The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I've been up since early in the morning, I'm still recovering from the flu, I spent all day running around New York Comic Con, and I will be doing the same tomorrow. I need a lot of sleep. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to miss out on watching and reviewing "Young Justice."

This was, to use a term coined by J. Michael Straczynski, a wham episode. So much happened, and fast. A lot of action, a lot of suspense and, yes, a big revelation. Although one that, I think, was guessed by many people before the episode aired. I will elaborate on that momentarily.

Giant plant creatures are terrorizing the world, and are being organized, seemingly, by the Injustice League. Count Vertigo, Wotan, Poison Ivy, Black Adam, Ultra Humanite, and the Joker. The Justice League faces the plant creatures while The Team are sent in to take down the villains' means to control the plants, ergo facing the villains.

The biggest surprise of this episode was Aqualad using the helmet of Dr. Fate to defeat the Injustice League, particularly Wotan. The battle was very suspenseful, and I was actually glad that in addition to Dr. Fate, The Team was bailed out by the Justice League. I think it would have strained credibility if The Team was able to defeat the Injustice League on their own.

The episode ends with both the League and The Team thinking they've defeated the secret society of villains that have been conspiring against them before we finally cut to Vandal Savage, and the revelation of the identities of The Light. The only real surprise in this line-up was Klarion, as action figure photos from ToyFair and those playing cards that were given away at San Diego Comic Con pretty much gave away everybody else, except for Ra's al Ghul and Lex Luthor who were revealed as members back in "Targets."

I like this line-up. A lot. I am especially excited that Vandal Savage is clearly the head honcho in this organization instead of Lex Luthor. I remember being rather disappointed when "Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited" were airing and after introducing Vandal Savage, who had all the makings of a great Big Bad that would have helped the series better achieve their own identity, they defaulted (constantly) to Lex Luthor which helped make these series look more like direct sequels to "Superman the Animated Series."

I'm also very interested to learn more about what drives him. The way he uses the word "light" makes me think that, to him, this is more than just a cool name for his little secret society. This is a word that sums up something he deeply believes in. I also like his design, he looks like a savage and a neanderthal. I am curious to learn where those three scars across his face came from. Hmm... did he have a run in with a certain demon in Scotland back in the Dark Ages?

The voice cast in this episode was quite interesting. First, I rather enjoyed Brent Spiner as the Joker. His performance has been getting some mixed reviews across the internet. I personally thought it was terrific, but there were times when it felt wrong to me too. And I know exactly why it did, because we've imbibed Mark Hamill as the Joker for nineteen years now. Hamill owns that role, at least as far as voice work goes. That's a lot to live up to, but I think Spiner will rise to the challenge and while he will never own the Joker the way Hamill does, he is already a worthy one.

Alyssa Milano sounded great as Poison Ivy, but I can tell she's new at voice acting. This is not a knock, with more time to play this character, and especially with a genius like Jamie Thomason directing her, I'm sure she will grow into it. I am reminded of Emma Samms in "City of Stone Part One," and how she grew as a voice actor by the time part four aired.

And I loved hearing Steve Blum again. He's been a favorite of mine for a long time.

The only things that felt a little bit odd to me was Wotan being a part of a group that was trying to ransom $10 billion. I'll admit, before tonight, I had never heard of Wotan. After the episode aired, I looked him up on wikipedia, and based on what I read, a ransom scheme doesn't seem like his style. He seems like someone who plays at higher stakes. Likewise, Klarion, seems too petty and impatient to be a part of an organization like The Light. But time, and more episodes will tell. This production team chose these characters for these positions for a reason, and Greg Weisman has not erred on his previous shows.

The other thing, I felt Aqualad was able to remove the helmet a little too easily. Yeah, he mentioned that Kent Nelson helped, but I hope the next time someone puts that helmet on, taking it off does not come so easily.

This episode was a real game changer, and it leaves me pumped to see what comes next. So far, this show has taken time to grow on me. I liked it, a lot. It's an A+ show, easily. But "Gargoyles" and "Spectacular Spider-Man" were A+ shows with a lot of extra credit. But now, for the first time, I am pumped on this show. I think the extra credit is about to be turned in.

Oh, and if you didn't love Artemis's line about feeling naked and not in the fun way, you have no soul.


  1. You think the producers, and/or Brent Spiner might've been inspired by Heath Ledger's Joker and that they were channeling that for this version of him? That was the subtle vibe I was getting from this take.

    I partially agree on your Luthor comment, but I think that applies more to JLU than to JL as there were others like Savage, Grodd, and Hro Talek that played a big part in the show.

  2. Don't forget Aqualad's priceless accidental innuendo right after that. ;)

    While this take on Joker wasn't my favorite, I respect the crew for not just re-hashing Hamill's Joker.

  3. I can see why Spiner's Joker might be jarring for a lot of people; Hamill defined the notion of making the Joker highly affable so as to draw viewers in, only to subvert that soon after by demonstrating his psychosis. Mostly this was achieved through sudden shifts between a high falsetto and a screaming, low-pitched rage.

    To varying degrees, Kevin Michael Richardson, John DiMaggio, and Jeff Bennett have all emulated this particular aspect of his performance in their subsequent portrayals (much moreso the former two, and Jeff is playing a different character for the most part: the SILVER AGE Joker). This is no knock on these great actors, because that is an excellent way to interpret the Joker and always will be.

    But Mistah J isn't the greatest comic book villain of all time for nothing - the number of possible interpretations of his exact mindstate outpace even his heroic counterpart's. So what Spiner is doing here isn't by any means bad, just different.

    Specifically, what he's doing is eschewing Step 1 of the above "Hamill formula" completely; there is very little affable about this (presumably somewhat older) Joker. He's just a grinning, chilling psychopath, whose every line is designed to creep you out and assure you that, hey, he's just fine with that.

    It'll take some getting used-to for most of the audience used to that formula, I think...but I'm sure it'll start to grow on people if this Joker gets more episodes (and he'd better).

    But me? I'm already a convert, through-and-through.

    "Inconceivable! Unacceptable! RETRIBUTIONABLE!

    ...That last one might not be a word. So sue me."

  4. Excluding the terrible line delivery of "Wonder boy, you are mine.", Brent Spiner's performance as the Joker was okay. Nothing that makes me say "NOT MY JOKER!", but there really wasn't any life to it.

    Maybe it was the generic dialogue that was given to Spiner, but he does come off as miscast on the show. Not as badly miscast as the Joker from "The Batman" was, but miscast nonetheless. He probably needs more time to be comfortable in the role, though. How much voice acting has Spiner done with the exception of Gargoyles?

    I'll admit, I'm disappointed they didn't pick John Dimaggio to reprise his role as the Joker from the Red Hood DTV, considering they reused Batman's VA from the film. I thought Dimaggio did a hell of a job as the Joker and was one of the few highlights of the film. His performance was definitely inspired by Hamill and Ledger's, but he still managed to make it his own.

  5. The line "Boy Wonder, YOU'RE MINE!" is supposed to be Joker making fun of Dr. Fate, who said something similar earlier. That's why it sounded odd.

  6. I actually liked the "Wonder Boy" line. Though I have to admit, Spiner's Joker may take a while to grow on me.

    Anyway, Joker isn't the main attraction of this ep. The real bombshell is the reveal of the Light's membership. It' great to see Vandal Savage is the big bad, he's a personal favourite of mine and was criminally underutilized in "Justice League".