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FGC #394 Young Justice: Legacy

JUSTICE!Corporations do not understand universes.

What separates us from the animals? Intelligence? Morality? The ability to claim horseradish and “creamy” horseradish are the same edible substance? No, on a basic level, what makes us the top of the food chain is our pattern recognition. You see a little bit of the stuff in some animals (“sit!” = put butt on floor for treat), but even the smartest animal doesn’t seem to have the object permanence to so much as code a simple C++ “hello world” script. Meanwhile, over on the human side of the Animal Kingdom, toddlers are barely verbal before they start asking the why of everything. If there is a reason that things fall down, there must also be a reason for the color of the walls, or why Daddy is always crank calling the neighbors after he drinks his special juice. What we consider thinking is merely a long chain of if-then statements going back to the first time you realized there was a reason grandma always screamed when you attempted to climb the stove.

So it’s only natural that we approach our media with the same basic thinking. We certainly could enjoy Merrie Melodies, newspaper comic strips, and other chunks of media that contain and require exactly zero continuity… but did you notice how the greatest examples of that phenomenon are almost entirely as outdated as a protractor? Continuity is king nowadays, and everything from Superman to the latest Kanye West album must contain no less than a decade’s worth of references and in-jokes. And, if you ever wondered why such a thing was now considered standard, it’s because the marketing department figured out a long time ago that your eyeballs were going to stay glued to the boob tube through that commercial break if you were promised just the tiniest glimmer of what happens next. Those last ten minutes were setting up the “if”, and, if you can hold out a little longer, you’ll be granted the all-important “then”. All of your dreams will come true! Or maybe you’ll at least find out who shot J.R.

But the thing about continuity is that, should it go on long enough, it gets a little complicated. And that previously mentioned marketing department? They do not like complicated.

Get 'emIt’s basic math, really. If you’re in the business of selling your product (and if you’re producing a product for literally any other reason, my God man, what are you even doing?), you need to do two things: maintain your audience, and grow your audience. So once you’ve got your initial viewers good and entrenched, then it’s time to start expanding and finding new ways to hook new people. And, hey, you’ve got some fans that will stick with you through anything, so why not toss out the baby and its stupid bath water, start fresh, and tell all those newbies that we’ve got a perfect “jumping on point”? What could possibly go wrong? You think the established fans will leave? They might! But who needs those nerds? They just spent the last six months complaining on their stupid forums because you had the audacity to name the latest love interest after your dog. It was a coincidence, you damn fanatics! It wasn’t supposed to mean anything! Reboot this thing, and maybe we’ll get a new, better audience that will finally buy that warehouse full of F-tier Pops.

And, while the reboot is practically synonymous with the comic book industry, it is certainly the standard in practically every medium you can name. Was A Link to the Past 100% beholden to the original Legend of Zelda? Does the latest Mario release take a time out to explain the lack of Bowser Jr? Is there a single Transformers movie that clarifies the current whereabouts of Orson Welles? Can anyone even remember how many 007s we’ve gone through? Not every story has to have a giant “reboot” brand on its cover, but “that old story didn’t matter” is assumed to be the norm any time there isn’t a number in the title. After all, you’re not going to score any new fans by requiring homework.

But those old fans? They have long memories. And, what’s more, they have desires.

BZZZZTLet’s take Star Trek as an example. I have no doubt that, whether you’re reading this article in 2018 or 2098, there is some manner of Star Trek-related media available. It’s inevitable! It’s a franchise that is based on a simple concept (“Space: The Final Frontier”), and can be adapted into anything from a retro futuristic romp to a Seth Macfarlane vanity project. However, in the next century, I would be very surprised if my Star Trek ever resurfaces in any given form ever again. What’s my Star Trek, you obviously don’t want to ask? Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the story of a single dad in a frontier space station attempting to balance science and religion while a shape shifting sheriff gets in a fight with gluttonous bartender. I would give my left pinky toe (it’s really important for balance!) to see the further adventures of Ben Sisko, Miles O’Brien, and Elim Garak (master tailor), but I know that’s never going to happen again. Books are available, and maybe we’ll see some manner of comic book if IDW is feeling saucy, but to just sit down at 5 in the evening and visit Deep Space Nine from the comfort of my couch? That will never happen again. The franchise lives on, but the joy of that particular mini universe is lost forever.

And companies don’t realize how desperate fans can be for those forgotten universes.

Today’s game is Young Justice: Legacy. At the time of Young Justice: Legacy’s announcement, Young Justice: The Animated Series was on a season break. The plan was that you’d have Young Justice in reruns, and then there would be Young Justice: Season 2, which would take place after a significant (and cast rearranging) time jump. Young Justice: Legacy would fill in the blanks on that time skip, so if you were wondering why Aqua Lad was off crying in the corner and screaming “you’re not my real dad!” Young Justice: Legacy was here to explain every little detail. And that’s a great idea! That has the potential to not only fuel an interesting tie-in product, but also goose the sales a bit with all those nerds that want to bathe themselves in the poisonous spring that is continuity. Everybody wins!

CLOWN MUSICUnfortunately, Young Justice: Legacy is not very good (hey, that’s the other theme of this week). And, somewhere along production, it seems that someone noticed that it wasn’t very good. Young Justice: Legacy was not released during the gap between seasons of Young Justice, because it suffered from numerous setbacks and delays. Not only was YJ:L postponed, it was outright cancelled for the Wii/WiiU. And then, when it was finally released on PS3/X360/3DS (somebody liked systems with a “3” in the title), Young Justice: The Series… was cancelled. Sorry! Just a little late!

And that’s why people bought Young Justice: Legacy.

Young Justice: Legacy is a lousy clone of the much more successful/fun X-Men/Marvel Gauntlet-alikes of a few years prior. Walk, fight random mooks, walk some more, maybe use a super power every once in a while. Bosses are simultaneously more interesting (here’s Killer Frost! And she’s riding ice pillars!) and more stupid (why the hell can’t Superboy just fly to match her altitude!?) than the rest of the game. And, if you’re good, the finale is a battle against a magical dragon that has no business being the final boss of a DC Superhero title (basically, imagine if the final boss of Injustice was a Pokémon… assuming it wasn’t DLC). Even with a multiplayer mode that is exactly as tepid as the main campaign, there is practically no reason to play this game, save being really dedicated to playing as Miss Martian.

And that’s all this stupid game needs.

Shiny!Young Justice the series is technically based on a comic originally kickstarted by Peter David in 1998. But that is fairly misleading, as the only reason “Young Justice” wasn’t “Teen Titans” was because the “Titans” had all grown up and taken their group name to college in an effort to impress other freshmen. Considering the two properties to be thematically identical, we’re then looking back to Teen Titan’s premiere back in 1964. For the record, that was an epoch before the last time we had to impeach a president. And, in the same way we’ve had a number of administrations since the 60’s, there have been an innumerable number of Teen Titans in that time. In short, if you say, “I like teenage superheroes in the DC Universe”, you could be talking about any number of groups over the last fifty years. And that’s even before you get into spin-offs, elseworlds, and, of course, television shows. Young Justice, the 2010-2013 Cartoon Network program, was just a drop in the ocean of Teen Titan media. And, unfortunately, it was always destined to be forgotten.

And that sucks for anyone that wanted to see this version of Robin ride again.

So Young Justice: Legacy might not be any good, but it does star all those heroes from that nearly forgotten sub-franchise. It’s a complete story with twists, turns, and villains that are all (almost all) recognizable from the original series. M’gann M’orzz is the Young Justice iteration, not the “lesser” versions you’d find in the comic books or random Supergirl episodes. All your old friends are here, and you get to join them in a fight! Sure, the game is no great shakes, but it shakes the part of your brain that contains great memories of a Red Arrow that isn’t addicted to parkour. Young Justice: Legacy thrives, because, until the inevitable revival, it’s the last lifeboat containing all your pals. And even if it’s going to be a pain, aren’t you going to toss them a life preserver?

So forget the reboots, Big Media, and revel in the continuity. It’s pretty clear that anyone…

Wait…

What am I saying? I don’t want to be a sucker and blow my hard earned dough on nostalgia. No! I have to stop this article before it’s too late! Hollywood! Toy companies! Forget I said anything! You don’t need to…

DEFENDER OF THE UNIVERSE

Oh noooooo!

FGC #394 Young Justice: Legacy

  • System: Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. I would assume the Nintendo 3DS version is slightly different from its console brothers… but, meh, Google Image Search is all the way over there.
  • Number of players: It has to be at least two. But you can control three characters per stage. Was it three players? Maybe? There was an online mode, so I’m going to upgrade that to “probably”.
  • Favorite Playable Character: If I say Miss Martian, everyone is just going to yell at me for actually liking catch phrases. Oh, wait, Zatanna is considered young enough to qualify for the roster, so that’s my pick. Unparalleled magical powers should always be available during beat ‘em ups.
  • BUM BUM BUMFavorite Non-Playable Character: Klarion bum bum bum The Witch Boy! For no reason, I just happened to remember that I have a Young Justice script signed by Peter David. Go fig.
  • Favorite Character That is Surprisingly Not Playable: We’ve got Nightwing, we’ve got Robin, and we’ve even got Batgirl, but Batman himself is not playable. He’s lurking around, but I am downright impressed the producers had the restraint to not make him a playable character. Good job, guys!
  • Did you know? The final unlocked Titan (uh… Young Justicer?) is Rocket, the sidekick of Icon, star of Milestone Comics. Milestone Comics was an interesting and diverse little universe hiding on the fringes of DC Comics, and, like most attempts at diversity in comic books, every character involved has been almost completely forgotten. But at least Rocket is well worth unlocking, as her moves are some of the best available. And it’s not like there’s some other teenage Milestone Comics hero that people have been begging for for years or anything. Note: Because no one remembers Milestone Comics and would understand that wry reference, I’m talking about Static Shock. There. Happy?
  • Would I play again: Nah. There are some people that obsess over Young Justice, but I’m not one of ‘em. More of a Gargoyles fan, myself.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy Dissidia NT! Oddly enough, this is a recent release, but ROB picked from the deep end of the pool for once, so it’s an actually randomly picked recent release. Go fig. Anyway, please look forward to it!

USE THE FORCE
How do forcefields even work?

It’s Comical Issues #1

Gotham AcademySo my original plan for this post was to, like my anime post from forever ago, highlight some comic books I’ve been reading recently, do my best to dissect what’s good and bad, and then call it a day with some stray observation about the state of the industry or something. Easy peasy. Emphasize how this site could have been a comics blog from day one, and then knock off for the weekend. So, step one, look over the comics I’ve been reading, separate the heroes from the villains, and then… I didn’t get any further. I skimmed some of the comics I’ve read over the last six months, and I realized something horrifying…

I don’t think I like reading comics.

Which is odd, because I love comics.

Comics are (is?) such a delightful medium. Unlike books (or blogs, ugh), you don’t have to run the startup process on your imagination to see dragons, killer robots, or killer robot dragons battling in front of your eyes. And, unlike video games, movies, or even some animation, it doesn’t cost millions of dollars to create an army of unusual characters. Want to open your story with a seven armed god of war wielding a different assault weapon in each hand? Sure, you can draw up that creature on page one! The imagination of the writer is only confined by the 2nd Dimension, and you’d be surprised what you can fit in there.

And, over the last century or so, writers have done practically everything with comics. From the earnest-but-vaguely-insane Silver Age of “Superman has a lion head this week” to more modern writers like Grant Morrison writing about comics that feature people writing about comics, it seems like the medium can produce most any story possible.

But if I’m being honest? I read the same stupid stories over and over again.

Superhero comics dominate the field, yes, and I am well aware there are alternatives. I have a bookshelf full of comics created by “indie” writers… but, by Welcome to Pleasant Pointand large, those comics don’t come out every week. Those aren’t the comics that remind me, prod me into going back to my dealer every week and seeing what’s new. Heck, part of the reasoning behind this post is that there are fifty (fifty!) comics coming out of DC Comics every month, and I’m reading… two of those.

Two.

For the record, I’m talking about Gotham Academy, the story of precocious Gotham City boarding school students and their various adventures in a city that has a disproportionate number of Killer Crocs, and Batgirl, which shouldn’t need any explanation, but its current status quo might require a closer look.

Batgirl is, as anyone familiar with the character might suspect, the story of Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon (star of a hit TV show!), a plucky young heroine who dons the mantle of The Bat to fight crime and maybe, one day, acquire her own nemesis that’s half as interesting as someone out of the Batman menagerie. Firefly isn’t cutting it. The wrinkle in the ointment of the most current Batgirl series, though, is that Batgirl has been “subtly” de-aged from the former senator/Oracle/Birds of Prey leader to a more teenage, student “hipster” that is now forced to reference some form of social media every three pages. Ha ha, selfie, back to crime fighting. But when you put aside the “look, youth culture!” trappings of the book, it’s a fun read, not because it’s young and hip and crunk or whatever, but because it’s a familiar character in an unfamiliar (for the Bat characters) setting, and it allows said character some interesting room to grow.

And the weird thing about the whole experience? Batman BeyondI feel guilty every time I read the book, because, in order to read about this Barbara Gordon, they had to dump the “old” Barbara Gordon, the older, disabled version, the one that would likely treat The Batgirl of Burnside as some misfit protégé. I feel guilty because I liked the old Barbara Gordon, I liked reading her story, and it seems wrong that she had to be lost.

The Killing Joke, the birth of “that” Barbara Gordon was in 1988. Oracle appeared in 1989. That means that, basically, there were 25 years of that Barbara Gordon.

That’s a pretty good run.

I’m not the first to point this out, but “continuity” is simultaneously the pride and shame of comics fans. Everyone balks when DC “reboots” its stories for the fifteenth time… but Marvel is getting to the point where it’s going to be a requirement. Hell, I suppose they already tried it with The Ultimate Universe, and that collapsed under the weight of its own continuity within ten years (and had a comical, what, six apocalypses?). But we’re still looking at a Peter Parker that is lamenting the death of Gwen Stacy… and that happened in 1973. Captain America feels guilty about Bucky’s “death”, but he’s been back and alive for eleven years. And never mind the parade of villains in Marvel’s stable that were pushing up daisies until the very moment they weren’t oh wait yes he’s dead again. It gets… a tweak absurd.

Patsy Walker HellcatBut then again, I suppose the reboot route is even worse. Batgirl works because it’s actually doing something new with its character, but the typical reboot? Never. For about six issues, there’s something new, or at least something that hasn’t been done within the last fifteen years (which is what qualifies as “new” in comics). Then the parade of “firsts” starts. First time mysterious villain is encountered. First time “gimmick” villain is defeated by finding gimmick’s weakness. First time sidekick appears. First time mentor objects because hero is “going too far”. It’s all the same beats, all over again, and five years later, those ‘firsts” have all been exhausted… so how about a reboot?

So why do I still read comics at all? Simple answer: it’s the same reason I compulsively check my Facebook feed.

Oh? Batman? I wonder what he’s up to? He’s dead? He’s traveling through time? He’s Robin? He’s got old gloves? He’s a bunny robot now? That’s neat. I don’t have to enjoy the story, I don’t even have to understand it, all that matters is that that aggravating part of my brain that tracks my video game Sinestrobacklog and how many exs aren’t talking to me right now also has to know exactly what Spider-Man is doing right now, and God help us all if I don’t have a succinct reason for why Peter Parker is suddenly Tony Stark. And Tony Stark is seeing Mary Jane? Oh, that’s gonna need some ‘splainin’.

So you know what? I don’t like comic books. I don’t like feeling like I need to read something. Comics are dumb, and the format has only gotten worse in the age where I can have three billion hours of entertainment beamed into my brain at any moment. The average comic book equates to about the same span of time you’d see between commercial breaks in a television show (and this became really obvious in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics series). Wow, can you just imagine a network today, when you can stream the entirety of Breaking Bad with a few clicks, launching a serialized, ten minute series that delivers a new episode every month (assuming the producer isn’t “running behind”)? It would be the biggest failure since Cop Rock. But that’s exactly how Big Comics delivers its content, and they wonder every quarter why Deadpool the comic doesn’t pull an eighth of the revenue of cinematic Deadpool the Green Lantern.

But I will keep buying trade paperbacks. I will keep buying complete stories that entertain me, and don’t require months of mentally sorting plotlines. I will keep buying entire bookshelves to house a growing collection of carefully cultivated tales. I worship at the altar of Morrison and Gaiman and Snyder… but maybe I can leave the Johns behind.

I think… I hope I can be okay with not knowing what Superman is doing right now.

Wait, is he having problems with red kryptonite?

Well, maybe I’ll check out this issue, you know, just to see what’s up.

X-Men