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Justice League: Season 1

Justice League: Season 1

What He said:

He

I’m not really sure how or why it ended up this way, but I always read more Marvel than DC comics. I’m still like that as an adult. DC was definitely a little more mature, but that has kind of evened out over the years, so it is not like I was more or less attracted to one over the other because of that. I do read some DC stuff now (Wildstrom, Vertigo, and other non-mainstream stuff). But the more popular titles in DC always seemed a little muddled to me. There’s all these different timelines or alternate universes, characters origins have been rebooted several times, and it all gets a little hard to follow at a certain point. That being said, they’ve got some iconic characters we all know and love. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and a few others are some of the most popular comic book heroes of all time.  

Ironically, I always thought DC had better cartoons. Batman: The Animated Series is one of the best cartoons ever made. It’s so dark and serious. It really captured the Batman universe. Creator Bruce Timm has a very minimalist style of drawing. When coupled with noir setting the show takes place in, it makes for a very appropriate environment for a good Batman story. 

Justice League: Season 1

Timm would go on to create several more animated shows that all took place in the same continuity; one of which was Justice League. I always caught the odd episode of it here and there, but it was eventually canceled. By the time I realized that, it was too late, so I took a chance and decided to pick up the DVD when I saw in this awesome store I use to frequent. It was like nerd heaven. Comics, movies, t-shirts, toys, you name it, and this place had it.

Justice League opens on Mars. A group of astronauts accidentally unleash a group of shape-shifting monsters known as White Martians, who hitch a ride back to Earth and begin their secret invasion. They begin inserting themselves throughout our society, taking various positions of power, and biding their time for their takeover.

Little do they know Batman – the world’s greatest detective – is on the case.  Batman (voiced by Batman veteran Kevin Conroy) follows a few of them, but is overpowered. He is saved by Superman (voiced by George Newbern), but the bad guys get away. Together, they continue to investigate the case. Superman keeps having some kind of visions and he eventually finds out that a Green Martian named J’onn J’onnz (AKA The Martian Manhunter) has been trying to contact him telepathically. J’onn is a native Martian and the White Martians are invaders from another galaxy who destroyed his people. He (voice by Carl Lumby) has been trying to warn the heroes of Earth about the looming threat. He was being held captive until Batman and Superman free him. Apparently Superman isn’t the only hero he was trying to contact. The Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, and Hawk Girl are some of the other heroes he has summoned; and thus The Justice League is born.

The team is made up of seven heroes and they all have different personalities, and their interactions with one another are a big part of the show.

Batman and Superman have a real interesting relationship. Superman is an All-American country boy. He has a very outgoing personality and shows up numerous public events. He tries to work with government officials, but doesn’t overstep his bounds, despite the fact he has the power of a god. He could force entire countries to do what he wants, but decides not to. It’s not his way. Batman is a loner. He’s dark, mysterious, and not the friendliest guy in the world. Superman could squash him like a bug, but like many other members of the team, fears Batman. Batman and Superman are definitely on the same side, but Batman is the kind of guy who carries a piece of Kryptonite in his back pocket just in case he ever needs it.

Justice League: Season 1

Green Lantern (Phil LaMarr) and Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) are often paired together and they too are opposites. “GL” as Flash often calls him is all business. He’s a former U.S. Marine, so even without his power ring, he’s knows how to fight. With his ring, he’s a very deadly weapon. His ring gives him the ability to create any object his mind can conjure up. He’s a good guy who likes being a hero, but he’s a little rigid at times. He has a lot of pride and honor, sometimes too much. In one episode, he’s arrested by group of robotic “cops" from outer space and framed for a crime he did not commit. Despite that, he refuses his fellow team members’ help, and actually becomes angry when they interfere on his behalf. Flash on the other is a total goofball. GL is all business, Flash is not. Flash is a good guy, he just likes to have some fun while doing his hero thing.  They give him some really funny lines throughout the season and Rosenbaum (perhaps better known as Lex Luthor from Smallville) does a great job delivering them.

The remaining three members of the League actually share a lot in common. All three are a fish out of water. All of them are either aliens or alien to human culture. J’onn is the last of his kind. Not only is he not human, there’s nobody else like him left in the universe. The White Martians wiped out his people years ago in a devastating war. He is a quiet, caring, but powerful guy. He likes helping people, but does not understand human nature and often feels like an outcast.  Hawk Girl (Maria Canals) was her home world’s version of a cop until she got lost on a mission. Her planet is so far away that she’s never even heard of Earth and has absolutely no idea where her planet is in relations to our galaxy. She is a tough gal who likes to smash things first and ask questions later.  Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) is an Amazon Princess who is from the Island of Themyscira. It is an island of warrior women who are sheltered from the outside world. Her mother is their leader. She is proud, strong (can hold her own against Superman), but a little naïve to the outside world. She is eager to fight evil – and there is no doubt she’s one of the “good guys” – but she is completely out of her element in our society. Her home is stuck in Ancient Greek times, so “man’s world” as she calls it is a complete mystery to her. She is kind of like Thor when he comes to Earth from Asgard (more humorous examples here and here).

I mentioned earlier that I read way more Marvel than I do DC, but still really enjoy some of the classic DC characters. That and the fact that creator Bruce Timm and company had started their own animated universe really appealed to me. This show has an established continuity from shows that aired both before and after Justice League. Batman: The Animated Series was one of them. Superman: The Animated Series was another. I had seen chunks of both and always enjoyed them; the first one was a particularly good cartoon. This show was a continuation of those two previous shows, so I decided to check it out. While still a cartoon, and certainly something kids can watch, Timm’s animated universe was something adults could enjoy as well. It’s a little more serious than stuff you grew up on, but still light and entertaining like a cartoon should be.

The show unfolds very similarly to a traditional story arc from a comic book. There are no standalone episodes. Each storyline consists of two or three episodes. This allows for more in-depth storylines, especially when you consider it’s only a half hour show. It also allowed me to explore the DC Universe more. There are characters, locations, and storylines I knew nothing about, and this show introduced me to some major DC stuff. I didn’t know who the Manhunters or Vandal Savage (a three episode series about him can be seen here) were. I knew who the Green Lantern was, but didn’t realize there were several of them. From my understanding of DC history, John Stewart, is not the most popular Green Lantern in the comics. There are more popular characters to carry the name, but I’m glad they chose Stewart. I think he’s kind of a bad-ass and it was nice to see one of the less popular Green Lanterns get some attention. To me, he is the Green Lantern. Phil LaMarr’s voice acting makes the character a strong presence. He is a big reason why I enjoy this lesser known version of the character.

Justice League: Season 1

Speaking of strong performance, Kevin Conroy is an excellent Batman and has been since 1992. He’s voiced the character in countless different shows and video games and whenever I think of Batman, I think of him. George Newbern (you might know of him from Adventures in Babysitting or Father of the Bride) does a great job as Superman. He replaced Tim Daly from Superman: The Animated Series, and some people didn’t care for that, but I prefer his voice to Daly’s. The other two performances that stand out to me are Susan Eisenberg’s and Maria Canal’s, as Wonder Woman and Hawk Girl respectively. They are both strong independent characters and each actress has a very commanding voice. Even if these characters didn’t have superpowers, I’d still be scared of them.

The only complaints I have about the show are that I feel the show’s opening story arc, Secret Origins, wasn’t the strongest showing. My other gripe is that sometimes Timm’s minimalist style of animation doesn’t work so great, particularly when it comes to some of the aliens or monsters. Sometimes it is fine, others it looks like a kid drew it.

Other than that, if you are a fan of comic books, animation, and animation that explores some more in-depth or serious storylines, you might want to check this show out.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This review was written for your reading pleasure on July 9, 2013.

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