DC Universe’s Young Justice: Outsiders has been doing important work you don’t always see in DC’s comics, spotlighting its characters of colour and queer heroes in a story that brings them to the forefront and doesn’t downplay their identities even though they aren’t integral to the show’s plot.
While the show’s been shifting gears as it settles into its core plot about the battle between Earth and Apokolips, it’s eased up a bit on the ancillary character development. But the series’ most recent episode “Quiet Conversations” stopped for a quick moment to remind everyone that its creators are well aware of how dynamic its characters are, even if the show isn’t going to delve into their personal lives in a super-explicit manner.
Most recently, Outsiders has followed the Justice League on its wild campaign of public disinformation that’s factored into the heroes’ ability to track down a group of metahumans who have been captured and sold into slavery, because of how valuable their powers make them to different state actors.
In episode 18, Kaldur’Ahm (who’s now become Aquaman) leads the squad on a mission to Cuba to liberate a group of trafficked metahumans from being sold, and while the team’s mission is successful, they’re unsure of what to do with one of the metateens who isn’t able to breathe on dry land because of her recently-developed gills.
In this week’s episode “Quiet Conversations,” Kaldur makes good on his promise to find a safe haven for the newly-manifested metahuman by bringing her to Atlantis, where she’s both shocked and ecstatic to realise that she’ll be able to become part of an active society again despite her need to be constantly submerged in water.
While the metahuman girl’s introduction to Atlantis isn’t exactly notable, what is notable is the kiss Kaldur quickly steals from a handsome member of King Orin’s court, seemingly confirming that this iteration of the character is queer in line with his DC Comics counterpart being gay.
Again, Kaldur’s sexuality doesn’t at all factor into the story Young Justice: Outsiders is telling, but the series acknowledging and embracing the character’s queerness is significant in and of itself, in large part because it’s a reflection of Outsiders’ overall approach to representation.
Where a lot of shows tend to fall back on the traditional logic that a series need only feature one character of colour and/or a queer character, Outsiders illustrates how that idea’s kind of bullshit and that characters—wait for it—can be multiple things at once.
Kaldur is not only the show’s Aquaman, an explicitly black character, and queer — ironically, the coolest thing about him here is that he isn’t Young Justice: Outsiders’ first queer hero of colour. That honour belongs to Halo, whose story is... complicated and thankfully distinct from Kaldur’s.
Small as it may seem, it’s little things like this that end up giving people something to latch onto about these shows that, at times, can all blend together. Now let’s see if Young Justice: Outsiders pays it forward and actually gives Kaldur and his guy’s relationship some real substance.