Thursday, July 11, 2013

Animation Observation-Young Justice: Fireworks

In our last episode, our three young heroes decided to show their maturity by disobeying their mentors and getting themselves captured by Constable Odo. Oh and Superman has a clone who doesn't know how to play nice with others. Onto the review...

The episode opens with Desmond beginning a Skype call with several figures who are intentionally out of focus. We don't know who these people are, only that they refer to themselves as 'The Light'. Kind of a weird name for a bunch of evil-doers but whatevs.

Desmond gives The Light a recap of the previous episode and explains that he now has Aqualad, Robin and Kid Flash captive and does not believe the Justice League knows they're here. Kind of a bold assumption but at the same time, chances are if the League did know they would have shown up by now. He asks what he should do with them.

"Clone them," one of the Light members orders.

"The substitutes will serve The Light and only The Light," orders the Light member voiced by Miguel Ferrer.

When asked what should be done with the originals, Ferrer simply says, "Dispose of them. Leave no trace."
That's pretty much the closest you can get to saying, "Slit their throats from ear to ear and throw them into the furnace," on a kids show.
"Are you guys on a dial-up connection? Seriously, I can barely make you out."

Returning from the opening credits we see that according to the time stamp it's just a few minutes after midnight on July 5th. For some reason there are fireworks going off even though Independence Day was yesterday so what are you celebrating now?
This also begs the question that considering our heroes arrived at the Hall of Justice shortly after two in the afternoon in the previous episode, what the hell have they been doing in all this time? Or maybe they were still knocked out. I'm over-thinking it, moving on.

We see that Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad are unconscious and now in pods similar to the one they found Superboy in. The voice of an unseen character can be heard while our heroes slumber. The voice at this point has a bit of an echo so if you're unfamiliar to science fiction, that means telepathy is in play right now.
"Time runs short," the voice warns. "You must awaken. You must awaken-NOW!"
More or less what I heard every morning during high school.

That look of dislike towards any and everybody? Get used to it

They do awaken to find Superboy showing a slightly more animated face however there's also a bit of annoyance in it as well. Equally annoyed is Kid Flash, who finds the staring to be kind of creepy but stops complaining when Robin reminds him it's not wise to annoy someone who has heat vision.

Meanwhile, back at the lab where Superboy was found, Desmond is freaking out at Guardian because 'The Weapon' isn't in his pod. Guardian once again is thinking Desmond might be going overboard but a little influencing from Desmond's G-Gnome quickly changes his mind.
Remember when you were a kid, you asked your dad for permission to do something but he said "ask your mother" and as soon as your mother denied you, he quickly sided with her. That's pretty much what's Guardian is like in this working relationship with Desmond.
That or a pussy-whipped jock.

Back at the cloning lab, our heroes are still trying to appeal to Superboy.
"I do not believe our new friend was not in full control of his actions," guesses Aqualad. The conversation is not only to help secure freedom but also serves as a distraction while Robin begins to pick the lock on his restraints.
"What if I wasn't?" asks Superboy.
"He can talk?" asks Kid Flash.
"Yes. He can!"
"...Not like I said 'It'."

Through dialogue they discover that the Genomorph education he was receiving has given him knowledge of things but no real experiences. His life has been restricted to the lab and that's it-a bathroom break every 48 hours of course.
Superboy reveals that he knows he is a clone and that he was made for two reasons:
1) Replace Superman should he die
2) Kill him should he "turn from the light."
It's not mentioned whether he's referring to the light of goodness or The Light who we saw earlier.

Aqualad uses this information to appeal to the Disney Princess inside Superboy by telling him that he deserves and is capable of more, prompting the other two to do the same.
"We can show you the sun," attempts Robin.
"Pretty sure it's after midnight," counters Kid Flash. "But we can show you the moon."
Aqualad really seems to get through by saying they could introduce him to Superman.

Before they can go any furthur, Desmond and Guardian show up to begin the cloning process. Superboy is hesitant to leave but does so under the prompting of Desmond's G-Gnome.
Now I've seen plenty of sci-fi and usually cloning just involves a little bit of blood, or a sample of hair. However, Young Justice introduces a new element to the process:

The Electric Tittie-Twister

Dubbilex sneaks up behind Desmond, whom orders him to have G-Gnomes downloading the trio's memories and to kill them once this is done.
All the while this is going on, our heroes are in agony, screaming as blood is extracted and their arreolas turn darker than once thought possible. It goes on for quite a bit while the villains just look on and is a bit uncomfortable. It's not torture on the level of "There Are Four Lights" but uncomfortable nonetheless.

Walking back to his pod, Superboy can hear the screams and the whispered plea of Aqualad.
"You live, that gives you the right to follow your own path. A weapon or a person?"
To seal the deal, Aqualad decides to end it with the age old question that has been on the lips of countless religious followers and philosophers throughout the decades: "What would Superman do?"

He returns to the lab and knocks Desmond and the rest out of the way so he can free our heroes while also revealing some of his limitations.
"I don't have heat vision so I guess helping is my only option."
Robin escapes on his own but seems to be more worried about Batman being let down by his escape time than the entire predicament they're in. As they leave Desmond shouts the usual bad guy stuff about not escaping as he activates every Genomorph in Cadmus. I would like to remind you that there are 52 floors.

"You better not be pooping on my lab-coat!"

Sure enough the pods on the organic looking walls begin to glow before the Genomorphs emerge, quickly surrounding our heroes and looking mighty pissed off.

Being much smaller than the Genomorphs, the trio use their size to move around them gracefully while Superboy decides one of the first things he wants to experience in his new-found freedom is fighting several genetically enhanced creatures all at once while forgetting what the main objective is.

They make it to the elevator. Superboy grabs Aqualad and takes off in flight up the shaft.
"Oh shit, I'm falling!!!"

Yes it turns out that despite being a clone of the Man of Tomorrow, Superboy is also lacking in the ability  of flight, which has him a bit discouraged.
"But it looks like you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Still cool," offers Kid Flash as a small consolation prize.
As an elevator descends down the shaft towards them, they make a quick exit on Sub-Level 15 where they make a quick dash from oncoming Genomorphs.
All of a sudden, Superboy hears the telepathic voice from earlier.
"Turn left, brother."

The voice (Hulk Hogan?) gives him more directions which eventually leads to them turning down a corridor a dead end. Seriously, there are no doors, that lead to any offices or anything in this corridor which makes me wonder what the architect was thinking when he designed the place. Only things that is there is a ventilation duct. And if you've seen any bit of TV in your life, it means that the heroes will climb into it and can easily navigate through it like they were the Jeffries tubes in Star Trek.

After tricking Desmond and company as to where they are thanks to more hacking (Robin is making Julian Assange his bitch right now) they make their way to a stairwell, giving Kid Flash a chance to show off his super-speed as he bowls through an army of smaller Genomorphs to clear a way for the others as Superboy deals with the ones coming from behind.

At this point Desmond is crapping in his pants because this is getting really out of hand and he has just a few days left before retirement. He tells Guardian to meet him at Sub-Level 1 while he gets something from Project Blockbuster.

Not far from the ground floor, Kid Flash tries to make it towards an exit but the door closing stops him. This makes him say "Aw crud" but I'll be honest, I thought he actually said, "Oh crap" which would have been pretty cool.
"At least I still have my dignity..."


The others reach him but the door won't budge and there are more Genomorphs coming. They make their way down another corridor but stop when they encounter Guardian, Dubbilex and a legion of Genomorphs and G-Gnomes. Our heroes ready for what might be their last stand but before anyone can make a move, the G-Gnomes use their telepathy to render them unconscious and...wait, what?

They can do that? All along, they could have just thought Go to sleep and our heroes would have done that? So why didn't they do that before? Why didn't Desmond order them? Did he not know?

Through a telepathic conversation with conversation with Superboy, Dubbilex reveals that it was the latter who started the fire, lured the others down to the lab so they could find the former. He was the one who awoke them and guided Superboy when they needed help.

"You are our hope," Dubbilex explains. "The Genomorph hero. You will blaze a trail for all our brothers, showing us the way to freedom. What is your choice brother?"

Two things stick out to me right here. One, the Superboy being the "Genomorph hero" isn't going to please people tired of seeing Superman as some sort of Christ-like figure but that's minor.
The second thing is...we've already seen this before. It was Aqualad who told Superboy he had a choice and asked which one he would take, that's how they got to this situation. So asking it again seems a little unnecessary. He's trying to escape, thus he wants freedom. Was anyone else unclear about what his goals were?

Superboy probably agrees with my sentiments because he very quickly says, "I choose freedom", prompting the other heroes to awaken and a free-willed Guardian finally grows a pair as he announces that he'll deal with Desmond.

But Desmond's not having this. He's grabbed the test tube he was working on in the last episode and drinks it, declaring that it will help him restore order to Cadmus.
Demond's a real SHAPESHIFTER you could say. Get it?

Guardian gets first go at Desmond (Blockbuster now) and promptly gets his balls removed with one debilitating bitch-slap two seconds later. Superboy is next and is actually withstanding the punches until Blockbuster leaps at him towards the ceiling leaving an entryway to the main floor.

"Do you think lab-coat planned that?" asks Kid Flash as he and Robin make their way up.

"I doubt he is planning anything anymore," deduces Aqualad. 

On the main floor Blockbuster attacks, wrecking the building with the power of a bull (Ain't no monster clown who is as loveable). Our heroes aren't outnumbered but they are being easily out-muscled by Blockbuster. He slams Aqualad through a support beam which gives Robin an idea. Usually seeing one of my friends getting hurt gives me a laugh but whatever. Using some improvisational strategy, the rest of the pillars are destroyed and the entire building comes crashing down on them. If you're wondering how they all survive, Aqualad and Superboy have super-strength and shield Robin and Kid Flash.

From the rubble our heroes emerge, battered and bruised but otherwise alive and Blockbuster is out cold.
As Superboy takes his first real look at the moon he sees something up in the sky heading towards them. Is it a bird, a plane? No it's...

Conan O'Brien? This is AWESOME!!!

No, it's not The Flaming C, it's actually Superman. And not just Superman but the entire Justice League. And here we find out they're not limited to the group we saw in the last episode. All together there are fifteen members of the Justice League, two of them Green Lanterns (Hal Jordan and Jon Stewart). Now I'll be honest, haven't gotten to Justice League: Unlimited yet, never read any Justice League comics either but seeing all these heroes on the screen together is a really cool sight and put a big smile on my face. 

Superboy announces who and what he is to everyone which raises a lot of eyebrows and makes the Man of Steel feel really uncomfortable. Our heroes explain what happened while members of the League drag Blockbuster. Afterwards Superman is prompted to have a conversation with his clone but it's awkward, brief and he bolts it like the sight of Superboy is making him sick. 

Batman informs our heroes that he and the League are not happy and informs them that "you will not be doing this again."

However the sidekicks argue that what they have done tonight has been good (Property destruction and endangerment of minors aside) and what they have been trained to do. It's not because of how they were treated at the Hall, it's because they honestly believe they are ready now.

"It's simple," finishes Superboy. "Get on board or get out of the way."

The episode makes a transition to three days later at a large mountain in New England known as Mount Justice which once served as the original headquarters of the Justice League. Our young heroes are now in regular civilian gear while members of the League are in costume, helping get the inside of the mountain in operating order. It's going to be used as a base for our younger heroes when they're not being deployed on missions by Batman. They're going to be on real missions but covert. Red Tornado will live at the cave to oversee them while training shall be handled by Black Canary. Yeah, that's what you want, to be trained by a woman who's superpower is loud screaming. She sounds like the female Gordon Ramsay.

"The League will still handle the obvious stuff," explains Flash. "There's a reason why we have these big targets on our chests."
Kind of a weird statement considering Superboy and Kid Flash have "targets" on their chest similar to their mentors.
Yeah, I'm sure that statement won't come back to bite anyone in any way.

Aquaman explains that the bad guys are getting smarter and that they need a team to operate under the radar and that the five young heroes are to be that team. 

We are then introduced to the "You-Know-Who" Green Arrow mentioned in the previous episode.
No, it's not an Orion Slave Girl

This is the Martian Manhunter's niece, Miss Martian, the fifth member of the team. As they all introduce themselves Aqualad takes a look at the people around him, where they are and happily announces, "Today is the day." 

And that, friends, is the pilot to Young Justice. 

The best bit of dialogue in this episode is any time Kid Flash made reference to not referring to Superboy as "It". 

Now I've read other reviews of the show as a whole and the first two episodes before I started doing these myself so while I might be overrating it, final score for "Independence Day" and "Fireworks" as a whole is 10 out of 10.
While the exchange between Superboy and Dubbilex was redundant, everything else works perfectly. The pacing is just right, nothing feels rushed or dragging on and on, the actions scenes are tight and exciting, the characters are flawed but likeable. I expected not to like Kid Flash as the comedic foil but again, really liked him and genuinely laughed at some of his material. It was a pilot that I watched and had me saying, "I really want to see what happens next," which is something any good pilot should do. Also a fun little fact, animator Phillip Bourassa actually won an Emmy award for his work on the pilot.

Also while there is obvious back-story that we don't get right away, viewers unfamiliar with the DC Universe would probably have no problem following the story. One thing I've heard many fans say about this show is that it treats the characters with more respect than the recent batch of comics that DC has put out. Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti are taking a universe that can be overwhelming to new fans and making it easy to jump into.

The voice acting in this series, like all DC animated series is excellent but I want to single out two actors in particular. The first is Phil LaMarr. He actually pulled double-duty in this episode by playing both Dubbilex and Aquaman-something I didn't find out until looking at the end credits. The dude is a vocal chameleon and we'll be hearing more of his awesomeness as the series progresses. 

But for me, the one who stole the show was Khary Payton as Aqualad. He took a character most viewers probably would have been bored with upon hearing his name and made him really interesting. Some of you may have also recognized him as Cyborg from Teen Titans-I did after hearing his first line. Both characters sound the same but hearing them separately, you can hear a difference. Cyborg was a lot more...animated you could say while Aqualad is more relaxed and tranquil. You can tell there's something not quite human about him but you can't put your finger on it either. It's how you would expect a Vulcan to sound. He's awesome.

So, our team is together for the first time. How are they going to act when they find themselves in unexpected danger? How are they going to act amongst each other when they're not in danger? How is Superboy going to deal with the fact that Superman is ignoring his phone calls? Come back next time and find out.
"He's been ignoring my calls!?"

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