Young Justice: Season One, Volume Three
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Warner Home Video.
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In this animated series based on DC Comics characters, crime fighters Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, Artemis, Aqualad, and Miss Martian team up to form Young Justice, a covert branch of the Justice League who receive their assignments directly from Batman. Although this would indicate that Young Justice simply picks up the Justice League’s scraps, the team in fact faces off against some of the DC Universe’s most dangerous villains in this volume, including Mr. Freeze, the League of Assassins, and even Ra’s al Ghul himself. This volume collects episodes nine through twelve of Young Justice: “Bereft,” “Targets,” “Terrors,” and “Home Front,” sans special features.
As a whole, the series boasts a very subtle, very character-driven throughline, which I find refreshing given how episodic most animated series tend to be. The recurring issues that comprise this throughline include Superboy’s struggle to be accepted by Superman; a love triangle between Miss Martian, Superboy, and Kid Flash; and the difficulties of balancing high school with the demands of superherodom. This adds a welcome touch of complexity to the characters’ missions. For as audience members, a connection to the characters’ personal lives strengthens our investment in the overall plot, especially where said plot involves personal peril for the characters.
Additionally, Young Justice, much like every DC animated series since Batman: The Animated Series, boasts a terrific array of voice actors. In addition to regulars Danica McKellar (of The Wonder Years!) and Khary Payton, who voiced Cyborg on Teen Titans, the series also features Alan Tudyk, James Remar, Kevin Michael Richardson, Rob Lowe, Peter MacNichol, Marina Sirtis, and Bruce Greenwood reprising his role as Batman.
Although I’ve become quite a fan of Young Justice through these very releases, I have some issues with Warner’s release strategy for the series. The first season is slated for 26 episodes total, of which I believe 18 have aired. So far, Warner has released three such four-episode DVDs, each retailing for around $10. At a minimum of six releases, this would result in a $60+ season for fans of the series. But you can also pick up the first three volumes in a single collection now for around $15, which is obviously much smarter. While these prices have had some fans in an uproar, I personally take issue with the fact that four episodes of Young Justice really don’t reveal much of the series’ aforementioned subtle narrative throughline at all. You have to watch about six episodes before you get anything out of the narrative. And given that the throughline sets the series apart from its more episodic predecessors and constitutes much of its charm, the failure of these sets to highlight the narrative makes them ineffective as marketing tools for Young Justice. As such, I doubt these four-episode sets will garner the series many new fans, thus prolonging its life. Only those already dedicated to the characters such as I would pour through multiple volumes hoping it will get better. Hopefully I’m wrong though.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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