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Old 01-12-2013, 11:24 PM   #1001
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Default Re: Young Justice Cartoon - Part 7

Here we are, January 2013, and the first new episode of "YOUNG JUSTICE: INVASION" since October 2012. It is an incredibly rare feat to see a cable network comic book action TV cartoon air two seasons across four different years. It seems from rushing a pilot in Fall 2010 to all sorts of scheduling snafus, Cartoon Network has done nothing but bog the show down like chains on Jacob Marley's ghost. Now DC Nation is back, so CN and DC claim, and they hope memories have faded from 2.5 months ago when the same channels proclaimed the same thing, only to yank the block after a fortnight. An explanation is still unknown. Given that this is a show heavy in continuity with winding and long term subplots, the gaps in viewing do it no favors. It not only makes the show harder to follow, it also allows anticipation to build to a level that few episodes can meet. After the incredible mid-season climax of "BEFORE THE DAWN", some may argue a breath may have been needed. Unfortunately, a 2.5 month gap has caused such a thing to appear to be a letdown. And with this circumstance we view "CORNERED", an entertaining but possibly underwhelming episode of the show. It isn't bad by any means, but its biggest flaw is perhaps being too simple. What you saw in a preview is pretty much what you get.

Spoiler!!! Click to Read!:
"CORNERED" naturally is a cog in the overall seasonal arc of aliens invading earth due to the actions of "The Light" at the end of the last season. While the Reach are having Captain Atom for lunch in games of political grandstanding with the media and the U.N., and Black Canary once again becomes a therapist in fishnets to some troubled metahuman youths recovering from an alien abduction, a new and likely disposable enemy enters the fold. A longtime enemy of the JLA in the comics, his origins with the planet Kalonor were the ore of his episodes in "JUSTICE LEAGUE" Season 2. In subsequent appearances he's simply been a bulky space conqueror of the week, and this show offers no exception. This time he has a robot sidekick which brings his attention to Earth seeking the challenge of battling worthy opponents - but preferably in a "sportsmanlike" contest. Had he landed in DRAGON BALL Z, he'd have gotten that, and probably been beaten by Goku in about 55 episodes of close ups and grunting. Unfortunately, he's landed in YJ, during a time when the team are severely underhanded and recovering from having Mt. Justice blown up. Seeking Superman's usual stand-in, Captain Marvel, Despero makes a beeline for him and winds up trapping about half the team (Bumblebee, Mal Duncan, Superboy, Zatanna, and Miss Martian) inside the Hall of Justice and proceeds to lay a smack down. It's similar to episodes of shows featuring Juggernaut or the Rhino in that he's hopelessly unstoppable until some convenient weakness is exploited - in this case, his psychic third eye. While it was good to see Capt. Marvel again after how large a role he had last season, this time it's painfully obvious that he's simply filling in for Superman. The action is pretty good, although the storyboarders seem to get better stuff out of one of the Roy's or other scenes. Naturally the biggest developments are Mal Duncan deciding to slap on a costume and take a more direct role on the team as the new Guardian, and Megan coming to terms with her psychic trauma.

For the record, Mal Duncan wasn't completely "out of nowhere". Both he and Bumblebee were first introduced as students of Happy Harbor High in "TARGETS", and again in "SECRETS", where Mal wore Superboy's 90's costume for a Halloween party. This is also where Wendy, who made doe eyes at Conner in "SATISFACTION", was introduced. So while it was somewhat surprising to see them both as members of "the team" after the 5 year jump at the start of the season, they were introduced previously. Heck, if memory serves the only new member of the Season 2 team who never was introduced previously, even in a "blink and miss background cameo", was Wonder Girl. Back in Season 1, BB was a cheerleader and very much into Mal; but as she's gotten older, she has become more of Atom's "student", which is presumably how she got her powers. I genuinely do wonder whether her interest in Ray Palmer is totally about education, although I doubt a children's TV show is going to have a teenage girl date an obviously adult superhero openly. Mal has essentially been "mission control" for "the team", which is usually a standard place for a member with no super powers or obvious martial arts mastery in superhero teams. Yes, Nightwing has tech skills too, but he also runs field missions and probably his own enterprises in Bludhaven. Mal was the 24/7 tech coordinator there, same as most first responders have dispatchers who don't enter the fare themselves but still serve a role. The subplot for Mal is that he still thinks he and BB are as tight as they were 5 years ago, when she's obviously moved on but doesn't want to tell him. This episode, it seems, forced Mal to move on as well into a more proactive role. He apparently got some self defense training from Black Canary and much like with Adam Strange, is able to distract aliens with some overacting and grandstanding. I half expected him to go, "in the name of the moon, I will punish you!" or something. But, hey, a smarmy powerless earthling able to distract aliens with crazy antics was about 75% of "FARSCAPE". While I do agree that this season has WAY too many characters to clearly focus on only 6 of them, I have more time for Mal than I do for, say, Beast Boy or Impulse.

Like most episodes, there is a B-plot and like many of them, people probably attached more to it. Over at STAR Labs, Black Canary is running exit interviews with various Reach abductees, and learns some horrific details from Virgil Hawkins/Static. Blue Beetle is still hashing over what he learned about his destiny from Impulse, and figures he can't keep it to himself (or Bart) anymore. While this angle was previously used in "DISORDERED", I do wonder what possessed Greg Weisman and the show's writers to envision Black Canary of all people as a therapist. I'm not the biggest DC buff admittedly, and as always Vanessa Marshall is fine in the role, it just isn't a position I saw the character in before. Regardless, despite Bart's warnings, Jaime now wants the scarab removed from him, regardless of the cost. In a C-Plot (of sorts), Megan is now too traumatized to use her psychic powers for much beyond basic TK or crisis intervention, and the episode ends with her living in J'Onn's digs and getting a meeting from Conner. The show does seem poised to reunite "Meganboy", and I imagine Megan may reveal what she learned from Kaldur in private to Conner, and he may confront Nightwing about it in another episode's B-plot. Perhaps even "TRUE COLORS", which airs next week.

Naturally, the scenes where Capt. Atom plays diplomatic chess against the representative from the Reach are good subtle fare. The Reach deliberately chose to abduct wayward teenagers few would believe because they were thinking several moves ahead of the League and the media. They obviously also have an ally in the media, which the League don't. I think these scenes help underscore just why Nightwing and Kaldur decided to embark on this plan of theirs, which has naturally involved more people and more collateral damage than planned. It is because there is no other good option. The only reason "The Light" were even discovered at all was due to the curiosity and misfortune of the founding four members of "the team". The Justice League is best poised for reactive intervention, but doesn't properly plan ahead of time or for long term strategy. One could argue the sheer task of interventions with an entire planet full of disasters, crime, and super-villains is a daunting enough task. This leaves the team open to be manipulated by those forces aware of them, which "The Light" have done. Grayson's choice was likely continuing to play by "the rules" that his elders had done for a decade and remain pawns to a shadow cabinet, or take the biggest gamble of their lives by seeking to disrupt the chain and infiltrate the cabinet. There's no assurance of success and there's obviously been casualties and consequences - but is that worse than doing nothing? Repeating the mistakes that Batman and Superman made by sticking to a rule book? Naturally, it isn't an easy or convenient solution to a complicated problem, but few things in life are. What little "the team" even know about the Reach or the Light this season are due to "the plan".

I am curious how long the Reach will be involved with the season. The Kroloteans were dispatched after 3 episodes, although Black Beetle was still there in the shadows. While Bart may have fretted about telling the League, the irony is that telling "The Light" that their "partner" plans to double cross them and conquer the world may probably work out better - especially in a show where the lead villains rarely lose.
To a degree I see Weisman as similar to Ed Brubaker; his lead villains are always 25 steps ahead and anything they do or don't do works in their master plan until the story decides it is time for them to lose, and they do. Brubaker essentially did that for 5 years with Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA - where anything that happened went according to plan until the story demanded he die in CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN. He is doing the same thing in WINTER SOLDIER right now, where the only reason why the antagonist is losing in his final issue isn't because of anything the heroes have done right, but because it's time for the story to end. To a degree I see "The Light" and/or The Reach as like this in this show, and while that may frustrate some, the alternative is of course easily thwarted "villains of the week" like Skeletor or Hordak or Tex Hex or so on. A middle ground is ideal and in fairness this show does offer many (perhaps too many in some cases) lower level villains to be stopped, like Despero here. Frankly, if the plan to "infiltrate" the Light actually worked, I might consider it poor writing of the Light. It does, at least, keep the suspenseful juices flowing, which is what serialized fiction should do.

I do think this season is suffering from a critical max of characters. Obviously some of the Reach abductees will become additional side characters like Static and the other SUPERFRIENDS revisions, and this is already a cast brimming with characters. The cast of this show is so massive that the X-Men are about to guest star and suggest trimming some characters. While of course some characters are just cameos like Black Lightening or Gen. Eiling, it can become easy to forget which characters are the stars here, perhaps even for the producers of the show itself. Blue Beetle, clearly, is more of a star this season than Wally West or Artemis are, and arguably more than Nightwing or Kaldur are. Whether that works for you or not depends on which characters you are most attached to. I do have a lot of time and fondness for Jaime Reyes, even if he wasn't who I was expecting when I started watching the show back in November 2010. Naturally a show with a cast this high can't possibly offer a satisfying conclusion for all of them, and expecting this show to is expecting too much, I think. However, give me a good enough story and at least satisfy me with a few or most of the characters I like, and I'm golden. I've certainly watched far poorly written, far less satisfying shows.

Wrap-up? A decent action episode with some interesting background bits, but not one of the show's best (or worst; that still remains "WELCOME TO HAPPY HARBOR" or "DENIAL" for me). I do have higher expectations for "TRUE COLORS", and naturally can't wait to see how this complicated storyline comes to a resolution.

Now a Brooklyn Comic Examiner! Come read more long posts!
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Old 01-12-2013, 11:59 PM   #1002
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Default Re: Young Justice Cartoon - Part 7

Wow...I am really not understanding all of the Mal Duncan hate. Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, but people are acting like the show has been re-named "Mal Duncan & The Team!" (Mal Duncan & His Amazing Friends?) lol

A character received a semi-spotlight episode. They wrote something to get him out of the background and into the Guardian armor. I've no doubt that he'll return to the background next episode, and the focus will shift back to Superboy, M'Gann, Nightwing, Blue Beetle, etc.

(Oh, and it was good to see General Eiling again, even if just for a cameo...I enjoyed his story arc in Justice League Unlimited)

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Old 01-12-2013, 11:59 PM   #1003
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