New series. New team. New mysteries.
When Young Justice was cancelled at the end of its second season, there was much crying on the internet as fans bemoaned that season two would never, ever be released on Blu-ray. I don’t know what that was all about, because here’s season two on Blu-ray.
Five years have passed since the first season of Young Justice season one. Key members of the Justice League still have gaps in their memories from when their minds were being controlled. Now, it’s revealed that the League attacked an alien world during their blackouts, so the chief leaguers take off into space to face trial for what they had done. While they’re away, it’s discovered aliens are preparing a massive invasion of Earth.
The protection of the Earth falls to a bunch of league second stringers, and, more importantly, the young “don’t call them sidekicks” team. Superboy (Nolan North, Assassin’s Creed) and Miss Martian (Danica McKellar, The Wonder Years) are now in a leadership role for newbies like Blue Beetle (Eric Lopez), Beast Boy (Logan Grove), Lagoon Boy (Yuri Lowenthal, Ben 10 Alien Force), Impulse (Jason Marsden), Wonder Girl (Mae Whitman, Arrested Development), Batgirl (Alyson Stoner, Camp Rock), Bumblebee (Masasa Moyo, Angels and Demons), among several others.
As for the other members of the team, the ones from five years ago, their lives have seen many changes.
The first season of Young Justice was a sublime superhero adventure — a huge, sweeping epic with a ton of characters that criss-crossed the entire DC universe, but one that tied everything together neatly and satisfyingly at the end. Rather than just repeat themselves, the show’s creators have skipped five years of continuity, establishing the characters all at new places in their lives, while introducing a ton of new young heroes. On one hand, it’s great to see the writers and animators showing huge ambition, but on the other hand, the show has lost some of what made it work as well as did.
Let’s start with the positive. Young Justice continues to make great use of the DC universe as its sandbox, using locales both real and fictional to create a superhero world that could almost be the world we live in, superhumans notwithstanding. The action scenes are nicely varied. Because there are so many characters with so many power sets, the animators have come up with a vast number of ways for them to use their powers in combat, while also devising challenges for them to think their way through problems rather than punching through them. The humor works, as well. This is not an overly comedic show, but there are a lot of humorous lines of dialogue, which are not only funny but inform the characters and their histories. Comic book fans will no doubt dig the little shout-outs and references to stories’ past, some of which are delightfully obscure.
For all there is to enjoy about the show, something feels missing. The first season, despite its broad scope, kept to a single emotional through-line the entire time. The young heroes sought the respect of their elders, and all the fighting and craziness all came back to that one goal. This second season brings much the same fighting and craziness, but that emotional through-line is lost. Everything that drives the characters is purely plot-based. They’ve got to stop the alien invasion, that much is certain, but the personal, character-based drive isn’t evident. They’re fighting the aliens because…they’re the superheroes and that’s it. This makes the heroes we grew to love in the first season feel less like real people and more like blank cyphers.
The season-long plot is ambitious, but it could be argued that it is so ambitious that viewers will be lost. We begin with aliens called Kroloteans invading the Earth, but then they’re dumped for the main alien baddies, called the Reach, who get involved with a conspiracy of Earth villains called the Light. The second-to-last episode has all the villains meeting for a summit, and it’s headspinning to see so many DC villains in one scene. For our heroes, there are also a number of subplots to add to your scorecard. In the latter half of the season, Blue Beetle pretty much takes over as the main character. A lot of what goes on centers around him and his discovery of two others, Black Beetle and Green Beetle (I guess the Beetles decided the Lanterns shouldn’t have all the color-coded fun). What this means is that the mainstays like Superboy, Kid Flash, and Miss Martian keep getting pushed to the sidelines, even though these are the ones the show is supposed to be centered around.
Despite the overly-complicated season-long plot, there are moments in which Young Justice: Invasion succeeds. The five-year jump finds Aqualad in a different place in his life, which pushed his character into a lot of dark places. Also, life and death is a real concern, and there are a number of you-can’t-go-back-again plot points which show just how huge the invasion crisis is.
All 20 episodes of the second season are on this two-disc set. The show continues to look great for its made-for-weekly TV animation budget, which shines on Blu-ray with bright, vibrant colors. The 2.0 sound is decent, with clean dialogue and booming explosions. Two episodes get commentaries from the producers and voice actors, in which everyone shows great affection for their own show. There’s also a short interview featurette with the producers, who discuss the changes they’ve made to the show for its second season.
A mixed superhero bag. I appreciated Young Justice: Invasion more than I liked it. It has huge sweeping ambition, with a lot of action and humor, which is good, but it’s so busy and plot based that it’s hard to connect with what’s happening on screen.
For fans only.