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Young Justice: The Complete First Season
Heralded by many animation fans as one of the most essential series of the DCAU (Animated Universe) Young Justice was a Cartoon Network series which aired between 2010-2013. The series concept came from the idea that stemmed in the Young Justice comic books: that is, to focus on the sidekicks to the "main" superheroes which make up the Justice League. With a exciting concept in mind for the series, Cartoon Network went underway in producing this excellent series and with a lot of good talent being brought into the fold behind the scenes.
The idea of the series - to focus on the side-kicks - was expanded further to implement elements of Teen Titans and other DC animated universe characters, and the result is a meshed creative storytelling of the younger characters in the animated DC world. Warner Bros animation and Cartoon Network brought in the likes of creative talents Gregg Weisman (developer of 2008's The Spectacular Spider-Man series) and director Brandon Vietti (Batman: Under the Red Hood) into the development and planning for the series.
The core group of characters featured in Young Justice consists of Robin (Jesse McCartney), Aqualad (Khary Payton), Kid Flash (Jason Spisak), Superboy (Nolan North), Miss Martian (Danica McKellar), and Artemis (Stephanie Lemelin). The characters are often sidelined in comics done and incarnations of these superhero stories almost always leave the focus as primarily bent towards the main super-heroic characters, leaving these supporting superhero players in the sidelines. This show works to rectify that situation and present them as the leads for a change.
These superhero wonders strengthen their unique abilities by working together under the title "The Team" and go on missions arranged by the Justice League to show their strengths and teamwork skills being brought to the table. Work is done at the base of 'the cave', where they work with Red Tornado as their supervisor, Black Canary as their primary trainer, and Batman serves them assignments and duties related to assignments.
Though The Team often face perilous foe (including a mechanical Red Tornado look-alike), and the likes of Batman archenemies like Bane, "The Team" truly finds a way to work together on their missions (even within the course of events first suggesting that these characters will run into a roadblock or two - though perhaps that isn't all too surprising with a new startup and characters like Kid Flash zooming around the world-map). Even amidst some hiccups, the players of this story are friends who know how to work together to get things done. The emphasis upon the character's closeness is a good aspect of the series that makes it mean significantly more than if it had just focused on action... and action alone. Alas, there are certainly many programs that do just that, but luckily Young Justice isn't one of them as is dramatically more akin to the likes of Justice League Unlimited or Superman: The Animated Series.
The series was so well developed that the creative team seems to have crafted an entirely worthy self-contained (though always interconnected) universe of DC characters having a chance at the spotlight in a way that pays homage to the spirit of the comic universe while bringing something uniquely new to the table. One fascinating creative decision was to do a change-up on the idea of Superboy by changing it from an origin-story to a cyborg clone that finds an inner voice that is in part the voice of the adult Superman, but also something of his one. This clone finds his own true feelings of honor and fighting for justice and Superman must come to terms with the fact he was cloned, and now a "new" and younger version of himself is trying to battle alongside them. The situation makes for a few interesting elements to the storyline (including the guidance given by Batman to Superboy instead of from Superman during their initial time together). Though the storyline has some surprises in store for viewers this is one of the more interesting ideas that becomes portrayed.
The art for the series is some of the most visually clean, dynamic, and robust of any DC animation productions I have seen. Animated in South Korea by MOI Animation, this co-production (where most storyboards, inking, and other design stage animation is done by American animators before becoming realized by MOI and then completed stateside), it's certainly one of the more robust productions I have seen in the DCAU. The fluidity of the artwork throughout the action sequences is zippy and exciting and doesn't miss a beat. The sequences rarely feel like they were done with budgetary concerns - even if that was in fact related to the production - as each moment shines with beautifully vibrant art-work, from the character designs to the background details. Viewers will get absorbed by this well animated creation and it's wonderful design.
Young Justice also has the benefit of an excellent voice cast that brings a lot to these characters. The cast does a solid job with bringing these characters believability into their respective roles. Jesse McCartney particularly impresses as Robin, with a performance that showcases both the high-spirited fun of Robin when he's feeling playful and jubilant, while also serious and to the point when it comes time to be serious when tackling a situation with The Team. Jason Spisak also does a terrific job as Kid Flash, and provides a lot of needed humor amidst the wonderful action-packed DC fun. All of the cast excels and does a good job in unison with one another. Ultimately, the terrific voice acting here helps to excel the animation and directing to greater heights for the viewers.
Overall, Young Justice manages to be one of the more spunky, inventive, and quality DCAC programs around. It's too bad the series lifespan got cut short at just two seasons but this is a issue that shouldn't deter fans of the comics, characters, and/or animated universe from this quality program. Newcomers and fans from the start should be thrilled to explore these high quality episodes on this release. The episodes are entertaining, action-packed, comedic, well-written, and beautifully animated to a point where the series is a fun program that any animation fans should be able to find something to enjoy.
Young Justice arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros with an impressive 1080p High Definition MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation which preserves the original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. The colors are beautiful and bold. The vibrancy of the animation and it's undeniably sleek production scope is impressive and worthwhile. Depth, detail, and clarity impress throughout. The only drawbacks are found with some slight aliasing (only a little noticeable at times) and minor banding. The rest of the time this is a relatively great HD presentation that is sure to be pleasing to fans. This is a wonderful effort by Warner.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound presentation packs more punch to it than one might expect given the lack of a full surround sound option. As far as stereo mixes tend to go, this is an impressive mix highlighted by clean, effective vocal clarity that accurately presents dialogue as well as the electronic score that was composed by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, and Lolita Ritmanis. This series has impressive lossless audio that is a good complement to this fun animated program. While it's not the most bass-heavy, this is a exciting stereo design that will please fans.
English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing) are included.
There are no extras on this release.
Developed and centered upon the young members of the DC Comics Justice League team who were more commonly referred to and thought of as being "side-kicks" by fans and the League themselves, Young Justice explores the idea of 'What if the sidekicks actually were the leads?": an idea that took off in comic form and was part of the concept for the series creation. The end result proved successful with one of the best animated DC programs around in the past several years of television.
Young Justice is an inventive, beautifully animated, action-packed, and exciting creation within the beloved DCAU. The series became so popular from diehard DC animation fans that when it was cancelled fans created a petition to bring it back that reached over 50,000 signatures. This is certainly a series that comic book and animation fan's shouldn't miss out on. Warner Archive has done a wonderful job bringing the series to Blu-ray with a quality presentation featuring solid PQ and AQ. This Season 1 Blu-ray release is a must own for DC animation fans. (Word is that Warner will bring Season 2 to Blu-ray soon so even for newcomers there is no better time to be delving into Young Justice than with this fantastic high definition debut).
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.