NOTE: This review does not cover Season 4.
Earlier, I wrote a post reviewing the version of Superman featured in the Young Justice cartoon. It wasn’t exactly a favorable review. But the show in general is another story, especially if we’re talking about Season 1.
Since this site is mostly geared to people who are already DC fans, I won’t go into too much detail about the show’s background and premise, but I’ll give a brief overview. It’s about a group of teenage superheroes who are given covert ops missions by the Justice League. However, it should be noted that due to between-season time skips, the main characters of the first season are adults after Season 1, and to some extent the show accordingly shifts focus to heroes who are actually still teenagers, but not completely.
The show started in 2010, but after only two seasons, had a very long hiatus, and thus Season 3 came out in 2019. Season 4 is taking a bit of time to come out thanks to the pandemic.
By the way, I’ve tried to keep this review pretty much spoiler-free.
Season 1 is a great show. Not absolutely perfect, but great in quite a lot of ways. It’s very character-focused and does a great job portraying and developing its cast, and making them memorable and compelling. The main characters – Robin (Dick Grayson), Kid Flash (Wally West), Superboy (Conner Kent), Miss Martian (M’gann M’orzz), Artemis (Artemis Crock), and Aqualad (Kaldur’ahm) – are all very distinct with their own issues, goals, and arcs. Each main character is likeable in their own way as well. These six characters get the most complex development, but the other characters in the show are also handled extremely well. For example, I love how Red Tornado, a member of the Justice League who is not exactly the most well-known, gets a lot of spotlight. Captain Marvel (later renamed Shazam) also gets a bit of focus, which I definitely appreciate as a fan of his, and he’s a lot of fun (though I will admit his portrayal is perhaps a tad demeaning).
Not only the characters, but also the stories are incredibly well-done. The episodes are varied, exciting, and multilayered, combining superhero action and excitement with interesting themes and character struggles. There is a good balance between having an ongoing story and episodes mostly standing on their own.
Even though Young Justice Season 1 is a great overall experience, I do have relatively minor issues with it, though they are extremely subjective. In many ways, it is essentially a drama, which is not really my favorite genre ever. The interpersonal tension and mistrust, secrets and lies, having such a serious attitude about things…I don’t absolutely love it, really. But it works well enough for the show.
As silly as this may be, I found myself a bit annoyed with the main characters being somewhat immature and emotionally-driven, even though this makes sense considering they’re literally kids. But it was still sorta a problem for me because it reminded me of how silly an idea it is to make a team of essentially secret agents who are all children.
In general, it sometimes struck me as a bit silly the way this show takes itself so seriously, but being a relatively traditional superhero show, is full of absurd elements. I mean, there’s a superhero whose name superhero name is Artemis…and whose real name is also Artemis. And yet she’s still supposed to have a “secret identity”…pretty funny. Also, this is far from a universally accepted take, but I personally found the reveal of who the mole is to be a bit…cheesy, I guess.
As a Superman fan above all other superheroes, I was also annoyed by Superman’s portrayal, but considering I wrote a whole article on that, I won’t rehash it.
Overall, if you have any interest in superhero cartoons whatsoever, you should watch Young Justice Season 1. It’s really great.
Seasons 2 and 3
Seasons 2 and 3…suffice it to say I’m overall a lot less enthusiastic about them than I am about Season 1. But that’s not to say they’re bad, far from it. I certainly don’t regret watching them…but I’m not really that eager to rewatch them either.
I think the biggest fundamental problem with Season 2 is the time skip: a whopping FIVE YEARS pass between Season 1 and Season 2. This would be a strange choice for most shows, but in a show in which the main characters are so young, it’s borderline ridiculous. When you’re a teenager, so much can change in five years. It hurts all the more considering how heavily focused Season 1 was on character development. Instead of being able to watch the characters continue to develop naturally, we jump ahead. And on top of that, there is less of a focus on the Season 1 characters and a lot of them have gone through major changes, such as Kid Flash being semi-retired. Yes, some of the characters they introduce in this season and shift some of the focus to are rather cool, but I can’t help but feel like it’s not the ideal direction to have gone. It would have been far better to pick up from where they’d left off and keep developing the characters naturally.
In general, there are so many different characters and elements in Season 2 that it’s a bit overwhelming and makes the show feel unfocused. Honestly, it feels like so much potential is wasted – both the Season 1 characters’ potential and the potential of the new characters they’ve introduced – because they’re just trying to do too much. This season is full of interesting characters and ideas, but they can’t be developed nearly as much as I’d like because there’s so much going on!
Overall, I have slightly more positive feelings about Season 3 than Season 2, because while it still has a lot of different elements and is a little unfocused, I don’t think it’s quite as bad. There are several distinct groups of characters and each of them gets a fairly decent amount of focus. There is a time skip between Season 2 and Season 3, but it’s not as bad because it’s only two years, and plus, since there was such a huge real-life time gap between the seasons, it feels appropriate. Also, Season 3 adds a bit more humor than the previous seasons, which is a very welcome addition.
Still, I definitely can’t say I absolutely love Season 3. Overall, I feel like the characters introduced in this season are actually a bit less inherently interesting than the ones introduced in Season 2. Also, the problem of mixing a serious tone with the silliness of superheroes actually feels a bit worse, despite the addition of a smattering of humor. I think the reason for this is because the real world comparisons are more obvious, since it tackles themes like human trafficking and discrimination but with metahumans (people with powers). I know this has a long tradition in superhero media, with the X-Men and such…but it just felt weird to me (and TBH, I don’t know much about X-Men so I can’t really compare).
Overall, Season 2 and Season 3 are fairly decent, certainly not bad, but I struggle to be very enthusiastic about them.
Watch Season 1 of Young Justice. If you like superheroes at all, and are open to watching cartoon shows, I doubt you’ll regret it. But the other seasons are a bit more dubious in terms of quality, at least in my opinion. They’re certainly not bad and you might end up liking them more than me, but don’t be surprised if you give them a try and are a little underwhelmed.