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Young Justice: Phantoms Are Admirably Working With Superhero Temporal Deaths

If there’s one good thing about superhero stories dominating the mainstream media, it’s that journalists are much more understanding of putting the deaths of famous superheroes as a stunt before public, rather than as a major cultural landmark. DC Comics ‘1992 Arc “Death of Superman” attracted such widespread media attention that it launched a fad that killed off major legacy heroes – who are sure to return one way or another once the novelty wears off. there’s more. Meanwhile, longtime comic book fans mostly sneered knowing full well that superheroes rarely die for long. Usually, killing a hero is just another gimmick to sell comics, sell geese, and shake up the status quo – so the first 13 episodes of Young JusticeSeason four is a fascinating change of pace.

The main characters who died temporarily in the manga are a well-established cliché, which makes it much harder to emotionally invest in a downed hero. Even the deaths of heroes were originally intended to be permanent – like Captain America’s side Bucky, or Robin’s version of Jason Todd – usually reversed when new writers take over. In the worst-case scenario, they’re instantly reversed, as with the X-Men series’ Dark Phoenix story, where Cyclops makes a significant appearance. declared dead in the last game of the cliff because the Strange mutant #133, then shared back to life in the first panel of number 134.

Young Justice, co-created by Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman, previously killed heroes, villains and even innocent people without withdrawing their death afterwards. That gives the film more credibility and appeal to the current running plot of one of the series’ main characters dying in action. It always seems obvious that the character returns, and it’s even possible that he hasn’t died in the first place. But the series was in no hurry to begin his resurrection. And in the interim, screenwriters have explored the best reasons to temporarily kill a hero – reasons that aren’t just for drama and short-term profit.

[Ed. note: Spoilers ahead for season 4 of Young Justice.]

Artemis Crock cries in Young Justice: Phantoms

Image: HBO Max via Polygon

Season 4 of the show, with subtitles Young Justice: Phantoms, which splits the story into arcs that closely focus on a small subset of the prominent cast. Phantoms‘the first season features Miss Martian, aka M’gann M’orzz, returning to her home planet Mars so that she and her fiancé Superboy, aka Conner Kent, can have a wedding Tradition on Mars.

Meanwhile, M’gann’s brother M’comm has become the leader of an extremist group that is trying to fight Martian bigotry by killing red and green Martians. higher on behalf of minority white Martians. When M’comm tried to set up a “gene bomb” designed to target red and green Martians, Superboy intervened and dealt with it. But he was caught up in the explosion, leaving nothing but a vaguely humanoid stain on a stone wall.

On most TV shows, the lack of a corpse would be clear proof that Superboy isn’t really dead. And for those viewers who know, father character Who watching Superboy and M’gann earlier in the season – three members of DC’s far-future Legion of Superheroes, pursuing a secret mission – hint at a time travel plot that could explain how Conner lives. survive the Kryptonite-impregnated gene bomb by being caught in the future at a crucial juncture.

But Phantoms Do not rush to reveal. In the final moments of episode 13, the final part of Phantoms Before taking a half-season break, magic-wielding hero Zatanna experiences a fleeting vision of a transparent, wounded Conner calling for help. She thinks she’s hearing his restless ghost, but he could also be approaching through the portal of time, from the Phantom Zone, or through any magical or meta-scientific phenomenon. any other. But that was the first hint the show made about the possibility of Superboy’s revival.

In the meantime, the series explored Superboy’s legacy, the shape of the people he left behind, and how they coped with losing him. The focus on moving on after loss has become a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past few years: the MCU shows WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Hawk Eye all the movies have dealt with the consequences in detail since 2019 Avengers: Endgame, and so do Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies. But until recently, it was extremely rare to see a superhero story devote significant time or thought to the mourning process or stages of grief.

Young Justice: Phantoms specifically drew on the effects of pain on Beast Boy, the shape-shifting hero who owes his life to M’Gann. He has been seen throughout his first season struggling with past injuries, then overwhelmed with this latest injury. His depression and insomnia gave way to erratic sleep patterns and reliance on sleep aids, all of which resulted in the denial that something was wrong, a refusal to talk to anyone. anyone about his worsening mental health and is inclined to attack anyone who pushes him to open up.

But the effects on Artemis Crock, now active as Tigress, were just as strong – her own initial depression and heartache quickly gave way to determination throughout the first half of the season. award, when she’s almost irrationally protective of her sister, her fellow heroes, and even some of the jacket villains turn their arms around. All pose significant risks to her own safety, as she puts her own body at risk every time she is faced with a choice between endangering herself or accept additional loss. Meanwhile, M’Gann went through periods of intense anger and searching for someone to blame, then division, division, and finally a new bond with his family.

Like other animated series that have dealt with the effects of trauma and the desire to discourage others while dealing with it – Steven Universe immediately thought of – Young Justice Emphasizing communication and openness is the best way to rebalance after a loss. It’s a warm and helpful message for younger audiences in particular. Watching Artemis cry in her car, then regroup to do her job, feel human and relate in ways unusual for superheroes. All too often, hero not allowed to show security holes on screen, except in pain and rage. Letting them feel Conner’s weight drop in a longer arc made them feel more human and less like fantasies of interchangeable powers.

Beast Boy's girlfriend tries to talk to him as he turns away in Young Justice: Phantoms

Image: HBO Max via Polygon

By spending so much time with the fallout from Conner’s “death” (if that’s the case), Phantoms has also regained some of the sense of threat that superhero stories often lack, precisely because death rarely makes sense in these stories. Everything this season, from the private moments to the big hero-villain action, offers a heightened sense of character mortality and a perception of how it makes choice. their courage and wisdom.

But part 4 also emphasized that, without preaching on the subject, grief looks different to different people and it doesn’t happen on a predictable timeline. And screenwriters are discovering how difficult it can be for people to try to find ways to support someone who is hurting, especially those who insist they don’t need help.

Not all of the season’s thoughts on grief have come to fruition. In particular, the time Superman tries to explain death to his toddler son Jonny feels like it’s aimed at a much younger audience than most movies. And the focus on Superman Crying For Conner is a strange departure from the show, which has never spent much time on Superman before, due to its focus on younger and often newer heroes. .

But one of the unique things about Young Justice as a series is how it portrays a vast community of heroes, all with their own problems and struggles, but all influenced by each other’s experiences and choices. The series has always had a refreshing sense of commonality and community, even between heroes who don’t directly work together or who agree strongly on fundamental aspects of the work they do. Exploring what death means to that community – how it changes the protagonists’ choices and the tone of their interactions – helps make the show’s world a little more organic and alive.

Young Justice: Phantoms has skyrocketed in supply and focus, leaving behind some fan favorite characters for at least the first half of the season. And as with every season after the terrible first, the writers are trying to cram in so many distinct perspectives and arcs that some necessarily shrink. But the season is over take enough time for what happened to Conner to feel meaningful. And in the process, it shows that death is not Yes cheap and cliché for superheroes – even if Conner returns at the end of this season.

The first three seasons of Young Justice and the first half of Phantoms Currently streaming on HBO Max. Second half of Phantoms‘The 26-episode season will continue at the end of spring this year. No release date has been announced yet.

https://www.polygon.com/22888170/young-justice-phantoms-superboy-death Young Justice: Phantoms Are Admirably Working With Superhero Temporal Deaths

Aila Slisco

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