How amazing was it when you turned on Cartoon Network this morning and actually got to watch Young Justice instead of a random rerun of Dragons: Riders Of Berk? The bizarre three-month hiatus of the DC Nation block was a total dick move on Cartoon Network’s part, denying viewers their weekly allotment of Saturday morning superheroes and providing no explanation whatsoever. There have been various rumors about why the hiatus happened, ranging from the presence of beloved DC black sheep Stephanie Brown in this week’s episode to a dispute between Warner Bros. and the estate of Dwayne McDuffie regarding the use of Milestone characters like Rocket and Static (who also makes an appearance this week). Whatever the true reasoning may be, DC Nation is finally back, returning with strong new episodes of Green Lantern and Young Justice and some delightful new shorts spotlighting Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, and the adorable sibling superhero pair of Thunder and Lightning.
“Before The Dawn” is the end of the first act of Young Justice: Invasion, confirming that the Reach is one of the major players of this season and setting up the final 10 episodes of the storyline. It’s essentially a big fight episode that provides some major character development for M’Gann and Blue Beetle while introducing a slew of new faces that will hopefully make more appearances down the line. Jaime Reyes is the central figure this week, and the episode begins with a flashback to Jaime’s first encounter with the Scarab. While skateboarding home one evening, Jaime witnesses an explosion causes by the arrival of the Scarab, which finds him and immediately bonds with his nervous system.
When Jaime awakens in the present, he finds himself watching Reach scientists as they try to figure out why the Scarab only has memories of the last eight months. The Scarab is an instrument of destruction that has been kept in check by its human host, and the Reach is looking for a way to get the weapon fully functional. Impulse tells Jaime later that in his future, the Reach succeeds, turning Blue Beetle into the biggest bad on Earth. Bart went back in time to prevent this from happening, and has ended up gaining a friend in the process. The writers of Young Justice are doing a fantastic job of combining different comic book storylines, taking inspiration from the ’80s Invasion! crossover and John Rogers’ Blue Beetle to create a story that is fresh while still reverent to its comic roots.
The current state of DC’s “Young Justice” New 52 titles is rough, so it’s nice to have a place where the rich history of DC’s teen heroes is treated with the respect it deserves. A lot of the characters in Young Justice have either been considerably changed or completely erased in the New 52, so if people want to continue seeing Kaldur’Ahm, Miss Martian, or Wally West, this show is the only place to find them. And then there’s the Stephanie Brown cameo in this week’s episode that spawned its own conspiracy theory. Ideally, the multiple shots of Stephanie and a very Static-looking young man means that they’ll be joining the team in the future, because this season has done very well when it comes to team expansion. It’s basically become Young Justice Unlimited, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
In order to break out their captured teammates, Batgirl, Robin, and Bumblebee go undercover with the rest of the Reach’s teenage metagene test subjects. The Reach is trying to find a way to extract and duplicate superpowers in hopes of weaponizing them, and they’re experimenting with teens that have both active and inactive metagenes. Nightwing, Wonder Girl, and Miss Martian are tracking their undercover comrades in the Bio-Ship, and M’Gann takes the lead on the rescue mission, phasing into the Reach’s underwater base and releasing Beast Boy and Impulse from their containment pods. The rest of their teammates are freed and confronted by the Reach’s main enforcer, the incredibly powerful Black Beetle, who pummels the team until Jaime shows up to save the day.
While Black Beetle is kicking the crap out of her teammates, M’Gann gets vengeance for the death of Artemis when she comes face-to-face with Kaldur. M’Gann’s dark side has been a major plot point this season, and she finally faces the consequences of her actions when she attacks Kaldur’s mind, learning everything about his secret plan with Nightwing, Wally, and Artemis and leaving him brain dead in the process. It really would have been a good idea for Nightwing to tell the team’s most powerful member what was really going on, but because she was left out of the loop, she reacted with the kind of force that she now uses on all of her enemies. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the future, because M’Gann is now at one of her lowest points on the show while being praised by her teammates for her heroic actions.
When Jaime enters the battle, the Scarab informs him that he’s not healthy enough to fight on his own and suggests that Jaime give over complete control to the living weapon. He does, and we finally see the full potential of the Scarab, which is equipped with jetpacks, swords, cannons, hammers, and all kinds of assorted weaponry. Until Legend Of Korra comes back later this year, Young Justice is the place to get exquisitely animated fight sequences on Saturday morning, and the brawl between Black and Blue Beetle is high-impact superhero action at its finest. If this is what it looks like when the Scarab is allowed to cut loose, then Jaime should relinquish control more often. He should just try not to turn into a genocidal maniac in the process.
I love the attention to detail on this show, like M’gann compacting with the water pressure when she phases out of the Bio-Ship.
On a semi-related note, Eisner Award winner Francesco Francavilla has created a very cool pulp superhero by the name of Black Beetle in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and he’s about to get his own miniseries this month. Check it out.
“Halfway the hard way.” Black Beetle’s beatdown of Wonder Girl is one of the most brutal things this series has shown. Ouch.
Any guesses on who the rest of the metagene teens could be? There’s a guy in a green hoodie that could be Pied Piper.