Young Justice: Phantoms – Is the Kaizer-Thrall the Beginning of the End?

Young Justice: Phantoms brings back Nightwing as well as a New Gods deep cut.

Young Justice Nightwing
Photo: DC

This Young Justice: Phantoms review contains spoilers.

Young Justice Season 4 Episode 22

Remember all those kidnapped kids last season? 

Markovia, vaguely eastern European home to Brion Markov, was briefly home to a metahuman trafficking ring led by Baron Bedlam. They kidnapped kids, soaked them in super goo, and the ones who lived had their meta gene activated. They were then sold to various partners through Bialya, including to Darkseid, Granny Goodness, and the hordes of Apokolips. 

Turns out one of those kids is the Kaizer-Thrall. 

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“Rescue & Search” is the first episode of the last arc of Young Justice: Phantoms. It’s the first to focus on Nightwing, though it’s a reunion of sorts of the original team. Zatanna brings Dick her theory that Conner is trapped somewhere, still alive and hidden. Dick and Z take a trip back through this season, connecting with Artemis, Rocket, and eventually Aquaman, and unravel a mystery behind Conner’s disappearance. 

Conner, meanwhile, is starting to remember who he is in the Phantom Zone. Sharing that with Zod and Ursa goes…not well…as they’re pretty pissed to find out that he’s an El, that Krypton has been destroyed, and that they’ve been trapped in the zone for more than 40 years. Phantom Girl wraps up the episode by trying to warn him of exactly who he’s throwing in with. 

This episode isn’t quite as good as the last arc, but it’s still quite good. It’s a continuation of the very strong run we’ve seen from Young Justice: Phantoms since the break. And it makes the first half of the season more frustrating on reflection because of how much they’re doing in the second half and how effectively they’re doing it. But that’s not what jumped out at me the most this week. 

It’s the callback to Outsiders that really dropped my jaw.

The credits sequences this season have been mostly a mixed bag. Some are cute, like Forager and Forager doing Romeo & Juliet. Some have been easy to ignore – Artemis reading Alice in Wonderland jumps to mind. But this week’s is the one of the only ones that feel really, truly material to the story, not just of Phantoms, but of the entire arc of Young Justice as a whole. Lantern Forager is shown on Oa while the Guardians examine the Kaizer-Thrall, as they realize that not only is the torture box sentient but it’s also got the mind of an 11-year-old boy in it. 

There was always a certain element of horror to what Apokolips was doing to the kids. Granny Goodness is a monster and has been a monster since her introduction in Jack Kirby’s original Fourth World stories. The Ed Asner casting in the Bruce Timm cartoons only cemented how terrifying she is: he put a lilting, menacing sweetness into his performance that made her genuinely scary. Mashing a preteen kid into a torture box is exactly the kind of thing that messed up old lady would do. 

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We got into some of the trauma the metahuman trafficking program caused with Terra’s story, but we’ve only seen it through the lens of the superheroes thus far. The Kaizer-Thrall gives us a new window into that horror, and for a season that’s been so focused on the output of trauma that the superhero life inflicts, we have to expect that this will be dealt with more. We know the show is headed to Oa at some point; don’t be surprised if this evil little box becomes a supporting character through the rest of the season.