In the wake of seemingly coordinated attacks by ice villains – Mr. Freeze, the Icicle (Jr.), Killer Frost, and Captain Cold – four of the Justice League’s junior partners have been invited to the team’s headquarters, the Hall of Justice in Washington DC.
Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad are thrilled, but Speedy not so much. The angry youth calls out the adults for giving the ‘sidekicks’ an overrated tour rather than actually accepting the young heroes as full members. As brash and impulsive as the Speedy of the Silver Age Teen Titans, he storms off. Superman then asks for help with a fire at Project Cadmus, but before he can finish, Zatara (!) radios in for full League help to stop Wotan from blotting out the sun.
At this point I am already hooked. As a comics fan, I am all about the Easter eggs, and they dropped several at once here, not the least of which are Doctor Fate’s arch-foe Wotan, and Zatara in the Justice League. I was also bouncing because the numeric codes for the JLAers to gain access to the secret HQ were the order in which they joined in the comics.
I also loved the redesigns and subtle tweaks on all the characters, Aquaman is especially impressive, as was Mr. Freeze. Kid Flash seems have appropriated Impulse’s eyewear, which I don’t mind, and Robin’s got Tim Drake’s pants. Robin also gets an upgrade as a hacker but also resurrects his laughing daredevil persona of the Golden Age. We also see the beginning of his catchphrase on this show, being ‘whelmed.’
And Aqualad is not Garth of the Purple Eyes, but a completely new character, an African-American (Atlantean?) youth who seems to have Mera’s ability to manipulate water, and he even has his own supply. The responsible semi-adult of the threesome, I like him a lot. Notably, like Aquaman, who he calls his mentor and king, this Aqualad is barefoot, and unlike him, he has gills. We’ll learn a lot more about him as the series continues.
Left to their own devices, of course they go to investigate Cadmus, against orders, while the League deals with Wotan off-screen. Putting out the fire and saving lives is the easy part. Soon they stumble across a secret underground elevator and monster aliens, then a mentally controlled Guardian and an army of genetically engineered weapons. It gets worse.
In the comics, Project Cadmus is all about DNA, aliens, clones, and genetic engineering. Created by Jack Kirby when he first came to DC Comics, it was used as a plot device decades later to make Superboy, the clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, after the assumed death of the former. And guess what our young heroes find? Yeah, you got it. Superboy. He’s just a kid, genetically engineered weapon or not, they gotta save him.
Other goodies abound here. A slimmed down Dubbilex is also there, as are creatures called genomorphs, each type possessing different power sets. Part of the fun of this series was how they never stated the obvious, and were better at showing rather than telling. You had to pay attention and take nothing for granted, because the showrunners were not aiming down at an audience. They were about story and characterization, not hand holding – something I always found refreshing.
We also meet Dr. Desmond. At first I thought this was Al Desmond, who was both the Flash villains Doctor Alchemy and Mr. Element, but then seeing the huge capsules he was working on labeled Blockbuster, I knew it was Mark Desmond. When Desmond and Dubbilex can’t get into the sleeping Superboy’s chamber to extract our heroes – they activate Superboy, and he makes minced meat of the junior superheroes. To be continued…
Until next time I’ll leave you with this fun fact. Kr is the atomic symbol for Krypton on the periodic table of elements.