This Young Justice: Outsiders review contains spoilers and some discussion of domestic violence. If you or a loved one needs help escaping or processing domestic violence, please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Young Justice Season 3 Episode 20
“This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin has been quoted a couple of times in comics – once that I can remember in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine, and once in Multiversity.And now, the famous line (the opener – “They fuck you up, your mum and dad”) has at least been paraphrased by Young Justice in “Quiet Conversations,” an episode that’s almost entirely about the screwed up family dynamics driving about half of the show.
There are four stories that get some attention this week. Fatherbox is taking over Cyborg’s body, and Black Lightning, Forager and Superboy have to beat Metron’s ass to save him; Halo is visiting Gabrielle’s family to give them closure; Aqualad takes Dolphin back to Atlantis and we find out he’s gay; and Miss Martian deals with the difficulties of being a mandatory reporter. Only one of those family relationships seems even reasonably healthy, and weirdly enough, it’s the one where a motherbox possessed a dead girl who was trafficked from a war zone. Halo, regaining a lot of Gabrielle’s memories, is also trying to process all the messed up things that Gabrielle had to go through as a teenage girl growing up in a war torn part of the world, and she visits Gabrielle’s mom and uncle (we find out her father was killed) in Qurac. This is pretty straightforward, well done but overshadowed by the rest of the episode. Halo and Gabrielle’s mom share a very touching moment about how difficult it had been, and then Terra and the Forever People’s motorcycle find her and bring her home.
The next-least complicated storyline is probably Aqualad’s. The water breathing meta-teen (who is clearly Dolphin, but still not named) comes back to Atlantis with him, and he casts a translation spell letting her speak with the other Atlanteans underwater. Their entire interaction is played like they’re flirting, especially when he’s clearly hiding something from Aquaman and his parents. I think we’re supposed to take that as him hiding the machinations of the Team and the League from them, but at the end of the episode we see him kissing Garth. I know that I’m A Straight and thus not an authority in coming out narratives, but this felt a lot like a build up to Kal telling the King and his folks about his relationship with Garth. Especially in light of the themes of the other three stories.
The main plot of the episode has Fatherbox taking more and more control of Vic’s body. It starts on New Year’s night, with him screaming at his human father for not respecting his boundaries, and gets noticeably worse when Silas shows up at Outsiders HQ trying to help. Superboy, Forager and Black Lightning (with a diagnostic assist from Dreamer of the Forever People) use Motherbox to track down Metron, then punch him a lot when he refuses to use his chair to help Vic, and the chair heals Cyborg back to his normal, cybernetic self. Incidentally, this is the story where the overall season narrative moves forward the most – Black Lightning overhears Metron talking about Granny Goodness, and figures out that she’s the same person as Gretchen Goode on Earth. The family story here doesn’t really have the room to breathe to work effectively – Vic goes from screaming at Silas on the phone to “just trust[ing him]” as Silas tries to put Vic into a coma to stop Fatherbox’s spread, to hugging at the end, but mixed in with three other stories, it just doesn’t land.
The final story is Megan sitting Harper Row down at Happy Harbor High for a talk. All it is is a conversation between the two about Harper’s abuse at her father’s hands. It’s not flashy or full of easter eggs. It’s not even especially animated, certainly not in contrast with the immediately preceeding shrieking from Vic at his old man. But it’s very effective, as is the card that flashes at the end encouraging people to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help if they’re experiencing abuse at the hands of a family member or partner. On another show, it would feel trite including this storyline, but there have been seeds planted in Harper’s other appearances and it feels like the creative team felt that it was the responsible course of action to dig deeper into her story AND provide that resource to viewers.
I really respect that about the folks making Young Justice. I didn’t see the connective tissue tying the entire episode together until about halfway through writing the review, but once it clicked, the episode made a lot more sense and was significantly more effective, even if we’re rapidly approaching endgame time with little overall plot movement.
OUTSIDER TRADING TIPS
– Metron is a New God created by Kirby in the ’70s. His schtick is basically “The Watcher but also a dick.” He floats around the universe on his Moebius Chair observing things (like Cyborg’s death and conversion into a Fatherbox here) and occasionally inventing completely irresponsible other things (Boom Tubes) and sometimes storing entirely separate irresponsible other things (the Anti-Life Equation, the cosmic egg from JLA/Avengers) in his chair.
– The Team first meets him under the nose of an entombed Promethean on the Source Wall, the boundary that separates the universe from the people reading DC Comics. The Source Wall was mentioned in Kirby’s New Gods books, but never seen until Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men/New Teen Titans crossover.
– The planet where Conner runs into Superman is Minosyss, and that is a super deep cut. It only appeared once, in The Return of Donna Troy,an Infinite Crisis tie-in miniseries that tried to untangle the Gordian Knot of Donna Troy’s continuity. It’s the planet where the Old Gods lived for some time, surrounded by an asteroid belt from a destroyed captured moon.
– Aqualad’s father is named Calvin Durham and ::smacks forehead::. Get it? Kal’durahm? Cal Durham?
So seriously, Calvin Durham was the Mayor of San Diego when, in the Aquaman comics, the city was sunk into the ocean and all its residents given gills so they could breathe underwater. The Sub Diego era was written by Will Pfeiffer and drawn by Patrick Gleason (who is outstanding), and it’s generally a well-regarded under the radar run of Aquaman books.