Justice League Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 26 (13 stories)
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Widescreen, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

The second season of the animated Justice League series is bigger and the stakes are higher. Again, most stories are two parts, except the Holiday episode, “Comfort and Joy” and the three-part season finale “Starcrossed”. The season opens with Orion attacking and defeating one of Darkseid’s attacks, but as Darkseid recovers, he’s attacked by Brainiac – Darkseid convinces the Justice League to help him. They work with Highfather to stop Brainiac’s attack, but it puts New Genesis in danger.

In “Only a Dream”, Doctor Destiny traps most of the Justice League in nightmares, but insomniac Batman is able to defeat Doctor Destiny.

In “Maid of Honor” Wonder Woman befriends the party girl princess of Kasnia. Despite at first complaining about the princess’s lack of responsibility, the two bond and have fun. The princess confesses she doesn’t even want to marry her fiancé but she must as part of her duty. When her father has a sudden “stroke” the marriage is moved up. Diana is shocked that the Kasnian princess’s new husband is Vandal Savage. The Justice League ends up interfering when Savage threatens the world with an orbiting rail gun satellite.

This season features an episode with the Justice Lords – an alternate Earth Justice League that became world dictators after the death of their Flash. The fight scenes in the second part are particularly good because our Justice League doesn’t face off against their own opposite numbers but fights other members. This allows them to succeed.

“The Terror Beyond” has Aquaman, Doctor Fate, and Solomon Grundy fighting off Cthulhu-like monsters. Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and Superman stop Dr. Fate’s spell to close the gate that’s been opened to the horrific monsters. Eventually, Fate, Aquaman, and Grundy are able to convince Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, and Superman that they must stop the creatures. While Fate and his group try to close the gate again, Superman and company go through it to stop the invasion from the other side. This two-parter is visually stunning, and the “mad” monsters from the Cthulhu-like beings are drawn well.

“Secret Society” features another group of B-rate super-villains banding together to drive apart the Justice League. However, by spying on the league their plan almost works and the league splits and each go their own way. It takes Batman, who discovers the surveillance to get the League back together so they can defeat the”Secret Society of Evil”.

In “Hereafter” it appears Superman is killed in a battle with Toyman. While the world deals with its grief, and tries to process a world without a Superman – Superman is actually thrust forward into the far future. He meets Vandal Savage who has finally figured out that ruling an empty, destroyed planet is no fun at all. Superman and Savage finish a time machine Savage was working on and send Superman back to his own time.

In “Wild Cards” the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) and the Wild Card gang take over Las Vegas. The Joker airs the chaos on TV, like some type of reality show. Joker has also placed a large number of bombs, some real, some fake all over Vegas – the League has to find and dismantle the bombs.

Finally in “Starcrossed”, an alien spaceship attacks Washington DC, but the ship is destroyed by Thangarian ships. Thangar gets world leaders to accept their “protection”. However, they later impose martial law. Later it turns out the Thangarians aren’t building a shield for the Earth to protect it from a Gordanian invasion – rather they are building a hyperspace bypass engine so the Thangarians can invade to Gordanian homeworld. Unfortunately, activating the hyperspace bypass will destroy the Earth. It also turns out Hawkgirl was an advance scout and spy for the Thangarians. She is also promised or engaged to one of the other Thangarians – which surprises Green Lantern. The League is upset that Hawkgirl betrayed them. But when Hawkgirl finds out Thanagar intends to destroy the Earth she jumps sides, frees the League from their prison on one of the Thangarian ships, and helps the League defeat the Thanagarians and destroy the hyperspace bypass engine. The League decides to take a vote as to if Hawkgirl will still be accepted in the League, but Hawkgirl leaves first.

Justice League Season 2 is bigger than the first season, and the Justice League faces bigger threats. This is still top-notch animation. There are again several notable guest performances. I highly recommend this season.

Read my review of Justice League Season 1.

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Justice League Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes:  26 (12 stories)
  • Discs:  3
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Standard, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Justice League was the first of the DCAU series that I ever saw and even nearly ten years later the series still stands up. The members of the Justice League are: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz), Flash, and Hawkgirl. The individual episodes of Justice League are 30 minutes (well, 22-25) but in this season every story consists of two or three parts. This means that it’s more like watching a series of short movies than a normal animated television series. The stories have plenty of time for characterization and in-depth storytelling. Justice League also doesn’t waste time on traditional “origin stories”. The first episode, “Origins” has Batman and Superman confronting an actual alien invasion, including a first shot of the tripod-like invading machine that’s reminiscent of George Pal’s War of the Worlds. Superman is telepathically attacked but finds Martian Manhunter being held in a military prison. He and Batman free Martian Manhunter and learn his name is J’onn J’onzz and that he’s the last survivor of Mars. J’onn tells him the beings that threaten the entire Earth had attacked Mars and destroyed their entire civilization. Other leaguers-to-be, including Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Flash, and Wonder Woman join the fight against the alien invaders, eventually defeating the alien menace. Batman proposes building a satellite Watchtower to warn of future invasions. Superman proposes a permanent league of superheroes. Flash asks, “What a type of superfriends?” to which Batman replies, “More like a Justice League”. This sets the stage for the series.

Green Lantern is given an in-depth story, “In Blackest Night” in which he is put on trial for destroying an entire inhabited alien planet while in pursuit of a space pirate. Once the league discovers what’s happened, they rush to his defense. Martian Manhunter and the others are able to prove the planet’s destruction was an illusion orchestrated by the Manhunters (different Manhunters than on Mars, these are androids from Oa the home of the Green Lantern Corps, and the Guardians first attempt at a benevolent galaxy-wide police force). The league frees Jon Stewart Green Lantern and the Flash, who acted as his advocate, clears John’s name, then defends Oa from the Manhunters with the aid of the Green Lantern Corps.

“The Enemy Below” is a modern Aquaman story, and although Aquaman doesn’t formally join the League, he is recognized as the King of under the seas.

“Injustice for All” has Lex Luthor bringing together a group of supervillains to fight the Justice League, especially Superman. It doesn’t go well for Lex.

“Paradise Lost” sees Felix Faust attack Thermyscira, turn all the Amazons to stone, and bribe Wonder Woman to find a McGuffin in three parts – the Key to the Underworld. Wonder Woman and the League find the key but are very worried about what Faust will do to it. Faust releases Hades, who then drains him of life (not the reward he was expecting). The Justice League is able to defeat Hades and return the Amazons to life. But Hippolyta decides to follow Amazon law to the letter and banishes her daughter for bringing men to the island.

“War World” is a slugfest with Superman forced to fight in the War World arena for Mondo.

“The Brave and the Bold” has Gorilla Grood taking over Central City after a scientist accidentally reveals the location of Gorilla City.

“Fury” has a refugee who was raised as an Amazon on Thermyscira reviving Luthor’s Injustice League and launching a biological attack on the world’s men. But Hippolyta reveals that Aresia was actually rescued by a man who got her to Thermyscira before dying.

“Legends” has the League transported to a parallel Earth where the heroes resemble Golden Age comics heroes and John Stewart (GL) recognizes the heroes as heroes from the comics he read as a kid. The “Justice Guild of America” is locked in battle with the “Injustice League” but something doesn’t seem right. J’onn J’onzz keeps having telepathic flashes of a disaster. One of the League members finds the graves of the entire JGA. Eventually, they discover the entire dimension was destroyed in a Nuclear War and a telepathic mutant had re-created the “perfect” world of years ago. The story works both as a story and as a comment on the good and the really bad aspects of older Golden Age comics. After the illusion is broken the League members are able to find a way back to their own Earth.

“A Knight with Shadows,” tells the story of Jason Blood, Etrigan the Demon, Morgaine, Merlin, and Modred. It’s as close to a traditional origin story as season 1 of Justice League gets. But it’s also a great story full of Arthurian lore, magic, demons, etc. For the most part, only Batman is in this story, though the rest of the League lend a hand at the end. I enjoyed the story very much.

“Metamorphosis,” tells the story of Rex Mason who is turned into the Element Man – rather than an archeologist, he works for Stagg Industries and is rich and accomplished, but when he and Sapphire Stagg decide to marry, her overprotective and cruel father decides to use Mason as an unwilling human subject in his plan to create artificial workers who can withstand any environment. Mason and John Stewart are also old friends, having both been in military service together. Although Mason’s origin is substantially different, it’s a great story, and very enjoyable.

The final story in season one is the three-part “The Savage Time”. All of the Justice League but Batman are returning from a mission in space when there’s a flash on Earth below them and the Watchtower disappears. Green Lantern lands the Javelin spacecraft (which was apparently out of power because he’s towing it with his Ring). The Justice League discovers the US is now a dictatorship under the power of a mysterious Leader. They walk into a resistance attack on the military police of the leader and run into a different version of Batman who is the leader of the Resistance. Working with Batman, they discover a time tunnel anomaly. The League, minus Batman, enters the anomaly and finds themselves in World War II. There they join the allies, the Blackhawks, Easy Company, Steve Trevor and other forces to help the allies and defeat Savage before he can become a world dictator. “The Savage Time” is a brilliant story, and also a lot of fun to watch. (Savage in the future sent a laptop and plans for weapons and communications equipment to Savage in the past.) This is a much more menacing Vandal Savage than the one in Season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow.

Overall, I really enjoyed Justice League (the animated series). The regular and guest casts are wonderful, and the series features many well-known and excellent guest actors. The animation is hand-drawn and beautiful and has that traditional DCAU square-jawed look. I highly recommend this series. Even if animation usually isn’t your thing, or you’ve tried the live action DC film Universe and been unimpressed, this series overcomes many of the faults of other versions of DC Comics in both older animation and in live action.

Note: For some reason, the Blu-Ray discs auto-play the first episode whenever a disc is put in the player. You can get a list of episodes by pressing the “Top Menu” button and then choosing the episode you want to watch, but it’s still annoying and results in a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the disc.

Justice League Doom

  • Title: Justice League Doom
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2012
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Claudia Black, Paul Blackthorne, Olivia D’abo, Alexis Denisoff, Phil Morris, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“When we fought before, I broke the bat; today I break the man.” — Bane to Bruce Wayne

“No, you weren’t afraid, not really. You were dosed with a synthesized version of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Because will is the source of your strength.”— Batman
“And fear is the enemy of will.” — Green Lantern, Hal Jordan

Justice League Doom brings back most of the original cast from the original Justice League animated television series, only substituting Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, rather than keeping Phil LaMarr as GL Jon Stewart or introducing Guy Gardner. There is also a stellar cast of “guest stars” as the Leaguers greatest foes.

Vandal Savage uses Mirror Master to obtain secret files from the Batcave – files that Batman created containing plans on how to bring down any of the main Justice League members in case they went rogue. The villains then begin to attack and defeat the League members. Mirror Master gets Flash to put his hand inside a Schrodinger’s cat box to rescue an old woman. Flash ends up with a bomb in his wrist that will explode if he stops, de-accelerates, or does nothing when the timer runs out. Cheetah fist-fights Wonder Woman, but poisons her with her finger nails so everyone she sees looks and sounds like Cheetah. Green Lantern Hal Jordan is sent to a Salt Mine to rescue some hostages from a militia group and the rescue goes wrong – a woman who is a dead ringer for Carol (Hal’s former girlfriend) is killed. Even running into Star Sapphire doesn’t help Hal realize he’s been set up. Martian Manhunter is slipped a poison that caused him to sweat Magnesium, which bursts into flame, even under water. Superman is shot in the chest with a Kryptonite bullet. Bane takes Bruce’s parents out of their graves. A groundskeeper (not Alfred) reports this to Bruce, who goes out to investigate in civilian clothes. He’s jumped by Bane, who beats him up, then drops him into his mother’s (new) grave, and buries him alive, with her skeleton in her coffin.

Bruce, stranded underground, takes the keys out of his pocket and starts to pummel the coffin lid. He’s about to give up, when he turns and sees his mother’s skeleton staring at him — and he renews his attack and escapes. It’s a very eerie and spooky image — but it’s also something that is just “so Batman” and “so Bruce” — he cannot ever give up on the oath he swore to his parents that faithful night when he was only eight years old.

Once he’s escaped, Batman contacts the other Justice League members to get them out of their immediate danger, then they meet to find out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Vandal Savage has gathered the villains together to take out the Justice League, so he can put a secondary plan into motion. Once the various villains report their success — they insist on joining Savage in his plans. Savage’s plan is to fire a missile into the sun, causing a massive solar flare which will destroy the sunward side of the Earth as well as send out an EMP that will fry anything electronic. The Justice League arrives, and each member fights his or her opposite number villain. However, despite the assistance of Cyborg, Savage’s missile is fired. Superman and Green Lantern attempt to stop the missile at the sun, but fail, giving the League seven minutes to figure out what to do. They come up with something — and Earth is saved.

I really liked the first part of  the story — that Batman would have contingency plans for taking out everyone in the League (though his plans were non-lethal) is both scary, and yet fitting with his personality. I would have liked to see more of a sense of the League’s sense of betrayal though — not only that Batman would do that, but that he’d keep detailed records of his potential plans. After the Justice League saves Earth, they discuss what to do with Batman, and it’s Clark who tells Bruce that he was right, then asks what safety valve exists for Bruce — Bruce responds, “The Justice League”. In other words, he’s created an equal and balanced system. But, I would have liked more. More storyline, more background, especially for the villains, even more dialogue between the Leaguers (and between Alfred and Bruce. Alfred appears and then suddenly disappears, before just as suddenly appearing again. It was very frustrating). With six heroes and seven villains, including Savage, plus the opening gambit with the Royal Flush Gang, the film really should have been longer than 76 Minutes, and more flushed out.

I also felt the film fell a little flat at the end. It sort of turns into, “Of course the Justice League will win,” and really loses momentum. There’s some great stuff with Superman and Hal in space as they try to stop the missile and fail, but there’s still no real sense of danger — in part because Savage’s plan is just too big. I like the more subtle villains with subtle plans (like Lex Luthor becoming the US president — which he did in the DC Universe).

Still, it was great to see the re-united Justice League cast together again. I’d like to see Doom as the pilot for a new Justice League series, but I doubt it will happen. Still, one can hope. I will admit it was great to see the Legion of Doom appear threatening instead of as a joke, though. If you’re a DC fan you’ll enjoy this!

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a DC fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Batman Beyond Return of the Joker

  • Title: Batman Beyond Return of the Joker
  • Director: Curt Geda
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2000
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy, Mystery
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Will Friedle, Mark Hamill, Dean Stockwell, Teri Garr, Tara Strong, Frank Welker, Michael Rosenbum
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

This film bridges the gap between Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, answering some of the unanswered questions. And it brings back the most famous Batman villian — the Joker. Briefly, Batman Beyond, part of the DC Animated Universe, was a television series set 50 years after Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce has gotten old and is now unable to fight crime. Terry McGinnis becomes the new Batman, having at first stolen Bruce’s latest Batsuit (used before his retirement) and then with Bruce’s blessing. Terry is a bit more light-hearted than Bruce but not as light-hearted as some of the Robins. He has a mother and a younger brother (tho’ his father was murdered) and even a girlfriend. The solid black suit with a red bat symbol is more technically advanced, with jet packs that allow real flight (so the cape is gone). It also has a video and audio link to the Cave where Bruce advises Terry. Throughout the series The Joker’s been missing but a gang of trouble-makers called Jokerz have caused Terry and the city of New Gotham trouble. It’s a cyber-punked/21st century Batman rather than the Art Deco/30s/Film Noir look of Batman: The Animated Series.

This film opens with Batman breaking up a theft of electronic equipment by the Jokerz. All goes well, but when he discusses it later with Bruce, Terry’s confused, because high-end electronics and computers aren’t normally the Jokerz’ style — they usually go for quick cash. Bruce dismissed the theft as “looking for stuff they could fence”. Bruce, perhaps, has too much on his mind — he’s returning to be the active head of Wayne Enterprises.

The Joker (again, voiced by Mark Hamill, as he was in B:TAS) breaks up the party welcoming back Bruce. Terry changes into the Batsuit and rescues Bruce and the party-goers but the Joker gets away. At the Cave, he insists Bruce fill him in on the background of the Joker. Bruce merely insists that Joker is dead, saying he was there when it happened. Terry jumps to the conclusion Bruce killed Joker, he had no choice, then stopped being Batman. Bruce refuses to comment. He also forbids Terry to go after Joker and even asks for the suit back.

Terry goes to see Barbara Gordon. Barbara refuses to talk, only mentioning Tim Drake (Robin # 3).  Terry sees Tim, but gets no answers from him either.

Deciding he will quit, Terry is relieved to spend time with his family and Dana, his girlfriend. But the Jokerz show up at the club Terry and Dana frequent and try to kidnap the girl. They also try to kill Terry. After speaking with the police, and checking on Dana, Terry goes to see Bruce. But he’s too late — Ace, Bruce’s protective Great Dane is injured, and Bruce is unconscious with a hideous smile on his face. The Cave is a wreck, the costume displays destroyed, and “Ha Ha” written in red everywhere. Bruce, between laughs, manages to point Terry to the anti-toxin for the Joker’s laughing gas, and Terry gives him a shot, then calls Barbara.

Barbara Gordon, who was once Batgirl and is now Police Commissioner Gordon, decides to explain what happened in the past. In a well-executed flashback, we learn what happened:  Harley Quinn had set-up young Robin, Tim Drake, and he is kidnapped by the Joker. Batman and Batgirl search for him for three weeks. Finally, Joker leaves them a blatant clue — Batman and Batgirl follow, and discover the horrifying truth:  Tim/Robin was tortured, electrocuted, drugged, beaten, and finally programmed to be Joker Jr. They find him complete with the white face, green hair, and a miniature purple suit. But merely turning Robin into a copy of himself isn’t enough for Joker — he also orders the boy to shoot and kill Batman. (Batgirl is meanwhile somewhere else in the now abandoned Arkham Asylum fighting Harley Quinn). But Tim shoots, and kills, Joker instead. Barbara rushes to Tim, as does Batman.

In the present, Barbara explains they buried Joker then took Tim to Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who took a year to put him back together again. After that, Batman forbade him to ever put on the Robin suit. It was the disastrous final clash with Joker that caused Bruce to forbid Terry from going after the super villain.

Terry, meanwhile, is trying to find out what’s going on. Evidence leads to Tim, yet Tim claims to be innocent. However, in front of Terry (in the Batsuit) and Bruce’s (at home in the cave, barely recovered) eyes Tim turns into Joker — victim of a transmitter containing Joker DNA that takes over his subconscience and brain. It’s basically like a scientific explanation of the “split personality” villain. Tim isn’t even aware that the Joker is piggy-backing in his body, thinking any memories are only bad dreams. Joker plans to take over a government laser defense satellite, using telecom equipment stolen by the Jokerz and Tim’s know-how to put it together. He’s already blown-up a boat, and now plans to strike close to home for Terry:  blowing up the hospital where Dana’s recovering, blowing up Terry’s home where his Mom and brother are, and blowing up Wayne Manor and Bruce — just to get started. However, Terry has discovered the secret to defeating the Joker, which is does, then he destroys the control chip in Tim’s head, bringing the man back to normal.

An excellent movie, yes, it is like a longer version of a Batman Beyond episode, but it was also quite dark — especially the torture of Tim Drake, and Bruce and Barbara covering up a murder. There’s also some extremely effective visuals. The film is enjoyable tho’, with the saucy dialog common to Batman Beyond, and it answered some questions — where was the Joker? What happened to Tim Drake? What caused Bruce to give up the Batsuit? (something touched on in the series premiere as well). But it also didn’t answer everything — Nightwing / Dick Grayson is mentioned, a couple of times, but it’s never explained what happened to him.

Recommendation: See it! Buy it!
Rating: 4 of 5 stars