Young Justice, Episode 2.18: “Intervention”

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.

While the heroes have escaped, Black and Green Beetle still have the enraged Mongol to deal with back on WarWorld — as well as the fact that this whole escapade was largely a distraction so that the Crystal Key could be stolen (by the Light, but the Reach doesn’t yet know they are being used by them).

As far as schemes go, the Reach continues to have success with their plan to make Blue Beetle Earth’s new hero, even to become a replacement for the missing Superman. We see more of Jaime as conscious but helpless as the Scarab control him. The Scarab itself is a tool of the Reach, under their control, with the Ambassador able to manipulate it directly. While Black Beetle seems to enjoy being a bad guy, the other scarabs are slaves to their programming, with no more agency than Jaime has — whether they “like” it or not. Though strictly following the wording of orders can be a rebellion of sorts…

The world that superhero comics typically create is one built of a little bit of everything. There is advanced sci-fi technology (often multiple different tech systems from multiple alien worlds). Powers from biological mutations (meta-genes in this case). There is time-travel. There are gods. And there is magic. Magic is typically just another “power source” in superhero cosmology. There are many magical heroes in Young Justice. It isn’t mentioned all the time, but Aqualad and Lagoon Boy are magic-users, though not spellcasters the way Zatanna is. Magic can easily become a cheat in any story, so it’s problematic in a narrative form such as Young Justice where, despite having all those elements listed above (and more), there is an intent to have rules, laws, and constraints on how any superpower works. Zatanna, and her father, have the limitation of needing to say their spells backwards. In comic history that can sometimes be the only constraint on what exactly they could or could not do. Young Justice has established in earlier episodes that Zatanna uses the backward talking as her focus of magic. She still has to know how to shape the magical forces she calls on, how to make them “work.” Only then can her backwards casting function. That is all to say it feels acceptable that she and Rocket can combine their powers to capture Blue Beetle (particularly if the Scarab is not trying quite as hard as it could to escape). The extent and capabilities of magic power is going to come up again in this episode.

Miss Martian and Lagoon Boy have an uncomfortable talk, something dreaded but inescapable. Comparing the maturity of the two characters is striking. Lagoon Boy emotionally is about where most of the Team were back in Season One, but, M’gann has grown from everything she’s experienced. It shows how even a couple years difference can lead to a big difference in a young person’s outlook and state of mind.

Strangely, the Team is taking the captive Beetle to Queen Bee’s underground base in Bialya, last seen in “Beneath,” Episode Five of Season Two. A lot of plot ago. At first they seem unprepared for the danger, but we are quickly reminded that these guys know their tactics. There then follows some almost literal deus ex-machina as Zatanna uses a ruined temple to summon the power of what appears to be an Eygptian (or Bialyian I guess) Goddess to free both Blue and Green Beetle from Reach control. Again magic does whatever the plot needs it to — but the show supports it. After all, it is an essential part of Blue Beetle as a superhero that, somehow, his Scarab had been freed from its original Reach programming thousands of years ago. Zatanna is recreating that event. Secret mystic lore is another part of the whole sorcerer deal.

The exposition that comes next is more of a problem for me. The amount of backstory filling about how Team came up with the plan, how they discovered the complex history of the Scarab, and of Ted Kord, is a lot more people explaining things than we are used to in this show. It’s all been hinted at, but with everything else that has gone on this season I come away feeling like these were story elements that were intended to be presented more in actual episodes, but which they just never quite had room for, as densely packed as the plot ultimately became. I have been watching this series from the point of view of a comic book reader just seeing the episodes themselves, without delving into its production history. I do know the show was cancelled for a time after this season, so maybe there was a sense of needing to rush through some plot lines that they had hoped would have been more developed.

They do succeed in a nice completion of the relationship between Jaime and the Scarab, as the two come to terms with each other, and we get confirmation that the Scarab prefers its freedom to be Jaime’s partner, with neither of them a slave to the Reach.

And speaking of plot, of course, this was all just another aspect of the Light’s plans, with Queen Bee allowing the Team to pull off the ritual to, if nothing else, rob the Reach of two Beetles. And what else? I don’t know. I continue to enjoy the show, but experience secret conspiracy fatigue from still not knowing what the Light has been up to after all this time….

Young Justice, Episode 2.17: “The Hunt”

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.

Events continue to move quicker and quicker, which means, fortunately, that some plot lines, both external and interpersonal, start getting resolved.

We see finally that the missing Team members, as well as Mongol, are prisoners of the Reach, but the Reach themselves are constrained by not wanting to blatantly claim the Crystal Key that would give them control of WarWorld. It’s been bad enough for their image to have revealed that their peaceful mission to Earth included a secret war fleet.

Somebody is still on the loose though. I’ve questioned the utility of having Arsenal along on missions, but here we see his ability to survive and remain active as a rogue element (though it’s a little hard to just accept that he’s managed to figure how to operate the alien tech of WarWorld).

Lex Luthor’s plans for the runaway heroes (our group of re-repurposed Super Friends) gets revealed, as he enlists them to rescue the captive Team members. He provides them with a Boom Tube creating “Father Box.” Now that is a deep pull from DC Lore. A fundamental element of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World stories was the super-technological Mother Box — which made a brief appearance in “Disordered” back in the middle of Season One. Now while I have a lot to say about Kirby’s intent with Mother Box, for now I’ll only a grumble a bit about how over the years Mother Box had become little more than generic technology from New Genesis. That’s all it was in the Justice League movie. The “Father Box” sometimes appears as the “evil” version from Apocolips. Kirby had both side of his conflict utilizing Mother Box, but, as promised, I won’t go into that here. The significance of it appearing here in Young Justice is as another clue, for the DC comic literati, that Darkseid is at work, somewhere in all this, and that schemes are within schemes with schemes. My question is whether or not the Light know that they are working for Darkseid or not. I can imagine they think they are working with Darkseid, as partners — but it never really turns out that way with the Tiger-Force at the Core of All Things.

Another hidden-in-sight sign of Darkseid is G. Gordon Godfrey’s ambush’s interview of the Reach Ambassador. It’s satisfying to see his lies about the secret fleet called out —but then that feeling is replaced by the cold dread of knowing, as I’ve mentioned before, that Godfrey is actually literally an evil god of deception, so nothing good is going to come from anything he’s up to.

Some straight talk between Nightwing and Miss Martian is another nice advancement on the character level. M’gann accepts that fear of her power let her be manipulated by Green Beetle, and Dick admits he was wrong not to trust her about Aqualad’s secret mission. That they both then understand that self-blame will not advance their cause is an even deeper sign of the maturity these two have developed over the course of the show.

Action dominates the rest of the episode. Arsenal’s freeing Mongol to fight Black Beetle is another example of his survival instinct and ability to think out side the hero box. Which does not make him a good team player. It’s another point in Nightwing’s favor that he comes to realize his error in thinking Arsenal could ever function as part of the Team. So Aresenal joins the runaway Super Friends as they go their separate ways from the Team. Fortunately they also realize that Luther was only using them as well as part of a typically secret scheme to get the Crystal Key.