Young Justice "Runaways" Review: A Super Homage and a Not-so-twisty Twist

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Feb 02, 2013

Young Justice S02E14: "Runaways"

So, what do you all want to discuss first? The Super Friends character homages or that Green Beetle was exactly what we suspected him of being all along? Let’s do the runaway Super Friends characters first since, well, what more can we say about Green Beetle other than, “What a non-twist!”

For those of you who may not know, and it’s reasonable if you don't, Super Friends was a Hanna-Barbera series about a Justice League-esque group (Superman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman) that went through a couple of different iterations between 1973 and 1986. The show had different tones and goals across those iterations. The first season was big on the kid-friendly public service announcements (“Saving energy is important, children!”) and barely had recognizable DC villains at all. The second season saw the introduction of Black Vulcan, Samurai, El Dorado, and Apache Chief to give the series a little diversity.

The Super Friends series is sort of maligned due to its overly earnest moralizing and silly adventuring, but it’s an important part of DC media history, and “Runaways” paid homage to the characters I just mentioned. Virgil stood in for Black Vulcan, what with their similar uses of electricity-based powers; the Japanese girl, Sam (short for Asami), was our Samurai, and used an energy-projection ability to travel in a way that Samurai used a tornado to travel; Eduardo borrowed El Dorado’s teleportation abilities; and Tye Longshadow’s giant astral manifestations harkened back to Apache Chief’s ability to grow in size. The coloring of the youngsters’ clothes even mirrored that of their 1970s counterparts.

So I rather enjoyed both the character nods to an older piece of DC animated history and where they fit into the story. Virgil, Sam, Tye, and Eduardo have been background players since the Reach’s abduction of them, and having them do something, even if it was a very half-assed runaway plot, provided a welcome change of pace from the larger plot of the show. Their characterization suffered due to our lack of experience with them, but that’s pretty much par for the course for the second season of Young Justice.

As a result, their recruitment by Lex, foreshadowed in the most obvious way possible a couple of weeks ago, didn’t fill me with worry or dread like it probably should have. It just feels like more plotting and conniving. That being said, I really want to buy into the idea that Lex is beginning to work against the Reach, since one of my biggest problems with the Light and the Reach’s union has always been that I find it difficult to believe that villains with big agendas and egos—like Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor, and Ra’s al Ghul—would sacrifice those things for the Reach’s plans. So if the villains have turned against their alien masters, that’s a bit interesting. If this is just some con to get the kids on board, I’m less engaged.

But I guess we should talk about the Blue Beetle thing, eh? Turned out that Green Beetle’s little reconfiguring of the scarab last week is indeed spurring on the end of the world, as he actually allowed the scarab to take control of Jaime. It’s for the best that we were let in on the cause of Jaime’s overly violent behavior as opposed to having it strung out for a few episodes since, well, we all already saw this coming a mile away. A surprise of some sort would’ve been nice, but we’ll just have to wait and see how this contributes to the show’s endgame.

Notes & Quotes

DC Nation Short: Another installment of the Lightning and Thunder shorts. I liked the family vibe the short played up, particularly the "Black Lightning as a single parent" aspect, but it was also one of those shorts that felt like everything would play better even as an 11-minute version.

Justice League Unlimited had a similar sort of plot with the Super Friends characters in the episode “Ultimatum,” though they excluded El Dorado in favor of the more recognizable Wonder Twins. If you haven’t seen the episode, I’d advise against it until Young Justice finishes. Their arc on this series may mirror the plot of that episode.

– I had completely forgotten about Red Volcano, and what Red Volcano even looked like. In my defense, he hasn’t appeared on the show since Oct. 21, 2011.

– “Except you’re flying around free as a... beetle.”

– “Where’s Amazo’s head?!” I’m going to start shouting that at the office.

– I kept waiting for Green Beetle to transform into the Earth-16 Ma'alefa'ak, the big nemesis of the Martian Manhunter, in that last scene, but I’m starting to think he’s just a Martian with a scarab. Ah, well.

What'd you think of this week's episode?

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  • TomWayne Feb 06, 2013

    Noel, did you see my comments on your review of GLTAS last week? I had commented about YJ's writers' growing conundrum with Miss M--and that was the secret of this episode working for me, despite the obvious reveal......she wasn't here. They solved the Miss M problem temporarily by writing in the cover-our-rear line about Kaldur's repairs possibly taking a very long time. Too bad that drops Artemis from the script too, but then again she's been cornered undercover anyway.
    Agreed on the expectation that the Light won't play ball forever with the Reach. If the writers don't head this direction, then they truly don't understand Ra's al Ghul or Lex Luthor, no matter which "Earth-permutation" this is. (Hard enough to picture Ra's working with Lex anyway, but I digress.)
    Nice job on the SF connections--it's been way too long since I watched that classic.

  • noelrk Staff Feb 06, 2013

    No, I missed that comment. My apologies (last week was busy for me writing-wise, so going back to check on old posts fell by the wayside).

    I think you're putting a bit too much of the weakness of the show on M'gann's shoulders, though her arc, as you highlighted in your previous comment, is certainly an issue due to how half-baked it is. But it's not just her -- everyone, save for Jaime and M'gann, have had character arcs (let alone personalities) eliminated or downplayed in favor of a plot- and action-driven show. And even their arcs are hardly as well-developed as they should be.

    The show is picking and choosing, and some of that could just be the mandates of production (perhaps Danica McKeller's schedule is more available than others', and thus M'gann gets more of a focus?), and it could just be that the writers like the character.

  • TomWayne Feb 08, 2013

    The thing with M'gann is that she's been more and more of a cause of problems for the team than a help as the season has progressed. (Most recently her botched interrogation of Green Beetle has now compromised Blue and by extension possibly the world--the team knew how crucial it was to protect Blue from any attempts by the Reach to infiltrate, and yet there she stood in her self-doubt but not letting the team know that she wasn't able to do it. Like a detective showing up at a prime suspect's house with a search warrant and instead agreeing to the guided tour, then telling the DA that the sje found nothing.)

    However, I see this as fitting into my view that she is the one who dies before it's all over, if anyone does (an interview with one of the producers before Invasion began alluded that an original team member would die before the story was done--Artemis wouldn't count, as she was shown to be alive in the same episode as her death). This would fit into the DCU tendency to make sidekick or auxillary characters less likable before they die (e.g. Jason Todd, or even Rachel Dawes in the Nolanverse Batman). I'm not trying to "hate" on M'gann, just noting that they've made her less likable as things have progressed, especially as she has now caused the suffering of Kaldur and Jaime.

  • lady_catseyes Feb 05, 2013

    Can't get into episodes involving annoying characters. *yawn* Let's just add as many random characters to YJ as possible...who cares about the original castings that were what was great about the first season...

  • noelrk Staff Feb 05, 2013

    I agree and disagree. I think the timeskip in the second season has shifted the show very dramatically away from being a more character-driven-ish action series to being an action series. And there's nothing particularly wrong with that; it's a different focus, sort of like a comic book changing writers and bringing in lots of new ideas.

    On the flipside of that, however, is that the narrative is resting on characters we don't really know that well, even 14 episodes into the second season (and only 6 more to go!) So while I do appreciate the shoutouts to the Super Friends, and their episode is a good way to further this Blue Beetle/Reach arc, but it's just sort of flat because it's tied up in that plot associated with a character that there's a minimal attachment to.

    It's telling that last week's episode, which favored Artemis and M'gann was probably one of the stronger episodes (for me anyway) since "Darkness," if not "Depths" (even if I don't like how the latter undermined a lot of dramatic tension of Kaldur's face heel turn for a much less interesting double agent plot).

    Of course, important to realize the variety of things that may or may not be influencing all of this, including meddling from a conglomerate level, studio and network notes, desire to re-appeal to certain demographics, and so on.

  • prowly Feb 04, 2013

    Yeah, the new new developments were not particularly surprising, though I do find Jaime's education on the meaning of "irony" a bit unfortunate. It seems it really isn't like rain on your wedding day. Thanks a lot, Alanis, you liar.

    I was glad to get confirmation on our fourth being El Dorado like I suspected. I really hope they shy away from anything that resembles his original costume. Put a shirt on, El Dorado.

  • Silver_Sword_14 Feb 03, 2013

    So no more reviews of Green Lantern and TMNT?

  • noelrk Staff Feb 03, 2013

    Not a weekly basis, no. Might do a season wrap-up on both, but those are very tentative plans.

  • Silver_Sword_14 Feb 03, 2013

    Aw, too bad. A season wrap-up works.

  • zeddyp Feb 03, 2013

    Is anyone else getting sick of the whole hispanic stereotype focus...I know hundreds of hispanics...NONE of them talk like they do in this show it is getting so god damn annoying: "Where is my son?" or "but you work with the reach you make their refresco...their...beverage"

  • joshmaverikcs Feb 03, 2013

    Maybe the Green Beetle thing wasn't done as a surprise, because they suspected him and so Jaime's just pretending that the scarab has taken control, so that the League has moles inside the Light with Artemis and Aqualad and one inside the Reach, with Blue Beetle

  • jeffreysithia Feb 03, 2013

    No way Virgil was a stand in for Static Shock.

    He was riding a manhole cover and everything!

  • noelrk Staff Feb 03, 2013

    Virgil can't be a stand in for Static since he is actually Static. My point was that he was standing in place of Black Vulcan, a character from the 1970s created to diversify the line up of the Super Friends series (and one created because there was a rights issue with Black Lightning at the time) just like the other three were there as stand-ins/call-backs to other Super Friend characters.

  • Spike_Fan_91827 Feb 03, 2013

    I'm not sure if this comment posted when I initially tried, but Virgil isn't Black Vulcan, he's Static (from Milestone; Milestone and DC merged, so DC now can use Milestone characters, like they did with Rocket last season). Not trying to be a jerk, just pointing it out so that you'd know. (Point of interest, if you watched Justice League, Batman, Superman, or Batman Beyond, you may have seen Static crossover several times from his show, Static Shock).

  • noelrk Staff Feb 03, 2013

    I have watch Justice League (even alluded to a Justice League Unlimited episode in the notes...), Superman, Batman Beyond, and Static Shock.

    He isn't Black Vulcan, but he's there as a stand-in for that arrangement of characters from the Super Friends series.

  • thechosenonecj Feb 03, 2013

    To be fair, he didn't say Virgil was Black Vulcan, just that he was standing in for that role.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 02, 2013

    Green Beetle just because it was so obvious that we really need to just talk about it and get it out of the way. It walked and talked and quacked, and now here we are with duckshit all over our shoes - the only real thing left to say is that the show better shift focus before cancellation to fixing Jaime lest it end on the note that Bart's timeline will come to pass.

    I'm old, I don't understand how Super Friends and its spinoffs wouldn't be familiar to any DC fans, it's even on hipster T-shirts to this day. Plus, there's been a duck-crap-ton of references on YJ already, from the hall of justice to Wendy & Marv... um, and I guess Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Ok, not really a ton.

    This plot was pretty thin, it made me a little angry to think that the first thing our YJ heroes do with these newly-powered youngsters is to dump 'em in an uncaring hellhole - that speaks poorly to the character of our so-called superheroes, but perhaps that's an intentional failing, it wouldn't be the first one YJ put into them.

    Lex Luthor has always seemed like a compelling character when he's working for the betterment of mankind and the Earth, when you can agree with a villain's arguments against Superman, you've got a well-written character on your hands and a real conundrum for your heroes. Hitler wasn't born a monster, he didn't start out trying to rule everything, nobody follows those kinds of monsters, the people have to believe in that person as a plausible leader with plausible goals for the people's benefit for the monsters to rise to power (except Double Hitlers, they're able to just flick a switch and have unlimited henchmen at their command, that's why political rhetoric is so rife with Hitler references, to ensure the public is aware of the very real threats posed by Double Hitlers in modern society). Should Lex be pulling another BS on our kiddies, I'm with ya, it'd be quite disappointing.

    Anyway, I liked the relative lack of success on the Super Friends' part despite doing much greater deeds than they expected to be capable of, it helped offset the predictable script elements here. Were it not for twistzilla stomping through the city, I would have enjoyed this episode more.


    Lightning and Thunder actually felt to me like it couldn't have gone a second longer with the existing script, despite being a short it really got every note it needed. That said, it could easily have used more stuff to say and remained interesting. Also, that family must go through a fortune in replacement phones.

    Why did they go with a rerun of the Super Best Friends Forever naming episode? For one thing, SBFF has been canceled, so only 5 shorts total. For another, why a rerun?

    How can there be just any ol' Martians left to beetleize? Having him be Ma'alefa'ak AND a beetle-wearer at least won't feel like yet another Martian pulled out of DC's ass.

  • noelrk Staff Feb 03, 2013

    I dunno, the show ending with Bart's timeline coming to pass would be a real downer. I'd sort of like to see that. But then I'm dead inside.

    You're right, but I'm not sure how much play the characters created to diversify the cast in the second season beyond the Wonder Twins. I'm also unaware of how heavily syndicated the Super Friends series is today, so it's possible that people may be aware of it, but have never seen it. It happens.

    I've come to really like YJ's Lex, even if I was cool toward him at the start. They've managed to differentiate him from the DCAU Lex, which is fairly impressive considering how iconic that version of Lex is.

    There were reports about delays and shortages for the shorts, hence the reruns. I'm not going to turn my nose up at SBFF rerun, but it also just serves as a cruel reminder that they're not making any more.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 03, 2013

    Wow, that would be a dark way to end YJ: "everything you fought for is meaningless because of a series of mistakes you made, which leads to the downfall of the human race. Enjoy your cereal, kids!"

    Apache Chief resonated with pop culture I think, but Samurai was dull and repetitive (thanks to Red Tornado who is already dull to begin with, at least until YJ addressed that), and El Dorado was embarrassing almost to the point of being the Frito Bandito (look it up, kids).

    DC running low on content? What, it's hard to point a microphone at English children playing Batman and then crudely animate clayamtion versions of the characters on a simple background? Seriously though, this is another sign of how DC and their parent company are stuck in the wrong gear. They could be throwing tons of cash around developing way more short content, putting it on Youtube and such to develop their characters' pop culture recognition; yet instead they let it choke and wither just as they do with their inability to properly build animation blocks. Look at stuff like Vibe, at Amethyst, at Atom and Thunder & Lightning and more, these are names we haven't been talking about in years - decades even - and yet DC / Warner Bros is content to let them continue to languish simply due to not putting enough resources into it.

  • RaizenYusuke Feb 03, 2013

    I think we are safe from a the Reach wins ending. My gut tells me this season will end with the Reach's defeat and unfortunately shows a glimpse of Darkseid, as a tease for a 3rd season that is now saddly not going to happen.

  • RaizenYusuke Feb 02, 2013

    Part me actually wants the Light to be so arrogant as to think they are controlling the Reach only to get played and realize that destroyed the planet. The Light's constant victories are getting annoying to me. I groaned when Lex reached out to the kids. I liked the runaway kids and their characters. The Superfriend references and nods were appreciated.

    The Green Beetle plot I was prepared for it to be straight forward just because I don't think there was a way to make him a twist that we didn't see coming short of your idea last week.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 02, 2013

    I'm still unclear on the Light and the Reach's relationships, in one episode the Manta crew is told that they are competitors, but I've seen a lot of folks talking about them being in cahoots.

  • RaizenYusuke Feb 03, 2013

    Oh I remember that. The Kromtians (I am sure I spelld tat wrong) the aliens posing as humans told Manta's crew Blue and by extension the Reach were their competitors. The Light has bee working with the Reach for a while. Kromotains I think were just being played to help them in their grand scheme.

  • noelrk Staff Feb 02, 2013

    I've been assuming they've been in cahoots the entire time, BUT the timeskip does make it difficult to ascertain sometimes. I mean, Sportsmaster was working alongside Black Beetle even way back, in, what, "Salvage?"

  • JT_Kirk Feb 03, 2013

    Between your point and Raizen's reponse, I think we can all agree that it's not really clear enough. I'd like to hope this will all be explained and dealt with before the series finale.

    You are correct about that being Salvage, aired back in May but very recent in the show's timeline. This is where I'd link to the clip of Austin Powers talking about going all crosseyed.