I’ve loved a lot of TV shows canceled before their time. But perhaps none hurt more than when Cartoon Network canceled YOUNG JUSTICE. With its smartly constructed story, grounded approach, and refusal to hold the audience’s hand, YOUNG JUSTICE added a palpable sense of danger to the DC universe and forced me to believe completely in its characters. This crafted a new experience for fans of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED and TEEN TITANS. The resonance of the show can be seen in the many attempts to bring it back, but none of them have seemed feasible — until now.

Netflix (US) added the second season of YOUNG JUSTICE to its streaming service earlier this month. Co-creators Greg Weisman (THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN) and Brandon Vietti (BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD) tweeted that fans and new viewers should watch the episodes on the platform. The more views it gets, the more likely Warner Bros. Animation or Netflix considers the show for a revival. Already some promising signs exist. The news that Aqualad voice actor Khary Payton tweeted regarding his “good feeling” about season 3 trended on Facebook yesterday. However, he hasn’t heard anything official. So with another season of YOUNG JUSTICE at stake, allow me to give some reasons why you should check out the series!

Aqualad, Miss Martian, Kid Flash, Robin, Superboy, Zatanna, Artemis, Rocket - Young Justice

1. YOUNG JUSTICE’s Compelling Characters

In broad terms, YOUNG JUSTICE tells the story of teenage protégés becoming superheroes in their own right. The series never lets us forget the very human challenges they face. Artemis worries the team won’t accept her because of her relation to Aries. Aqualad wonders whether he should stay on the surface world or return to Atlantis. Superboy lives in the constant shadow of Superman, the hero someone used to clone him. It’s impossible to view these characters as two-dimensional. Their unique and often humorous personality quirks compound this feeling.

Red Tornado, The Flash, Robin, Zatanna, Miss Martian, Superboy, Aqualad, Artemis - Young Justice

Despite their initial characterization, what makes these characters so compelling are the tangible change as the series progresses. They seem affected by the dangers they confront, the losses they experience, and the simple passage of time. YOUNG JUSTICE capitalizes on our ability to live with these characters in the longer format of TV. It allows us to witness the growing pains of the life of a young hero.

READ: Find out all there is to know about Robin, the youngest member of the Team, in our spotlight on the character!

2. An Unknown and Dangerous Universe

Around the time when YOUNG JUSTICE was first announced, one of the main selling points of the cartoon was that it was taking place on Earth-16, an “untapped” world in the DC multiverse where the Justice League is a new phenomenon (via IGN). However, this doesn’t encapsulate how strange and exciting the universe of the series can be. Yes, there are similarities — Clark Kent is still Superman, for instance — but YOUNG JUSTICE’s Superman isn’t always the “boy scout” he is commonly perceived to be (even by comic book fans). Instead of immediately accepting Superboy, he refuses to have any part in his life, adding depth to his character from the moment he first physically appears in the series.

Superman (Clark Kent), Batman (Bruce Wayne) - Young Justice

Not only does the show’s Superman differ from his comic book counterpart, YOUNG JUSTICE also uniquely explores how the existence of the Justice League would impact the world and their enemies. How do the villains fight back when the heroes unite? What politics would the League have its hands in? Why would they need a team of young heroes in the first place? The show makes it clear that we don’t know everything about its characters or the world they come from, which combines with the realness of its heroes and villains to create a sense of danger higher than that of most live-action shows, let alone animated ones.

3. The Action

The action of superhero media can often feel unnecessary and flat, with less consideration for why the characters are fighting than for how to make it all look as flashy as possible; however, this is a pitfall YOUNG JUSTICE doesn’t fall into. Make no mistake, the show’s slick choreography, animation, and sound design make for some truly kinetic fight scenes, but the series ensures we get something more out of them than sheer, visceral delight. Particular attention is paid to how the heroes would fight together, and like the characters themselves, this changes as the series progresses. Even better, every character gets time in the spotlight, making a case for lesser known heroes to be featured more heavily in the DCU.

Aqualad (Kaldur'ahm) - Young Justice

4. The Representation in YOUNG JUSTICE

A neglected aspect of the “grounded” approach to superhero films is the way their representation reflects reality. The world can’t only made up of young, able-bodied white men. YOUNG JUSTICE proves that by showcasing characters like Rocket, a black female superhero; Blue Beetle, a Hispanic hero; and the former Huntress, Paula Nguyen, a disabled Vietnamese woman. Their race, gender, and physical ability aren’t treated as statements of difference. Instead, they are treated as organic parts of their character that enrich the show’s universe. More impressively, the Golden Age Huntress was originally white, demonstrating that this was a deliberate choice on the part of the showrunners to be more inclusive in an age of rampant superhero whitewashing.

Paula Nguyen Crock, Artemis (Artemis Crock) - Young Justice

These characters aren’t just added to fill up a “diversity quota,” either. The show approaches them in the same way it does its other characters: introducing and interacting with them when it serves the story, fleshing them out with the same nuanced issues and desires — making them matter, in short. But despite my praise, YOUNG JUSTICE fails to account for non-binary genders and sexualities. (Weisman has said he “[believes]” there are LGBTQ characters in the series; they just can’t be openly acknowledged.) There’s obviously a lot of pushback when it comes to including alternative lifestyles in a show intended for young viewers. However, with the DC cinematic universe about to take off in a big way next month, there’s no better time than now to consider how far we have to go.

As a side note to THE FLASH, this is how old Jay Garrick should be:
Jay Garrick, Joan Garrick - Young Justice

READ: Want to learn more about the importance of representation in the media? Check out our thoughts on what makes MONSTRESS so special. 

5. A Big, Overarching Storyline

While DC seems to be doubling down on cartoons with a shorter runtime and less serialized storytelling, that wasn’t always the case. YOUNG JUSTICE encouraged viewers to pick apart every episode — whether to figure out who Artemis really is or to determine the motives of the villainous organization known as The Light. There exists a refreshing intentionality to the order of events in the series. No episodes act as filler (although some don’t quite hit the mark). There’s a great payoff for every character beat and storyline — well, almost every storyline (#RenewYoungJustice).

Artemis (Artemis Crock) - Young Justice

I feel like I’m doing YOUNG JUSTICE a disservice by limiting my list to five points. I didn’t always feel so strongly about the series. However, don’t get me wrong. I thought the show was awesome from the beginning. Suffering through its many hiatuses made each episode feel like it wasn’t enough. Living in the universe more consistently on Netflix, however, I appreciate how much thought went into every moment and character. It left me excited for what the creators could do with more time. YOUNG JUSTICE: Season 3 is something Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti are clearly passionate about doing. With your help (and enjoyment), that might just become a reality.

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