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Friday, September 30, 2011

Young Justice - "Targets"

Episode Nine: "Targets" - Airdate 09/16/11

by Andy Luckett

It's Young Justice Friday!

On the season premiere of Young Justice, a fragile peace lies in the balance as the team protects an unlikely target, while Superboy and Miss Martian face down high school.
Hello everyone, Andy Luckett here with a review of the first new episode of Young Justice to air on Cartoon Network in quite a while, entitled "Targets." We begin this episode with Cat Grant, reporting on-scene at the latest peace summit between warring nations North and South Realasia. Apparently, since talks have broken down a special third-party moderator is being brought in to help secure the peace.
Also on-scene is Red Arrow, undercover as a security agent but still packing his archery equipment. While waiting for the moderator to arrive, Arrow makes a quick call to Aqualad for some information about the assassin Cheshire, which word has it may be planning to assassinate the moderator. As the guest peacekeeper's limo arrives, Arrow spots Cheshire about to fire a missle. He is able to throw off her aim, and helps capture her as well. It is then we see whose live he has just saved: Lex Luthor!
As expected, Red Arrow is none to pleased to see Luthor, who vouches for him to be released by security. Luthor admits that he has more than just humanitarian interests in seeing Realasia reunite, but that such a prospect would make for a healthier bottom line. Red Arrow, of course, is not impressed.
Back at the teams headquarters in Happy Harbor, Superboy and Miss Martian are preparing for their first day of high school, he having just entered the real world and she having recently arrived on Earth. The last step of their preparation is protecting their secret identity. M'Gann turns her skin Caucasian while Superboy takes the name Conner Kent and wears a different T-shirt (baby steps, I guess).
Back at the summit, Red Arrow visits Cheshire in her holding cell, in an attempt to ferret out her employer. She plays coy, teasing and flirting with Arrow until she can be sprung by Sportsmaster, her accomplice. RA chases them by shooting a line into their copter but his line is sliced, leaving him to save himself from being pancaked on a rooftop. He does, with the help of a fall-breaking trick arrow.
RA manages to track the duo to their landing point, a temple on the outskirts of town. Here he sees the real big bad behind the Luthor contract: Ra's Al Ghul. Naturally, R'as spots him and has Cheshire and Sportsmaster attack him again, which results in a long fight over the rooftops in which Roy is seemingly killed by one of Sportsmaster's exploding javelins. He reports to Luthor that Ra's Al Ghul gave the order through his League of Shadows, which doesn't suprise the unflappable Luthor at all. As he says, "Don't all Leagues want to kill me?"
Back at the high school, Superboy and M'Gann struggle with their new surroundings. Connor is confused by the abundance of superhero symbol t-shirts, while M'Gann is asked to try out for cheerleading. They also meet a very familiar classmate by the name of Marvin, and discuss the Realasia situation, which Superboy knows all about from the knowledge fed to him in his Cadmus tube.
Luthor and the representatives for North and South Realasia try again with another summit, this time with Aqualad in attendance for additional backup. And of course, Cheshire tries again as well, infiltrating the proceedings dressed as a geisha girl and pushing a tea cart/bomb. Aqualad gets wise to her prescence and stops the bomb, and he and Red Arrow face off against Cheshire and Sportsmaster in a brutal fight that destorys much of the hall they are in. The heroic duo finally defeat the two assassins, but a last-ditch effort to kill Luthor is thwarted by Mercy, his assistant, who is revealed to be an android. Both of the Realasia representatives are impressed and thankful, and the treaty is signed.
Meanwhile, back at the high school, M'Gann is trying out for the cheer squad, and makes it, becoming one of the Bumblebees. Connor, being overprotective, freaks out a bit when she is given a Gatorade bath, and ends up falling off the bleachers, which may help secure his secret identity as a klutz.

In the aftermath of the summit, Aqualad and Arrow speculate that because the treaty was signed successfully, the contract on Luthor is null and void, and the assassination attempts will cease. However, Sportsmaster said something troubling during the fight about having an inside source on the team, and Aqualad intends to investigate covertly so as not to breed suspicion. Surprisingly, Red Arrow offers to help out the team when they need him, though he doesn't go as far as joining.

In the epilogue, Luthor is reveling in his victory, while speaking to...Ra's Al Ghul? Yep, the assassination attempts were a setup to help promote trust and appreciation for Luthor and allow the Realasias to reunificate. Now, the Realasia area will be an economic and political boon for both men, and a benefit to The Light for which they both work.

That's quite a long summary I know, but there was a lot of plot this episode. I really enjoyed the political intrigue of the "A" plot with Luthor and the Realasia summit, which featured suprises (Mercy is a robot? That's new) and twists (Luthor and Ra's' alliance is bad news for just about everyone) as well as some great action, especially the third act fight in the hotel banquet room. Red Arrow was given a bit of characterization beyond the angry sidekick bit and is showing growth by offering his services to the team.

I really wasn't too impressed by the "B" plot, however. Superboy and Miss Martian going to high school may have had a few funny in-jokes (the appearance of Marvin from the Super Friends, the Teen Titan Bumblebee on the Bumblebee cheer team) but it felt almost like an afterthought compared to the main story. I'll be curious to see if they eloborate on the high school story in the future but this time it just left me flat.

Aqualad is given quite a bit to do in this episode, which is always nice to see. He finds information on Cheshire for Red Arrow (and I like the detail of him thinking in meters instead of feet) and he really steps up his game in the final fight with Cheshire and Sportsmaster. Using his hydrokinesis, he forms maces, machete blades, a water wall, and my favorite, a giant sea serpent made of water to take on Cheshire.

One thing I really enjoy about this show is the obvious thought and detail that goes into it. Not only is it, in my opinion, the most gorgeously animated show on the air right now in terms of color and movement, but real care is taken to make things relatively believable and interesting. For instance, Cheshire's cat mask is a nice addition, providing both an Asian design influence to her costume, protecting her identity (sort of) and making a reference to Alice in Wonderland all at once. I don't think she's ever worn it in the comics, but apparently a version of it first appeared on the Teen Titans animated show a few years back.

In a similar vein, I like the design and weaponry of the Sportsmaster. It's low-key and about as non-silly as it can be, with the character using things like javelins and ball and chain weapons instead of baseball bat guns and such. As a last example, I thought the trick arrow that Red Arrow uses to break his fall was very cool, sort of a quick-expanding red foam that shields his body from impact is a neat and practical idea.

Based on the strength of this episode, I'm looking forward to this season, and I hope the serious plot complications play out in interesting ways. I'm also looking forward to delving deep into the characters on the team and seeing how they change as time goes on. That's all for Young Justice this week; thanks for reading and I'll catch you next time!

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