Compared to the season premiere, “Earthlings” is a bit of a let-down, focusing solely on the Zeta team that landed on Rann at the end of last week’s episode. As Beast Boy, M’gann, and Superboy investigate the Krolotean’s theft of the Zeta beam technology, they end up in a straight-forward action plot that consists largely of running from mecha in an alien forest. There are a few hints about what happened during the five year jump later in the episode, but the story would benefit from a stronger balance of action and emotion.
My biggest complaint with “Earthlings” is that Adam Strange is solely underused, leaving the mission early on in order to distract the Rannian police from the Young Justice trio. Adam’s costume redesign for this series is fantastic, incorporating his classic color scheme onto a hooded trenchcoat that he wears over his militaristic body armor. The white streak across the top of his hood recalls the goofy fin of his comic book look, and while this show has a predilection for adding hoods to costumes, it’s a great look for Adam Strange. I’m not sure if a hood is the best idea for air combat, but he’s unfortunately grounded for most of this episode so it doesn’t really matter.
After meeting Sardath, a Rannian scientist, and his daughter Alanna, the Zeta team gains more information about the Krolotean invasion with the help of M’gann’s psychic translation abilities. The Justice League are wanted criminals, so the heroes have to disguise themselves in order to travel through Rann, prompting Adam’s early exit in order to protect their identities. With Alanna as their guide, they infiltrate the Krolotean base and destroy the aliens’ Zeta beam teleporters, and that’s when the mecha come in.
Writer Nicole Dubuc penned last season’s “Image,” and her story for “Earthlings” builds on that episode’s themes. The relationship between Garfield and his adopted sister M’gann has strengthened in five years, especially after Queen Bee had his mother killed by crashing her car into a waterfall. (How exactly does that happen?) When he sees a Rannian waterfall, Garfield is taken back to the day his mother died, freezing as he’s overcome with emotion, then breaking down in M’gann’s arms. Giving M’gann a little brother is a smart way to further humanize her, especially as her White Martian nature catches up with her.
The second half of the episode incorporates more personal drama, delving into M’gann’s continuing evolution and dropping clues as to what happened between her and Superboy. M’gann’s M.O. has always been concealing her true self from her teammates, and while last season she revealed what she normally looks like on the outside, her mental and emotional workings remain a mystery. In the comics, White Martians are the planet’s war race, existing to destroy and conquer. When M’gann and Beast Boy are captured by one of the Krolotean mecha and then broken out by Superboy, M’gann exacts her revenge by reading the mind of one of the alien foot soldiers, learning what the Justice League did in their missing 16 hours and leaving the alien brain-dead in the process. Superboy is alarmed at her actions, and it seems like this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
When Superboy and Alanna find themselves in a cave hiding from the Kroloteans, it’s the perfect time for Conner to get some personal advice from someone he doesn’t have to worry about judging him. Alanna has caught on to the tension between Conner and M’gann, and she’s eager to help him work out his feelings because of her own unresolved issues with Adam Strange. Alanna has been crushing on the strange visitor from another planet, but has been unable to express her feelings because they don’t speak the same language.
This episode could have done with more exploration of Adam and Alanna’s relationship (more Adam Strange), especially with the contrast of their relationship with Superboy and M’gann’s. They have the communication that Adam and Alanna lack, but they’re still unable to fully express themselves. Superboy reveals that he broke up with M’gann because he had no other choice, and it’s beginning to look like their split was a result of the looming darkness within her. As the half-clone of Lex Luthor, it seems like Conner should be more accepting of people with a potential dark side, but we still don’t know all the facts.
Most of the fun of this season is going to be in discovering how the team got to where they were in the premiere, and the writers are still planting the seeds that will grow throughout “Invasion.” With so many balls thrown in the air last episode, the narrow scope of “Earthlings” feels like a step backward, but the last ten minutes redeem the story by bringing the focus back to the character relationships. Still could have used an Adam Strange jet-pack gunfight, though.
- Beast Boy makes his New 52 debut at the end of the month in Howard Mackie’s Ravagers #1, and he’s orange instead of green. It’s a bold new direction!
- Next week we’re back on Earth, and judging from the preview, there’s going to be a Robin/Batgirl/Nightwing team-up. That’s going to be awesome.
- What if the White Martians are also a part of the invasion? What if the Earth is invaded by multiple alien species at the same time? An alliance between Apokolips, the White Martians, and the Kroloteans would lead to one awesome space battle.
- “I’m still trying to figure out the language. This is usually when we start playing charades.”
- “Me? I’m big game.”