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.