The largest fictional universe crossover was written in 1960, when DC Comics decided to unite its entire roster of superheroes into one comic book: the Justice League. With the most powerful superheroes assembled together, there was a general lack of need and placement for the existing sidekicks. So the sidekicks were given storylines of their own, almost all relocated and written with new names. Then, much like before, these sidekicks united and formed a league of their own: the Teen Titans. And now, decades later, a new generation of sidekicks is up and about, ready to form their own team.
Young Justice is an animated series that premiered on January 7, 2011, and is based loosely on its comic counterpart from the late 1990’s. The opening episode features four teenaged superheroes including Robin the Boy Wonder, a witty martial artist with an array of bird-themed weapons; the juvenile Kid Flash, titled the Fastest Boy Alive, who can run at the speed of light; Aqualad, a water manipulator – able to form liquids into his weapon of choice; and Speedy, a moody archer with a bow and quiver full of high-tech and explosive arrows.
In the opening episode, the four sidekicks are gathered by their respective mentors and are promised membership to the Justice League. However, due to superhero politics and judgements of “you’re too young” and “you’re not ready," their promises are broken. Speedy, being the hot-headed teenager that he is, storms off in anger. Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad mope around for a bit, then decide to go off together in hopes of proving themselves worthy of joining the league.
In terms of characterization, the writers do a great job of creating a dysfunctional sense of independence in each of the sidekicks. The concept is this: having followed their mentors around for so long, they all seem to have developed the same flawed perception. Other motives come and go, but this is the main drive behind the story: they hate being treated like kids, and are more than ready to prove themselves to the world.
The story here, the coming of age and self-discovery of teenaged superheroes, is much like the story of the Teen Titans, and even some of the sidekick-prominent plot arcs in the Justice League. While it is unfair to draw comparisons to its predecessors, it is ultimately what has to be done for a full review. Young Justice brings a lot of characters in as cameos, and even intermingles some of the plot with that of the two other preceding series. While it might not live up to its parent and sibling, no one will accuse Young Justice of lacking ambition.
Young Justice carries over all the great elements that has made DC Comics such a big success. The characters are all so different and unique that there is an aspect or personality for just about every viewer to relate to. There are themes of justice and virtue that teach lessons very worth learning. And of course, the engaging storylines: there is over ten years worth of comic book content to draw from, and the series does a great job of using the right plots at the right time.
The visual animations are top notch as well. The budget is huge, and it shows. The combat scenes are very imaginatively choreographed. Things are done with explosive arrows and solidified water that no one can claim to have ever seen before.
The dialogue exchange between mentor and sidekick is the only area where I have any criticism to give. The writers of the series were a little too manipulative and derivative in making the mentors act like psychopathic parents. At one point Batman turns into an absolute control freak and blatantly tells Robin to “stay put and don’t move” as though commanding a child. I feel as though character motivation is clear enough already to make such obvious lines unnecessary.
Despite that one flaw, Young Justice is a very enjoyable mix of storytelling, moral teachings, and great action. It is everything that a DC Comics project should be and more, and it certainly does the Justice League and the Teen Titans justice.