“Happy New Year” turns out to be a surprisingly accurate title for the premiere episode of Young Justice’s second season. Oh, this season is definitely set in a new year. It is just not the year many of us were expecting, and that is going to divide people’s opinions on what to make of the show now retitled Young Justice: Invasion. A quick note: If you DVR the series because, like me, you’ve grown to the point where the last thing you want to do is wake up on a Saturday morning, there’s a good chance your DVR may not pick up the show anymore due to the title change. My DVR didn’t see any new episodes for “Young Justice” and so I almost missed seeing this premiere.
The episode begins with the team in pursuit of Clayface in the sewers. It’s not unusual for the show to start us off in the middle of some action, but it quickly becomes apparent that something different is happening here. Superboy and Miss Martian have a more experienced air about them, and Superboy oddly gives some words of encouragement to Robin, who stands in the shadows. Beast Boy then shows up from out of nowhere, reporting back via the comm unit to...Nightwing? This is capped off by Robin stepping out of the shadows as Tim Drake. A text crawl finally gives the answer to the growing confusion.
This all takes place five years after the first season’s finale.
That’s right. The series has just made a five-year jump. From that reveal, the episode quickly starts piling on the changes. The team now sports a much larger lineup filled with new faces: Lagoon Boy, Bumblebee, Blue Beetle and more. Meanwhile, old faces like Kid Flash, Artemis and Aqualad are absent. Dick Grayson runs the expanded team as Nightwing, and more members have graduated to the Justice League. It’s a lot to take in all at once, even if you’re a comic fan who is generally aware of these characters and where they were probably headed.
This is going to really test fans of the show. While it’s exciting to see many of these new characters as part of the team, that comes with the frustrating sense of missing a whole lot of stuff the show had built up to in the first season. Red Arrow’s hunt for the real Roy Harper is now a five-year-old plot. Kid Flash and Artemis’ new relationship isn’t new anymore, if it even still exists. Dick Grayson’s journey from Robin to Nightwing has come and gone. Rocket and Zatanna, new additions to the team at the end of the first season, are now leaving for the Justice League. We have seemingly skipped over many of the things the first season left us to look forward to. This makes for kind of an off-putting start to the new season.
But like I said, the new stuff is pretty interesting. One thing this episode makes clear is that the show is going to get some great use out of Blue Beetle. He and his alien armor not only provide several entertaining moments, but will most likely prove key in this season’s alien invasion plot. Lagoon Boy is also a lot of fun, and the way he complicates one of the team’s pre-existing relationships should prove interesting. The duo of Batgirl and Wonder Girl put up an entertaining fight against Lobo. While the show’s action is always done well, having these two new characters in the mix gave it something extra. I’m even intrigued by Mal Duncan’s surprisingly mundane role with the team and where that could develop.
Speaking of Lobo, I really enjoy how the show portrays him. It's fairly straightforward, depicting him as the powerful-but-crude alien bounty hunter he has always been in comics. But, what appeals to me is the show's attention to the details. When he first begins talking, he's not some alien who happens to understand and speak English. It's not until several lines of dialogue that he actually begins translating himself so humans can understand. It's a small thing, but one I appreciate.
Young Justice: Invasion has been hyped as a major cosmic season for the show that will feature many of DC Comics’ alien races. The plot of this begins to take shape in this episode and, honestly, it’s kind of similar to Marvel Comics’ recent story event, Secret Invasion. It’s a story that features a big conflict arising when it’s discovered that Earth has been infiltrated by aliens disguised as humans and the aliens making their move. Lobo, the alien bounty hunter, exposes that something similar is happening here. Now, I’m not saying that similarity is a bad thing. It’s a fun story premise. And, OK, it’s also a story premise that Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is going with in the current season. So maybe, in that aspect, it's kind of a bad thing.
Some are going to be upset and turned off by the show’s surprise decision to jump forward in time. Part of what has me more relaxed about it is that I’m not sure I actually believe in the permanence of it. Five years is a hell of an amount of time to skip over, especially in a series about young characters. Because of that, I almost suspect that toward the end of the season we’ll see the show jump back in time. This is just a blind suspicion, though.
The second season has taken a risky move, and it will take more than this premiere to tell if it will pay off. That said, the show is up to the same quality as ever. It has the right mix of entertaining action and strong character drama that has made the show so good so far. The new characters added to the mix definitely do make things fun as well. But the sheer amount of changes and the dramatic shift forward in time do hurt the enjoyment factor of this episode. It’s hard to ignore the disappointment of not following up on some of the subplots left from the first season finale.