Over the years, various Cartoon Network shows based on DC Comics have given their source material a serious run for their money. I’d wager that many episodes of the late, great Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans and the current Batman: The Brave and the Bold, to name a few, have been just as entertaining – often moreso – than some of the books they sprang from. Based on tonight’s winning film premiere, Young Justice is poised to carry on that proud tradition.
The movie, a launching pad for the ongoing series beginning in January, is a classic coming-of-age story with a lot of punching and explosions: Robin, Speedy, Aqualad and Kid Flash think they’ve been invited to the grown-up table when their mentors finally bring them into the Hall of Justice, but in reality, they only get as far as the foyer. Batman, Green Arrow, Aquaman and Flash claim the kids simply aren’t ready for full access, which sends Speedy into an angry, this-is-bullshit hissy fit. Aqualad’s quietly wounded response is particularly moving. Aquaman isn’t just his teacher, but his king, so the apparent lack of confidence goes right to the heart.
Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the adults are called away on a mission, and the kids ignore their orders to stay put. They dive headfirst into a crisis at Cadmus Laboratories, and that’s where the real fun begins. Let’s just say that the Cadmus staff isn’t exactly whipping up new flu vaccines.
Visually, Young Justice is a treat. The players are distinctive-looking without being overly stylized, and the animation is quite fluid. The characterization is dead-on: Robin is the quick-witted detective who’s one step ahead of the rest; Kid Flash is the impetuous, slightly annoying chatterbox; Aqualad is thoughtful and broodingly regal. There’s also an element of real danger when Superboy enters the picture, because a wild card with Superman’s powers is pretty much the scariest thing ever.
It’s not giving much away by saying that everything works out in the end, but this fledgling team is in for plenty of trials and adjustments – like the very welcome addition of Miss Martian, Martian Manhunter’s niece. My only quibble is that she doesn’t show up until the end, and Artemis doesn’t appear at all. However, I understand that there’s only so much character development you can deliver in one hour, and the movie does what it’s supposed to: Build excitement for the weekly TV show. Count me in.