From Warner Bros. Animation and the newly minted streaming service DC Universe, the fan-favorite animated series Young Justice: Outsiders returns after nearly a six year hiatus. Season 3 boasts a huge cast of DC’s most iconic young superheroes along with brand-new characters, many of whom are just discovering their unique meta-powers and special abilities. The new season of Young Justice, now streaming, finds the title team’s heroes in a sort of transitional state in their lives, both personally and in their careers as superheroes. That offers up some fertile storytelling ground as alliances are forged and broken, reliable partnerships are fractured, and new heroes and villains alike come out of the woodwork, even early on.
Set against the backdrop of a rich, deep world that touches all corners of the DC universe, the heroes of Young Justice: Outsiders face the new, global threat of metahuman trafficking and an intergalactic arms race for control of these super-powered youths. The season’s opening trio of episodes does a fantastic job at establishing the new power dynamics among the heroes of the DC universe and the immediate threat posed by the trafficking ring. The story works equally well as both a contemporary commentary and as a thrilling adventure set within the many worlds of DC Comics. Young Justice: Outsiders is a welcome return for the animated series which should please new and returning fans alike.
Before we get into the new season, it’s worth giving a brief recap of the story so far; you can also get caught up by watching the available episodes at DC Universe. Over the two previous seasons, viewers watched along with the covert team comprised of Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy as they took on missions that their counterparts in the Justice League couldn’t handle for one reason or another. The team, formed by Batman, trained by Black Canary, and managed by Red Tornado, soon add Superboy to their roster (after rescuing him from Cadmus Labs), along with Miss Martian and Green Arrow’s protege, Artemis. Throughout their adventures, they run up against the powerful and mysterious cabal of supervillains known as the Light, and they learn that a spy from this organization is embedded within their own.
Five years after they solve that particular problem, the team has a few shake-ups: Robin is now Nightwing and he leads the team alongside Superboy and Miss Martian, overseeing newcomers Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Tim Drake’s Robin, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Lagoon Boy, Wonder Girl, and Impulse, after Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Artemis left the team for their own reasons (at least the latter two got to adopt a pit bull before tragedy struck…). However, the Justice League has problems of its own. Some of its members who, while under control of the Light, were responsible for attacking a peaceful planet have gone into a self-imposed off-world exile. An attempted alien invasion of Earth brings all sorts of alien life to the planet; humanity begins to shift their faith from the protectors in the exiled Justice League to supposed peace-bringers of the Reach. An epic clash between Young Justice, the Reach, and the Light ends in a surprising fashion, with DC Comics’ big bad Darkseid revealed in a Season 2 cliffhanger stinger.
But wait, there’s more! Before we jump to Young Justice: Outsiders, you should know that there’s a new comic that covers the middle ground between the old seasons and the new one. THR had an early look at “Young Justice: Outsiders – Chapter 1”, the prequel series written by showrunner Greg Weisman, with art by Christopher Jones, that’s also available on DC Universe. The prequel comic is expected to fill in some of the gaps in the story while also offering up original tales like Batgirl, Superboy, and Miss Martian going after the powerful psychic Psimon.
Now, let’s get into Young Justice: Outsiders! From the outset, it’s good to know that you’ll be getting a brief glimpse of many of your favorite superheroes early on. The Justice League’s senior members once again have a conflict on their hands that will take them out of the action as far as Young Justice is concerned, but it’s a unique and problematic situation that will strain their bonds and test their new leader,
Aqualad Aquaman. But even though the show shifts focus to the younger heroes, the first three episodes center on a somewhat more unexpected team: Nightwing, who’s taking a bit of a break from teamwork to go on some solo missions with the help of overseer Oracle; Superboy, who’s feeling the pressure to rise to his potential with Superman off-world; Artemis, still going by the alias of Tigress; and, surprise, surprise, Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning. This member of the Justice League is forced to the sidelines by a tragic incident on the planet Rann, an event that not only has bigger ramifications for the overall story but also gives Pierce a personal hurdle to overcome.
The first three episodes–“Princes All”, “Royal We”, and “Eminent Threat””–focus on this cobbled-together team and spares little time to check in on other heroes. Fans will get to see a bit of Beast Boy mugging for the camera (and professional interviewer Courtney Whitmore) and acting in anti-metahuman trafficking PSAs, while supporting players like G. Gordon Godfrey, Cat Grant, and even UN ambassador Lex Luthor (!) and his cohorts also have parts to play. But the main thrust of the action will put the team on the trail of missing metahumans who are being abducted and trafficked all over the world. That investigation will take them to the far-off nation of Markovia where upheaval within the country, its borders, and the royal family itself will shape the future of the world.
Luckily, the Young Justice team members are more than up to the challenge of ferreting out the culprits behind the scenes of the trafficking, discovering just what the purpose of kidnapping metahumans really is, and dealing with surprise villains who show up, possibly on behalf of the Light. When it comes to their own personal character development, however, Young Justice is a bit more lacking in this department. We get snippets of inner monologues and personal conflicts, but the main focus here is on the Markov family (which should be familiar to DC Comics’ fans, though this show changes the mythology up a bit) and relatively obscure heroes and villains who get a bigger part to play in this story. (There’s one character by the name of Thirteen who has been teased in the marketing but doesn’t show up in the early goings of this series just yet.)
This is a fantastic first arc for the returning series, and the action, the intrigue, and the stakes are guaranteed to rise from here on out. We’ve got 26 episodes to look forward to, after all. With the first three alone, Young Justice: Outsiders is off to a super start, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
It’s worth mentioning the fantastic cast who turns in remarkable performances this season: Troy Baker as Brion Markov and Simon Ecks; Steve Blum as Henchy; Denise Boutte as Lynn Stewart-Pierce; Crispin Freeman as Will Harper and Gregor Markov; Bruce Greenwood as Batman and Viktor Markov; Grey Griffin as Helga Jace, Ana Von Furth/Plasmus; Stepanie Lemelin as Artemis Crock and Computer; Jason Marsden as Kid Flash; Vanessa Marshall as Black Canary and Ilona DeLamb-Markov; Jesse McCartney as Nightwing/Dick Grayson; Danica McKellar as Miss Martian/Megan Morse; Masasa Moyo as Cat Grant; Nolan North as Superboy/Conner Kent, Superman, and Frederick DeLamb; Jacqueline Obradors as Alanna; Khary Payton as Aqualad/Aquaman, Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce; Maggie Q as Wonder Woman; Alyson Stoner as Oracle; James Arnold Taylor as G. Gordon Godfrey; Alan Tudyk as Green Arrow; Mae Whitman as Wonder Girl; Greg Cipes as Garfield Logan; Zehra Fazal as Dead Girl/Halo Girl; Yuri Lowenthal as Garth and Zviad Baazovi; Mark Rolston as Lex Luthor and Sumaan Harjavti; and Whitney Moore as Courtney Whitmore.