Young Justice Season 1, Episode 22
SUMMARY: When Superboy is called to Project Cadmus to see a new Superman clone, he learns shocking truths about his own origin. Meanwhile, the Justice League discusses inducting new members.
Syd: The episode starts with Wonder Woman’s first spoken line. Then, we get the full Justice League meeting to vote on new members.
Margaret: And adding to that, I like that Diana wants more women in the league.
Syd: Yeah, especially since before this episode only one had spoken. We still haven’t heard from Hawkwoman.
Margaret: That is a bummer! I really like Hawkwoman on the Justice League cartoon and the fact that she’s not represented here at all is – I guess – understandable as there is no hawk protege. But, the only female adult mentor, really, is Black Canary. Black Canary is amazing, but you need more than one female mentor to round out a team. Especially when there are no less than four dudes and a robot that round out the mentorships of the Team.
Syd: Well, Superman wants a more diverse League, nominating Icon, who is both a black man and an alien.
Margaret: That’s because he thinks he’s a Kryptonian!
Syd: And there’s only one of them on the League!
Margaret: I feel like that’s heroic false equivalency, honestly!
Syd: Anyway, back in Mt. Justice, the Team is preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Zatanna starts crying, which at first she blames on the onions before mentioning that this is her first holiday without her father. Apparently, Zatara really liked onions.
Margaret: I really like that Megan and Zatanna had a comforting moment here. As we’ve seen from the Justice League mentors, they don’t seem to have a lot of female mentorship and I like that they are helping and supporting each other.
Syd: Lex Luthor contacts Superboy on a frequency that is inaudible to humans (and apparently Martians, Thanagarians, and Terminans). Lex tells him, “Only one thing alive with less than four legs can hear this… and that’s you,” which is a direct quote from Superman: The Movie. I’m kind of disappointed to hear Lex reusing material. It kind of gives the impression that he has a few villainous speeches memorized that he just recites to any superhero.
Margaret: Of what I’ve seen of Lex? He seems like the kind of guy that recites evil speeches in the mirror and then just says them when he finds the opportunity. However, I get why Superboy has to figure out why this is the case.
Syd: I understand why Superboy wants to find out what’s going on, but I feel like going to meet with Lex Luthor alone should feel like an obvious trap. Of course, it does lead to the slick character moment of Lex extending his hand for Conner to shake and Conner crossing his arms, which is the kind of quick relationship-establishing business that I love this show for.
Margaret: Lex reveals himself to be the chairman of the board of Cadmus. This becomes a contention as it seems incredibly likely that Lex had a significant hand in creating not just Conner, but other projects.
Syd: I said way back in the pilot that I’m not thrilled with Cadmus being evil. Sure, there’s a lot you can do with an evil genetics laboratory, but Cadmus as it was originally conceived was fascinating and very unusual among science fiction research facilities. Now, this is the second time we’ve seen Lex Luthor specifically working with Project Cadmus (the first being in Justice League Unlimited). This makes a certain amount of sense if you want your version of Project Cadmus to be morally questionable, since Lex Luthor is the most prominent morally questionable scientist in this corner of the DC Universe, but it also makes no sense because even the evil versions of Project Cadmus primarily make more superheroes, which is exactly the opposite of Lex’s stated goals.
Margaret: I like the idea of Cadmus being morally complicated. That seems like an interesting plot point: a place that wants to do good but also has dark secrets. That seems to be where they’re trying to take Cadmus once Superboy investigates. They’re trying to be better, to use science for the good of the world – they say.
Syd: At this point, Guardian removed his helmet, revealing Roy Harper’s face – or something close to it. You see, Guardian is Roy’s uncle Jim Harper. I should point out that Jim and Roy Harper were created at different times by different people for different series and were not intended to be related. I shouldn’t make a big deal about this series trying to justify their connection, but since Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’m a bit leery of plot points that revolve around characters coincidentally having the same name.
More importantly, though, I have so much trouble keeping track of who in this series has secret identities and whom they are secret to. Does Guardian revealing his relationship to Roy jeopardize Roy’s secret identity? Does Roy even have a secret identity? At one point, Ollie did just call him “Roy” in front of everyone. Maybe his identity is known? Or maybe Jim only revealed his relationship to Roy because Conner indicated that he knew what Roy’s face looked like. If that’s the case, then is Jim’s identity secret? I would have assumed it was just because he covers his whole face, but maybe the helmet is just for protection. If that’s the case, then why is he the only one who wears a helmet around the workplace?
Margaret: As Superboy continues his search for the supposed other Kryptonian Clone, he has a mental conversation with Dubbilex, who reminds him that he had a hand in Conner’s escape. And, despite the Justice League freeing all genomorphs, they are not free to roam the surface as he is. They’re still trapped at Cadmus, now doing menial labor as opposed to truly being free. It seems so clear that this is a reference to American Reconstruction after the Civil War. It’s an interesting touchstone with this group of disenfranchised characters and one I kind of wish we got into more in depth.
Syd: Yeah, it’s this thread that’s left hanging, but I really like that it’s unsettlingly there. Hopefully it will be picked up at some point.
Margaret: I hope so, too! Instead, though, Superboy is entirely focused on finding this supposed clone that Lex Luthor warned him about. He goes back to the chamber the Team found him in and Wolf uncovers a secret door through what looks to be weird muscle growths on the wall. Through it, there are endless rows of glass cases of what seem to be frozen and discarded experiments. It’s a little like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In the middle, Conner finds a tube that is much like his, labelled Project Match. He, as he promised, immediately opens the cryochamber and – much like Superboy did to the others – the man inside attacks him immediately.
Syd: This version of Match is quite different from the version that first appeared in Superboy #36. In that comic, Match was shown to be Superboy’s superior in all of his abilities, even being smarter than Superboy:
Rather than being completely out-of-control as he is in this cartoon, he was completely under the control of his creators, the Agenda (after whom this episode was named). The comic mostly dealt with the moral issues raised with creating a sentient being with no free will. The version in the cartoon carries his own set of moral questions, but this episode doesn’t really dwell on them. I don’t really have a problem with the way he’s used in this series, except that I think there is a lot of potential to this character that isn’t fully explored.
I will say that I respond worse to portrayals of Match the more he’s made out to be a Bizarro version of Superboy. There have already been multiple Bizarro Superboys, and that’s not even really who Match is. I don’t know why you would take a character who has his own role and personality and change him to be more like a character that already exists. This version of Match really isn’t a Bizarro – he isn’t a whimsical deconstruction of Superboy, nor is he Superboy’s opposite – so why ascribe to him bits of Bizarro Superman’s iconography, like the backwards S on his chest?
Margaret: Hilariously, Superboy continues the trend of being the Kirk of this series by losing his shirt whenever he can – even if it is his clone doing it. Unable to stand the sight of the S on his chest, Match rips off part of his outfit, leaving a boob window just like his cousin, Power Girl.
Syd: As much as I think the backwards S is lame, I love that they make it hardcore by having Match sear it onto his own chest with his flame eyes. It’s the kind of Blockbuster’s-skin-ripping off touch that makes this series special.
Margaret: Back at the Justice League meeting, they are still debating members. Green Arrow pushes hard for Roy to become a member, as he’s now 18. The rest worry about the precedent, as he’s been moody and whiny. Dr. Fate also brings up the fact that he possessed both Kaldur and Wally and they are fine choices. Diana, rightfully, then brings up the fact that it also makes Zatanna a contender. Dr. Fate vehemently disagrees, leading the team to believe that there is still some influence of Zatara.
Syd: I was paying attention to Dr. Fate’s voice, because now that Zatara is his host, he should have an Italian accent. I can say for certain that Kevin Michael Richardson’s Nabu voice has no Italian accent, but it kind of overpowered Nolan North’s Zatara voice under it, so I couldn’t even tell if he was still doing the accent. With the attention to detail on this series, I’m sure that either way it was a deliberate choice – whether Nabu’s voice overrules Zatara’s or if Zatara’s voice was still constant underneath – but I couldn’t tell which was the case.
Margaret: I like that this is a thing we can bring up and discuss on this show: the fact that the Italian accent of Zatara is or is not incorporated into Dr. Fate because of the level of detail the team puts into it. We know it’s not a mistake, it’s a deliberate choice.
Syd: Anyway, the next candidate is Plastic Man. Billy starts cracking up at his mere suggestion. I guess he’s a Kyle Baker fan.
Margaret: Billy’s immature laughing at Plastic Man bring up the fact that he is not technically eligible to be a member, as he’s only ten years old. It’s a completely valid point. As Aquaman rightly states: Despite looking like an adult and having the wisdom of Solomon, that doesn’t mean he’s mature. And Wonder Woman has another good point, even if he qualifies technically, he still lied to the entire League.
Syd: Well, Batman knew how old he was and was fine with it. And he decided that everyone else should be, too, so he took the decision out of their hands. That’s how Batman rolls.
Margaret: So, I guess we now have an answer as to how many of the members know each other’s secret identities. At the very least, they didn’t know Billy’s.
Syd: That sort of bothers me, because some of the League know each other’s secret identities, which must foster mistrust towards those whose identities they don’t know. And nobody should trust Batman, because he apparently knows all sorts of important things he isn’t telling anyone.
Margaret: And, as Wonder Woman said (and I yelled about episodes ago), Batman is not adverse to having a ten year old put his life in danger, because he had Dick as Robin when he was nine. That’s so messed up.
Syd: It’s really sweet that Batman had the pat answer ready that he needed Robin not to end up like him, but that doesn’t excuse Batman for all of the shady things he does because of the way he is.
Margaret: After the fight with Match, Superboy wakes up in a pod. Understandably he freaks out about that, but it is explained it was the fastest way to heal him. When left alone, he and Lex talk and it is revealed that Match can fly and is stronger because he has full Kryptonian DNA, but it drove him insane. Superboy is saner, but he also has human DNA. Lex gifts him shields that will ‘suppress’ his human DNA to make him more Kryptonian and therefore stronger.
This comes into something both interesting and problematic about Genomorphs as well as Superboy and Match. Genomorphs have very clearly been aligned with Reconstructionist Slavery, this is only strengthened by the fact that Dubbilex shows Superboy the Genomorph City, a hidden place where Genomorphs can live free. He even makes reference to the fact that ‘he has a dream’.
This is an interesting and relevant comparison, but that leads to a few – almost certainly unthought of – problems in the importance of Superboy’s human DNA component compared to Match’s. I get that Match is a special case and the rest of the Genomorphs are not incapable of rational thought when faced with the Superman S, but this is still the crux fight in the episode and it leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I think it’s commentary that Superboy – with his human DNA – is the only genomorph who can successfully integrate into the world outside of Cadmus. The fact that the genomorph with no human DNA is apparently genetically defective is an unfortunate and uncomfortable fall out from how they have framed both Superboy and the Genomorphs’ plight.
Syd: When Match regains consciousness, he immediately attacks Superboy – as apparently he had been conditioned to attack Superman. When Match couldn’t be subdued, it becomes apparent that Conner can’t take him in a fight and he has to use the shields to access his full powers. Despite succumbing to the temptation of this series’ performance enhancing drug metaphor, he still gets his shirt ripped off and lasers shot into his eyes, which was all sorts of gross. Conner wins the fight, but keeps punching Match until he is stopped by Guardian.
Margaret: Here we find out that Lex Luthor is actually a founding member of Cadmus. This is probably why he could feed into his stalker cameras throughout the episode without any other commentary. Then, we see a smash cut to Match put back in his container and being iced ‘for his own good’.
Syd: In this episode, much like the comic where Match debuted, the decision of what to do with Match is taken out of Conner’s hands. This bothers me a little. There are certain questions that really could be explored, like what responsibility Conner has to Match, whether Match can be rehabilitated, and what kind of life Match could have outside of the cloning facility. I think that could make a good story, but I guess we’re not going to get it in this series.
Margaret: Outside, Superboy accuses Lex of initiating the cloning projects to take down Superman. Lex, smugly, brings up that he did and that Superboy has yet to put together the obvious fact. If he has human DNA and Lex is the one that initiated the project, who does he think was the donor? Immediately, the bombshell is dropped that Lex is Superboy’s other parent. He taunts that Superboy is far more like Lex than Superman: Conner believes in moral greys, takes incredibly questionable gifts from creepy dudes, does what he thinks is necessary to win.
Now, I just want a show with odd couple Superman and Lex Luthor trying to parent moody teenager Conner Kent. But I definitely know that’s not what the show was going for. Instead, it’s just so sad that neither of his parents care about him.
Syd: Lex cares about him.
Margaret: Lex wants to use him! He’s like that deadbeat dad that only returns because he figures out that his son gets drafted into the NFL. He’s totally in it for something.
Syd: And that’s the most he cares about anyone! So, logically, Lex cares about Conner as much as he cares about anyone in the world!
Of course, Superboy doesn’t take this news well. Before he can assault Mr. Luthor, though, Lex says, “Red Sun,” activating a post-hypnotic suggestion that freezes Superboy for several hours. And on that disturbing note, the episode ends.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Syd: A. It would be an A just for the Justice League meeting and how those characters play off of each other, but we also get a great Superboy story and see how he interacts with his co-father, Lex Luthor.
Margaret: I’m at a B+. I liked this episode a lot, but after the Megan episode, this one just felt slightly underwhelming. Finding out that Superboy’s other father is Lex Luthor is great, as is the fact that he has a code word trigger, but I found Match to be a bit too convenient. I get why you would want to keep cloning Superman to match Superboy, but it felt a bit too much like the pilot. I think they were going for that, but with Match being put back to sleep rather than being let out, but it just didn’t grab me as much as the previous episode did.
Syd: Well, what I find interesting is the moral conundrum of the fact that Cadmus essentially has created a slave race of whom Superboy is the only one who is free, and raises the question of what his obligation is to the rest of them.
Margaret: I can see that, however they don’t really seem to linger on that too much. Nor does it actually seem to weigh on him. So, I can see how it’s interesting, I just didn’t get that much of it from this episode.