This Young Justice: Outsiders review contains spoilers.
Young Justice Outsiders Episode 17
Here’s me about halfway through the latest episode of Young Justice‘s incredible season.
“Holy crap, are they doing the Newsgirl Legion?”
Here’s me, not two minutes later.
“HOLY CRAP IS THE NEWSGIRL LEGION ALSO MYSTERY INCORPORATED?”
And me again at the end of the episode:
“Wait, did they just do superhero Arab Spring?”
Spoilers: they didn’t, but that’s because the Arab Spring was a complicated geopolitical moment and a multifaceted movement that used social media not just as a way to circumvent hostile, government-controlled information sources for messaging purposes, but also as a way to organize civic engagement among connected, high-information activists, and this is a half hour cartoon on a comic book publisher’s proprietary streaming service. But the fact that I could leap to that initial conclusion speaks to the quality that we’ve seen from Young Justice: Outsiders this season.
This show has always been dense as hell. It started out deep in early ’90s Superman lore, with Guardian and Superboy and Cadmus as part of a shadowy government conspiracy, and that was the least packed-with-fanservice it has ever been.
This week’s episode is basically a half an hour of viewers sitting on the edge of their seat, waiting for the next reference, while the show slyly advances a plot that’s pretty sophisticated for a superhero conflict.
The key conversations are the ones between Beast Boy and the team’s League handlers at the beginning, and the one at the end between the superhero good guy cabal in Gotham. Beast Boy pitches the League on his new team concept, and the entire pitch is basically a public relations one. “Demagogues and fearmongers have caused folks to give up on the heroic ideal,” he tells Aqualad, not commenting at all on the real world.
There’s a surprising recognition of the level of the problem and the solution called for. His argument isn’t that they’re not doing good for people; it’s that they’re losing the PR war, that people no longer *believe* they’re doing good for them. So he proposes to use the Team and social media to remind them. In hindsight, the introduction of the Newsgirl Legion is pretty unsurprising. They’ve always been the ones trying to talk directly to the people, from when they were hawking papers on street corners in the ’40s, exposing the Evil Factory in the ’70s, taking down Suicide Slum gentrifiers with vlogging in the ’00s (you should really read Walt Simonson’s Orion) and now using basically Snapchat to share The Outsiders’ exploits with the rest of the world.
And at the end, the secret good guy cabal reveals that the entire op was a setup to publicly debut the new team to start to manipulate public opinion back towards heroism. They also decide to keep Beast Boy in the dark about their good guy cabal, which certainly won’t backfire in any way no sir.
This is the balance that Young Justice has maintained during its entire run. They’re set on a knife edge – they’re heroes trying to save the world while using tactics that are coded as villainous. They’ve always managed that balance before, but they pay a price every time. This episode sets up the heroism and the consequences they’ll eventually face when they go too far. This show is really, really good.
OUTSIDER TRADING TIPS
– So Beast Boy’s team of Outsiders is comprised of: Wonder Girl, Static, Blue Beetle, Kid Flash, Beast Boy and Geo Force. This team has nothing remotely comparable in the comics.
– Brooklyn, Maine is legit! Except it’s spelled Brooklin. It’s a small town about halfway up the Maine coast, and thank the maker they didn’t turn this episode into a Stephen King riff. However, in doing some digging, it turns out that Brooklyn was another Joe Simon/Jack Kirby creation from the ’40s – he was a member of the Boy Commandos and eventually retconned to be Dan Turpin (later famous as a member of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit).
-The Newsboy Legion is a classick Jack Kirby crew. They were introduced in the ’40s, and brought back into the mainstream when Kirby started his Fourth World epic at DC in the ’70s on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. They were comprised of founding member Tommy Thompkins (here Tommi Thompkins, daughter of the Mayor and the one who looks like Fred from Scooby Doo), Gabby (Gabby Gabrielli here, the chatty one who looks like Daphne), and Big Words (the team genius, here Big Words Rodriguez, the one who looks like Velma). They are typically all over Fourth World stuff, so it’s no surprise they’re here.
– Joan Garrick is in the hospital? That’s not where we last saw her on the show, and since Jay doesn’t exist anymore in the comics (except Doomsday Clock for a few panels), there isn’t a clear parallel there either.
– Whisper A’Daire has been on Young Justice before as a member of Intergang, even though in the comics she’s on team al-Ghul and a member of the League of Shadows. I don’t know anything about Scorpia A’Daire, but my old frenemy The Internet tells me there was a Scorpia who led a team of villains (from the group Scorpio) against the Challengers of the Unknown back in the ’60s.
– Cairo DeFrey is another out of nowhere villain for them to add in. She was the head of Scorpio, and the girlfriend of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. Cannon was the Charlton character adapted into Ozymandias for Watchmen, and the subject of an apparently quite good relaunch by Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard at Dynamite earlier this year. Very random inclusion, and one that I’m sure only DC’s lawyers know for sure where the rights belong.
– This episode gives us the first time that I can remember of the team being called “Young Justice.” Gabby asks Beast Boy “what about your new young Justice League?” And rather than prove me right by calling them the Teen Titans, Beast Boy calls them the Outsiders. Sad face.