REVIEW: ‘Young Justice: Outsiders’ Tackles the Darker Side of Metahumans (Episodes 1 – 3)

Ever since its unfair cancellation in 2013, fans of Young Justice have been looking for a way to revive their beloved series and bring back the team of super youths. Now that the advent of DC Universe’s streaming has made that possible with Young Justice: Outsiders, those same fans may find that the characters they missed so much have been streamlined somewhat – at least in the first three episodes. Things may change in the near future, but the set up of the season is focused on introducing new characters from the country of Markovia and tying them into the trafficking of metahumans that began in the second season. This leaves room for only a few major players outside of the royal family and new metahumans, specifically Nightwing (Jesse McCartney), Superboy (Nolan North), and Artemis (Stephanie Lemelin).

The Royal pains of Markovia make up the heart of these episodes.

As much as it would be nice to see characters like Gar step out of the fun PSAs in each episode and into the main action of the plot, the smaller cast fits a somber narrative that connects back to previous seasons. The battle against Darkseid has the Justice League splintering, for example, and sends Black Lightning (Khary Payton) on a soul-searching mission that ties directly back to Young Justice Markovia mission in a heartbreaking way. He is probably the adult Justice League character who gets the most screen time in the first arc, and it’s utilized incredibly well. In the meantime, the members of the Markovian royal family all come with their own set of complex dynamics for the young heroes to witness – not to mention an all too real refugee crisis and the difficult decisions that such a situation entails.

Of the new characters, the one whose introduction is most impressive is Halo (Zehra Fazal), a young woman who is experimented on by one of Markovia’s mad scientists and who winds up seemingly immortal and with the ability to throw up shields of light. She doesn’t speak much, but her progress from shell-shocked victim to hero in her own right over the course of three episodes makes her a worthy candidate for breakout character. Her dynamic with Artemis is also both sweet and necessary, given that the latter doesn’t get much opportunity to hang out with other women at the start of the season.

Halo is a standout.

As a literal and spiritual sequel to the popular Cartoon Network series, Young Justice: Outsiders is successful for the most part, but there are a few quibbles to be had. First, even though the premiere opens on the team mourning the death of Wally West, he’s all but forgotten after the two-year time jump. Given that several interviews over the last year gave the impression that questions would be answered regarding his disappearance, it’s a little disappointing that we’ll have to wait even longer – not to mention that we don’t get much at all of Barry or Bart in the meantime. Second, the difficult material leaves less room for comedy than previous seasons and actually makes the comedy the writers do attempt feel out of place. While the PSAs or other televised interview referenced earlier are actually rather adorable, they don’t connect to the main story at all and feel more like tongue-in-cheek commercial breaks than actual scenes in the show. Finally, and this point is the most minor, the episode end without any notice and often don’t feel like they’re meant to be the end of all. It’s very easy to overlook when you can just click on the next episode, but it may make having to wait a week for the next set of three even harder.

Young Justice: Outsiders premieres January 4th on DC Universe and will drop three episodes every week.