Young Justice, Episode 2.15: “War”

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 these episodes.

This episode rapidly builds up to a whirlwind of action. It is the nature of this season that each chapter isn’t just “an episode” but an progression of the story where things happen and the situation in an irrevocable way.

We start check in on Rimbor, where the Justice League is on trial. Things are not going well, especially since the locals don’t understand why some convenient bribes haven’t ending it already. The choice of the planet Rimbor (traditionally a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” in the DC Universe) seemed quite the well-calculated choice as a trap for the League, since anything like a fair trial is unlikely here.

But even this far across the galaxy, there is news that the Reach is occupying Earth. There is then uncharacteristic datadump of exposition. Young Justice usually presents a minimal amount of backstory for all its many characters and situations. The show either lets information accumulate over time, or just assumes viewers know the comic book lore already. Maybe the producers thought with so many plot elements and bizarre characters active across multiple planets, there just wasn’t enough time to be subtle. 

Characters explain the details of the treaty that restrains the Reach, and about the newly introduced threat of  Mongol and his WarWorld.  Mongol was created by Len Wein and Jim Starlin in 1980, as a space-based enemy strong enough for a punch-out against Superman.  Starlin also created Thanos for Marvel Comics, and his distinctive style explains Mongol’s physical resemblance to him. He was a minor character in DC until his famous appearance in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1985 “For the Man who has Everything,” one of the most critically regarded Superman stories of that era. Still, Mongol is a largely a blank slate alien space Hitler who is easily re-interpreted by comic and animation writers as needed. 

Here in Young Justice, after learning what is going on Earth (with some goading by Vandal Savage, who is also lurking around at the League’s trial) Mongol decides to put Earth out of its misery from Reach domination. He brings WarWorld into the Solar System and triggers an all out defend the Earth battle. Even the Reach joins in, revealing that they had a secret spaceship armada. The League and the Team show off their power, teamwork, and tactical skill. Letting heavy hitters such as Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel and Captain Atom hold off the main attack while the covert Team puts into action multiple simultaneous plans to take out WarWorld from within. That sort of well-thought out, logical approach to a goal is  something you rarely see in the genre. Of course it all falls apart due to Blue Beetle now being a double agent for the Reach. Additionally Nighthawk continues to send Arsenal on missions for some reason…

After Blue Beetle betrays the Team we are left with a mystery of what actually happens to them. We can assume they were all Boom Tubed into Reach imprisonment. It’s all a win-win-win for the Reach, since Mongol is defeated, they’ve captured bunch of heroes, and they’ve gained the control of WarWorld. And Earth thinks all the better of them for helping hold off the attack. Mongol repeatedly said the Earth would be better off destroyed by him than in the control of the Reach. And given how often the Reach refers to earthlings as “meat” their ultimate goal seems pretty ominous. 

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