Quick Thought: Young Justice, Season Three

I’m watching the third season of Young Justice and while I’m not going to blog through the episodes individually, I do have some thoughts.

The show continues to make interesting use of the vast lore of the DC Universe. The show has always had its own continuity, separate from the comics (it’s “Earth-16”) so it’s been free to rewrite and alter anything it likes about the characters and their histories. That leads to a mixture of the familiar and the unexpected. But some characters inevitably bring with them stories from the “canon” of comics

Season Two, “Invasion,” introduced Tim Drake as the new Robin. But Tim is the third Robin, so there’s the implication that Jason Todd, the second Robin, existed during the break between seasons — and likely died (or is assumed dead). Batgirl also showed up, with the assumption that we’d recognize her as Barbara Gordon. In Season Three, “Outsiders,” Barbara is now the disabled hero Oracle, again with no explanation. We are left with guessing that the events of “The Killing Joke” took place between seasons, though it’s always possible that something other than being shot by the Joker happened to her.

When Season Three introduced Brion Markov and mentioned his missing sister Tara, comic readers such as myself thought “Oh, yeah Terra. Which would mean… oh dear…” Terra, as a character, brings with her a whole implied narrative arc. We’ve seen it unfold in comics, in the Teen Titans animated series, and now here. The details are different, but the core of what makes a “Terra Story” are there.

It’s kind of like if, in any version of the King Arthur story, you have Arthur and Guinevere married, and then Lancelot shows up. You have an idea of what’s going to happen, regardless of whether this is a book, movie, animation, etc. The lore of this character is bigger than whatever continuity they happens to be in.

It is an aspect of the strength and depth of the DC Universe as a story realm that you can do this. Young Justice continues to draw on those strengths to tell its unique story.

Quick Thought: Doom Patrol 2.04: “Sex Patrol”

Some thoughts on the new Season of the Doom Patrol TV Series. Assume spoilers.

While watching, I frequently ponder whether I’m the ideal audience for this show —or whether I’m the worst. I know most of the source material they are drawing on, mixing and remixing characters and ideas from almost 60 years of comics. So I have some context for the cavalcade of weirdness: this a character from Grant Morrison, that’s a idea from Rachel Pollack, that’s a plot twist from Gerald Way, and so on.

I like the way the blender that is Jeremy Carver’s show reinterprets and rebuilds the comics. The SeX Men and the Shadow Mr. Evans are from the later issues of the Grant Morrison & Richard Case run. While they had their unique quirks, you could get the feeling that Morrison/Case were staring to recycling ideas. The SeX Men were another flavor of Normalcy Agents, while the Shadow Mr. Evans was next in a line of bizarre Demiurges. Remaking the SeX Men as orgone-tracking Ghostbusters was clever, and the comic never had any reason whatsoever for the Shadowy Mr. Evans to have an umbilical attached fetus floating around him.

Still, after the initial excitement of his appearance, I missed the attitude and dark insanity of the Shadow Mr. Evans as an active character, rather than a voiceless specter. The emergence of Scarlet Harlot was a big, very disturbing event in the comic and while she got a cameo here, it ended up another example of the show’s hesitancy to really go all out with what the comic gives them to work with.

It can be amazing to see what this show is doing with Doom Patrol lore. I don’t want them to just recreate comic stories. Their original concepts and plots, such as the party to revive Danny or their fresh interpretations of characters such as Rita or Dorothy, are the show’s best elements, worthy contributions to the many, varied visions creators have had for Doom Patrol. But too often by the end of an episode I’m disappointed that they aren’t doing more, that they back away rather than just going all out.

Presentation of comic lore and High Weirdness are one thing, another is fundamental problems with the characters. Most everybody seems adrift and without motivation. They are consumed with being depressed and tortured. Not that they don’t have good reasons to be. It is just that Cliff, Rita, Larry, and Jane have already spent decades mopping about the mansion feeling that way. I was anticipating the show being about their finally breaking out of their prison/refuge and becoming something more. Any growth from last season seems gone. They don’t really have anything to do. They are not even much connected to the surreal events swirling around them. I would love to see Rita trying to be a superhero, or have Cliff develop individual, functioning relationships with Jane’s personas. Or Larry go down a transhuman themed path into becoming Rebis, the unified alchemical entity from Morrison/Case’s stories.

If all we are going to get is grief, self-pity, and more “new” secret traumas from their pasts, I’m going to loose interest.