For many viewers, Young Justice was arguably the best animated series based on a DC property ever produced. And while Batman: The Animated Series is often anointed with this title by the masses, Young Justice, at the very least, is arguably the most overlooked and underappreciated. After running for only two seasons, the series was cancelled in 2013 despite the heaps of critical praise it had received and a rather rabid fan base. Now, six years after we last said goodbye to Superboy, Miss Martian, Beast Boy and the rest of the crew, Young Justice has found a new life on the DC Universe streaming service... in more ways than one.
Before diving into the long-awaited Season 3, titled Young Justice: Outsiders, DC Universe is releasing platform-exclusive comics which will bridge the gap between Young Justice: Invasion and Outsiders. Written by show developer Greg Weisman, the first chapter of the prelude story, “Torch Songs,” is well executed, but how much you'll get out of it is dependent on how invested you are in these characters and the television series.
In a vacuum, this comic isn’t exactly coherent. There are references to past events from previous seasons and the fractured relationships that have spun from them. If someone were to see this comic on the DC Universe feed and read it for the sheer fact there was a #1 after its title, they would be thoroughly confused. But, of course, this comic isn’t for the uninitiated. This isn’t a publicity release, or some one-shot movie tie-in; it's a continuation of an unfinished story. And while Season 3 of the show could pick up the pieces, “Torch Songs” acts a solid prelude that may tie up a few loose ends or act as a simple segue into the Outsiders era.
The biggest crime against this comic is that it doesn’t exactly feel essential. It’s simply supplemental material (but then again, so was J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, and no, we’re not saying Young Justice is of the same caliber as The Lord of the Rings, so please don’t @ us), but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, Chapter 1 feels like a lost episode's storyboards that have been spruced up and given a second chance. This issue catches up with Superboy and Miss Martian, who are currently split, but are still trying to maintain a professional relationship. Meanwhile the physic villain Psimon has come to the United States, and the team sets out to find out why and stop him from whatever evil scheme he has up his sleeve.
Seeing as how Greg Weisman, the man who wrote several episodes of the first two seasons while producing the series, is penning the script, everything works in the confines of the larger narrative. The dialogue patterns and character traits of the characters we grew to love from the show flow nicely. Sure, there's nothing new to see with regard to huge plot twists or character development, but more often than not, the issue feels like something of a homecoming for forlorn fans.
Compound this with the fact that Christopher Jones, who had a hand in designing what the team would look like for the animated series, is on art duty, it makes us wonder why these two guys just didn’t do an ongoing comic series after the show was cancelled. The tie-in comic series that ran concurrently with the show was canned after issue #25, but after reading Young Justice: Outsiders #1, it makes us wonder why things just didn't march forward (money and licensing issues, probably). We understand animation is expensive, and that with any art form, there are corporate overlords who need to be fed, but Young Justice works so well in various mediums, it could have been a cross platform trailblazer. And maybe it still can be, and we’re just now seeing it -- it seems the DC Universe streaming app is the platform this animated franchise needed.
Overall, this prequel to Young Justice: Outsiders isn’t likely to make any new converts, but it will satisfy longtime fans of the original animated series, and get them pumped for its return. It's like your favorite band getting back together and releasing a few minor singles before cranking out an album. Sure, they're catchy, but they just make you want to get to the meat of things. If you're already a subscriber to DC Universe, there is not reason not to give this comic a spin...that is, of course, if you've already seen the first two seasons of Young Justice.