One of the things I love about the Young Justice cartoon is that the writers seem to be fans of the characters themselves. They work in all kinds of little Easter Eggs, nods, and little moments of trivia, as well as taking advantage of being on their own Earth to invent new bits of history that fit (my favorite of these so far is Black Lightning’s ex being Green Lantern John Stewart’s sister). We get a few nice nods, a remix of some origins, and some deep dives into DC history, especially around the formation of the Outsiders back in the early 80’s. The date keeps getting shown prominently, so it may become important that “Royal We” takes place entirely on July 30th.
The show opens with Beast Boy doing a Public Service Announcement about metahuman trafficking, from the set of Space Trek. In the comics, Space Trek was a short lived tv show, fairly blatantly ripping off both Star Trek and Space 1999, that Gar Logan/Changeling (I will always like that name better than Beast Boy) had a starring role in during his short acting career. Afterwards, Cat Grant reports from the United Nations on a summit about the trafficking problem. Among the great beats in this scene are Lex Luthor as Secretary General (how’d that happen?), a brief cameo by Catherine Colbert (part of the Justice League Europe title in the 90’s) and appearances by Garth of Atlantis and Troia of Themyscira. With this world’s unique history, as far as I know there was never a Teen Titans, but Garth (the original Aqualad in the comics) and Troia (AKA Donna Troy/the first Wonder Girl) get to pop up at least. I’d love to know more about both characters’ histories in this world, but that cameo may be all we get.
As the news covers various country’s outrage about “self-appointed heroes,” Dick and Artemis sneak into Markovia, hot on the trail of the metahuman traffickers, with Black Lightning and Superboy coming in via Supercycle. While Lightning and Superboy hide the heroes’ gear and weapons, Dick and Artemis do a very James Bond crashing of a fancy party leading up to Prince Gregor’s coronation. We don’t actually see or hear Oracle, but she makes her presence known, and is likely providing the various gadgets we see the team use throughout the episode. There’s assorted intrigue around the Children’s Hospital that seemed so suspicious last episode, and Prince Brion pressing Dr. Jace about his own agenda. When their targets split up, Dick follows while Artemis goes to retrieve their equipment. I do like both Dick’s easy leadership and no one bickering about their assigned roles. Black Lighting has some degree of his powers left, and uses them to guide Superboy to a hidden lair under the hospital, which looks just as ominous as it sounds. They make a few disturbing discoveries, including villains Count Vertigo and Plasmus (a mainstay of the Brotherhood of Evil in the comics).
Artemis’ simple mission gets complicated when she finds thugs disposing of bodies, and one who is kind of riffing on a classic Monty Python scene, being not quite dead yet. For readers of the comics, it’s pretty clear who this is supposed to be, although she’s gotten a makeover in terms of appearance and powers, as well as having elements of a different Outsiders’ origin. Meanwhile, things go badly for Prince Brion, Black Lightning, and Superboy, all of whom are in roughly the same place and time, but don’t meet up yet.
Artemis/Tigress tries to learn a bit more about her new friend, but there are a few obstacles along the way. She does manage to retrieve Black Lightning, but Jefferson isn’t doing well at all and gives them some bad news. Prince Brion comes to a realization and gets really angry, but unfortunately is new to this game and used to being obeyed, so he doesn’t fare that well. There’s a bit of a falling out between Ecks and Vertigo, and we see that Vertigo is reporting to someone else as well. The episode ends with a slightly altered origin beginning for another founding member of the comics version of the Outsiders, which I believe puts us at five out of six of them showing up, at least in passing, in these first two episodes.
What I liked: The nods to Colbert, Troia, and Aqualad were great. I love that both Atlantis and Themyscira are members of the UN on this world. The bit with Gar at the beginning was a nice touch. I’m enjoying the adventures of Dick’s off-the-books team of heroes, and impressed at how many elements of the Outsiders’ founding they’re weaving in. The gadgets make sense in a world with so many tech geniuses, and I loved Oracle’s subtle presence. The show seems to be the only place we get to see any of the Milestone characters, even if they have tiny roles so far (Static, Rocket, Hardware).
What I didn’t: Some of their redesigns are going a bit far from the source. If they hadn’t tagged the characters for us in the news story, I’d have thought Plastic Man was some version of Vibe, and I didn’t recognize Hardware at all. I’m not sure I like the changes to the Outsider whose origin we see in the middle of the episode.
Overall, this was really well done, and I like the fact they throw in so much for long-time fans. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5, and can’t wait for the rest of the season.