Tuesday, October 4, 2016

AFOS Blog Rewind: Young Justice, "Bloodlines"

The third season of the CW's The Flash begins tonight, so the following is a repost of my June 5, 2012 discussion of the Young Justice episode "Bloodlines," a story that united four generations of DC Comics speedsters, including Barry Allen and Wally West, two characters who are central to the CW show. "Bloodlines" can be streamed on Netflix.

I remember writer Peter David best for his work on DC's Star Trek comics (a Len Wein-scripted 1987 issue that reunited the Enterprise-A crew with con man Harry Mudd from the '60s show was the first comic I ever bought at an actual comic shop). But superhero comics readers admire David most for his writing on The Incredible Hulk, X-Factor (the X-Men spinoff, not the wack singing contest show), Supergirl and the original Young Justice comic. David gets to revisit the Young Justice characters in "Bloodlines," the third episode he's written for the animated version. The best part of David's run on DC's Star Trek was the humor, and David's sense of humor is a highlight of "Bloodlines," an entertaining fish-out-of-water story about the unexpected arrival of Impulse (Jason Marsden), a speedster from the future who talks as if he has ADHD and who also happens to be Bart Allen, the grandson of Barry Allen (George Eads), the current incarnation of The Flash.

"Tell us something we don't know yet. When do I become leader of the team? When do I join the Justice League? When do I get my own reality series?," inquires Beast Boy (Logan Grove) when he wants proof from Impulse that he's from the future. And I always get a kick out of how this TV-PG-rated cartoon sometimes toys with Cartoon Network's Standards & Practices department, like it does here when Impulse responds to Nightwing's old cop-show trick of getting his interviewee to verify his identity via a glass of water. "Oh, ah, you're trying to get a DNA sample. You need my spit," says Impulse. "Ha! That's such a Dick Grayson thing to do." The way Impulse puts emphasis on the name "Dick" makes his sentence sound as if it's going to be "That's such a dick move."

In "Bloodlines" (which also finds time to resolve the Roy Harper clone's search for the original Roy during its B-story), an adversary wreaks so much havoc on The Flash's home turf of Central City that it requires the attention of four generations of speedsters. Retired-from-superheroing Stanford student Wally West interrupts his regularly scheduled Asian fetish to suit up again as Kid Flash and keep an eye on Impulse as a favor to Nightwing. Another retired speedster, former Flash Jay Garrick (Geoff Pierson), runs the risk of his wife Joan's wrath because he snuck out of the quiet 70th wedding anniversary celebration Barry and his wife Iris (Young Justice writer Nicole Dubuc) threw for them and dusted off his old Mercury-style tin hat to assist the three younger Flashes on the decimated and scorched streets of Central City.

The destruction-causing stranger in a containment suit known as Neutron (James Arnold Taylor) turns out not to be a new supervillain but a brainwashed human pawn in an alien conspiracy who's having trouble controlling his powers. The aliens who unleashed Neutron on Central City are the same aliens who have been experimenting on teen runaways to access their metagenes, the genes that determine which humans are metahumans (the DC universe's equivalent of Marvel's mutants). Neutron's hidden overseers, who abandon their failed experiment with Neutron and flee their hideout before the team of speedsters can find them, speak in Krolotean but are taller than the Krolotean invaders who previously appeared on Young Justice this season and were blown up by The Light in "Alienated." Is this a superior breed of Kroloteans that's in league with both The Light and this season's shadowy new nemesis The Partner?

Impulse knows more than he's been letting on. His time machine's arrival at Mount Justice at about the same time as Neutron's energy-wave attack on Central City is hardly coincidental. In the grim post-apocalyptic scenes that open and close "Bloodlines," an older, prison-garbed Neutron sees Bart off as he readies his time machine for its destination: 40 years before Mount Justice--and the world--were reduced to rubble. Bart's mission is/was to save Neutron's younger self from prison and prevent the world's destruction. We see that Bart's "hyperactive tourist from the future" persona is just an act--a costume like the ones donned by "half the meat at Comic-Con" (they're so quirky because they're actually from the future too, according to one of the funniest lines David gives to Impulse). We also see that Impulse's accomplishments in the past aren't enough to fix the timestream because aside from older Neutron's slight change in appearance, the post-apocalyptic world remains unchanged.

I don't like that Young Justice is adding time travel as another spinning plate to the Ed Sullivan Show spinning plates act that this season has been basically shaping up to be because I'm so jaded from the aimless time-travel storytelling messes I was subjected to during Heroes. That live-action show soured the enjoyment I used to have for time-travel stories. But when time travel is placed into the hands of more capable writers like David and the Young Justice staffers, I doubt I'll find my not-so-TV-PG-rated self to be saying about the writing, "That's such a dick move."



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