Welcome to our new Saturday animation round-up! This inaugural edition covers Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Young Justice, and starting next week we'll add Nickelodeon's new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which today received its own standalone review, in honor of its series premiere). Let us know what you think—and which other shows you might like to see reviewed here—in the comments.
The Clone Wars has, despite its lackluster start (and really dull movie), grown into an entertaining series that often has more going for it than the movies it was birthed from. But I must admit that the resurrection of Darth Maul at the end of last season made me more than a bit wary.
So I’m glad that “Revival” arranged things so that Maul won't be this season’s sole focus, and expanded his role from Obi-Wan antagonist to a potential unifier of crime families around the galaxy. It’s a clever way to keep Maul and Savage in the mix, but not necessarily at the forefront of the action. Likewise, the shift from brothers against Kenobi to a new pair of Sith against the galaxy ups the threat level (and gives Palpatine an unexpected perk in his plans to wipe out the Jedi).
The episode also managed to keep that threat level feeling real. Adi’s gruesome death (for a Saturday-morning show) showed what’s at stake for everyone, and kept Maul and Savage from being—wait for it!—phantom menaces! (Had to, sorry.) If there were no sacrifice, no sense of risk, then the various plots facing the Jedi would be largely empty.
And that’s an important thing for The Clone Wars to keep going. Asokha’s fate is up in the air as this series enters its fifth, and potentially final, season, and the idea that anyone can die, including the show’s audience surrogate, keeps The Clone Wars exciting.
Green Lantern proved itself a competent, if not terribly inventive, series during its first arc. After the heavy emphasis on space narratives, I was eager for this second arc to return to Earth (and for Earth to look better than it did in the first arc's finale). Thankfuily, I got exactly what I wanted. And Guy Gardner to boot!
This second arc seems primed to deal with the reactivation of decommissioned Manhunters, the robots that the Guardians used to maintain order in the galaxy before they started the Green Lantern Corp. But while that threat gets going, Hal has to deal with the fallout of being gone for months.
I really like this, that the series is giving ramifications for Hal’s life as a Green Lantern. While I still don’t think that Hal’s relationship with Carol is fleshed out enough to earn the moments the series has given them, both here and in the Star Sapphire episode in the first arc, I can appreciate the series making gestures toward Hal’s life outside of the ring.
Guy Gardner’s presence, likewise, brings a different dynamic to the series. He’s cocky, beloved by everyone (even Guardian Appa, and that guy doesn’t like anyone!), and doesn’t defer to Hal like Kilowog, Aya, and even Razer. Deidrich Balder’s performance hits all the right notes here, and I hope Guy appears a few more times.
But I’m not holding my breath. Given Hal’s promotion to the Green Lantern Honor Guard, I’m expecting more space stories. I’m hoping that these new ones will be less generic than the ones we got in the first arc, and if the writers decide to bring back the old team, that they continue to develop Razer and Aya, the only two characters with decent character arcs.
DC Nation Short: Teen Titans and a gamma ray PSA! This short was pretty well worth it for Starfire’s inability to say it and subsequent cursing in native tongue. Everyone else was amusing, and the idea of even doing a gamma ray PSA is clever (even though I don’t think anyone on the team got their powers from gamma rays...).
Young Justice is one of the most frustrating series I watch. When it’s good, it’s pretty good, but when it’s bad, it tends to be really bad. I know I seem to be in the minority on this based on other reviews and comments on my Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes piece from a couple months ago, but if it seems like I'm harsher on this series, it’s because I think there’s a lot of potential that the series just doesn’t live up to.
I actually rather enjoyed this episode. Original Roy’s anger at Ollie, his sense of neglect, provided a nice way to hit Roy’s beats from the iconic heroin arc from the comics in the 1970s while still being appropriate for the timeslot and the plot so far. Original Roy’s confrontation with Luthor and Mercy felt a tad dragged out (more on that in just a second), but I ultimately liked the result of Original Roy taking up the mantle as Arsenal. I’d like to see this develop a bit more, but, at the same time, Young Justice is already feeling a bit overstuffed sometimes, and I don’t know if it can support more plots.
Which is why the small asides in this episode—first to Dakota City for Rocket’s bridal show and Captain Cold’s bank heist (“I’m completely doomed, aren’t I?”) and then to Ivy Town to start, I guess, a romance between Conner and Wendy—made the episode feel a little busy and all over the place. The only departure from the Original Roy’s plot that even felt necessary was the visit to Artemis’s empty grave to learn about Cheshire and Sportmaster’s plans to go after Aqualad and Black Manta.
DC Nation Short: The Super Best Friends Forever fought Solomon Grundy, who “no fights girls.” I’ve missed the SBFFs (I haven’t been watching the DC Nation block since the hiatus), so having this particular segment back for the opening week was much appreciated. It was filled with bits, like their mocking of Grundy as a zombie, and I really enjoyed Supergirl’s assertion of “We are equal-opportunity butt-kickers!” Grundy may have gender equality issues, but the girls don’t!
What'd you think of this week's episodes?
Note: As I mentioned above, Nickelodeon's new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series will appear in the animation round-up starting next week. This week it received its own standalone review.
Are there any other series you’d like to see in the round-up? All suggestions are welcome, but to have a good chance at inclusion they need to be shows that: 1) lend themselves to this capsule review format, 2) do not air opposite the shows reviewed above, 3) I can catch up on easily if I need to, and 4) aren't on Hub or Disney XD (which aren’t a part of my cable package).