Episode 18 Review
Young Justice: Phantoms
The fifth arc of Young Justice: Phantoms begins and puts a very, very much needed spotlight on Rocket. The last new member of the Year Zero incarnation of the Team, Rocket has had the least appearances and development amid the original cast so an arc centered on her is a slam dunk. Running parallel with Rocket's personal life is a first meeting with Orion during a summit between the Justice League, New Gods, and Green Lantern Corps on New Genesis and the reality check is coming a knocking in episode 18 of season four, "Beyond the Grip of the Gods!" along with a couple shocking revelations that will rock Earth-16 to the core.
Jumping from July 4 last episode to August 24 in the cold open, we see that Raquel Ervin is in denial about her son Amistad being diagnosed with autism despite an outburst about his wool beanie, an incident and outburst in the subway, and Amistad's father Noble direct addressing it. But ever so busy, Rocket has Justice League duty and is charge of negotiations in securing a treaty with the New Gods and Green Lantern Corps at a summit on New Genesis. She is accompanied by new teammate the Flash/Jay Garrick and Forager from the Outsiders. Forager is unsure of his usefulness as he hasn't been back to his home planet in over a year and has no experience being on Supertown, the majestic floating city of the New Gods. They are greeted by Lightray, leaders Highfather and Highmother, and their adopted son Orion. Mother Box notices Rocket's tech is unknown to them. Orion bluntly states it should be confiscated and studied but Highmother reminds him Rocket is an honored guest and he withdraws the request. The start of the summit is interrupted by a female Forager stealing from a warehouse.
Thanks to Highmother, Rocket tags along with Orion to confront the Forager but she makes an impressive drop from Supertown into a lake. The Radion particles emitted by the device prevents Mother Box from tracking it. Rocket goes for the direct approach and puts up a bubble and descends but Orion becomes uneasy and demands to be let out. He puts Mother Box to his face and regains his bearings. But the Forager is long gone. Back at Supertown, everyone looks at a still of the Forager. It is revealed the device stolen is ancient, obsolete, and dangerous. Luckily, Forager's knowledge of Bugs pinpoints the thief to the Mountain Hive rather than the Forest Hive. The All-Widow of the Mountain Hive wants to use the device to power the whole mountain. Orion stops the others from storming in because Highfather has a rule in place that permission must be granted to enter Bug hives. All-Widow and her hive feign ignorance. An invisible figure tampers with the device. Forager reasons with the female Forager to tell the truth or she will have no hive to roll with. Forager recalls the larvae of his hive had common trails. The female Forager remembers something.
The two larvae entrusted with the device start playing it. Orion is hit with an inadvertent blast as it goes out of control. Orion flies into a berserker rage and knocks the larvae off their feet. Rocket bubbles the device then Orion. Lightray pleads with her to release Orion. She objects but Lightray reveals he is claustrophobic. She obliges and Lightray uses his Mother Box to calm him. He takes it and is restored to normal then apologizes. Back at Supertown, the device is given to Metron for safekeeping while Highmother assures Orion he is nothing like his biological father and never will be. Rocket is unsure of herself after she froze up in the forest but steels herself for negotiations, now that she has an idea of what Orion is like.
Parallel to what's going on at New Genesis, a young slave named Graggin tries to rally his fellow Hunger Dogs at a bar in the Armagedda district to rise up in rebellion against Darkseid and his New Gods. He is promptly told to can it by Kreetin the bartender who doesn't feel like being killed or "reeducated." Graggin does get the attention of Jovita, a young girl, and takes her to talk elsewhere. Graggin turns to be Ma'alefa'ak and he turns her over to the Parademons for reeducation over being susceptible for rebellion. Grayven congratulates Ma'alefa'ak on his sixteenth arrest and reveals his father Darkseid issued a summoning for an audience. Ma'alefa'ak gets a little impudent but Grayven reveals Darkseid has one final task for him to complete then his boon will be granted. Mantis approaches with a device called a Kaiser Thrall and an ally reveals himself, the man who attempted to engineer Conner's death on Mars. Mantis and Ma'alefa'ak must follow his orders as if they were Darkseid's. He introduces himself as Lor-Zod.
Conner is one the move with the still unconscious Phantom Girl while reciting his old Cadmus programming to the Lex Luthor hallucination. Conner's hallucination becomes more vivid and he imagines himself in Metropolis haven taken over hero duties after replacing Superman, crippling Batman, and destroying the Watchtower. Lex suddenly tells Conner it's time to shed all useless attachments. He's back to holding Phantom Girl but then she takes on the form of Miss Martian. Conner hesitates. A phantom comes to Conner and helps break him from the zone sickness and offers to teach him how to survive in the Phantom Zone. He introduces himself as General Dru-Zod. Back on the Watchtower, Superman and Black Lightning go over candidates for the Justice League Reserves but the former is unsure of including Geo-Force and Infinity, Inc. in discussions.
The recurring theme of accepting the truth in things and seeking help continues this season. Currently, with Rocket, it becomes clear she is the one that needs to face reality and accept her son Amistad needs help. Unfortunately, in a situation similar to Kaldur'ahm, she's busy with placing the duties of the Justice League on her shoulders instead. Reality won't be ignored and she's witness front and center to Orion, who has own set of problems and outbursts. It's fair to say by the end of the arc, we will see Rocket deciding to get Amistad the help he needs.
The back drop of the summit is an interesting extension of the Justice League Reserves sub-plot and it's logical that the New Gods and Green Lantern Corps are part of that plan. Considering the ongoing threat of Apokolips, it makes even more sense to strengthen the alliances. Not to mention the class struggle going on between the New Gods and the Bugs is also revisited from last season. It was quite fortunate that Forager was part of Rocket's party and he served as a crucial diplomatic link that prevented a real tragedy from taking place at the Mountain Hive. And it couldn't come at a more important time as we see on Apokolips, there's a convergence of bad guys. Darkseid, Mantis, Ma'alefa'ak, and the stunning reveal that the killer on Mars is Lor-Zod, historically the son of General Zod in the comics! And a couple minutes later, there's of course the stunning debut of General Zod, himself and confirmation at least that Conner and Phantom Girl are stuck in the Phantom Zone! Another fascinating reveal is that the recurring theme of classism is also prevalent on Apokolips and we see a brief look at the Hunger Dogs, the destitute slave class and we're introduced to Jovita, who just so happens to be a rebel leader in the comics.
Lor-Zod turning to be the mystery killer takes this sub-plot to a whole other level or two. And the fact that he's allied to Darkseid rings a lot of alarms. While there's still a lot of puzzle pieces to go, seeing how this fits in with Superboy's murder and the 2030 event just got a lot more interesting. With the Legion of Superheroes also in the mix, now I can't help but wonder if this "galactic disaster" that Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy alluded to is a take on the Great Darkness Saga from the comics which entailed the Legion and Darkseid. Is Darkseid only working with a time traveler in order to get to a much needed edge against Vandal in their millenium long cosmic pissing contest? And of course, does this all also tie into Lor-Zod having his own agenda: to free his father from the Phantom Zone? If so, how does that tie into screwing up the timeline by taking Conner off the chess board? General Zod joining the chess board sure would throw a lot of kinks into the Light's plans and goals. No way it's a coincidence that two Zods are formally introduced in one episode within minutes of each other. Speaking of, Zod becoming mentor to the increasingly unstable Conner is a recipe for disaster. Feeling the aster.
It's an understatement when I see there's callbacks, references, and easter eggs galore in this episode. There's the debut of Rocket's ex-flame Noble on the show and he mentions the IEP. For those not in the know, that's the Individualized Education Program. At public school, a student with special needs has their own customized curriculum after assessing their learning capabilities. Unfortunately, I could not find anything on the slighted Elaine Jackson in the comics. And if it wasn't crystal, this episode confirms the second Flash in the Justice League that Orin alluded to at the end of Kaldur'ahm's arc is indeed Jay Garrick. Not a surprise he made the choice to go back to active duty after mourning his wife. Forager naturally brings up he's been gone for over a year ever since he left New Genesis with the Team in season 3's "Away Mission." The episode introducers a couple heavy hitters of the New Gods: Lightray, Highfather, and Highmother/Avia as well as some lesser knowns like Celestia and Antinoos. Not too sure but the Mountain Hive's female Forager may be the debut of the second Forager from the comics who was also a female. There's also mention of Radion, a substance toxic to the New Gods. It was also an interesting tidbit that while the Reach knew of Rocket's belt being technology of the Cooperative, Mother Box identified it was an unknown.
Conner's hallucination alone. The opening of Jimmy and Lois reminded me of the camp fire stories in an early issue of the Young Justice tie-in comic. Dr. Desmond and the G-Gnome hearkens back to the series premiere. Toyman in his giant toy soldier robot has to be a callback to Invasion. And most unexpected, a Knightfall nod. And on Apokolips, like New Genesis, has the debut of a couple characters like the Hunger Dogs, a group of Lowlies or citizens of Apokolips who live in absolute poverty and the return of others: there's the appearance of Kalibak and Grayven, who both debuted last season, as well as the return of Mantis. Among the Hunger Dogs in the bar were Jovita, a leader of the rebels in the comics, Kreetin from the Mister Miracle comics, and Ma'al impersonates Graggin from the Adventures of Superman comics.
The big shocker of Conner meeting General Dru-Zod was big enough but most of us already guessed he would show up based on the phrase made from the first letter of this season's episode titles or the really obvious that Conner and Phantom Girl were stranded in the Phantom Zone. But the fact that they got Phil Morris to voice Zod was genius! As many may know, Colin Salmon portrayed Zod in the short lived Krypton series on the SyFy Channel and I did wonder if he was considered to reprise here. The progression of the Justice League Reserves was also a who's who of people we haven't seen since season 2 like Asami and Tye, last season, some just recently, or yet to see at all like Peacemaker who was first referenced in the Players arc of the tie-on comic. Superman's mention of China hiding they have metas or heroes was intriguing as in recent years the comics have introduced two major teams, the Great Ten and the Justice League of China. Could Weisman and Vietti be seeding either? Time will tell. Another mention of Themyscira, wonder when we'll get to see the place. And a nice little easter egg reference was Superman referring to members of Infinity, Inc. by the term used in the comics, the Infinitors.
Young Justice: Phantoms enters its newest arc with a much welcomed feature on Rocket as she hasn't exactly got as much development as the other original members of the Team. Any time with her feels like a real treasure as does a spotlight on Jack Kirby's Fourth World. However, it is with great hope that the two don't obfuscate each other as the twists and shocking revelations continue this season. While on hand, in the Zatanna arc, the new faces, expansion on the magical community, and reaching the next phase of Dr. Fate's series arc was a boon and edge of your seat entertainment, it eventually began to stifle Zatanna's starring role. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself here.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5