character whom writers can’t resist using, usually as the owner of a Metropolis diner or club. Momentarily it seemed like Young Justice was going to make him into an alien agent. It was a relief when we saw he was just one of the abductees the Kroloteans had duplicated.
With all the scheming and evil plans and unknown factions in the show, it’s hard to be sure what the balance of power is or who is allied with whom. The Kroloteans appear to be working with the Light, since a group is rescued by Black Manta. Manta was an agent of the Light last season, now we see him promoted to full membership, as a replacement for the “disgraced Ocean Master” So, more backstory that needs filling in. This entire episode is structured around the consequences of backstory we don’t know yet. The Kroloteans are worried about a mysterious Competitor and by the end of the episode it turns out the Light is now working with the Competitor. Given how complex the bad guys’ scheme was last season, and that it was just part of a larger plot that continues to unfold, there’s no telling how tangled this all really is.
Taking out the Krolotean/Black Manta base is the main focus of this episode, and it makes for an all out superhero battle scene. Previous episodes have had the Team going off on side missions separate from the Justice League, now we see them working together, and quite effectively as well. Several student/teacher relationships have developed over the past five years. It can be an almost scary thing to see the “Batman Family” working so closely and efficiently as a unit. As the superhero comic fan that I am, I am pleased at how the show respects these characters’ relatively levels of power. A lot of them have “super strength” but are not equally strong. Wonder Woman can lasso a robot tank and hurl it across the room, while Wonder Girl, using the same maneuver, only tears the robot’s head off. When you are a nerdy kid reading comics, like I was, questions about what a superhero can do, who is actually stronger than whom, are important.
The high point of the whole battle was seeing Superman and Superboy working together. At the end of last season it was a big step forward that had finally managed to actually talk to each other. Here we see that their relationship has grown. They’ve gotten to know edge other, and trained together. When Superman addresses Conner as “little brother” everything falls into place. Conner had been trying to look to Superman as a father, which he was not at all comfortable with — and that relationship was clearly a mistake. They aren’t and can’t be “Father and Son,” but brothers works perfectly. For me the show doesn’t even need to go into any more detail. “Little brother” explains it all.
What will need some explaining is Aqualad. I’d noticed that the former leader of the Team hasn’t been around. As a new character created for the show, his backstory and character arc were open, free of any comic history. The revelation that he’s Black Manta’s son, that he’s joined his father in working against the heroes was a complete shock. The characters know about how this development occurred, but we as viewers will have to put together pieces as they are played. Aqualad’s parentage was hidden from him. His former girlfriend Tula, who took on the identify of AquaGirl at some point, died on a mission. Feeling betrayed, he turned to his father, against Aquaman. “Blood is thicker than sea water.”
The poor Kroloteans, attacked by superheroes and betrayed by their former allies, appeared doomed as their base counts down to destruction. I wasn’t expecting Superman, a character mostly in the background of this show, to be given a dramatic character moment. As the other heroes escape, Superman stays behind begging the panicking aliens to let him help them. They refuse, and are obliterated in an explosion big enough to knock out Superman as well. He’s rescued though, and when Wonder Woman says he’ll be all right, Superboy adds “He didn’t save the Kroloteans. He won’t be all right with that.” That’s a great understanding of who Superman is as a hero, and that Superboy understands that as well.
Kroloteans’ distrust Superman appears to be the result of the Light’s plan. The mind-controlled Leaguers had been sent to Rimbor to cause havoc and make the galaxy fear them. Isolating the Earth and its heroes would be of benefit to whatever they are up to. The heroes, who do stand for “Justice” after all, decide to turn themselves in, surrendering to the jurisdiction of the Green Lantern Corps. They are accompanied by Icon, who it is noted, is familiar with intergalactic law. In the show Icon is a well-known hero everyone is familiar with, even though he, along with his daughter Rocket, have only recently been incorporated into the DC Universe from another line of comics. The process by which DC acquires other publishers’ characters and merges them with their own overflowing cast has a long history, which I might go into if Icon becomes a bigger part of the story,
Season Two has shown us the characters maturing, and strengthening their sense of who they are and of their relationships with other. There are also more and more examples of where relationships have broken and fallen apart, and that past mistakes continue to have consequences.