Young Justice is the show that just won’t die and I mean that in the very possible best way. From its beginnings as a cartoon network show that got nudged off the network due to kids not wanting to buy cheaply-made crap toys and because Teen Titans Go was a spreading cancer that was pushing quality off the air, it has both transcended and grown into something almost unrecognizable and, yet… even better.
The long-awaited third season of Young Justice, known as Young Justice: Outsiders debuted on DC Universe and, in every conceivable measure, knocked it out of the park. Young Justice – and here I go spreading heresy, I’m sure – is the best animated DC show ever. Yes, it’s better than Batman: The Animated Series, better than Justice League and, yes… it’s even better than the Plastic Man Comedy Show.
I don’t mean that as an insult because they are all fine shows… except for Plastic Man. That was a joke on my part. That show was pure butt.
So, what makes Young Justice such a good show? One could argue that it takes the DC Universe and makes it more expansive than it has ever been before and that is counting Justice League. Young Justice gives every facet of the DCU a chance to shine from the big guns of the Justice League to the little-known guns of Milestone Comics (I mean, seriously… Icon? Who remembers Icon?). Where the other DC shows seemed afraid to give us this world, doing so in cautious pieces or slap-dashed fashions that changed everything we liked about them in the first place, Young Justice isn’t afraid to say, “You want Static? You got Static. Plastic Man and Elongated Man? Sure thing! Three Green Lanterns? Not a problem.”
What’s more is that the Young Justice DCU is a universe that continues to change and grow. People die and stay dead while others move on, switch roles, get promoted or demoted. This is a universe that actually looks at change and evolution and nods its head frantically and enthusiastically and never is that more apparent than in the episode where Nightwing hallucinates and imagines the original team fighting the bad guys with him. It was both a wonderful moment of nostalgia and a look back at how far these characters have come.
What is also great about Young Justice is that it does not waste its characters — everyone is on the team for a specific storytelling reason and everyone has a chance to shine. Halo, Cyborg, Terra, Geoforce, Forager, Beast Boy… they all have important roles to play and aren’t just there for fan service. What’s more, even the old guard like Superboy manage to find new reasons to stick around.
I guess the thing that excited me most about this season, now that it is off network television and free from broadcasting restraints, the show has gotten decidedly more mature. Normally, with a lesser show, that would be the occasional curse word and more violence which, honestly… Young Justice: Outsiders does, but it’s never there for the sake of being there. The storyline is a lot more mature, dealing with human trafficking with a superhero twist. One of the characters goes through a very intense arch where he causes the death of a child – which is something this show would have never gotten away with on regular television. The relationships between characters is more adult, the emotional turmoil many of them face, especially with Artemus coming to terms with Wally’s death, feels very real.
You may not agree with me that it’s the best DCU animated series, but it is the most human of them all.
So, yes… a very satisfying return for Young Justice and, with a fourth season on the way and the promise of the debut of another superhero team I’ve got a soft spot for, the new season cannot come fast enough.
I am definitely feeling whelmed.