This past Saturday marked the end of an era for fans of DC Comics animation, as Cartoon Network aired the last episodes of Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Though Green Lantern used CGI effects while Young Justice relied on more traditional animation, both series gained a similar cult following. It was a bad omen when the series were shelved mid-season, and things just got worse when they were cancelled just shortly after their return.
In November 2010 Cartoon Network aired the first two episodes of Young Justice as a “world premiere event.” The series then returned on a regular basis in January 2011. Unlike the anime-heavy Teen Titans series from 2003, the series and its characters took themselves very seriously, by quickly establishing the need for a team of “sidekicks.” As a covert operations force for the Justice League, “The Team” (as they were most often referred to) continually proved their worth on missions and learned their limitations. The series highlighted fan favorites like Robin and Superboy while sharing the spotlight with lesser-known characters like Miss Martian, the new Aqualad and the original character Artemis. The first season had a singular mission of battling the mysterious villain organization “The Light” and uncovering the mole in their team. Young Justice became a vehicle to spotlight scores of DC Comics heroes and villains, many of who hadn’t yet been adapted to television or film. After DC Comics relaunched their books with “The New 52,” Young Justice also acted as a pocket frozen in the pre-reboot continuity (much to my pleasure.) Just when we had uncovered the mystery of season 1, the rug was pulled from under us and we shot forth five years into the future, allowing us to see new (and possibly too many) members of the team including Batgirl, Impulse and Blue Beetle. The series wasn’t afraid to dedicate episodes to individual characters, the saga of Roy Harper/Red Arrow was particularly compelling. While the new faces were welcome, the second season’s plot “Invasion” moved a relatively slow pace. Earth had been invaded by an alien force known as The Reach, who quickly announced themselves as allies to our planet, despite the team’s knowledge of the contrary. Despite its slow movement, the ending of the second season paid off in a way that was epic and bittersweet. The true mastermind behind The Light was revealed but sadly we would never see the continuation of this story. Young Justice was the first successful attempt to modernize the concept of the superhero sidekick, while introducing viewers to scores of DC Comics characters. The animation was sleek and the action was fast-paced, with martial art fights breaking out regularly every week. Despite its humongous cast you could genuinely feel the camaraderie among the team. Young Justice was a lot of fun and it shall be missed. We shall erect a statue in your name in the Hall of Justice.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series
The Green Lantern film was a critical and commercial disappointment, but Warner Brothers and DC Comics still went ahead with an animated series. Like Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series first aired as a one hour sneak peek in November 2011, then returned as a weekly series in March 2012. Fueled by much of the Geoff Johns’ inspired universe of the comics, the series followed Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Kilowog. Along with their ship’s on-board AI “Aya” they traveled across the universe to stop the growing threat of Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps. Along with the Red Lanterns, the first half of the series explored many different facets of the Green Lantern mythos, including the planet Green Lantern Mogo, the Star Sapphires and the first Blue Lantern. The rage-filled Red Lantern Razer was an original creation of the show as was Aya, who quickly assumed her own physical form. Though Hal Jordan was the main character, Razer and Aya were most certainly the breakout characters of the series, with most of the recent episodes dedicated to their relationship. The CGI effects combined with Bruce Timm’s tried and true character designs really made the show pop visually. Lanterns of every color shined brightly and were probably more believable than those of the Green Lantern film. The “second season” that aired from September 2012 until recently laid a lot of groundwork for the future, with appearances by Sinestro, Larfleeze and even the Book of Black from Blackest Night. That being said, its a true shame that developer Giancarlo Volpe and his team won’t get to explore these stories in the future. Green Lantern: The Animated Series was everything that the Green Lantern film should’ve been. It brought the Green Lantern mythology to life without corny exposition and it had the guts to stay away from Earth and explore the vast space of the DC Universe. Young Justice kind of floundered near the end, but Green Lantern: The Animated Series was getting better and better, and in many ways felt like it was just getting started. Maybe a movie someday??