Featured Screen Shot
Aqualad: We are Earth’s heroes now.
Superboy: So what are we waiting for, a theme song?
Superboy: I’m not Superman.
General Eiling: I don’t know who you are son and right now I don’t care. You wear the S and you got the job done.
The approach towards the Earth of a massive alien mothership is answered by Green Lanterns John Stewart and Hal Jordan and a spaceworthy version of Batman’s Batplane. The Lanterns challenge the alien ship to identify itself, but it responds by disintegrating them. The bomb-bay doors of the Batplane open, disgorging the Justice League’s heaviest-hitters – Superman, Captain Atom, the Martian Manhunter, and Captain Marvel. However, they too are disintegrated by the alien craft and its squadrons of smaller fighters. The Batman manages to eject from the Batplane when it is targeted by the fighters, but his survival pod is destroyed before he can escape. The entire attack has been watched by the League’s side kicks from the Cave headquarters. The teenagers, who seem strangely passive after witnessing the deaths of their mentors, are told by the Red Tornado that should the rest of the League fall it will be up to them to defend the Earth.
The alien fighters straffe Earth’s cities in an onslaught that is played out on national TV. Central City reporter Iris Allen-West is saved from one group of invaders by the Flash and Zatara moments before they and she are disintegrated by a second wave. News anchor Cat Grant tries to keep her composure as she switches to events in Taipei, Taiwan, but her viewers are horrified to see the Hawks, Green Arrow, and Black Canary die. Grant then tells her viewers that Aquaman, Icon, and the Atom have all been reported killed. Wonder Woman and Red Tornado are killed investigating the alien mothership which has landed on top of Smallville. The Tornado gets one last message to the Cave saying that he fears he is the last of the Justice League moments before he is lost.
Aqualad bravely notes that “We are Earth’s heroes now.” Earth’s weapons and frontal assaults against the enemy have been proven highly ineffective so they will have to choose a new strategy. The Team track the concentration of alien ships and find that a lone craft is investigating Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic. Aqualad decides to capture and repurpose its weapon. The Team arrive in the frozen north after changing their stealth costumes white to camouflage with the snow. Miss Martian’s telekinesis disables the ship while Artemis’s foam arrows seal the aliens inside. Everything is going as planned until Wolf is disintegrated saving Superboy’s life. Superboy separates the alien craft’s weapon from its frame and begins integrating it with Miss Martian’s bioship. However, while they work two more alien ships show up. Artemis’s blows them out of the sky, but is disintegrated in retaliation.
Miss Martian and Kid Flash are horrified at Artemis’s death, but Aqualad thinks fast and destroys the remains of the her killer’s craft before it can attack again. They had watched their parents and mentors slaughtered with detachment, but Artemis death profoundly affects the team. Kid Flash is enraged, Miss Martian is distraught, and Robin is silent. Aqualad tells them that her death cannot be in vain and orders the bioship to the Hall of Justice. They find General Wade Eiling’s tanks and troops try to repel the invaders will little luck. Superboy’s arrival turns the briefly turns tide and the troops mistake him for Superman. Superboy corrects them, but Eiling tells him “You wear the S and you got the job done. ” Eiling and the Team then fallback to the shattered remains of the Hall of Justice.
For a moment the Team look up at the statues of the Justice League’s founders and try to accept that they are really gone. Miss Martian is having the biggest problem with the loss, but she suddenly starts digging through the rubble with her telekinesis to reveals the still living Martian Manhunter. He has no memory of what happened after he was “disintergrated” and his mind is clouded, but he knows there was something important he had to tell them. Kid Flash is inspired and has Robin scan the alien’s weapons. The Kid theorises that the weapon is actually a teleportation beam, like a zeta-beam, and that Artemis is actually safe somewhere in a prison camp or ship. They don’t have time to consider the ramifications further because the Hall comes under attack by another wave of fighters. The Manhunter has to go through the slow process of giving them computer access one at a time so they can beam to the relative safety of the Cave. Only a few of them make it before Aqualad sacrifices his own life to force the Manhunter through the teleporter to safety.
With Aqualad dead Robin assumes command of the operation. He reasons that if the aliens are teleporting their opponents then the only logical place that they could be sent would be to the mothership in Smallville. His plan is for Superboy to create a diversion whilst the rest of them sneak inside. Miss Martian is appalled and tells him that Aqualad “would never sacrifice a team mate.” “No”, replies Robin “he would sacrifice himself” and calls Aqualad’s self-sacrifice at the Hall a mistake that has left the Team without its leader. As they prepare for the attack the Team broadcast a message to the survivors around the world telling them that they will survive and that the “Earth will never surrender!”
Miss Martian and the Martian Manhunter ghost into the mothership under the cover of darkness. She sends a message to Superboy telling him that she loves him moments before he goes to work against the ships perimeter defences. The mothership’s bay doors open and a stream of fighters exit to confront Superboy. Kid Flash then uses the open doors to piggyback Robin inside at superspeed. Their gambit worked, but Miss Martian collapses when she feels Superboy die. Kid Flash is still adamant that they’ll find him with Artemis, but the Martian Manhunter corrects him. His mind is clearer now and he tells them that there is no detention facility. Robin’s scan’s confirm this, but he tells them that their mission is still on, they must still destroy the mothership.
The four survivors eventually find the ship’s power core – a massive glowing sphere that has its own gravity field. Miss Martian telekinetically lowers them onto its surface so that Robin can plants his bombs and sets a count down. However, their escape it cut off by a set of blast doors. Robin orders the Manhunter to ghost Miss Martian out of the ship and tells them that he and Kid Flash will follow on. However, after they’ve left Kid Flash nods in acknowledgement to Robin that their own escape is impossible. The explosives go off moments later and the mothership is consumed in a vast fireball. Miss Martian watches the inferno from a safe distance with the Manhunter. In a harsh tone the older Martian tells his tearful niece that it must end now. He then stabs her through the heart. A split second later Megan awakes to find herself, Superboy, Artemis, and the rest of the team safe and sound and back in the Cave’s training hall.
The Team are dazed and traumatised from their experience. Captain Marvel holds the Miss Martian as she cries almost uncontrollable and Superboy stands nearby unsure of what to do. Batman explains that they were in an artificial reality, a training exercise, created by the Martian Manhunter telepathically linking their minds together. They knew going in that it was not real – that is why they were impassive to the deaths of the entire Justice League – , but they were not aware that it was a no-win scenario designed to test them in the worst possible situation. However, the shock of seeing Artemis “die” caused Miss Martian’s powerful subconscious mind to interpret the events as real. She unwittingly overrode the Manhunter’s control and made everybody believe that the events of the simulation were real. Even those of them that were killed in the simulation believed that they were “dead” and remained comatose.
The Martian Manhunter had to insert himself into that world, but Miss Martian’s power almost made him forget as well. It was only at the end, when the psychic noise from the “living” heroes had vanished, that he was able to reassert his own control and pull them all back into the waking world. The Manhunter apologises to them and says he never knew a training exercise could be “so dangerous, so damaging.” He turns to leave and almost collapses. The strain on him has been massive, but he quietly confesses to Batman and Red Tornado that, while Miss Martian cannot be held responsible for what happened, she has the strongest telepathic mind that he has ever encountered.
- The training scenario takes place on the 15th of October, they all awaken on the 16th of October.
- The Martian Manhunter’s teleport code of 07. Miss Martian’s code is B-05. Robin is B-01. Kid Flash is B-03.
- Miss Martian has the “strongest telepathic mind” that the Martian Manhunter has ever encountered and is stronger even than he.
- The Arctic Costumes – even Robin complete with Owlman like parka hood.
- If this isn’t a time to be putting on Doctor Fate’s helmet I don’t know what is.
- Just how powerful is Megan?
- When will KF finally get a clue about his feeling for Artemis?
- Why did the simulation show specific people? Were these pulled from the Team’s collective memory? They knew Wade Eiling from the comic book and Iris Allen-West is Wally’s aunt, but where do they know Jason Bard from?
Young Justice get put through the Kobayashi Maru, but Miss Martian’s unwitting reprogramming of the scenario doesn’t quite match Captain Kirk’s efforts. When I first started watching this I though “oh, it’s a holodeck” episode — that usual arrogant fan think you get when who assume you’ve second guessed the show’s plot or weekly trope — yet that expectation was nicely subverted.
The viewer’s own “they’re not really dead” reaction is exactly the same as the Young Justice’s reaction to seeing the Justice League killed. Its a subtle bit of writing, but as the characters become more emotionally engaged with the simulated reality so too does the viewer. The characters are in on the unreality of the scenario from the beginning, but as they forget that so are we made to forget by the strength of their reactions. It is a masterfully played twist that is backed up by a suitably traumatised re-entrance into their actual reality.
While the scenario was an illusion the emotional trauma that the Team went through was very real and I expect that this will be played out in episodes to come. The Kid Flash/Artemis subplot was nicely used with KF not quite realising himself why Artemis’s death resonated so strongly for him. Likewise Superboy was forced to (Super)man-up and we saw what Robin would really be like as Team leader. I would have liked to have known more about the alien invaders, but they were never the point of this episode and remained suitably generic.
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