REVIEW: ‘Young Justice: Phantoms,’ Episode 4 – “Involuntary”

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Young Justice Episode 4

Young Justice Episode 4 follows the heartwarming ending of the previous episode with a rather tragic series of events. “Involuntary” picks up after the end of “Volatile,” as Superboy (Nolan North), Miss Martian (Danica McKellar), and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) discover who is responsible for the murder of Mars’ previous king. That’s the least of their problems, as M’Gann’s brother Ma’le’feak (Ben Diskin) has armed a weapon containing a virus that will kill Green and Red Martians.

This episode continues to touch upon Mars’ caste system and the prejudices that certain Martians, particularly White Martians, face. Those prejudices eventually led to the death of the king and Ma’le’feak’s actions, and one White Martian even says he won’t go to the Manhunters (essentially the Martian equivalent of police) because it would raise too much trouble. The superhero genre is no stranger to tackling themes such as prejudice-in fact, the X-Men may be the prime example of this trope— but writer Francisco Paredes understands how to utilize those same themes in his work. Even Desaad— a sadist who lives on a planet that’s literally hell —told Ma’le’feak in “Volatile” that the caste system was ridiculous.

The episode also features a mysterious new being, who it’s implied the Legion of Super-Heroes traveled back into the past to stop. Said figure’s endgame remains unknown— this is Young Justice, a series that traffics in secrets— but the fact that he was potentially willing to amplify Ma’le’feak’s bomb with future tech can’t be anything but bad news. And he also has the tech to infuse the bomb with Kryptonite, which affects Superman and Superboy —two of the strongest beings on Mars who can safely defuse the bomb. I also imagine that the Legion will have to reveal themselves to the other heroes, as time travel narratives more often than not feature time travelers having to break their own rules.

Speaking of Superboy, North takes center stage and shows how Young Justice and its characters have grown in the space of ten years. When Superboy first appeared on the show, he was antisocial and angry due to his time at Cadmus. He didn’t like Miss Martian making telepathic contact, and he resented that Superman apparently didn’t want to spend time with him. Now he manages to hold telepathic conversations with ease and is more willing to think rather than just hit things. And when it seems like Superboy is in danger, Superman is one of the first to leap to his rescue. A scene toward the end nearly made me tear up because of the pure feeling both North and McKellar have poured into their vocal work; Superboy and Miss Martian have grown up alongside each other, fought for each other, and loved each other, which only makes the ending hit all that harder.

If there is one issue with the episode, it’s that the animation doesn’t feel as sleek as previous episodes. Director Christopher Berkley adds visual flair with a ceremony that includes Martian magic, and the scene where Superboy races against time to defuse the bomb is appropriately tension-filled. Still, characters are often shown standing around, feeling less tangible than they used to. Perhaps this is a money-saving measure; all of the conversations are telepathic, which frees animators from having to work with moving mouths, and there hasn’t been much in the way of action. I do hope that future episodes keep up the quality that Studio Mir is known for.

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 4 tackles themes of prejudice and how it’s baked into society and also features a shocking ending I never saw coming. With the next stretch of episodes slated to focus on Tigress (Stephanie Lemelin), I look forward to seeing how the series continues to explore its ongoing mystery and celebrate its ten-year legacy.

New episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms will be available to stream on HBO Max on Thursdays.


Young Justice Episode 4
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 4 tackles themes of prejudice and how it’s baked into society and also features a shocking ending I never saw coming. With the next stretch of episodes slated to focus on Tigress (Stephanie Lemelin), I look forward to seeing how the series continues to explore its ongoing mystery and celebrate its ten-year legacy.