Young Justice: Outsiders episode 17 sees Beast Boy trying to establish a new publicly-operating team of teen superheroes and struggling to make a good first impression on the world stage. This seems to be why the episode was given the otherwise unwieldy name of "First Impression."
While teen superheroes have been operating in the public eye for many years in the world of Young Justice, the Justice League have kept their organized team of sidekicks (aka the Team) under wraps. This was partly so the Team could act as the League's secret weapon and cover ops unit but also to avoid the public scandal that would surely be sparked if it were widely know that the World's Finest heroes were in the habit of routinely endangering their underage sidekicks. Beast Boy argues, however, that a visible team of teen heroes could solve many of the Justice League's current problems, in the wake of an attack on STAR Labs' Taos.
This leads to Beast Boy financing a new team, with himself, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Static, Blue Beetle and Geo-Force comprising its membership. The new team is soon tested by the apparent return of the alien invaders known as The Reach. Here are the biggest questions remaining at the end of Young Justice season 3, episode 17.
5. Is Young Justice Becoming Teen Titans?
The main plot of Young Justice: Outsiders episode 17 centers around Beast Boy's efforts to establish a publicly operating team of teen superheroes. He makes a case to Aquaman and Ms. Martian that such a team is necessary to fight The Light's propaganda war and show that there are young metahumans willing to use their gifts for the greater good, with the goal of humanizing them in the public eye and increasing the demand that the Justice League be allowed to directly tackle the metahuman trafficking groups that target teen metahumans. He goes one step further and puts his money where his mouth is, financing the team with his earnings as an actor and arranging for a skyscraper in Los Angeles to become the team's base, with living quarters on-site for the whole group.
While the new team takes on the name of the Outsiders by the end of the episode, they don't have much in common with any version of the Outsiders in the comics. The first Outsiders team formed by Batman was meant to be a covert answer to the Justice League, dealing with those conflicts they couldn't confront openly. Every group of heroes to adopt the Outsiders name in the comics since then have largely worked in secret to save the world.
By contrast, these Outsiders aren't shy about talking to the press. Indeed, one of the purposes of their team is to act as an inspiration and example to young people everywhere, showing them that they can make a difference. That would make the Young Justice version of the Outsiders seem like a take on the equally inspirational Teen Titans, even ignoring their operating out of a skyscraper base that also acts as their home.
4. What's With The Scoobies In This Episode?
The action of Young Justice season 3, episode 17 sees the newly-formed Outsiders tested by an apparent alien invasion that has erupted in the small town of Brooklyn, Maine. The Outsiders learn of this invasion thanks to a streaming video shot by teenage aspiring reporter Gabby. As the Outsiders arrive and begin bringing down the alien drones, Gabby is joined in her reporting by two of her friends - Antonia (aka Big Words) and Tommi - who begin filming the battle with their own smartphones.
There's more than meets the eye with this trio of teens and far more to their recording the fight than a bit of social commentary on how attached today's young people are to their digital devices. The three girls are also a visual tribute to Fred Jones, Velma Dinkley and Daphne Blake from Scooby Doo. The girls' phones match the signature colors of the Mysteries Inc. gang (blue, orange and purple) and their personalities line up with those of their counterpart, with Tommi being the group's leader, Gabby being easily excited and Antonia being the scholarly sort who is prone to using big words. There's also a bit of comedy where Antonia loses her glasses and proves to be totally blind without them, just like Velma, and when we first see Tommi she is making a snowman with an orange ascot - Fred Jones' favorite fashion accessory.
Tommi, Antonia and Gabby are also a gender-flipped tribute to the Newsboy Legion - one of the many concepts created for DC Comics by Captain America co-creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. First appearing in Star-Spangled Comics #7 in April 1942, the Newsboy Legion were a gang of homeless orphans who sold newspapers on the streets of Brooklyn and had a knack for getting into trouble and making the front page about as often as they sold a paper. They were eventually adopted by local beat-cop Jim Harper, who also fought crime as the shield-wielding vigilante known as Guardian.
Originally the Newsboy Legion were only known by their nicknames - Tommy, Gabby, Big Words and Scrapper. Kirby's revamp of the characters in 1971 gave them the formal names of Thomas Tompkins (Tommy), Anthony Rodriguez (Big Words), Johnny Gabrielli (Gabby) and Patrick MacGuire (Scrapper). It's easy to see how Tommy became Tommi and Anthony became Antonia, but where is Scrapper in all of this? The episode's end credits reveal that the full name of Brooklyn's tough-as-nails sheriff (who stands with the kids and the Outsiders against an officious busybody in the episode's end) is Patrick Maguire.
3. What's Wrong With Joan Garrick?
As the Outsiders fight the alien invasion and the footage being live-streamed by the Newsgirl Legion is picked up by the major news networks, "First Impression" cut away to get reaction shots from various figures in the world of Young Justice. These include the teens at STAR Labs' shelter for troubled metahuman teens in Taos, Arizona, the members of the Team at the Outsider's base in Los Angeles and everyone at Artemis Crock's house in Star City. There is also a quick shot of an older man holding the hand of an older woman, while sitting in a hospital room said to be in Central City.
All but the most die-hard of Young Justice fans might be forgiven for not recognizing the elderly couple as Jay Garrick, the first speedster to be known as The Flash, and his wife, Joan Garrick. Neither Jay or Joan has appeared in Young Justice season 3 before now and the last time Joan appeared was in a non-speaking role in "Bloodlines" - Young Justice season 2, episode 6. It is clear that something is wrong with Joan but "First Impression" doesn't offer any explanation for why Joan is in the hospital. Presumably, this will be addressed in a future episode.
2. How Did Mayor Tompkins Call In An Air Strike?
Strangely enough, most of the Outsiders' problems in "First Impression" aren't caused by the alien invasion of Brooklyn, Maine. The main antagonist of the episode is Thomas Tompkins - Mayor of Brooklyn and a dyed-in-the-wool believer in Lex Luthor's warnings about the dangers posed by superheroes, who hates metahuman teenagers like J. Jonah Jameson hates Spider-Man. Once the Outsiders have brought down the Reach ships and revealed them to be piloted by Intergang members rather than real aliens, Mayor Tompkins is quick to demand that Sheriff Maguire arrest the Outsiders for violating Brooklyn's anti-vigilante laws and destroying public property.
When a larger Reach warship (which was awoken by an automatic distress call from one of the downed drones) starts destroying the city, Tompkins still refuses to give Aquaman permission to protect the city as a Justice League member, boasting that he's already called in an air-strike by the United States Air Force. Naturally, their missiles are completely useless against the Reach mothership. This prompts the Outsiders, who surrendered peacefully to Sheriff Maguire, to escape from their handcuffs and move to safely bring down the mothership, promising to return to police custody once the town is safe.
While it makes sense that the USAF would move to deal with an alien invasion and that they would be watching the skies for such a thing in the wake of The Reach's invasion of Earth in Young Justice season 2, their being called in by the mayor of a small town makes little sense. While state governors can take command of National Guard troops in times of crisis (including Air Force reservists), city mayors have no official place in the military chain of command. Given his general pompous attitude, it seems more likely that Mayor Tompkins is inflating his actual role in things and that all he did was call the governor of Maine to report the invasion rather than mayors in the universe of Young Justice having the power to call in air-strikes.
1. What Stories Inspired This Episode?
While Young Justice season 3, episode 17 draws upon a number of sources for its plot and characters, its main story seems to be borrowed from two in particular. The big twist of the episode is that the alien invasion which seems to signal the return of The Reach (the chief antagonists of Young Justice season 2 and the aliens responsible for creating Blue Beetle's super-suit) turns out to be three members of Intergang piloting stolen Reach spaceships. With frightened reporters in a small New England town providing live coverage of an alien invasion that turns out to be a hoax, comparison can be made to of Orson Welles' infamous radio dramatization of the H.G. Wells' novel War of the Worlds.
Broadcast on October 30, 1938, Welles had the inspired idea to modernize the novel by setting the story in the present day and presenting the alien invasion from the perspective of a radio reporter on the scene. The show opened with a statement that what followed was not a real news broadcast but this disclaimer was missed by many listeners, who tuned into the program late due to it being scheduled opposite an appearance by popular comedian Edgar Bergen. The resulting scandal over people panicking as a result of the fake news broadcast (an occurrence which is today believed to have been exaggerated by reporters of the time) helped secure Welles' reputation as an expert dramatist and arguably made his career.
"First Impression" also draws deeply upon The Brave and The Bold #54 - the 1964 comic that marked the first appearance of the Teen Titans. The action of the issue saw Kid Flash, Robin and Aqualad summoned to a small town whose teen-hating populace had proposed strict laws limiting teenager's rights, in the hopes that they could convince the town mayor that not all young people are irresponsible troublemakers. While the Outsiders aren't summoned to Brooklyn, Maine in this episode of Young Justice, they still find themselves involved in a similar conflict with the mayor comparable to the one in the comic book and have the same goal of helping fight the bad press teenagers in general get in the mainstream media.