It’s been almost a decade since the first season of Young Justice aired on Cartoon Network. After two seasons and a considerable time jump, viewers were left hanging when the show was cancelled due to low merchandise sales. But the show picked up a pretty dedicated fanbase in the interim and, as we’ve seen happening lately with shows cancelled before their time, was given another shot. It’s now available on DC’s digital media service, DC Universe, and we’ve had a chance to check out the first six episodes (the episodes are being released in batches of three every week) and answer a few burning questions of our own. Minor spoilers follow.
For starters, does it still feel like Young Justice?
Yes. This isn’t an Arrested Development-oh-no-what-happened situation. The show still feels very authentic to the first few seasons and most of the original cast and creators are back. The main difference is actually something of an upgrade: since it isn’t bound by network standards, the show feels more mature. Not in a dark-to-be-edgy “F*** BATMAN!” sort of way. We see character deaths and people with literal blood on their hands, which helps raise the stakes and strengthens the darker tone this show has always had.
On the tone note, the show takes a surprisingly mature and political angle this season. Set two years after the events of season 2, Outsiders focuses on a humanitarian crisis. Children with the metahuman gene are being kidnapped for experimentation and sent to other worlds. This trafficking results in a tragedy when the Justice League kills a hostile threat off-world that turns out to be a child from Earth who was turned into a soldier. This incident sparks internal and political divisions in the Justice League that set the table for the season.
Can I jump right back in?
Um, I’d say it depends. If you haven’t seen seasons 1 or 2, I think you could jump into this – knowing you’re missing a few beats – and still easily understand the focus of this season, who the key characters are, etc. If you’ve watched the show but it’s been a really long time? You might want to refresh your memory. One of the best things about Young Justice: Outsiders is how little exposition we get. I’m a fan of shows that don’t hold your hand over every little detail. But, the flip side to that is that I really wished season 2 was fresh in my mind before I’d watched these. The cast is large, and on top of that there are clones of characters and new personas for characters, so it’s a lot to keep track of. It’s clear there have been some off-screen developments for the characters in the last 2 years, but I was constantly wondering if I’d forgotten something had happened or if it happened off-screen. Basically, if you’re really rusty on the plot, you might want to rewatch a little bit of season 2 or refresh your memory with a synopsis.
Are we following the same characters?
The cast of this show got pretty huge in season 2. It’s fair to say that there was no way everyone was going to get a lot of facetime in the first six episodes of this season, which mainly focuses on Black Lightning, Nightwing, Superboy, Tigress (formerly Artemis), and Miss Martian. We also get three notable additions: Prince Brion Markov, Halo, and Forager.
Is it worth the cost?
One downside to this show is that it’s not available unless you have DC Universe. If you’re only looking at the subscription for this show, and don’t think you’ll get anything out of the other offerings, your best bet is the monthly $7.99 option. All 13 episodes of the first half of season 3 will be released in January, so you can get them all in for just a month’s subscription. If you average each episode on the low end at only 20 minutes, that’s $8 for around 4 hours of the show. When I think about the cost/value of a show as a standalone piece of entertainment, that seems well worth the cost of admission to me. But it’s not the kind of thing that would compel me to join the 1-year plan if I was only interested in the new streaming content until there is more there. If you’re hooked from there, the second half of the show releases in June.
Any other last thoughts?
Maybe it’s just because I follow superhero movies too closely, but I couldn’t help but think of the MCU’s handling of the Avengers when I watched the first few episodes of Outsiders (Avengers/Justice League having political interference and divisions, children being trafficked with meta genes in Markovia/Sokovia). I think that’s decent praise given how many movies the Avengers had to flesh out their assembly and eventual dissolution. Also, there’s a pretty decent theory out there that the episode titles spell out an important message: “PREPARE THE ANTI-LIFE EQUATION.” That does seem like… well, more than a coincidence.