I have this theory that people aren’t really expected to buy the DVD releases for Young Justice. They exist mainly for the online rental market. If you think about it, it makes sense. Young Justice is still a series in production. All of the episodes haven’t even been made yet, so how are they supposed to release a Season One box set? They will eventually, sure. But in the meantime, people who have heard about Young Justice but don’t have cable TV—like me—can keep up with the series via DVD rental.
It’s not a bad idea. As worthless as I think these little 4-episode, 90 minute DVD mini-releases are, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be watching Young Justice.
But yes, to engage the broken record and beat the dead horse; this DVD is terrible. As with Volumes 1 and 2, you get all of four episodes, commercials for bonus features, and a total running time of 90 minutes. All for the bargain price of $15. This means that, with 26 episodes total, collecting Season 1 of Young Justice will cost around $100 and clutter your house with six or seven DVD boxes. That is seriously old school. Remember when a box set for an anime cost over $100 and took up half your bookshelf? That’s what will happen if you pick up all of the individual Young Justice releases.
OK, rant over. So how are these four episodes? Pretty damn cool! I was getting wary of Young Justice following some “cry-baby of the week” –style storytelling, but that has been abandoned in favor of telling compelling stories.
On the negative side, I am getting a little sick of Miss Martian. She was always portrayed as the bubbly airhead of the team, but in this latest DVD she has been reduced to an inane catch-phrase (“Hello, Megan!?!”) and a crush on Superboy, without any other depth of character. I think they are going for the same cheerful naiveté of “new alien arrived on Earth” that made Starfire so charming in the Teen Titans cartoon. But they are failing.
Bereft – The team finds themselves in Bialya, having lost six months worth of memories and wandering the desert barely remembering each other. The culprit is the villainous Psimon, the old Teen Titans foe with the visible brain.
This was a great episode. Shows like Young Justice have to walk a fine line between pandering to old school comic guys like me, and keeping the characters fresh and interesting. Bringing in Psimon was a good call; he has always been an impressive and worthy opponent. I was surprised not to see the rest of his Fearsome Five, but there is always time.
My favorite part of this episode: when Kid Flash discovers he can change the color of his uniform by pressing his emblem, so all of the rest of Young Justice start pressing on their chests to see if their costumes change.
Targets –A lot of heavy emotional drama in this one. What do you do if assassins are targeting an ambassador, and that ambassador happens to be Lex Luthor. Do you save him anyways? And with Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows involved, is saving him even an option?
This was my favorite episode of the four. I love Red Arrow’s internal conflict, how he feels he is too old to be a junior sidekick but still isn’t accepted at the Big Kid’s table. And the Red Arrow/Cheshire dynamic is fantastic, especially if you know their history from the comic books.
Keeping things a little light, Superboy and Miss Martian also enroll in public school, where the airheadedness of Miss Martian makes her an instant cheerleader candidate (of course!). The school scene also had some nice winks and nods to longtime Titans fans, as Wendy and Marvin, Mal Duncan, Karen Beecher, and their teacher Lucas “Snapper” Carr all make an appearance.
Terrors – Belle Reve prison freezes over as a plot is uncovered to get all the ice-power villains locked up in the same place at the same time. The solution is to send in Superboy and Miss Martian undercover to try and put a stop to whatever villainous plan is afoot.
I thought this was the weakest episode. Superboy’s giant chip on his shoulder makes him the least-interesting character of Young Justice, and Miss Martian’s one-note character is just as bad, so any episode with those two in the lead is going to be disappointing. This episode also peppered the background with familiar villain faces, which was cool to see. (Although I can’t figure out why The Riddler was made out to be such a punk, while The Icicle was treated as some kind of Top Dog …)
The best part of this episode was the introduction of Amanda Waller and Professor Hugo Strange. I love this true version of Amanda “The Wall” Waller instead of how she is currently appearing in the comics. It is nice to see her in action again. And Professor Hugo Strange, by virtue of his extreme weirdness, makes a great addition to any series.
Homefront – There are rumors that one of the Young Justice members is a mole working for the other side, and distrust is heavy when their headquarters suddenly comes under attack by Red Inferno and Red Torpedo. The team isn’t strong enough to beat one Red Tornado robot, so how are they supposed to fight two?
Artemis takes the spotlight in this episode, and she is turning into an interesting character. We get a glimpse of her home life, of what lead her to take up the bow and follow Green Arrow. The end of this episode came as a shocker as well. I won’t give it away, but prepare to be surprised.
All in all, I thought these latest four episodes were a big jump in quality for Young Justice. The series has found its voice, and is coming together—well, except for Miss Martian who still needs some improvement. But these DVD releases …
Just don’t buy them. Don’t do it.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed
or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.