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This Young Justice: Phantoms review contains spoilers.
Young Justice Season 4 Episode 9
“Ondu!” thankfully pivots Young Justice: Phantoms away from the tedium of the Tigress arc and into one starring Zatanna. This change of pace freshens up the show significantly – it’s Young Justice’s first significant exploration of the magical side of the DCU, and it mayyyyyybe hints at some big story points moving forward.
We start with a brief introduction and history of the Lords of Chaos and Order, the primal conflict between chaos and order that sprang from the creation of a disordered universe. It’s a universal origin story that doesn’t have THE HAND (the hand of the Anti-Monitor observing the Universe and thus creating it), but otherwise this is pretty well established canon from the comics. This history is interspersed with Zatanna and her new squad – Khalid Nassour, Traci 13, and Mary Bromfeld (a semi-depowered Mary Marvel) – chasing and capturing a pack of goblins in midtown Manhattan as a training mission.
The story of the Lords of Chaos and Order ends with Chaos sending an agent to Earth – Child, the little girl who vivisects a security guard with her sentient gem, Flaw. Her arrival sends a pulse across the world, alerting Klarion the Witch Boy and Zatanna, and the two groups converge on Child and Flaw’s arrival location and fight it out. The fight is cut short as Child summons Klarion to Roanoke to be part of what appears to be a summoning circle of some sort.
Meanwhile, we’re also shown an extended origin story for Vandal Savage, one where he creates a village of his metahuman offspring that is discovered and destroyed by Klarion, who then spends almost an entire year in a loop of killing Vandal and letting him heal. Klarion – a Lord of Chaos – takes an interest in Vandal, and Vandal cuts him a deal to buy himself a thousand years to create something bigger and interesting. This story, we find out at the end, is being relayed to Vandal by The Phantom Stranger.
And throughout the episode we see more of Beast Boy’s depression. He buys some sleeping pills. That’s it. The credits roll over Saturn Girl and Chameleon Kid sitting on a bench watching old episodes of Space Trek, Beast Boy’s old show.
Here’s where the theories come in.
So far the connective tissue between the three story arcs is Beast Boy’s grief. The first chunk of the season was about how racist Mars is and also Superboy dying; the second, about the League of Shadows and Tigress. This third is already one of the deepest examinations ever of the magical DCU outside of the comics. So what could possibly tie all this together?
In the comics, Mordru the Merciless is primarily a Legion of Super-Heroes villain. He hails from the planet Zerox, the Sorcerer’s World, and he is actually slated to rule the universe for a millennium at one point. But that’s not where he started. Originally, he was a Gemworld sorcerer named Wrynn who imbues himself with the power of a Lord of Chaos when he summons Flaw and Child to Gemworld. He imbues himself with incredibly long life, comes through to the main DC dimension through Zerox (a nexus for all magical realms), and is defeated by the Legion. Repeatedly. So it would make sense that he’s the big bad the Legion traveled back in time to fight.
Of course, what would the Legion be without Superboy. Or…a…Superboy.
Is a Jon Kent Superboy Coming to Young Justice?
We’ll go through the various origin stories for the Phantom Stranger below, but one of the wilder ones was posed by The Kingdom: he’s Jonathan Kent, the child of Superman and Wonder Woman in the Kingdom Come timeline, wandering the world trying to save people. The Phantom Stranger is here; Jon Kent is here; the Legion is here; and Mordru is very likely here. All the pieces are in place for something bananas to happen. Hopefully it hits soon.
Deep breath everyone, we’re going in.
The Lords of Chaos and Order
The Lords of Chaos and Order got a pretty comics-accurate origin in the episode. Individual members of the Lords have been in comics since the ‘40s (with the original Doctor Fate), but the concept didn’t get codified in comics until the late 1970s. They’re elemental forces of the universe struggling against each other for dominance, personified in a variety of entities: Nabu (Doctor Fate’s helmet), Princess Amethyst of Gemworld (she’s important in a second), and the Wizard Shazam are members of the Order side; Mordru (hang on) and The Child (I told you this episode was packed) on the Chaos one. It would appear that in Young Justice, Klarion is also a Lord of Chaos.
The New Doctor Fate
We met Traci 13 last season, but Khalid Nassour, one of Zatanna’s crew, is new. He’s the most recent Doctor Fate in the comics, created by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew at the end of Convergence and then spun into a terrific and underrated DCYou solo series. He’s a med student in New York who stumbles across the Helm of Fate and gets sucked into the DC mystical universe. Most recently he’s been working with Justice League Dark in their really excellent backup. Just about any time this guy pops into a comic, it’s really good. Highly recommend.
Mary and the rest of the Shazam family were planned to be in the canon Young Justice tie-in comic, but the book got canceled before they could show up. She was originally created by Otto and Jack Binder in the ‘40s as part of the Shazam Family, and you likely recognize her from the very excellent Shazam movie.
Here, something appears to be wrong with her connection to the Rock of Eternity, so she can only access one power (the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury) at a time, but she’s very creative in using it. She gets her powers from Billy, who in turn gets his powers from the Wizard Shazam, a member of the Lords of Order…
Mary picks a tiger to ride on the carousel and calls him Talky, a throwback to Talky Tawny, the Shazam Family’s best friend who’s also an anthropomorphic tiger. Old Shazam comics are lots of fun.
The Star of Atlantis
The Star of Atlantis is not a recognizable jewel of power from the comics as far as I can tell, but holy crap Child and Flaw is a pull. Child is a Lord of Chaos in the books, created (alongside Flaw) by Keith Giffen, Mindy Newell and Ernie Colon in 1986’s Amethyst #15 to be enemies of Princess Amethyst, ruler of Gemworld. We haven’t met her in the show yet, but most recently she was a member of Young Justice in the comics, so there’s a nexus between the two.
Madame Xanadu is a DC magic mainstay making her first appearance in Young Justice. She was created by Michael William Kaluta and David Michelinie in 1978 as the host of an anthology book about spooky mystery stuff, then folded into the DCU proper as Nimue, the Arthurian sorceress. She’s a regular on Justice League Dark.
Klarion being summoned to Roanoke is an AWESOME callback to the best DC crossover of all time. Grant Morrison and Frazier Irving’s Seven Soldiers of Victory: Klarion the Witch Boy explained his origin: Klarion was a child born in Limbo Town, the remains of the lost Croatoan colony from Roanoke, Virginia.
The Phantom Stranger
The Phantom Stranger is a very old DC character, created in 1952 by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. He’s had several origin stories beyond the one mentioned above: he’s the Wandering Jew (a father in Bethlehem at the time when Herod ordered the deaths of all Jewish infants, he blames Jesus for the death of his son, participates in the crucifixion, and is cursed by Jesus to walk the Earth until his return); he’s a man from biblical times spared God’s wrath by an angel who later commits suicide and is condemned to walk the Earth for eternity; he’s a person from the end of all time, caught in a time loop in the past by a group of scientists finding a way out; or he’s a fallen angel who took no side in the war between Heaven and Hell. Generally speaking, he’s DC’s Watcher: when he shows up, something is A Big Deal.