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.
Recovered intel from previous missions provides our heroes a clue about what has been going on: the aliens they’ve encountered recently are interested in something called a “meta-gene” found in some humans. That was a forehead slapping moment for me. This season of Young Justice is subtitled “Invasion” but I hadn’t made the connection the 1989 comic mini-series/event by that name. In the “Invasion” storyline, various extraterrestrial species were cooperating to deal with Earth and its troublesome inhabitants because of the genetics that can trigger the development of superpowers. If that’s what’s going on in the show too, it reveals a lot of potential missing pieces in the puzzle of current events, and of last season as well.
The main plot doesn’t directly follow up on this. This is a Flash centered episode, with four generations of Flashes together at one point, with the introduction of Impulse, Barry Allen’s grandson from the future. The passing down of the mantle of Flash is one of DC Comics’ strongest hero legacies. Impulse plays the part of an excited time-tourist, but he clearly has an agenda. Just how accidental are his occasional “spoilers” about the future? A reoccurring element in stories about the Barry Allen Flash, in whatever medium, is that he is self-sacrificing. As a character, he was actually dead for quite a few years after giving his life to save the Universe in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series. Impulse sure seems to besubtly influencing things to save Flash from what might have been his historical demise in this timeline.
Barry Allen’s Flash is portrayed very much as a classic superhero from the Silver Age with an old-fashioned Boy Scout attitude and silly quips, intentionally out of place with the tone of the rest of the show. We are also shown another example of the series maintaining differences in power-level between characters. For a lot of Wally West’s carrier as Kid Flash (until he discovered the Speed Force) he struggled with not being as fast as Barry, and had difficulty with some of the physics defying feats the elder Flash performed routinely. Bart seems to have those full abilities, and he and Barry might be as much faster than Wally than Wally is from a non-powered person. I still wonder if Wally retired because he found his speed inadequate or unreliable.
The immediate threat in this episode, Neutron, is a minor villain who pops up here and there in comics. His Young Justice design seems very anime-influnced, resembling Asuka’s Eva Unit 02 from Neon Genesis Evangelion. His spheres of destruction also have a look made classic by Katushio Otomo’s Akira. When he has a chance, Bart reveals at least one of his secret missions in this time: giving Neutron a cure for his destructive powers. This was supposed to also help cure the apocalyptic future 40 years from now, that we are shown Bart came from. While it does help Neutron in that future, it doesn’t fix everything. Changing time, “crashing the mode” as they call it, appears harder than they expected. We viewers are also given a little more information: scenes of unknown figures who have created Neutron, perhaps as an experiment in controlling the meta-genes. They speak in chittering alien voices and could be the Dominators who were central to the Invasion storyline in comics.
In the “meanwhile” department of this episode, Red Arrow and Cheshire’s quest to find the original Roy reaches a remote monastery and leads to a lot of ninja action. Cheshire continues to carry their daughter around in a sling under her costume. That might be just a “Lone Wolf and Cub” reference, but she also seems to play on Arrow’s sense of fatherly duty when necessary. I still don’t trust her. They do find the first Roy, as we were shown him last season, in suspended animation, missing his right arm. With this and the Impulse storyline we are in areas where I haven’t read the comics they might be adapting or taking inspiration from, so rather than the comic nerd recognizing classic references or Easter eggs, I’m becoming a viewer experiencing events for the first time.