After a lengthy hiatus and questions of whether it would make the return again, Young Justice is back! Thank High Father! The show no one thought would make it to its third season is now confidently stepping into its fourth. Every season the show adopts a new subtitle, and this season we have: Young Justice: Phantoms. This has always been one of my favorite DC animated shows, and I am so here for it.
Things to know
It’s been a minute since season three, but if you haven’t had a chance to go back and re-watch yet I’ll catch you up on what you’ll need to remember. All of this is touched on, and could be picked up in context, but it never hurts to have a refresher.
First, former tv star and meta human Beast Boy/Garfield Logan has been leading a group of young heroes calling themselves the Outsiders. They started as an offshoot of “the Team:” an off the books black-ops superhero unit comprised mostly of former sidekicks that would operate in situations that the Justice League didn’t have legal authority to. They’ve achieved recognition thanks to Garfield’s former television career and his adept use of social media to show the world the truth about what they’re doing and why. He has been in a relationship with Terra, a former Markovian princess now refugee and member of the Outsiders. Her brother Brion/Geo-force, has taken power and become a despot in Markovia after killing his uncle and betraying the team, forcing many to flee the country.
This season’s setting seems to be focusing on M’arzz (Mars). The Martian people follow a very strict caste system based on skin color. (And they’re very fond of apostrophes, so look forward to that.) There are the A’ashenn, white Martian, which are a minority group and make up the lowest level of the caste. The G’arrunn, green Martian, are the majority and are considered to be dominant. Y’ellonn, yellow Martian, are born as other types of Martian and choose to become Y’ellonn for religious reasons. Finally, the B’lahdenn, red Martian, are the nobles and royalty of M’arzz and make up the highest level of the caste. The king, S’turnn J’axx, has been working for years to rid the society of this caste system with the help of Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, a G’arrunn, but it has been a slow process. Miss Martian/M’gann M’orzz is niece to J’onn J’onzz and one of 29 children. She and her younger brother M’comm are the only A’ashenn of their siblings. M’gann would go on to follow in her uncle’s footsteps and become a founding member of the Team and the Outsiders. M’comm however would take a different path eventually siding him with evil New Gods of Apokolips.
That should be just about all the recap necessary, I think. So without further ado, lets get into it shall we? Oh, and just a heads up there will be spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk.
Episode 1: Inhospitable
S4E01 picks up right where the last season left off. M’gann and Conner have just confronted each other after the Markovia mission in their living room. After everything that happened, they both don’t know if the other still wants to get married or not. They both expound on their love for each other, and so it’s off to M’arzz (Mars) where they had plan to have a traditional ceremony with M’gann’s family. Her uncle J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter/MM) and Garfield Logan (Beast Boy/BB) each decide join them for their own reasons. MM is going to test a new Zeta-tube to allow for instant transport from Earth to M’arzz. Meanwhile, Gar needs some time away from leading his superhero team, the Outsiders, after their mission in Markovia. The month-long trip to M’arzz for the wedding should provide just the relaxation he needs. Things got heavy. I feel you, Gar.
When the party arrives they’re all met by M’gann’s sister M’ree M’orzz who is working on the Zeta-tube project. She has recently changed her name to Em’ree J’onzz in honor of her famous uncle. This sparks a bit of tension between the sisters and we see that their relationship is not on the best terms. We also learn that BB will have to remain in the form of a small Martian animal while outside of Bio-ship due to M’arzz’s atmosphere. Speaking of Bio-ship, the sentient living vessel that transported them to M’arzz and constant companion since the series began, zips off to the collective of her species and has a baby!
Gar and Conner marvel at everything around them, and I understand why. M’arzz looks beautiful, and the show’s signature aesthetic is still very much in place. Things quickly go south when they are psychically attacked by a group of G’arrunn. M’gann is able to protect Conner, but Gar seems to take the damage more directly. As the crowd disperses we see someone wearing a suspicious ring. Longtime DC fans will no doubt recognize the symbol on the ring as being from the Legion of Superheroes: a super group from the 24th century! Time-travel shenanigans incoming!
The party quickly makes their way to M’gann’s parents’ where they are greeted warmly by Ma’att and J’ann M’orzz. Ma’att is voiced by former Martian Manhunter voice actor, Carl Lumbly, and it’s always a treat to hear his voice coming from a Martian. We learn from them that the king was recently murdered. This is especially strange because all Martians are psychic and thus murder is nearly impossible to get away with. Somehow the killer has managed to elude capture, and the queen has been rolling back many of the late king’s reforms and causing racial strife.
Another group of G’arrunn arrive and graffiti the house with slurs for A’ashenn and human before psychically attacking Gar and Conner again. M’gann is able to step in, but Gar is not taking the psychic beatings well. He is lashing out and taking the ma’alefa’ak form as a knee-jerk response to the attacks which is met with mixed emotions to say the least. Meanwhile with Em’ree and MM, we see that she has been under a lot of pressure to stop the Zeta-tube test from one of the nobles, Ress Edda, who appears to also be in the ear of the queen. He sees Earth as a dangerous place that will bring its problems to them rather than be an ally in defense. We are then shown M’gann’s younger brother M’comm while he is in psychic conference with other A’ashenn. He rallies them to his cause calling for a racial cleansing of the G’arrunn and takes the name Ma’alefa’ak for them all. He then makes his way to the great hall where the Zeta-tube test is about to begin.
The episode culminates with the Zeta-tube test. Ress Edda tries to stop it by confronting the queen psychically with 1000 other Martians. She responds by expounding the virtues of MM and all that he and the Earth have done for them. M’gann is able to easily capture M’comm at the test site before anything can happen, and all seems well. Finally, MM activates the completed Zeta-tube and… BOOM! A massive explosion rips through the device. Is MM dead?! Did he make it back to the Watchtower? Who would’ve done this? How?
The credits sequence takes us back to Earth where Barbara Gordon is speaking to Violet/Halo. Violet talks about how she still wears hijab but doesn’t fully understand what it means. She wants to explore faith and what it truly is for her.
9/10: Great start to the season.
Episode 2: Needful
Episode two finds us still in the immediate aftermath of the Zeta-tube explosion. None of the Martians can feel MM’s presence and they can’t establish contact with the Watchtower to confirm whether he survived or not. The only thing we do know is that someone definitely sabotaged the Zeta-tube. Authorities immediately move to detain M’comm, but M’gann tries to defend him. They dismiss her and he is taken away for questioning as the chief suspect. The queen’s son J’emm agrees with M’gann and questions why M’comm is being treated this way. It is revealed that many of the B’lahdenn share the sentiment that A’ashenn and “Earthers” are troublemakers.
Em’ree is able to contact Earth and the group learns that MM is still alive. Before any more meaningful info can be exchanged the communications satellite orbiting M’arzz is destroyed and the transmission is cut off. Cyborg is unable to boom tube Superman and the others because he has never been to M’arzz, and thus they are forced to wait for the Javelin to return from a mission halfway across the galaxy before they can help. M’gann and the others are on their own.
J’emm introduces himself to the group as they investigate the site of the attack. He and Connor become friends quickly. Connor finds a clue, and we learn just who it is from the Legion of Superheroes that’s following them. Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, and Chameleon Boy are revealed and they appear to be searching for someone. They can’t make themselves known. J’emm explains that MM was to assist in the investigation of his father’s murder. Conner and BB agree to take his place citing years of training with the best detectives on Earth (including Detective Chimp). J’emm telepathically sends them both all of the information that they have on the murder, and to Gar it feels like another attack. He is clearly more susceptible.
While Connor and BB investigate the attack, M’gann goes to her brother to talk to him. It’s here that we get some context for their childhood. Being the only two A’ashenn of 29 kids made them targets, even in their own home, and their parents weren’t the best at stopping the others. When M’gann brings up New Genesis M’comm sticks to his guns before lashing out at her again. He accuses her of abandoning him for a new green brother when he needed her most.
The episode shifts gears for a bit and we’re shown what will be the venue for M’gann and Conner’s wedding ceremony. The Sacred River looks incredible. I’d want to get married there too. We meet our first Y’ellonn: a priestess named S’yraa S’mitt. She is very young and only just recently became Y’ellonn. We learn that there is apparently an element of risk to the priestess in any mixed-racial marriage ceremony, so everyone is extremely grateful to her for being so willing. The show really slows down for a bit here and gives you some time to soak in the scenery and breathe a little. It was a much needed break, and it ends up being a really wholesome scene.
Ress Edda and others question J’emm’s bringing Earthers into the investigation. They question his judgement and decision-making skills and we learn that he was to be married once before. Things apparently didn’t work out, but it’s not explicitly stated why. The queen disagrees with the noble advisors and sees the value that Earther detectives bring to the investigation. J’emm feels validated, and you can tell immediately. Not an easy feat when you look like the Martians.
M’gann and the others go to check on Bio-ship, but are caught off-guard when a mysterious attackers tries to trap them in a cave in. The LoSH watches and is nearly caught by M’gann in the aftermath before Phantom Girl can make their escape. M’gann knows a psychic person was nearby and will recognize their “mind touch” if they get close enough again. For now the LoSH will have to stay even further back while they try to investigate. On top of that Conner is bleeding! Lack of sunlight and low oxygen have reduced his power and made him vulnerable. This can’t be good.
M’comm, now free, finds himself in a cave when Darkseid’s attendant Desaad appears. The two talk for a moment and it is revealed that he has brought some sort of genetic bomb that will eradicate all of the G’arrunn as payment for all of M’comm’s work on New Genesis. M’comm shows no regard for his own life when Desaad warns that it may also kill anyone of mixed race parentage on M’arzz as well. He is truly dedicated to his ideal at this point, and even death will not deter him. Stakes have officially been raised.
The credits sequence for this episode hits hard just like the first. BB is checking the messages on his phone and we hear the last voicemail from Terra. She confides in him how much she misses him and how they’ve gotten distant since Markovia and her brother. She proclaims her love while obviously crying. Damn, now I’m crying.
8.5/10: the plot thickens and the mystery deepens
Episode 3: Volatile
The season’s third episode opens with a flashback. BB is leading the Outsiders against a terrorist group called Kobra, and they absolutely wreck face. We see how happy he was with them. When we see that he’s just on his phone and still in Martian animal form it all comes crashing back. J’emm arrives at M’gann’s home and the group splits up. Conner and BB go with J’emm to investigate the king’s murder site. Ma’att goes to pick up a family friend who will assist in building the traditional wedding altar. J’ann, Em’ree, M’gann, and S’yraa all venture together to construct the traditional wedding canopy. The episode bounces back and forth between the guys and gals as they work to accomplish their own physical goals as well as work through some of their deeper emotional traumas. It’s extremely well-balanced and neither side is made out to be more important than the other.
As they all begin their separate journey’s it is revealed that Bio-ship has had a baby! She will have all of the original’s memories but still have her own personality and quirks. The ladies take OG Bio-ship and the guys take Baby out for test drive. Apparently she’s ticklish. I hope that doesn’t cause problems later!
Conner and BB start their investigation with little to go on. BB uses his animal tongue to expand on a point that essentially ALL Martians are the same and different at the same time so their caste system doesn’t make sense. J’emm agrees with him and outwardly expresses his desire to see a better M’arzz when Conner finds traces of something familiar to him. He can’t quite recognize it, but he knows it shouldn’t be there. In gratitude for their help, J’emm offers to assist in building the wedding altar with Conner and M’gann’s father-in-law-to-be.
Meanwhile, M’gann learns that OG Bio-ship is going to retire and spend her last years on M’arzz. Baby will be taking them home. This upsets her as they’ve been together for 10 years and accomplished a lot. It won’t be the same without her. S’yraa asks how their bond is so strong, and M’gann regales her with the story much to the chagrin of her sister. Em’ree appears to be getting increasingly annoyed by M’gann’s presence. S’yraa explains what the wedding canopy represents and why they are going on this journey. The bringing together of disparate pieces to form a cohesive and strong whole is the essence of family, and what they hope to create with their marriage.
Back with the boys, Conner, BB, and J’emm all meet with Ma’att who has returned with B’arzz O’oomm to assist them. B’arzz was the former Green Beetle when the Reach deceived them and took control of his body. He feels ashamed for his actions, but J’emm immediately absolves him of any wrongdoing. I really hope that J’emm doesn’t end up being a villain because I genuinely love how hopeful and optimisitic he is. He would be the perfect leader for M’arzz if they would listen to him. BB is having waking dreams of his team and the Markovia mission finding it hard to concentrate. While they make their way to where they will build the altar, BB insists that they return to the surface so that Conner can absorb sunlight. The group disagrees saying it would be unnecessary, but this doesn’t put BB at ease.
The ladies arrive in the stunning and aptly named Crystal Cave where they begin building. M’gann asks S’yraa about her former relationship to the prince to great surprise. M’gann explains that she could see how they behaved around each other and there was clearly something there. We are shown that J’emm was not allowed to marry her because she was not a B’lahdenn. Heartbroken, she joined the Order and became a Y’ellonn. It’s very clear that this weighs heavily on her.
The gents arrive in a large cave filled with liquid magma called Hollow Hill. Immediately we can see that BB is not well. He has taken the ma’alefa’ak form again to assist in moving stones for the altar, and keeps staring off into the lava fields. He sees Brion using his lava powers, and the extent of his PTSD is really brought to the forefront. While BB deals with his inner demons, Conner and Ma’att bond over the ritual. We learn that he and J’ann were not able to perform it before their marriage because they disowned her for marrying an A’ashenn. It’s clear that this marriage means just as much to him as it does to Conner. He wants his son-in-law-to-be to feel like he is truly a part of their family, and it is incredibly wholesome when set beside PTSD flashbacks. The juxtaposition of those two mental states really hits home, and the setting of the lava field adds to the precarious atmosphere.
BB finally snaps and hallucinates that Brion is attacking Conner. When he tries to save him, he accidentally bangs Conner’s head on a rock and knocks him unconscious. Oh no! In a panic, he tries to rush Conner to the surface not realizing that Conner won’t survive!
When we transition we see that things appear to have gone much more smoothly with the ladies in the Crystal Cave. The canopy is complete and they’re moving to load it onto Bio-ship when Em’ree makes a passing remark about the whole tradition being to please their parents. She and M’gann start fighting over Martian faith and how each of them must truly feel. As the sisters fight with each other the canopy they’ve built shudders and waivers. What follows is a fantastic character building moment for M’gann and Em’ree as they both come to truly understand each other. Who they are, how they are, why they are. It was powerful. The canopy shatters as their clash ends and S’yraa kindly gestures for them to begin again in earnest.
BB, still hallucinating, makes it to the surface, but a powerful dust storm rages and is blocking out any sunlight from reaching them. To make matters worse, a rock punctures Conner’s air tank as BB rushes off to see if he can find any light. Conner is saved by Ma’att, J’emm, and B’arzz, while BB flounders on the desert surface thinking he’s being chased by an angry Brion. When all hope seems lost, M’gann reaches out to him and offers to cure him of his “psychic bruising.” She explains that he’s been through a lot and he’ll need time to heal. Time, and help.
Reunited at M’gann’s we learn that she had no hand in BB’s recovery on the surface. Whoever helped him appears to be the same as the individual in the cave from the collapse! What?! Saturn Girl reveals she helped him because if not, “…why else are we here?”
The credits end on a much lighter note this time. We see Superman on the grassy field of the Watchtower looking down at Earth as he talks to Lois about their infant son. Hearing him talk about being a dad is endearing, especially when we see him start being a helicopter parent. Little moments like this make the show for me, and I’m so glad that they’re still here.
9.5/10: 2 stories, 1 episode, both excellent
We’re only three episodes in, and I can’t wait to see where this season is going. The animation quality has improved thanks in no small part to that HBO budget, and everything looks so much cleaner for it. Backgrounds look fantastic and immersive, characters are smooth, and action is well paced. The voice acting continues to be stellar too. Danica McKellar’s M’gann is really given a chance to shine this year. Greg Cipes’ Beast Boy has really matured while still being the fun and compassionate character we’ve known and loved since Teen Titans. Nolan North is crushing it as Conner this year too. He’s really hitting his stride with how this character has grown up and isn’t the hothead he was in his youth.
If I had any complaints so far I would have to say I’m missing some of my favorite characters. I want to see what the Outsiders are up to on Earth. I want to see Nightwing and the Team. There are so many characters that made this show great up to this point, and I just hope they all get a chance to shine.
New episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms hit HBOMax every Thursday (right alongside Doom Patrol), so don’t miss out!
I’ve worked my whole life to become a comic book illustrator, writer, and stand-up comedian. Batman and Captain Benjamin Sisko helped put a good head on my shoulders. I spent most of my childhood saving Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom and seeing the Justice League save all of creation time and time again. I live in Johnson City, TN with my wife Kary and daughter Laila enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery and occasional show. Three puppies round out the family and take up the rest of the time that isn’t spent debating which Wes Anderson or Studio Ghibli movie to watch. I spend an inordinate amount of time binge watching SVU, Futurama, and Letterkenny, and when I’m not watching I’m listening to “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” or playing the occasional game of D&D. If there’s a nerdy endeavor out there, I’ve probably at least tried it.