With each season, Young Justice has incorporated more and more of the DC Comics universe into its broader story to help give the idea of a living, breathing world. Through its arc-based storytelling, the current season of Phantoms has widened the scope of the comics history it’s pulling in, such as the Legion of Super Heroes and Jack Kirby’s New Gods. But it’s the way that the show brings in those elements that can always make for a nice surprise, and that approach has made Young Justice’s universe consistently fascinating to explore over its four-season run.
This week’s episode has an... interesting approach to DC history, to say the least. In its B-plot, it tees up some intriguing backstory on the Legion and its members Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl, and Phantom Girl, who traveled to the present day to covertly help the modern-day heroes while pursuing their own foe from the future. But the episode’s A-plot takes a pretty big swing of its own by pulling in another show from DC’s animated pantheon into its orbit.
The current arc is focused on Rocket as she, Forager, and Flash travel to New Genesis for a peace summit between the New Gods and the Green Lanterns. This week’s episode, “Encounter Upon the Razor’s Edge,” introduces us to the two Lanterns attending the summit, Kilowog and Tomar-Re, familiar to many a fan of the Green Lanterns. As they fly through space, they fly to a distress beacon from a Blue Lantern, and see none other than... Razer, a character from Green Lantern: The Animated Series.
A history lesson, before we go any further. It’s easy to forget, but during Young Justice’s original tenure on Cartoon Network, it aired alongside the CG Green Lantern series. Hal Jordan and Kilogwog were the show’s two big leads, but its actual protagonist was arguably Razer, its Red Lantern with a heart of gold. When it aired its final episode in 2013, it ended on him searching the galaxy for his love Aya, who he was convinced was still alive somewhere among the stars. Following Razer as he took flight was a Blue Lantern ring, something the show had teased earlier when Razer sought Saint Walker for guidance on how to control his rage. (Jason Spisak, Razer’s voice actor, recited the Blue Lantern oath following the show’s cancellation.) But over the years, it’s never felt like Lantern could get a surprise second shot at life the way that Young Justice did.
With the appearance of Razer, Young Justice has incorporated the Green Lantern series—or at least a similar enough version of that show’s events—into its canon. In the context of the real world, most of “Razor’s Edge” is about continuing the redeemed Red Lantern’s story that was left unfinished nearly a full decade ago. The episode was written by Lantern’s co-showrunners Jim Krieg and Giancarlo Volpe, and that shared history they have gives Razer’s story an extra amount of potency that it otherwise could’ve lacked. In the same way that previous arcs have managed to successfully convey that the veteran heroes we’ve grown up with have been through so much, the same holds true for Razer. Seeing Kilowog sweep his old friend into a big hug early in the episode, and then to see Razer later initiate a hug before bidding him farewell, felt genuinely affecting. And it doesn’t hurt that Spisak and Kevin Michael Richardson are back to voice their respective characters from the Lantern show; Spisak’s performance really sells the exhaustion he has in repeatedly failing to find Aya over the years. Even if you didn’t watch the original series (or understandably forgot how it ended), the episode provides enough info about him about to make you understand why he would be lost in doubt and hopelessness.
When Metron agrees to give Razer his Red ring back in exchange for the Blue ring, it was clear that the episode was working some kind of angle, as they wouldn’t have brought him back just to backslide. Metron revealing that he had intentionally fed Razer false clues on his journey is enough to piss Razer off and become a Red Lantern again. The rampage through New Genesis, and accidentally injuring a female Forager (who we know is female because she’s pink, as opposed to the masculine, red Forager we’re used to), is enough to snap Razer out of his rage haze and demand his Blue ring back. But rather than simply end with him getting it back learning to hope again, the episode does something pretty interesting and lets him dual-wield the Blue and Red rings, complete with a magical girl-style transformation sequence. If you know this character’s backstory, this feels both incredibly appropriate for him and also ridiculously cool, and in all of his various costumes in this episode, he just looks good in this show’s art style.
Lanterns being able to wield different rings simultaneously is old hat in the comics, and some like Hal and Kyle Rayner have been able to wield all seven rings to become the White Lantern. Young Justice has never put much focus on the Lanterns up to now, so it’s fascinating to see them use this character—a wild card, in that he’s not birthed from the comics and hails from a different show—to bring that concept across. The Green Lantern series touched on almost the entire spectrum across its two seasons—the orange Lantern Larfleeze showed up for an episode, as did the Star Sapphires, and a handful of episodes featured Yellow fear crystals. Kilowog even jokes about Razer eventually becoming a “rainbow Lantern,” which feels like planting a seed for a bigger story involving the rest of the color spectrum in potential future seasons to come.
For now, Razer is a Dual Lantern and happily continuing his search to find Aya. With how many characters Young Justice juggles and how some plot lines will run in the background until they get a full spotlight, it may be some time before we see Razer again. But even if we didn’t, getting him here in the brief time that we did is proof enough that eventually, all will be well.
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