Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Injustice To The Young

After its initial premiere in 2010, I wasn’t terribly impressed by Cartoon Network’s Young Justice.
At least, not when compared to such other classic animated adaptations of DC Comics material such as Batman:  The Animated Series, or Justice League Unlimited.
Still, as a pastiche of the long-canceled comic from which it takes its name, and some of the teen hero comics that preceded and succeeded YJ, such as The New Teen Titans, and the pre-New 52 Teen Titans, it had potential, and there was much about it that I liked, so, when episodes began to air on a regularly-scheduled basis, I set the DVR to catch them.
Over time, the show grew on me, and while it’s still no Justice League Unlimited – which managed to actually overtake B:  TAS as my favorite animated DCU series – in the second half of the first season, and now in its second season, I’ve come to enjoy the show a great deal.
Certainly I enjoy it more than its “DC Nation” programming block companion, Green Lantern:  The Animated Series, which is watchable, but largely uninspiring.
One aspect that really surprised me was the bold move the producers made with the launch of the second season, which involved jumping forward five years in time – which is actually a nod to the One Year Later approach that DC took with all of its comics in the wake of Infinite Crisis, and to the Five Years Later era of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Indeed, many of the new characters introduced in the second season were characters who first appeared in OYL issues of Teen Titans.
Jumping ahead in time actually provides a lot of narrative potential for the season-long Invasion storyline, as we slowly learn how the changes to the status quo came about, discovering the origins of the new characters, how the existing characters have become the people they are now, and where some of the characters from the first season who have so far been missing in action have gotten to (there was a very interesting development in the most recent episode on that latter point).
All along there have been some very nice touches, such as an exchange between Wonder Woman and Batman in which – a, quite frankly, rather bitchy – WW finds fault with Batman for putting a child – Robin – in harm’s way:

Batman:  Robin needed to bring the man who murdered his parents to justice.
Wonder Woman:  So that he could turn out like you?
Batman:  So that he wouldn’t.

Five years later, with the Season 2 introduction of Wonder Girl, we see that WW has changed her thinking on the subject of teen sidekicks, which actually led to an entertaining scene in the most recent episode, as WG gushes over her mentor’s badassery.

Wonder Woman:  Let’s have less fangirl, and more Wonder Girl.

What really sells the scene is the quiet, sly smile of pride that crosses Wonder Woman’s lips as her protégé proceeds to engage in some badassery of her own.
Still, despite the many things I do enjoy about the show – including the fact that there have been episodes written by Peter David, who wrote the original Young Justice comic – there are some elements that keep me from enjoying it as much as I could.
My primary complaint is with the voice casting.  Overall, I’m largely unimpressed by the voice work.  Not that any of them are particularly bad voice actors, but some of the voices are just…annoying.  The nerdy lisp of Robin/Nightwing is extremely off-putting.  The actress providing the voice of Artemis – who has so far been absent this season – is grating and painful to listen to; it’s as though she starts out her day by gargling broken glass.
Beyond that, with the exception of Bruce Greenwood, who, while no Kevin Conroy, provides a solid voice for Batman, most of the voices are sort of generic, the kind of voices you hear in pretty much every animated series.
Bear in mind that it’s not my intent to disparage the work of voice actors in general, or even these voice actors specifically, but the point is that none of the voices stand out in any way except in those instances in which they stand out in a negative fashion.
The other thing that has been something of a sticking point for me – and for a lot of others, based on comments I’ve seen on the Internet – is the use of catchphrases and character quirks that the show insists on sticking with, despite the fact that no one watching actually enjoys them.
The people behind the show are clearly aware of the issue, as they have made some attempts at downplaying these aspects as the show has progressed, but they haven’t eliminated them entirely.
One example that bothered me a lot in Season 1 was the way – presumably in some attempt to psych out his opponents – Robin would let out this odd little giggle while remaining out of his enemy’s field of view.  I don’t think anyone has ever been intimidated by someone hiding and giggling.
The other Robin quirk that proved annoying was the way he would engage in wordplay using words that had prefixes such as “over” or “non.”  “Are you feeling whelmed?  You definitely look whelmed.”  “Are people ever chalant?”
The biggest offender, though, is Miss Martian, who, in her alter ego, goes by the human name Megan.  Her catchphrase of “Hello Megan!” whenever she remembers something, or realizes that she’s made a mistake, got really annoying, really fast, and while there was a very solid payoff in the episode that revealed the origin of that character tick, it remains a point of irritation for me.
That they’re continuing with the catchphrases this season – Beast Boy’s continual use of “Noted” is already starting to make my blood boil – has done a lot to mar what has otherwise been an entertaining and engaging half hour of television.
Still, those complaints aside – which seem like minor nitpicks, but in the aggregate add up to a great deal of annoyance – I do, clearly, enjoy the show, and I’m looking forward to watching the Invasion unfold throughout the course of this season.

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