Cassandra Cain Steals the Spotlight in Young Justice: Phantoms

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This Young Justice: Phantoms review contains spoilers.

Young Justice Season 4 Episode 6

It doesn’t take a lot to bring me back in, and Young Justice: Phantoms found the sweet spot this week with “Artemis Through the Looking Glass.” It turns out all they needed to do was toss me a couple of crumbs of Cassandra Cain content and everything would be better. 

It helps that this week was actually animated. The story still feels rushed, but the kinetic energy of the show is back to its normal level. A huge chunk of the episode is dedicated to a fight between Black Spider (Young Justice’s Spectacular Spider-Man knockoff) and Rictus from the League of Shadows, and Tigress, Onyx, Scandal Savage, Orphan, and Cheshire on the other side. Tigress had brought in Cheshire last week to help her figure out which of Onyx and Scandal was a potential mole, and they got jumped by the League crew during the interrogation, leading to Tigress letting both go free to use whips and heavy punches in an outstanding action sequence, full of great choreography and actually moving figures instead of last week’s weird motion comic.

One would expect the League to be after Scandal and Onyx, and they kind of are, but their immediate goal was to kidnap Orphan. Cassandra is Lady Shiva’s daughter, one of the big bosses of The Light, and she wants her kid back. Most of the emotional heft in this episode is spent on flashbacks to Artemis and Jade’s childhoods, but the point of the whole episode is to draw parallels between everyone in this new hero group. Jade and Artemis had terrible, abusive childhoods, which we see multiple times this week.

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Then we have Scandal and Cass’s brutal childhoods described to us – Scandal tells us about her father, Vandal Savage, stealing her from her mom when she was four, raising her into ruthlessness, killing her sibling and eventually driving her from the League, while Cass had her vocal chords severed as an infant by her HORRIBLE mother, Lady Shiva, so she would only understand violence. This is fairly in keeping with Cassandra’s backstory in the comics, where she was (I might reiterate) the best Batgirl (and is currently, as she’s co-starring with Spoiler in a Batgirls story running through a few Bat-books).

I think then that the one in the group who’s up to something is Onyx. She’s the only one who had a not-abusive childhood, and Jade is onto her pretty well from the start, but Artemis decides she needs all the hands she can get for the fight, so Onyx and Scandal end up headed to Infinity Island with Tigress to get Cass back from Lady Shiva, who shows up at the end of the fight to take her daughter back. It’s simple and effective, but it ended up being the best episode of the season so far.

PHANTOM PREMONITIONS

A ton of new faces popped in this week, even if we didn’t get any new hints at the season’s main baddie.

  • The telepath trying to get into Scandal and Onyx’s brains is Looker, an original member of the comics Outsiders created by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo. She’s kind of a low-grade Jean Grey – red hair, telepathy, telekinesis – until she got turned into a vampire in the New 52.
  • Jason Bard is a pretty nice pull. He was created in 1969 by Gil Kane and Frank Robbins as a good cop in the Gotham PD. He was forced to leave the force after Killer Moth blew his knee off, and he spent a bit as a Batgirl love interest. It’s a nice touch that he’s Artemis’ boyfriend, as she’s kind of the Batgirl of this show.
  • We’ve seen him before, but just a reminder that Black Spider is voiced by the best Spider-Man, Josh Keaton.
  • That cyborg looking guy with Black Spider is Rictus. He is basically evil DC Vision – he’s a super strong, flying, density controlling cyborg who’s making himself more robot as time goes on, rather than crying and having babies to prove he’s a real boy like his Marvel counterpart. He’s relatively new – his first appearance was in 2013’s Red Hood and the Outlaws #21 by James Tynion IV and Julius Gopez. I’m not sure he was less humorless there.
  • Onyx’s backstory in the comics was not this cool. Her grandfather here is Amazing Man, a character created in 1983’s All Star Squadron by Jerry Ordway and Roy Thomas. Will Everett was what you’d get if you crossed The Flash and Jesse Owens: an incredible Olympic athlete who, via an accident at the lab where he worked, gained the power to take on the properties of anything he touched. He’s showed up a bunch since then, most recently the Injustice: Year Zero digital first comic. You know the one, it’s got the Joker talking about how much he hates Nazis.

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