Young Justice Season 4 Episodes 1 and 2 Review: Phantoms Starts Strong

The Young Justice season 4 premiere on HBO Max gets Phantoms off to a strong start.

Superboy and Ms. Martian in Young Justice Season 4 Episode 1
Photo: DC

This Young Justice: Phantoms review contains spoilers.

Young Justice Season 4 Episodes 1 and 2

Jeez, it’s been a long time. 

Young Justice: Phantoms picks up essentially where Outsiders left off, but it’s been a little over two years since the last episode came out, and…uh…a lot has happened since then. You know. Out there. So it was a little jarring to be dropped in the same spot as if no time had passed. 

And then Young Justice flashed the Legion of Super-Heroes flight rings at me, everything came rushing back, and it was all better.

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The story elements of the first two episodes of the season, which dropped on HBO Max during DC’s big FanDome celebration, are fairly light on plot. Connor and M’gann are travelling on Bioship back to Mars for their wedding, after getting engaged at the end of last season. Beast Boy and J’onn are travelling with them.

Mars is a flourishing, vibrant place full of martians, with a brutal caste system and a strain of xenophobia that they are fighting against. Mars is about to open a Zeta Tube to Earth; the tube’s inaugural transit is sabotaged; and it is made to look like M’gann’s brother, Ma’alefa’ak, was the culprit. But he wasn’t. Someone mysterious is pulling the strings, and the Legion, including Saturn Girl, Phantom Lass, and Chameleon Kid, are there to stop him.

The episodes are very heavy on mood and atmosphere, though. We spend almost all of our time inside M’gann and Connor’s heads – literally, as almost nobody’s lips move during the entire episode. It’s all telepathy. 

We also get a LOT of Martian culture. There might be as much in these episodes as there was in the terrific recent Martian Manhunter prestige comic from Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo, though, of course, what’s here is VASTLY different. Starting with the fact that there’s a fully populated Mars right there on Earth’s back porch. This Mars (which was visited originally as part of Young Justice’s APPARENTLY canon comic tie in, something I was shocked to learn during these episodes) is extremely segregated, but was trying to make progress before its ruler was murdered, and as part of Gar and Connor’s investigation into how the Zeta Tube was blown up, they also take on an investigation into the death of the ruler. 

Meanwhile, Ma’alefa’ak is stirring up caste troubles, and cashing in his favor from Darkseid to score a gene bomb that will kill all the green and red martians. Even more mood was sewn into this sequence: Desaad, dropping off the gene bomb as payment for Ma’alefa’ak’s work impersonating Orion on New Genesis last season, casually lol’s at what even he points out is the absurd racism of Martian society. When Desaad the Torturer, Desaad the Depraved, Desaad the Debauched, can look you in the eye and say “wow you guys are a little over the top,” you know it’s bad.

There’s a lot of season left to go for Young Justice: Phantoms, but this was a solid start that set the tone very well.

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Let’s lay some odds on who’s the big bad the Legion is hunting….

  • 3-2: Computo. The Legion’s sentient, self-aware, and super evil computer likely has the means and the will to travel back in time for awfulness. The only thing missing is the motive, which I’m sure the show will provide.
  • 10-1: Mordru. He’s very magic focused, but part wonders if Zatanna being in the opening credits now might be telegraphing his interference.
  • 25-1: the Controller. The Controller has been retconned into being an offshoot race of the Guardians of Oa, but when he was originally introduced, he was the uber-intellect who threw a Sun Eater at Earth and led to the death of Ferro Lad. But the retcon makes them too complicated to honestly include here.
  • 50-1: Grimbor. Too easy to kinkshame.
  • 100-1: Starfinger. I’m sorry, but once the old cartoon turned him into Eurotrash, it took him off the board for years. 

We’ll get into whoever the winner is when his identity is revealed.

  • Also, Zatanna isn’t the only new face in the opening credits. Rocket is there too, continuing FanDome’s SPOTLESS record on Milestone Comics awesomeness.
  • Speaking of Milestone, I’m not the only one who got a kick out of the priest who married M’gann’s parents. “Kra’stopher” the Priest? Nice touch.
  • Something’s up with Bioship, too. I think it had…a baby?
  • I could be just missing the episode where it happened, but everything I can find says the only mention of Mars outside of M’gann’s memories was in the sixth issue of the Art and Franco-penned tie in series in 2011. Please let me know if I’m wrong in the comments.