REVIEW: ‘Young Justice: Phantoms,’ Episode 21 – “Odyssey of Death!”

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Young Justice Episode 21 - But Why Tho

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 21 wraps up the series’ latest story arc, while also setting the stage for the final stretch of episodes. “Odyssey of Death!” finds Rocket (Denise Boutte), Orion (Ben Diskin), and the rest of their allies learning about Lor-Zod (Phil Morris) stealing the Phantom Zone Projector in the previous episode. However, Lor-Zod needs to charge the Projector – which triggers a cataclysmic event that may destroy New Genesis itself. Rocket and friends battle Lor-Zod and his allies while attempting to save New Genesis.

The strongest parts of this episode feature Rocket and Orion finding common ground, or rather her coming to terms with the fact that he’s the son of Darkseid. It was previously established in “Beyond The Grip of The Gods!” that Orion often enters berserker rages and needs the help of his Mother Box to calm him down; this is a fact that Male’feak (also voiced by Diskin) attempts to use to his advantage when he traps Orion and Rocket in a mental prison. Rocket manages to reach Orion, once she finally stops seeing his heritage and sees him as a person. It also isn’t lost on me that parallels are drawn between Orion and Rocket’s interactions and her struggles to deal with her son Amistad’s autism; great superhero storytelling often finds a way to connect the struggles a protagonist has with both their hero and normal lives, and writer Aaron Sparrow understands this.

However, this development underlines how frustrating this story arc has been since most of the focus has gone to characters and stories other than Rocket. The other story arcs managed to put their characters front and center, and the optics of this happening to the Young Justice member who’s a Black woman as well as a mother aren’t that great. I also feel that the creators could have used this opportunity to spotlight more of the Milestone Universe, especially given that Milestone has had a creative resurgence in DC’s comic arm. If this form of storytelling is going to be a standard in Young Justice, it’s only fair that each character gets an equal amount of development.

One aspect of the episode that doesn’t disappoint is the action. Director Christina Sotta has the chance to display different types of abilities and matchups, from Orion and Rocket combining their abilities to battle Lor-Zod to Green Lantern Tomar-Re (Dee Bradley Baker) staving off an apocalyptic event. It’s that latter scene that stands out, as Lor-Zod’s actions awaken a Promethean -a massive stone being with a fiery core that erupts and causes intense havoc. Not only is there some much-needed emotion fueling the battle, as Tomar-Re wants to prevent New Genesis from suffering the same fate as Krypton, but it also boasts some of the stunning visual imagery that the late, great Jack Kirby utilized while creating the Fourth World.

The episode also features a subplot where Zatanna (Lacey Chabert) gathers the magicians of the world to help her locate Superboy (Nolan North). This plot point begins to tie together elements from previous story arcs, as the magicians she asks for help include Doctor Fate (Kevin Michael Richardson) and Mera. With only five episodes left, it only makes sense that all of the various plot points – especially Superboy’s “death” – would start to come together. However, given that Superboy is also starting to fall under General Zod’s thrall, his return could be a less than welcome one.

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 21 closes the book on Rocket’s story arc, with a strong ending more than making up for the rather uneven storytelling. With the last batch of episodes slated to focus on Nightwing, I hope that Phantoms ends on a strong note – and that Rocket gets a bigger role if the series is renewed for Season 5.

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


Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 21 - "Odyssey of Death!"
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    Rating - 8/10
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TL;DR

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 21 closes the book on Rocket’s story arc, with a strong ending more than making up for the rather uneven storytelling. With the last batch of episodes slated to focus on Nightwing, I hope that Phantoms ends on a strong note – and that Rocket gets a bigger role if the series is renewed for Season 5.