Chris/Cross: Sims vs. Haley on the ‘Young Justice’ Cartoon [Review]
Last Friday, Cartoon Network aired the one-hour pilot of their new animated series, Young Justice. Loosely based on the DC comic of the same name -- in that it features some of the same characters, though with a radically different plot -- the show follows the adventures of Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Superboy as they form a new team of young heroes under the guidance of the Justice League. ComicsAlliance's own Chris Sims and Chris Haley were among the 2.55 million viewers who tuned in to check it out, and they found themselves with completely opposing viewpoints on the show. So today, we're going to do our best to prove that it actually is possible to argue on the Internet without completely devolving into poorly spelled assertions of who sux more. This... is... Chris/Cross!
Chris Sims: Chris, in addition to having the same first name, you and I also tend to be pretty similar in the stuff that we like and dislike, which is why I was so surprised that we completely disagreed about Cartoon Network's pilot for Young Justice. It's like we weren't even watching the same show.
Chris Haley: Yeah, those were my sentiments exactly, because when I was watching it I remember thinking, "I bet Sims is loving this too!"
Chris Sims: And I was genuinely looking forward to you ragging on it in one of your comics. So clearly, one of us was wrong. And now we have to find out who.
Chris Haley: And since I've never been wrong about a cartoon ever, I look forward to your forthcoming acquiescence.
Chris Sims: Before we get too far into the debate, we should probably catch everyone up. In case you missed it, Young Justice was a show where Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad hear about a fire in Cadmus labs, so they go poke around a basement that looks like one of the planets from Metroid until they find a clone of Superman, and then they make friends with him. This takes about an hour, with commercial breaks. Is that about right?
Chris Haley: Yes, you have begrudgingly met the bare minimum requirement for describing a fantastic animated pilot featuring characters you love.
Chris Sims: So let's start things off on a positive note: What did you like about it?
Chris Haley: I'm trying to think of something I didn't like about it. The quality of the animation itself was just fantastic, which I guess is par for the course with the DC projects Warner Bros. Animation has produced. The character designs were all really slick. For the most part the voice casting and acting was all great. With the exception of a few clunky expository lines, the writing introduced all the pertinent concepts and characters in a way that was interesting and exciting without being impossible for someone not previously invested in the comics or characters to follow.
Chris Sims: I agree with you a hundred percent about the animation and designs. This thing LOOKED great. It reminded me a lot of DC's recent animated movies -- specifically Under the Red Hood -- and as far as visuals go, that's not a bad thing. And the actual animation was very smooth, especially during the fight scenes. But I completely disagree with pretty much everything else you said.
Chris Haley: This baffles me.
Chris Sims: To be fair, I should say right off that I've been a little down on Young Justice since I first heard about it back at San Diego. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that this is because they talked about it at the same panel where I found out Batman: The Brave and the Bold was ending, but seriously, nothing about this sounded good, and I'm a dude who loves teen super-heroes.
Chris Haley: While the news of B:TB&TB being canceled was equally upsetting to me, as I think it's one of the all time best shows ever... of all time... ever, and while I'm normally fully capable of accepting that people can have varying viewpoints and opinions on the same creative works, I am really having a hard time wrapping my brain around your complaints with this show.
Chris Sims: The way it was pitched to the crowd at San Diego, Young Justice is going to be about the Justice League turning their sidekicks into a covert ops squad, which seemed like an absolutely terrible idea. If there were covert ops to do, why wouldn't Batman and the Martian Manhunter do it themselves? Also, there was talk about how it takes place on "Earth-16" and is going to "impact the DC multiverse," which really just hit me as bulls*** meant to appeal to the crowd that argues over which made-up stories about made-up characters "count" rather than which ones are good. So again, I was turned off well before it aired.
Chris Haley: I guess I was too busy drunkenly singing Gorillaz karaoke with Laura Hudson to attend said panel, but had I been there with you, I'm sure I would have rolled my eyes at those statements as well. The covert ops team sounds kind of like a silly idea to me, but I've heard other people say that's their favorite part of the show's premise. As much as we both love Batman, Chris, until we get a Batman Inc. animated series, he can't be everywhere at once so some of those secret missions might have to be handled by someone else. I can take it or leave it as an idea, but the way they set it up in the show mostly made sense. Which is a pretty big step up from making me roll my eyes.
Chris Sims: Even with all that, I honestly tried to give it a fair shake when it came on, but there was nothing that really sold me on the show. It didn't have the appealing aesthetics or style of something like Batman: The Animated Series or even Teen Titans, and as good as the animation, was, it was telling a very generic, paint-by-numbers story. There was nothing in here that I haven't seen done better elsewhere.
Chris Haley: See, this is a major point of contention between us, because what you really mean to say is, "The show's aesthetics and style didn't appeal to me."
Chris Sims: Fair enough! But they didn't. The nice thing about doing a show with a single hero is that you can focus on a design that plays aspects of that hero up, like Bruce Timm did with the noir stylings of Batman: The Animated Series or the revived Max Fleisher look for Superman and Justice League. But when you've got an ensemble cast that has varied characters, it's much harder to find something that works with all of them. Teen Titans was able to get around this by taking them in an entirely new direction with manga style designs, but for Young Justice, the end result hit me as nice, but generic.
Chris Sims: Also, I know you mean "mostly made sense" as a positive statement, so I'll let that one slide.
Chris Haley: And, I'm not sure what cartoons you've been watching, but I've never seen a show where Aqualad, Robin, and Kid Flash meet The Guardian and Dubbilex, find the freshly cloned Superboy and free him, and then fight a ton of monsters that has done it better than Young Justice.
Chris Sims: Well, wasn't the pilot to Justice League about rescuing the Martian Manhunter from an evil government installation? You know, basically doing the exact same thing? Or am I misremembering?
Chris Haley: Martian Manhunter isn't Superboy, Chris.
Chris Sims: Right, my mistake.
Chris Haley: I think you are basically remembering the pilot for JL correctly, but it was a totally different feel. You never feel like Batman or Superman are in over their heads or can't fight or figure their way out of the situation. With YJ, you had both the tension of them really not knowing what they were getting themselves into and not being fully prepared to deal with it once they were in the middle of it, as well as the fun/humor of youth where the characters make can make mistakes or show that they obviously think being a superhero is the best thing in the world... which it totally would be!
Chris Haley: If The Flash doesn't stop in time and runs into a wall, he looks like an idiot. You lose respect for him, because that's not the kind of thing The Flash should do. But if Kid Flash does it, it's funny and you empathize with him.
Chris Sims: It definitely seems like you enjoyed the plot way more than I did, too. What was the appeal for you, aside from just seeing Dubbilex and the Guardian and going "Oh hey, I know who those guys are"? I know you liked the idea of seeing more inexperienced characters deal with super-heroics, which I can understand.
Chris Haley: What's the appeal of seeing Batman go with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters to fight an alien dictator on another planet on The Brave and the Bold? I mean, I've seen Batman punch aliens on Justice League already. Why do I need to see that again on a different show?
Chris Sims: Because it's done well? Because the dialogue is smart and self-aware, and the style is something that doesn't look exactly like Ben 10? Don't make this about arguing, Chris Haley! I was genuinely asking! Okay, no, I was being a jerk. But you knew that when you signed up to do this article.
Chris Haley: Yeah, I mean, obviously I was being facetious, because I want to see Batman punching aliens on as many shows as I can. The point I'm making is, even if this show was about a more established version of Young Justice doing young superhero type things (as was already done magnificently on Teen Titans), I would still be excited to watch this show. Because it's well-made and it's got superheroes doing superhero stuff... which is basically what we are into the most!
Chris Sims: For me, a lot of this was front-loaded with a lot of exposition laid out in infodumps -- I'm specifically thinking of Speedy's big rant at the beginning about how the Justice League works and how they have Zeta Beams, which are words I've read before in comics so I know I SHOULD be really happy to hear them on television -- and you could say that's a peril of doing a pilot, but again, I've seen shows do it better. I mean, Avatar: The Last Airbender knocked that jazz out in its opening credits.
Chris Haley: I remember you harping on this when we were arguing about it on Twitter, but you're nitpicking like three or four lines of dialogue that really were not that loaded. He mentions the Zeta Beams yes, but all he really says is, "I bet they didn't even tell you the real base is in space!" I don't think it was as offensive as you want to make it out to be.
Chris Sims: Are you saying someone on the Internet might be exaggerating a work's flaws? Come on, you know that's impossible.
Chris Haley: And it's not like I'm a soft touch just because it's got superheroes in it. I am very prone to eyerolling and am completely willing to ridicule something if it is insulting, idiotic, or terrible. Especially where it concerns superheroes, as that's the subject I'm most interested in. I mean, that's is basically what Curt and I have been doing on a regular basis for the last two years. If anything, I think doing that has made me a little more acutely aware of awfulness. And this show did not set off my Awful Sense. In fact, if I can steal a phrase, if this show reeked of anything, it was awesomeness.
Chris Sims: It reeked all right. Putting aside the exposition, I still felt there were a lot of problems, specifically that it was really uncreative in terms of what the characters did. I'll give a pass to Robin using his TRS-80 Wiz Kid computer hacker skillz to do... well, basically everything he did, but did Kid Flash actually do anything interesting with his speed powers? And why does Aqualad need those weird handles to make stuff out of water? I mean, he was better than Green Lantern on Justice League, who used his ring to make nothing but laser beams and bubbles for like 6 years, but not by much.
Chris Haley: Are you saying you want me to explain the things that were confusing to you in the children's cartoon show, Grandpa? If that's what you're asking me to do I will, you just have to ask.
Chris Sims: Bubbles and laser beams! That's all the kids these days like!
Chris Haley: To answer your questions: 1) They actually did do some interesting things with Kid Flash's use of his speed powers that haven't been previously done with The Flash in animation (to the best of my recollection) involving him using them in an almost acrobatic fashion to jump, tumble, and flip while fighting.
2) My understanding of it (based on context clues in the show) was that though Aqualad can control and contort water, he can't create it, so those "handles" on his back store a limited amount of water within them for him to make small shields or weapons.
Chris Sims: The Flash stuff must've happened when I dozed off from boredom, and while I thought that might be the case with Aqualad, I was hoping the answer wasn't "Oh, he's just Katara from Avatar, only not written as well."
Chris Haley: Oh, like how Aang is just Red Tornado except a little kid, right down to the arrow on his head?
Chris Sims: Aang can't be Red Tornado. I don't hate Aang with a burning passion.
Chris Haley: But their powers are similar so he has to be a total rip-off!
Chris Sims: They are? I seriously thought Red Tornado's powers were that he can cry even though he's a robot.
Chris Haley: You are just digging your heels in and refusing to listen to reason. I think whatever the next DC show was after Brave and the Bold was canceled was automatically going to earn your ire and you just can't let it go.
Chris Sims: It's honestly not that. I will agree wholeheartedly that there's potential here for this show to be great. The first episodes of Justice League weren't all that great, and I was way more of a fan of the second season of Teen Titans than the first. I just think that if the goal here was to put their best foot forward, they failed.
Chris Sims:I mean, why even bother with doing a story like this, when we already know from the promos that they're going to get more cast members before the team's even complete? Why not just jump right in with the high points and explain the origin later? And why not include Miss Martian from the beginning instead of adding her at the end? That is nonsense.
Chris Haley: I think a LOT of other people disagree with you.
Chris Sims: People disagree with me all the time. That doesn't mean I'm not right.
Chris Haley: Except in this case, where you are.
Chris Sims: I know you are, but -- and this question is the crux of my argument here -- what am I?
Chris Haley: I was promised a certain level of discourse around here. Is this how you treat Uzumeri?
Chris Sims: This is WAY better than I treat Uzumeri. Trust me.
Chris Haley: And after all he's done for Batman.
Chris Sims: It looks like we're pretty much at an impasse here.
Chris Haley: Surely there's something we can agree on..
Chris Sims: How about this: Firebreather was off the chain.
Chris Haley: My Tivo messed up and didn't record it.
Chris Sims: You and me are done.
Chris Haley: Aw, don't be that way. Come on, man. Say it with me. Let's...
Chris Sims: No.
Chris Haley: Be...
Chris Sims: NO.
Chris Haley: Friends...
Chris Sims: ...
Chris Haley: Again!
Chris and Chris have had their say, but what about you? Did you like Young Justice or think it was a snore? Let us know in the comments!