This review post pertains to the new Young Justice show on Cartoon Network rather than the comic book of the same name, and “Independence Day Part 1” in specific.
Commenting on last week’s post There is Nothing on TV, jmdjr — correctly drawing on previous posts where I had written about mostly watching Cartoon Network on Friday nights — pointed out the premiere of Young Justice. So you have jmdjr (at least in part) to thank for this review.
In the opening scene of “Independence Day Part 1” we see Mister Freeze attacking families a-picnic. Freeze is the first of four different cold-themed villains quashed by four different superhero duos… Flash and Kid Flash over Captain Cold, Batman and Robin over Mister Freeze, Green Arrow and Speedy Red Arrow over Icicle, and Aquaman and a re-imagined Aqualad (see below) over Killer Frost. All four young heroes express the desire to end their fights quickly because “today’s the day”.
Everyone arrives at the Hall of Justice (very “Superfriends” if you grok), with Robin, Speedy, Aqualad, and Kid Flash being given access to the gym, kitchen, and library… but none of the real Justice League resources; in fact, there are tourists looking down into the library as the four kid heroes are supposedly given increased Justice League access. The conflict begins as Speedy expresses dissatisfaction and walks out. Then the stuff starts.
Nostalgia Alert: Flash and Kid Flash — the super speed duo — are the last to arrive at the Hall of Justice.
Poor Kid Flash: No one seems to know his name. Is it “Flash Boy”? At one point there is a hilarious moment where a civilian bystander asks if he is Speedy, remarking that “it makes no sense” that Speedy is Green Arrow’s sidekick.
Young Justice — at least based on the first episode — is simply awesome. I already like it more than Ben 10, and I like Ben 10 more than Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. It is written by Greg Weisman, the genius behind Disney’s Gargoyles, and you can see Weisman’s able hand in the combination of attention to detail, humor, world building, and just plain good writing. While lots of the Cartoon Network shows are worth watching, Young Justice is both well written (again going from just the first episode), and absolutely gorgeous.
Often you will see superior character models on the animated versions of characters over the comics versions. Consider the model of Triplicate Girl from the too-short-lived Legion of Super-Heroes:
These two images show Triplicate Girl in “three bodies” form. Notice how — in addition to the cute miniskirt uniform — good the animated version’s model is in terms of carrying her three colors across the three bodies. The elements play effectively together when she is in unified “one body” form as well:
All three bodies’ colors are represented when she is all together; we even see elements of the different girls’ hair… But it all works and fits together, resulting in a superior superhero uniform!
Contrast that to the Zero Hour-era Triplicate Girl / Triad uniform (I think of the Zero Hour reboot as “my” Legion BTW):
Despite having Adam Hughes — the best of the “babe” artists — on this illustration, we see a distinct lack of playfulness and life to Triplicate Girl’s uniform, hair style, or overall model. It’s just not as fun and doesn’t work together as well. To be fair, Hughes shows a wicked emotional range here… But that has no bearing on Triplicate Girl’s model / uniform.
* Before we continue, I obviously stole those stills from a Triplicate Girl-themed YouTube video. If you want to watch the whole thing, here ya go:
As I said, it’s not uncommon. Barbara Gordon’s uniform on The Batman was better than either of her uniforms from the Batman: The Animated Series or Gotham Knights eras; certainly better than her actual DC Comics uniform pre-The Killing Joke. The reason I bring this up is that the re-imagined animated Aqualad from Young Justice is another great example. He is just great.
Check out Aqualad’s uniform design. His shirt is very reminiscent of a wakeboarder’s. He is an aquatic hero, so that makes sense. The thing that really got me, though, is the fact that he isn’t wearing any shoes. Taken as a still this fact might not be that striking, but believe me, in the context of the television show — especially when Aqualad was brawling — the absence of shoes served as a cool contrast to, say, Robin’s chunky boots… and just looked cool.
As a point of contrast, this is what Aqualad is “supposed” to look like:
As you can see, the artists working on Young Justice were able to pay tribute to Aqualad’s original color scheme while updating the costume itself to seem more aquatic-appropriate… Simultaneously making the hero look not at all like a ridiculous water clown.
Overall, the art / animation was great; which I think was a big reason why I like it best amongst the Cartoon Network options right now. I don’t know that much about anime, but it had a very “good anime” feel and color palette, without making the heroes look Japanese (which would have been out of place for these characters).
I mentioned before that I admired Weisman’s attention to detail. There were all kinds of Easter Eggs and mini-puzzles in the episode that can enrich your viewing of it if you pay attention. Just one example: The name of the episode is Independence Day. The opening shot was of Mister Freeze attacking a picnic area where families were cooking hot dogs at (presumably) a public grill. Can we figure out what day it is?
Trivia Question: Can you figure out on what day Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” occurs?
Each Justice League member has a number; for example Batman is designated 02 and Red Tornado is designated 16. Is this indicative of their order in joining the League? Who is 01?
Neither of these points actually has to do with the plot of the episode, and neither deciding that the opener takes place on July 4, nor guessing that Superman is League member 01 is required to enjoy the 22 minutes of animated action… But thinking about these things was fun for me, and the opportunity to think about these things seems to indicate that Weisman was thinking about them while he wrote it.
Overall, I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for the next episode. I’ve actually already seen “Independence Day Part 1” three or four times, and I anticipate watching it again tomorrow.
This blog post has lots of images and videos already… so what’s one more? This is a vid I found on the WB where some of Young Justice’s creators talk about the show, characters, and development. Worth the watch IMO.