And Justice (Leagues) for all

As a comic book reader from way back, I’m loving the big-screen adaptations of some of the Marvel comics favorites from my childhood. “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America” were all top-notch.

Marvel’s longtime competitor, DC, has had a lot less success in movie versions. While the “Dark Knight” films are pretty good — although somewhat self-consciously non-comic-booky — “Superman Returns” was glum and very nearly boring and this summer’s “Green Lantern” was meh.

Honestly, the most consistently successful adaptations of comic books can be found, to no one’s surprise, in animated series and movies.

If you haven’t watched a superhero cartoon since “Super Friends,” you’re missing well-written shows that offer plenty of action for kids and characters and continuity for grown-ups.

The “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” show on Disney XD has the complex plots and myriad characters of modern-day Marvel comics and Cartoon Network’s “Young Justice” has engaging characters and an over-arching mythology that, several episodes into the series, is just beginning to build.

The premise of the series is that Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and other proteges of adult heroes like Batman and Flash team up in a training exercise of sorts to prepare them for eventual entry into the Justice League. There’s intrigue in a shadowy group that appears to be manipulating the young heroes and there’s rivalry and clashing emotions among the members, who include a young Superboy who is, in a plot faithful to recent comics, a weeks-old clone of Superman.

“Young Justice” is surprisingly somber in its overall tone, maybe befitting a modern-day fantasy series.

It’s conspiracy-laden mythology reminds me in some ways of “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited,” two Cartoon Network series that ran for four seasons, more or less, in the mid-2000s. From the makers of the “Batman” and “Superman” animated series of the 1990s and early 2000s, the “Justice League” series was full of superheroics and enough characters to bewilder any fanboy. But it was marked by a surprisingly dark undertone of a government — and sometimes a public — suspicious of superheroes who often came across as aloof and frighteningly powerful.

“Young Justice” may very well grow into the equal of “Justice League.” It’s convincing blend of action and thoughtful character drama show a lot of promise.

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