Young Justice Season 1, Episodes 7 & 8
SUMMARY: The Young Justice League infiltrate a magic tower in order to help Kent Nelson AKA Dr. Fate. Wally attempts to convince everyone that magic isn’t real and that they are all delusional. In the end, he doesn’t really learn anything.
Margaret: This episode is, I guess, the magic episode. We’ve already seen Zatara, but this is the first time magic is really shown in the series.
Margaret: I mean, it was a very weird episode that doesn’t seem to have a real purpose. It’s sort of to put Wally up against something to have him come out having learned something.
Syd: BOO! This episode sucks! BOOOO!
Margaret: I’m not sure if I’d go so far to say this episode sucks! But, it’s not really one I felt made much of an impact. It could just be that this is a Wally-centric episode and I really don’t like Wally.
Syd: This episode is based around a fantasy trope that I absolutely hate. In a world where magic is a real, observable, demonstrable thing that exists, you have a rational, scientifically minded character who stupidly and superstitiously doesn’t believe in magic. Wally has been well established on this show as an idiot, but here he is cast in the role of the guy who doesn’t believe in magic because he understands science. I know that in the real world, scientists are human beings with their own belief systems, but clinging to a belief system against all available evidence is irrational and unscientific. Writers who do stories like this don’t seem to understand how science works in the real world. Scientists don’t disbelieve magic because they have a science religion that doesn’t allow witchcraft, nor because they can’t deal with uncertainty. The scientific method is entirely predicated on uncertainty. The reason scientists don’t believe in magic is because they study phenomena deemed magical and the things that work are no longer called magic. “Magic” is just things that either aren’t real or aren’t explained. In a world in which magic – be it in the form of astral projection or psychic phenomena or incantations with reality warping capabilities – is real and observable, it would just be another field of study for scientists to research. I can see someone who understands SCIENCE! not understanding MAGIC! the same way a psychologist might not have very deep knowledge of astronomy, but a psychologist who doesn’t believe in astronomy is absolutely moronic.
Margaret: Right. Magic in our modern world is something that doesn’t actually exist, but he’s seen examples of magic and the occult. Maybe he would classify it as something more scientific, but to flat out deny that it exists at all is ridiculous. Then again, Wally is pretty ridiculous.
Part of me wonders if it’s the old Religion vs. Science chestnut, with magic being the convenient stand in for religion. If so, just ughhh. I think that may just be reading way too much into it, though.
Syd: I could see this episode symbolically being about the conflict between knowledge and faith, but if so, it’s ill-conceived. I mean, I don’t want to come off as anti-religious – nothing could be further from the truth – but in the world of this show, magic doesn’t require faith. Someone in our world trusting in God and offering prayers requires religious faith. It’s not the same thing if you live on Asgard and hang out with Thor.
We start with a shot of Dr. Fate’s helmet, which I guess is supposed to get us excited or something.
Margaret: Though, we would have to know what that helmet is. I certainly didn’t. I thought it might be The Guardian’s helmet at first.
Syd: An old man – Kent Nelson, formerly of the Justice Society (a similar but legally distinct entity to the Justice League, once from a different universe, but now its precursor) – goes to a psychic named Madame Xanadu trying to contact his late wife Inza. He is incensed that she is claiming to be a genuine psychic while using wind machines (saving him from explaining cold reading and scam artists’ less visually obvious tricks). He is turning to walk away when he is accosted by Abra Kadabra, and they all disappear. Then the cold open ends.
Margaret: Meanwhile, in the Justice Cave, Superboy and Kaldur are sparring. Superboy is actually shirtless for the fight, which I thought would have Megan blushing far more. However, she and Artemis are gossiping about who the other should ask out. I really like how much the girls get along. There’s no real sense of rivalry there. They may both think Superboy is pretty cute – especially with his shirt off – but they’re friends. I’m also glad they show they show that Superboy is keeping up his training with Black Canary. It’s a little nod and starts getting Superboy back into my good graces again.
Syd: Here is where I have my first criticism of something Megan does. When they’re talking about boys, Megan totally tries to fob Wally off on Artemis. Megan has been politely tolerating Wally until this point, but she clearly isn’t interested in him. If Artemis started dating him, that would eliminate competition for Superboy and get Wally off her back. Any pretense that she sincerely believes that they would be a good couple is lost when she tries to tell Artemis why they would be good together and she can’t even finish her sentence. They both have a good laugh about it.
Margaret: I think this is one of those things where the writers are trying to implant the idea of an Artemis/Wally ship. Or, more likely, it’s her trying to get Artemis’ mind off of Superboy shirtless.
Syd: Red Tornado enters and tells them that Kent Nelson, the sorcerer supreme of Earth has vanished. Red Tornado, of course, knows the phrase “sorcerer supreme” because he reads Marvel Comics
Margaret: You know, that is one of those things that I didn’t actually register, as I just thought, “Oh, he’s like Dr. Strange” without realizing that Dr. Strange doesn’t exist in this world. This is DC and not Marvel. So, yeah. That’s definitely a thing they stole.
Syd: Megan compares Kent to the sorcerer priests and priestesses of Mars, giving Wally – who moments earlier was calling him “Dr. Fake” – an in to talk about how into magic he is. Wally, you are a little slimeball. It’s one thing to pretend to share an interest – like if there’s a band that she’s really into but you don’t like much – but to blatantly lie and betray your most deeply held beliefs for a girl is not the foundation for a healthy relationship. What kind of relationship does he even want with Megan? Oh, God, don’t answer that.
Margaret: Wally is continually the worst. It’s like some Red Pill forum is giving him dating advice. ‘Lie about yourself to get into her pants!’ If he starts negging, I’m out.
Syd: The Young Justice crew goes to find Klarion the Witch Boy, who is holding Kent Nelson captive. Artemis and Wally suspect that the hideout is hidden using adaptive micro-opto-electronics and phase shifting. Klarion, of course, could use actual for-real magic to hide their hideout, but his accomplice Abra Kadabra was in fact using double-speak pseudoscientific bullshit to stay hidden.
In a world where Klarion exists, why would Abra Kadabra also exist? This is a world where magic is a real thing that people can study. There is no fucking way the impossible science that Abra uses was easier to research and develop than the actual magic he was trying to duplicate. This episode makes no damn sense.
Margaret: This episode sort of goes in the direction of plots I dislike, which is “would the bad guys have been in a point to succeed if the good guys didn’t show up?” I get that Red Tornado wants to check up on his friend, but giving six kids the super secret key to a hundred year old magician’s tower is probably not the best way to go about this. Have them investigate and try and figure things out on the street as opposed to giving them a key into a tower that is booby trapped up the wazoo and no guidance. That just seems irresponsible of him. If they didn’t have the key to the tower and opened it up to Abra Kadabra (and by the way, wow what a terrible name) and Klarion, would the bad guys have ever gotten near the helmet?
Syd: I’d be curious to know what Klarion’s Plan B was, if Young Justice hadn’t led him to the tower. I suspect it wasn’t that brilliant, considering that his Plan A involved enlisting the help of the utterly useless Abra Kadabra.
Margaret: Immediately, the kids are tested by a disembodied voice asking them what they are doing here. Wally, being a complete ass in his attempt to impress Megan, says, “We are true believers here to find Dr. Fate.”
Syd: Even if this was just high-tech trickery, as Wally believes, why the hell would saying you believe in magic unlock the door?
Margaret: Seriously! Just tell the hologram Red Tornado sent you to check up on his friend. That should be your first response! Of course, because Wally said the wrong thing, a pit opens up underneath them filled with fire and everyone starts to fall. They catch themselves as best they can, but the heat is making it impossible for them to climb or fly out. Eventually, Megan thinks to yell out that Red Tornado sent them and the floor turns to metal instead of fire, allowing them to all land safely.
Once they’re safe on the ground, Artemis outs Wally and calls him on his bullshit about lying to impress Megan. He’s not a true believer and him lying to the projection put them all in danger. Finally, he confesses and says he thinks magic is all fake, much to Megan’s disappointment. Kaldur talks about the magic of Atlantis and that the well established magic school helped make his water bearers.
Syd: Artemis can’t believe how Wally can disbelieve magic when he regularly does impossible things. Wally asserts that the things he does are scientifically explicable, and, in fact he gained his powers through scientific observation and experimentation, which allowed him to duplicate the Flash’s powers. This one line is significant, because this is the first time in the whole series where Wally comes off as intelligent and competent. It’s amazing how quickly that moment comes and goes and Wally gets back to arguing against his own empirical observations. This flies in the face of what we just learned about him. What happened to the scientific curiosity that led to him exploring why his Uncle Barry was so fast or the ingenuity that allowed him to figure out how to replicate it? Why must Wally carry the Idiot Ball?
Margaret: To be fair, Wally has had the Idiot Ball for most of the season, I guess they’re just carrying on with that tradition. This entire episode is a bit frustrating with bad choices going all around. For instance, because the kids used the key to show everyone where the magical tower is, Klarion and Abra are able to bring in a tied and gagged Kent. Abra has put a device on him that will speak with his voice to get through the magical traps. If the kids had never used the key, I doubt Klarion would managed to get through the door in the first place.
Syd: You are rapidly convincing me that if the kids had just stayed home, Klarion would have eventually given up and left and Superboy wouldn’t have lost his favorite boots to a lava trap.
Margaret: Back with the kids, Kaldur opens a door that should show them lava, but is instead a door to a snowy plane. Eventually, they find a walking stick, which both Wally and Artemis grab at once. Of course, it teleports the both of them elsewhere, because two people who bicker all the time are destined to be shipped together and therefore must be separated from the group. It could possibly work if only I liked Wally even a little bit.
Syd: Kaldur very patronizingly conjectures that Wally’s belief in science was a way for him to exert control over the world, and admitting that magic is real would mean relinquishing that control.
This is a problem with shared universes. For instance, in Superman comics, there was a time when magic didn’t exist in his world.
Here he is breaking up a magic show unprovoked because he’s a dick. Still, I think it’s coming from a positive place – showing that there are untrustworthy people and scam artists in our own lives. There is some weirdness in the fact that Scooby-Doo and The Phantom Stranger taught us to expect special effects stunt shows from conmen, which is a letdown in the real world. The problem comes when characters who live in a world with no magic meet characters who live in a magical world, revealing that magic is real in their reality, and making the character who didn’t believe in magic look like an idiot.
This episode goes the extra mile by actually portraying the guy who doesn’t believe in magic as an idiot, and then speaking dismissively of science to explain why only closed minded people could doubt magic. Actually, studying science on anything more than a cursory level requires an awareness of what isn’t known and a willingness to abandon previously established postulates. We shouldn’t belittle other people’s beliefs, but by the same token, we shouldn’t greet people with suspicion for not believing in magic.
Margaret: People should not be belittled for their belief, but as we were saying before, Wally is a scientist. He can be suspicious of magic and its realities – despite living in a world of magic – but he should also not close off his mind or, as he did in their argument, call Megan and Kaldur’s own beliefs primitive and wrong. Kaldur tells Wally of his own experiences with magic in crafting a weapon that Wally sees him use practically every day. Wally’s response is to tell him that, “Yeah, well, back in the caveman’s time fire was magic!” It’s a dick move. I can see Kaldur being upset with him.
Syd: Well, the episode seems to be drawing a straight line between Wally understanding a lot about science and him being a condescending asshole to his friends, when those are really two unrelated things.
Margaret: I’m annoyed that science gets placed on the side that is wrong in this episode. The title of this episode is Denial, meaning that Wally has to let go of his scientific beliefs and believe in magic. However, as you said before, it’s not that science is wrong. It’s Wally’s own narrow-minded view of what is quantifiable. Wally’s being used as a strawman to make a crack at science.
Syd: I’m curious about the impetus behind writing this episode. Was this written by someone who is deeply into magic and resents scientists’ failure to acknowledge or validate it, or by someone who thinks of magic as an entirely fictional concept and is unaware that anyone in reality believes in magic or is distrustful of science? Either way, this is wrongheaded and kind of sickening.
Margaret: Wally and Artemis appear on the magical form of Escher Steps, meaning that this show loves Labyrinth as much as I do. Through the magic of the walking stick, Kent is able to slip free of his bonds and rescue Artemis and Wally, taking them to elevator where actual elevator music happens. Kent talks about the love of his wife Inza and how she was a spitfire. Basically, he explains how Artemis and Wally are good for each other by speaking of his own relationship with his wife.
On the whole, I’m not against this. I definitely believe that couples should be able to push each other and make each other better and Artemis is someone who won’t let Wally get away with his shit. Generally, I like the trope of people who bicker at each other end up liking each other. I am a Pride and Prejudice girl, after all. I just wish that Wally wasn’t the worst.
Syd: Given who Wally is, they’re handling this ship really well. What I found interesting about this scene was Kent throwing Wally’s “Dr. Fake” comment back at him. How did he know Wally said that? I know, he has magic powers, but I find it hilarious that he seems to be using whatever cosmic awareness he has to keep tabs on who is talking shit about him.
Margaret: In the end, Klarion attempts to take the Dr. Fate helmet from Kent by throwing a tantrum and manages to mortally wound him. In a slow down of time, Kent explains that Dr. Fate is an entity known as Nabu who inhabits him. Kent implores Wally to believe and to put on the helmet in order to save everyone. Of course, he does. Dr. Fate takes over, defeats Klarion.
It’s at this point that he uses his power to shape an ankh, which is very strange. The ankh is an Egyptian symbol. Neither Kent nor Nabu are Egyptian. I know the ankh gets thrown around a lot as some form of pagan symbolism when you want to show something to be ‘mystical’, but I definitely had a moment of wondering why in the world he kept conjuring an Egyptian symbol for his shield.
Syd: It’s like those white people who get kanji tattoos. What a douchebag.
Margaret: After defeating Klarion, Nabu wants to stay in Wally’s body. Kent talks him out of it, Wally is returned to normal and Kent gives him the advice to find a spitfire of his own. Clearly, the show is pointing out that the spitfire is Artemis. Of course, Wally learns nothing from this encounter and instead puts the Dr. Fate helmet on his shelf and chases after Megan again. Because he’s Wally. But, speaking about dumb ideas, is the Fate helmet now inert? That’s an object that was protected by a lot of magical wards and that someone was willing to kidnap and torture a man for. Wally just has it out on his shelf like an asshole.
Syd: Do assholes really keep things on shelves?
Margaret: Of course, they’re just like everyone else. Just assholes.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Syd: D. I hated this episode. It was a slog to get through. But I can’t fail it. I keep thinking back to the season finale of Supergirl – which wasn’t even the worst episode of the series – and this one wasn’t even close to as bad. Even putting it on par with the Flashback episode might be needlessly harsh.
Margaret: D. I get that every character should have his own episode, but I just don’t like Wally. He was obnoxious from start to finish and didn’t even really seem to have a learning moment. Even Superboy – who has more of a reason to be a callous dick – changed after his character-centric episode.
SUMMARY: Kaldur’ahm is questioning whether he should remain a superhero on the surface world, when he longs to be in Atlantis with his love, Tula. The decision is taken out of his hands when he finds out that Tula is in a relationship with Kaldur’s best friend Garth and an attack by Black Manta convinces him that the world needs him as Aqualad.
Margaret: This episode focused mainly on Kaldur and his decision to either stay on the surface or return to Atlantis.
Margaret: While there was a lot of action, it was mainly character based, in fact it showed multiple vignettes of different characters and their emotional links to other people.
Syd: This episode is great!
Margaret: Yes! I really liked this episode. As we’ve said multiple times on this blog, you and I are very much here for characters and their development. This furthered multiple characters journey and they only really needed a few short scenes to do it. While it centers on Aqualad, there are important things that happen for the other characters. Also, Wally eats all of Jay Garrick’s ice cream. Because he continues to be the worst.
Syd: I have a soft spot in my heart for Aquaman lore and this episode was full of it.
Margaret: I have never read an Aquaman comic. My main exposure to Aquaman is through Jason Momoa. However, I really like Aqualad, so I’m glad to see some of his backstory and personal growth.
Syd: We start in Gotham City. The team is fighting Clayface – the bad guy made of clay and Oh! Dear Lord! Everyone is dead! Clayface is a big hulking monster! He’s gross and horrific! Batman comes in and electrocutes Clayface! And Clayface is melting! It’s grotesque and horrible! Oh, but it was just a hologram. Batman was using a hologram as a training exercise. He got the idea from X-Men comics.
Margaret: Batman does his research, even on alternate realities. Or he reads Marvel comics. He tells everyone to hit the showers – including Robin – so he can talk to Aqualad by himself. An astute detective, he tells Aqualad that he is not performing his duties as a leader effectively. He has his mind elsewhere. After a moment of automatic dismissal, he agrees. There’s someone on Atlantis that he has not forgotten. Batman tells him that he can live in two places, but he can only focus only on one. He should take some time to figure out where he really wants to be. It’s a very insightful Batman moment.
Syd: When Aqualad arrives in Atlantis, he meets with Aquaman, whom he addresses as “King Orin,” and my heart skips a beat because maybe some of Time and Tide or even The Atlantis Chronicles is still canon. Now, those of you who know comics might be shocked at this revelation that someone who started a Supergirl blog and then switched topics to Young Justice has read a lot of Peter David comics. Maybe after this is over, we will switch to Babylon 5 or Sir Apropos of Nothing.
Margaret: I am shocked. Shocked and amazed. Especially as I don’t really know what Peter David has written at all. Other than Young Justice. But, oh man, I would gladly do a Babylon 5 blog. I didn’t realize he wrote on that. Marcus rules!
Syd: Geez. I didn’t expect to strike an actual nerve. I was trying to name his serial works that would be harder to write a blog about – as opposed to Star Trek: The Next Generation or The Dark Tower.
Margaret: I would write a blog about ALL of these! Okay, I think I have found my next beloved author and it is Peter David.
Syd: Aqualad mentions that there is someone he would like to invite to dinner with them that night. Who could the lucky lady be? You must watch on to find out. I mean, or you could just wait until the next scene where he says her name. As he’s swimming to find Tula, we get our first look at Lagoon Boy. The first time I watched this episode, I didn’t even notice it, but after watching the whole series, it’s hard not to. So, stay tuned until this is relevant? It’s killing me not talking about this yet.
Margaret: I do remember that guy! I just have no idea who he is. But, now I’m looking out for him. His name and look makes me think a bit of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Syd: Yes! So, that’s a reference I don’t need to explain.
Margaret: As Kaldur keeps swimming, he comes across Cthulhu Junior, who is creating a history mural.
Syd: His name is Topo. He’s an octopus.
Margaret: An octopus with a body. And arms and legs! He is a mini-Cthulhu!
Syd: Yeah, that’s weird character design. But he’s just an octopus, not an eldritch horror.
Margaret: That is just what he wants you to think. That’s Young Justice Season 3 in the waiting. “In his house in Atlantis, Topo waits dreaming.” The mural he is working on is the backstory of how Kaldur became Aqualad. The King was in need of help and Kaldur and Garth came to his aid. He offered one of them the chance of mentorship and to become Aqualad. Kaldur took it, while Garth decided to stay and study sorcery. The whole thing had a very Greco-Roman mural feel, which I thought was a nice artistic choice.
Syd: For people who are just being introduced to Aquaman’s lore now, this serves as an origin story, although it leaves out a few details like who Kaldur was before he was Aqualad and what abilities Aqualad has. For people who already knew Aqualad from Teen Titans comics, or – more likely – the Teen Titans cartoon (because who the fuck reads comic books?) when Garth was Aqualad that Garth still exists and that Kaldur isn’t an alternate reality version of Garth nor a replacement for Garth, but this is just a reality where a coin flip came up heads instead of tails. I like that they made the effort to make the story accessible for fans who are new to the DC Universe as well as ones who had seen or read other interpretations, but generally it bothers me when a world is explained in relation to another world we are familiar with rather than on its own terms. It’s especially troublesome here, because the state of Garth is made clear in the rest of the episode and doesn’t really need to be explicated in the origin story, while other aspects of Kaldur’s world go unexplained, like exactly what job he is being trained for. Is it law enforcement? Rescue work? Espionage? Military? Maybe it’s political or diplomatic. Note that King Orin is the only Atlantean representative we have ever seen on the surface. Will that become part of Kaldur’s job? It’s hard to tell because “superhero” isn’t a well-defined job title and in our world kings don’t generally have apprentices.
Margaret: Maybe they expect him to be the arm of the sea on the surface world. It seems like they have things pretty in hand in Atlantis.
It’s surface world that’s a mess. Anyway, funnily, I know nothing about Aquaman or Aqualad, so this origin story actually seemed to be setting up the love triangle I was sure was going to happen with Kaldur’s special lady. To me, it was showing the fact that Kaldur was always going to choose duty while Garth wanted to remain close to Atlantis. So, it served two purposes!
Syd: The origin story also briefly mentioned Aquaman was fighting “The Ocean Master,” but didn’t explain who he was or what he wanted. I know who The Ocean Master is in Aquaman comics, but I will refrain from making reference to that until it is officially revealed in this cartoon, because, as this origin sequence demonstrates, some things are different in this cartoon’s world. You may say that because of his name, he obviously wants mastery of the ocean, but that’s ridiculous, because he’s already the Ocean Master. For the time being, I will assume that he holds an academic degree that is higher than the Ocean Bachelor and also that there is an Atlantean reality dating show called The Ocean Bachelor.
Margaret: Maybe he’s just studying to become the Ocean Doctor. I have no idea who he is in comics, and that reference completely flew over my head.
Syd: The Bachelor is a popular reality dating show on the surface world.
Margaret: Oh, you jerk. I meant the comic.
Syd: Kaldur meets back up with Tula and Garth, who are in the middle of a lesson being taught by Mera. Kaldur asks Tula to dinner, and she is apprehensive for a moment before she agrees. As Tula and Garth swim off together to another class, he says to her, “You have to tell him.” I just love how expressive the animation is. The look that Tula gives Garth when she is asked to dinner tells you the entire story between the two of them and the way Kaldur looks at Tula as she swims off tells you that he didn’t read that story at all.
Margaret: Yeah, it’s clear that things have been going on in Atlantis while he’s been gone and he kind of expected everything to remain the same. I don’t think we know how long Aqualad has been on the surface and away from Atlantis. I assumed it was for longer than right before the series started, but maybe it wasn’t. Either Kaldur is naive in thinking that without communicating to Tula for months she would wait for him forever, or Tula realized that Aqualad had another calling and started to move on. It’s possible both answers are right. It just seems weird to me that Kaldur expects Tula to have waited for him when she has clearly moved on.
Syd: Meanwhile, in Happy Harbor, Superboy is watching a TV that isn’t turned on. Megan asks him if he would like to help her make dinner. Superboy says, “No,” then goes to the kitchen to help her. Superboy is so adorably surly.
Margaret: This is probably one of my favorite scenes. Megan tosses food to Superboy and gets all the ingredients on him. She is embarrassed, tries to clean him up and then has the classic sitcom moment of being very close to him, looking up and they get lost in each other’s eyes. These two are so freaking cute together. I didn’t realize how much I actually shipped them until this moment. When J’onn J’onzz comes back in with Superboy on the couch covered in food with a TV that is off and Megan anxiously making food was just the highlight of the entire season to me.
Syd: I’m with you. I mean, stay tuned for more highlights this season, but that scene was so beautiful.
After that, we get introduced to the villain of this episode, and unless you watched Super Friends, or are some weirdo like me who actually read Aquaman comics, you wouldn’t know that this villain is Black Manta, because they never say his name. This is kind of a recurring problem with this show – there are some weak villains whose motivations or even identities are hidden from us. This is partially because the villains are part of a secret organization and more will be revealed later and partially because – like the MCU – the focus is on the protagonists and the villains often fall by the wayside. This isn’t entirely bad. When the heroes get a lot of focus, they become more fleshed out and we want to spend more time with them, but it becomes a problem when episode after episode, we don’t really know whom they are fighting or why.
Margaret: It’s not something I think about while watching the episode, as at the time I am usually engrossed in the plot. However, it really does become an issue when attempting to judge which of these people are involved with the Big Bad Light plot and which ones are just one off villains.
Syd: Meanwhile in Gotham, Robin is working out his aggression over Aqualad getting so much attention. If I didn’t know Robin was supposed to be 13, I would find this irritating, but as it is, it’s kind of endearing. Batman sees that Dick is frustrated and challenges him to a game of basketball as a way of bonding with him. Here’s my problem with this version of Batman: he’s too damn nice. Part of this might be my own problem. When I was a little kid, I watched reruns of the 60s Adam West Batman series and the 90s Kevin Conroy Batman: The Animated Series and they were both brilliant and spectacularly entertaining, but in both of them, Bruce Wayne was just about the least interesting character in the entire series. Batman Beyond was the first time when I cared about Batman or Bruce Wayne, but it was admittedly a non-traditional take on both. However, the Batman that exists in so much of pop culture consciousness – in the Tim Burton movies and so many comics – who is alternately brooding sadsack and out-of-control hyperaggressive testosterone junkie is one I actually find entertaining. Of course, he’s not admirable or likable that way, but I said entertaining. Granted, it works in small doses and I have never found a Batman comics series that I could follow for a full year, but – just as far as the character of Bruce Wayne – it’s better than in the actually well-written and well-rendered stories from television and, to a lesser extent, movies, where the more they try to get me to care about Bruce, the less interested I am. In short: Nice Guy!Batman is fucking boring.
Margaret: Well, if you find Nice Guy!Batman boring, you could alternatively see him as being expertly manipulative. He sees that Robin is getting frustrated about Batman paying attention to Kaldur and so he decides to smooth the way by playing basketball with him in order to keep a pliant teenager complacent. I mean, it is a little creepy to be spying on your charge through your spy cameras. But, then again, I like Semi Nice Guy Batman. You already have Superman being a dick, you can’t have all the regularly appearing Justice League members being jackasses.
Syd: At dinner, Mera announces that she’s pregnant. Kaldur is excited that there will be a new heir to the throne, then apologizes to the former heir, Orin’s brother Orm. Orm takes Kaldur’s poorly chosen words in stride and congratulates Mera himself. Those of you who watched the Justice League cartoon series might remember that Aquaman was introduced in an episode where Orm tried to kill his brother and nephew in a Lion King-like bid for rule of Atlantis. You are probably expecting some kind of treachery is in the works, but personally, I’d like to think that in this series Orm just has a more fulfilling life and is self-actualized enough that he doesn’t need the validation of ruling Atlantis.
Margaret: Honestly, that is definitely where I thought this was going. When there’s a baby announced and a brother gets displaced from the line of succession, I assume there’s going to be some attempted murder. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Unless it turns out he was really behind this all the whole time, as we don’t really know who the bad guy is right now.
Syd: You could make the argument that there is no narrative purpose to Orm even being on this show unless he’s secretly evil, but I’m holding out hope that this version of Orm is just a really cool guy who’s going to be a great uncle to little Arthur.
Margaret: Back in Central City, it’s Jay Garrick’s birthday, showing all the Flashes together to celebrate. Barry rushes around cleaning the dishes. Wally’s mother laments that Wally isn’t fast when it comes to clearing the table and Jay’s wife, Joan, commiserates – though she assures him she knows it’s only because he’s a retired speedster. Barry replies that Wally is certainly fast at eating dessert, as he has already eaten all of Jay’s birthday ice cream. Because he’s Wally.
Syd: You know, in the supplemental material, there’s some pseudoscientific bullshit about how Wally needs an excessive amount of calories to maintain his speed, but it is better to leave it at, “Because he’s Wally.”
Margaret: In Atlantis, Kaldur talks to Tula to tell her of his decision to stay there for her. She tells him that she is in a relationship with Garth now. Immediately, things in the palace start to explode.
Syd: I know it’s big and blatant, but I just love the symbolism here, when Kaldur’s world is blown to pieces by Tula’s admission, then the actual world is literally blown up by actual explosives. It’s touches like this that make this series worthwhile.
Margaret: People in black metallic helmets start shooting at the guards and it’s a full fledged attack on the city. Kaldur and Tula go to help out at the palace. Mera is a magical badass and Garth almost gets himself shot, but Tula jumps in the way, taking the blast instead of him. They find out that the only sector not hit is the science sector, which has a giant sea star thing. Kaldur goes off by himself to try and protect it.
Syd: Protecting it doesn’t go very well. After a big climactic fight scene, Black Manta blows up the giant starfish. So I guess that’s the last we’ll ever see of that.
Margaret: Well, they leave a little nubbin of an arm, which Orm will continue to try and study. And who the hell is Black Manta again? Back in Gotham City, Artemis is working on her arrows when her mother excitedly gives her mail that declares that she has been accepted to Gotham Academy on the Wayne Foundation scholarship.
Syd: Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that her letter of admission shows her full name – Artemis Crock. Of course, if you’re reading this blog, you will recognize that name from two episodes ago when I mentioned it. I kind of like how they are portioning out information on Artemis. As a comics reader, I’m sort of weary of the trope of having one character on a superhero team who has a mysterious past, especially when she’s a teenager, and how much history can you have in 16 years? Still, I am a sucker for mysteries and I love just keeping track of what information we’re given in what order and how it affects how we see the character.
Margaret: I do like a good mysterious past for a character. Though, I also find it pretty funny that the woman who has the dark mysterious past is also the one who uses her real name as her codename.
Syd: In this scene, we meet Artemis’ mother, who seems to be an immigrant based on her unidentifiably Asian accent. Of course comics readers may recognize Paula Crock from… wait, let me check Wikipedia… Young All-Stars? What the fuck is Young All-Stars? Ok, I will come clean – I have never read a comic with this character in it and Wikipedia is fucking terrible for looking up information about comics characters you’ve never heard of. Anyway, according to the DC database, Paula Crock from … Justice Society? Sensation Comics? … was a caucasian American. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a few episodes before I can discuss why they made the creative decisions they did.
Margaret: I am fine with shows expanding their diversity and drawing previously caucasian characters as people of color, even if there is no real reason to it. I also really like that it’s basically confirmed to show that Artemis is a woman of mixed race heritage. True, we don’t know who her father is, but I will assume that if she is a blonde woman who can credibly pass for Oliver Queen’s niece with no one commenting that that’s weird, I am going to think that there is a mixed-race component. Unless, of course, she’s adopted. That’s also a possibility. Honestly, I was kind of hoping her mother would turn out to be Shado. That’s a character I know!
Syd: Frankly, I’m glad they’re expanding the pool of ethnic characters rather than returning to the same few for every role – especially ones as problematic as Shado.
Margaret: I can get that. I only know the character from Arrow. I liked her character in the show, though they did handle her a bit problematically there, too.
Syd: Paula is pushing Artemis to enroll at Gotham Academy, expressing regret at the opportunities she never had in life. Of course, we don’t know her story, but I would assume her regrets in some way relate to her being wheelchair bound. The point is, as soon as Paula started crying, Artemis caved in and agreed to enroll. So, we know that Artemis is kind of a pushover and that her mother is controlling her through guilt.
Margaret: After the battle with the black helmets, it’s shown that Garth is a capable fighter and would have made a good Aqualad, but he’s far more interested in his studies and doesn’t want to leave Atlantis, while Kaldur is driven by other things: his sense of duty, his need to help others. Now I can see what you’re saying about the Garth vs. Kaldur as Aqualad. The episode was sort of showing why Kaldur fit the role better in this world.
Syd: Before Kaldur returns to the surface world, Kaldur asks Garth if he ever wonders what would happen if he had become Aqualad, to which Garth says, “Never.” They are really impressing on us the importance of Kaldur having become Aqualad in this reality instead of Garth. I now suspect that every difference between the Teen Titans and Young Justice cartoons was a result of that choice. I have to assume that at some point, Kaldur had adventures in Azarath and Tamaran that somehow prevented Raven and Starfire from coming to Earth. He also saved Vic Stone from the accident that made him a cyborg and gave Robin and Speedy different haircuts.
Margaret: Also, unlike what we saw in Justice League, Aquaman has both his hands and it looks like Orm is a good guy. It seems like Atlantis is a happier place with Kaldur as Aqualad. Not so sure about the rest of the world.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Syd: A. This was an all-around enjoyable episode with nice little character moments that really help you understand all of the characters – especially Kaldur.
Margaret: I’m at an A, too! The scene with Megan and Superboy alone would have been worth an A grade. I liked the peek into their lives outside of the Young Justice League. Those are, often, the more interesting moments to me.