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.

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Superman Batman Apocalypse

  • Title: Superman/Batman Apocalypse
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2010
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Drama
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Summer Glau, Edward Asner, Andre Braugher
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“This is how they see you. Bigger than life. You’re their champion.”— Kara to Clark

“Ever since this girl came into our lives, you’ve let your guard down, Clark, even exposed your secret identity – despite common sense.”— Batman

“Unlike you, Bruce, I don’t look for the bad in everyone. You may think I’m naive but every instinct tells me this girl is my cousin. She’s done nothing to show me otherwise and she’ll be safe with me.”— Superman

“This might not be the right time, but you’ve always been an inspiration to me.”— Big Barda

“Barda…”— Wonder Woman
“Seriously, Diana, when someone brings hope to another person? It’s a gift.”— Big Barda

The film opens with the voice-over of a radio talk show, among items mentioned are former President Lex Luthor’s impeachment and the frequent meteor showers of Kyptonite meteorites. Both items refer to the previous film, Superman Batman Public Enemies. Suddenly, a huge meteor hits in Gotham harbor and eyewitnesses call it in to the radio station, cue opening credits.

A naked girl arrives on the Gotham docks. Longshoremen act, well, as they would, but she trashes two of them. A third gives her his trench-coat. She takes it, then runs into the street, where she’s hit by a car, which barely slows her down. This mysterious girl causes havoc where ever she goes. Batman catches up to her, and she blows up one of Gotham’s new auto-blimps. Superman arrives and tosses the blimp into the harbor before it can crash into something and cause real damage. Batman meanwhile uses Kryptonite to calm down the girl. This knocks her out and he’s able to take her to the Batcave.

In the Batcave, Superman arrives, and he and Kara speak in Krypton. Superman learns this is Kara, his cousin. Krypto the dog also arrives, but doesn’t seem to trust Kara. Batman and Superman agree to keep her in quarantine. Kara remembers her parents putting her in a ship, then dying (as well as the bright flash of the planet being destroyed). Batman, still not sure, is protective of Superman.

Meanwhile on Apocalypse, Darkseid is training a new Queen Fury. However, she fails her test – a fight with the Furies, and is killed. Granny Goodness and Darkseid look on during the fight.

Clark takes Kara shopping (and appears to have Bruce Wayne’s budget). They end up in a park, where he shows her a statue of Superman. There’s a bright flash of light, and someone arrives. Kara fights, her powers get out of control, and she trashes the park. Wonder Woman and Batman explain Kara needs more training and they are taking her away for her own good. Reluctantly, Superman agrees.

Wonder Woman takes Kara to Paradise Island. Superman and Batman, along with Wonder Woman and her Amazon sisters, watch Kara battle Artemis. Kara loses. Superman is a bit freaked by this and even tries to protect his cousin from a perceived threat. Kara runs off and spends time with her friend the Prophetess Harbinger.

Meanwhile a Boom Tube arrives bringing Doomsday – an army of Doomsdays. Wonder Woman leads her army of Amazons to fight them. Batman and Superman fight as well. Superman defeats the Doomdays with his heat vision. He’s upset by using his power in such a way, but Wonder Woman points out they weren’t really alive. Batman realizes the attack was a diversion and leads Superman and Wonder Woman to find Kara. On the other side of Paradise Island, Superman approaches a body in the water – it’s Harbinger. Kara’s been taken to Apocalypse.

Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman drop in on Big Barda, who’s in witness protection in a small town. They ask her for Mother Box so they can open a Boom Tube to Apocalypse. Barda offers to come too. The four soon arrive on Apocalypse. Big Barda and Wonder Woman face the Furies.  Batman faces mechanical tiger/dog beasts. Superman also faces off against mechanical monsters before challenging Darkseid.

However, when Superman gets to Darkseid, Kara’s been brainwashed to fight for him. Batman arrives in Darkseid’s throne room and tells him he’s set all the hell spores (megaton bombs – a single one can destroy a planet, Batman has rigged 500) to blow. Darkseid thinks Batman is bluffing and threatens him with the Omega Beam. However, as they fight and Darkseid over-powers Batman, he realizes that Batman might not be bluffing. He releases Batman and Kara to Superman. Darkseid orders Batman to disarm the hell spores and leave Apocalypse.

Clark takes Kara to Smallville and to the Kent farm. But instead of his parents, Darkseid is waiting there. Darkseid threatens Kara with his Omega beams. Both Kara and Clark fight Darkseid. Darkseid sends Superman into orbit, but he drifts towards the sun – regaining his powers. Seeing Kara hurt, Superman goes nuts, and trashes Darkseid. Darkseid uses his Omega beams. Superman does a good impersonation of a twister on Darkseid. Darkseid leaves via Boom Tube. Superman embraces Kara. She reveals she’s changed the destination on the Boom Tube – sending Darkseid into deep space. The Kents arrive, only to see their farm has been trashed and their house collapses. Clark promises to re-build everything.

At the end, Superman introduces Supergirl (Kara) to the Amazons on Paradise Island.

Overall, I liked this better the second time around. It’s still not as much fun as Public Enemies, and it’s definitely more a Superman story than a Batman one. In fact the graphic novel this is based on is Superman Batman Supergirl. But I liked that Wonder Woman had such a big part in the film. It was also very cool to see Big Barda – and as a good guy no less (she’s often ambiguous at best). Darkseid is a Superman villian, though, so again, very much a Superman story. The voice cast is excellent – Kevin Conroy reprises his role from Batman the Animated Series and Justice League.  Susan Eisenberg is again Wonder Woman (she had voiced Wonder Woman / Diana in Justice League). Tim Daly from Superman the Animated Series and Superman / Batman Public Enemies is back. And the guest cast includes Summer Glau as Supergirl, Ed Asner as Granny Goodness, and Andre Braugher as Darkseid. The film also has a lot, and I mean, a lot of fight sequences. There are a few character moments, but not many. I’d have preferred a more character-driven storyline with fewer fight sequences. Also, I would have liked to see more of Clark’s views of Bruce and Bruce’s views of Clark – as that was what made the graphic novel series so much fun.

Recommendation: See it, especially if you are a Superman fan.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

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