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. Spoilers for everything up to this episode.
Back at the height of my reading superhero stories, comics were still very much periodical magazines. There were twelve issues a year that needed to get printed and sent out to drugstores, newsstands, and (eventually, as the market changed), comic book stores. That necessitated the occasion use of a “fill-in”: an issue of the comic that would be produced by a different writer and artist team, and usually involved a story that stood alone, unconnected with an ongoing plot. Editors might have a few of these on file to publish when needed, if the main creative team was behind schedule. “Cornered” comes off pretty much as a fill-in episode for Young Justice.
While it is fun to see a classic villain such as Despero get reinterpreted for this continuity (mixed in with newer creations such as the robot L-Ron) nothing much lasting really happens from their confrontation. The Team comes off looking pretty badly here; maybe they’re shaken by recent events. Captain Marvel is treated the worst really, since if written competently he should have been able to take down Despero. The Wisdom of Solomon, which Marvel possesses, should have made up for the missing leadership and tactics of Nightwing. What surprised me most was that this ended up being the first time Mal Duncan takes on the role of Guardian. I had assumed he’d become Guardian during the five years between seasons, adopting the identify after Jim Harper discovers that he too is a Project Cadmus clone. Guardian is an example of the deep Jack Kirby roots beneath Young Justice. Guardian was originally a character created by Kirby an Joe Simon in 1942. Kirby brought him back (as a clone) in his Fourth World stories in the early 70’s, along with what be came Project Cadmus, Dubbliex, and other elements that are important backstory to Young Justice. But since Mal Duncan is only now acting as Guardian, I am left wondering why he has been around with the Team until now. Is their practice to just boyfriends of Team members (Bumblebee in this case) hang out with the gang?
Besides the Despero fight, this episode does advance the plot a little, particularly with the Reach revealing two important secrets: that the Team exists at all, as a covert ops branch of the Justice League, and that the League has a secret satellite HQ in orbit. Public relations is not the League’s strength. Maybe they have been assuming that saving the world multiple times would be enough to hold onto the public’s respect?