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Why YOUNG JUSTICE Season 1 is Far Superior to Season 2

Why YOUNG JUSTICE Season 1 is Far Superior to Season 2

I can’t claim to have been a champion of Young Justice since the beginning. In fact, I’ve only just binge-watched the extant 46 episodes within the last year after years of people telling me I, as a huge DC Comics fan, needed to watch it. And they were right; I’ve become a huge devotee and was just as psyched as everyone when it was announced that a season three would happen, and now that it’ll be on DC’s new streaming service. But I’m also trepidatious for a new season, because season two really didn’t do it for me the way season one did.

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The first season of Young Justice is, to me, the perfect DC Universe experience in visual form, offering amazing standalone episodes amid some truly twisty arc-plotting and gave us a team of characters who were deep and complicated, and we had time to get to know and love each and every one. More than simply a group of sidekicks, Aqualad, Robin, Kid Flash, Superboy, Artemis, and Miss Martian become heroes in their own right, a family that needs to learn to trust each other to fully succeed. Even things that seem not to make sense, or even grate, early on in the season get explained and make perfect sense later on.

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The main heroes in this season are incredibly well defined; Miss Martian seems goofy at first, but we learn she’s incredibly self-conscious about her big secret. Speaking of secrets, Artemis is almost immediately distrusted because of being foisted upon the Team, and yet she becomes one of their strongest allies. Kid Flash spends most of his time as a braggart, opening hitting on M’gann to hide his feelings for Artemis. Robin refuses to even reveal his true identity to his teammates after years of being raised by the paranoid Batman and yet needs to trust them with his life. Aqualad worries he doesn’t have what it takes to lead, even going so far as to say Robin’s the clear choice, yet he proves the most stable of the bunch. And Superboy, the angry, resentful half-clone of Superman, has extreme daddy issues coupled with inferiority at having only some of his predecessor’s powers.

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When you have such strong, relatable characters–even if they are superheroes–it’s easy to go with them on whatever crazy mission they get from Batman, or putting together their season-long mysteries of why the villains with ice powers all ended up in the same prison, and who exactly the Light is. Later in the season, when new members join, they fit right in. Zatanna is a perfect addition who at first isn’t allowed to join because of her overprotective father Zatara, but who has nowhere else to go when he assumes the Dr. Fate mantle to save her. Speedy and later Rocket also prove themselves vital to the makeup of the Team, and you feel they’ve earned their place.

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And then, after spending 26 episodes with these characters, getting to know them and want the best for them, season 2 happens, and it’s suddenly five years later, and everything’s different. Several great Team members–like Zatanna and Rocket–are now in the Justice League; Kid Flash and Artemis have retired, and then Artemis seemingly gets killed; Robin has become Nightwing and now Tim Drake is Robin; Superboy and Miss Martian–whose romance was so central to the dynamic of the first year–are now broken up and she’s dating Lagoon Boy; and Aqualad is nowhere to be found and we later find out he’s jumped ship (ha ha) to his evil father Black Manta’s side. What happened to Young Justice?

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Season 2’s subtitle is “Invasion,” a huge storyline about alien invaders who infiltrate the highest places in Earth’s government, and for that you need a bigger scope than maybe a five-member team can handle. But, with little fanfare, we’re expected to like Beast Boy, the Flash’s from-the-future grandson Impulse, the romantic problems of Bumblebee and Guardian, and Blue Beetle, whose alien tech suit becomes of the utmost importance when dealing with the villainous the aliens, the Reach. We miss out on years of development with our core members and don’t get much time to get to know the new people properly, because we’re kind of busy wondering what the heck happened to the team we liked.

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Mysteries, of course, get resolved in this season, and we figure out what fractured the Team and why, but it takes a while, concurrently we’re spending a great deal of time with new members who barely have time to make an impression. And while I loved things like Batgirl, Wonder Girl, Bumblebee, and Miss Martian taking on bad guys after their ladies lunch is attacked, the overall plot where the aliens are evil but everybody on Earth thinks they’re good, and the Team recognizes the threat but humanity has entirely cast their lot with the Reach over FRIGGING SUPERHEROES just never sat well with me.

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But, for all my disappointment with season two, it ended on a high and even set up a mystery for a new season. So my hope for Young Justice: Outsiders is that we get back to a more focused, small team aesthetic. Even if it doesn’t consist of all the same members originally, what I want is for time to get to know and appreciate the relationships between specific heroes instead of thrusting plot after plot at people we only care about because they’re the good guys. The Outsiders subtitle gives me hope in this department; in comics history, the Outsiders are a black ops team of heroes led by Batman, kind of like a Suicide Squad but made up of heroes instead of villains. This could be a great way to narrow the focus of who we’re following while still using the full spectrum of DC’s massive and rich continuity.

These are just my opinions of course, and other opinions are available. Your’s for instance! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Images: DC Entertainment/WB Animation

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and an avowed DC Comics fanboy. Follow him on Twitter!

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