Monday, August 23, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Justice League Unbeatable!

This past week, I finally managed to snare a copy of the Justice League: Starcrossed DVD as well as actually sit down and watch all the episodes of Justice League Unlimited that I had been taping since day one. Sounds like it’s time for some reviews.


The movie that ended the second season of Justice League, this was broken down into three episodes for later broadcast. The DVD is hard to find at the moment, due to the limited number of airings on Cartoon Network. Still, it is well worth the tracking down.

Everyone who has read the “Invasion” mini-series will be familiar with the basic story here: Thanagar invades Earth. The twist here is that Hawkgirl has apparently been a spy for the last few years, but has been totally unaware as to why she has been sent to observe the Earthlings. In a reference that will make Douglas Adams fans scream with delight, we find out that Thanagar is destroying Earth to make a hyperspace bypass, so they can sneak behind the lines of their sworn enemies and destroy their homeworld. This leaves Hawkgirl torn between her adopted homeworld and new boyfriend John Stewart and her actual homeworld and fiancé.

Aside from finally getting an animated equivalent of Hawkman (his name isn’t Katar Hol, but the spirit is still there), this movie is great for hundreds of little touches. We finally get to see Wally West unmasked as well as Alfred reacting to the rest of the Justice League and muttering about Master Bruce leaving trash in the yard as he regards a trussed up Thangarian Wingman.

Sue me. I’m a fan of snooty Brit humor.

Final Score: 10.0 out of 10.


The opening episode of Unlimited and a homer hit on its first at bat! I’ll copy to being perhaps a little biased, seeing as how this issue does center around one of my favorite heroes. Yes, Green Arrow gets his first animated treatment since that one episode of Superfriends NOBODY wants to talk about. And it is good.

After being shanghaied onto the newly rebuilt Watchtower, Green Arrow tags along on a mission with Supergirl, Captain Atom and Green Lantern (John Stewart) to stop a rampaging radioactive monster.

The voice casting is, as has been the norm for all the WB series, flawless. Green Arrow in particular is a real delight and word has it that the actor who voiced him, Kin Shriner, reportedly showed up for the recording sessions in a homemade Green Arrow costume. You can tell he’s enthusiastic about the part even without that little bit of trivia, as he plays Ollie with just the right amount of charming smartass. They brought back Nicholle Tom to do Supergirl and I didn’t realize how much I missed her on Superman until this episode. Though she seems a little closer to Power Girl attitude-wise (I can’t picture the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El telling Captain Atom to “pull the stick out”), she’s a perfect foil to the more serious heroes on the team.

One complaint: big a fan of Ollie as I am, even I don’t think he could shut down a giant radiation spewing robot with just ONE perfect shot with a carbon rod into the reactor. I’d think it would take quite a few more than that, but what do I know of nuclear physics?

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.

For The Man Who Has Everything

Based on the legendary story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons with a script by long time JLA writer J. M. DeMatteis, this episode manages the neat trick of taking a well known story, making it seem new and even tying it into the continuity of the show.

Former Warworld despot Mongul has attacked Superman with a birthday present. In this case, a parasitic plant called The Black Mercy, which causes its’ host to hallucinate their perfect dream world even as it leaves their body immobile and slowly wasting away. Wonder Woman exhausts most of the Fortress of Solitude armory fighting Mongul even as Batman tries to free Superman from a prison that he doesn’t want to leave.

The script perfectly captures the key story as well as a few infamous lines from the original. While Superman telling Mongul to “BURN!” as he uses his heat vision at close range is very fitting under the circumstances, there seems to be something a bit off about Wonder Woman telling Mongul to “Go… To… Hell…”, with the last word being blocked out by the blast of a gun (It was printed in the original comics). Still, it is the subtle touches that make this story really sing. Things like Superman’s dream wife, Loanna, looking like Lana Lang, sounding like Lois Lane (Dana Delany does the voice again) and working as a reporter covering fashion expos on Krypton just add to the humor for us long time fans of the series and indeed Superman in general. One other nice subtle touch: as Clark begins to suspect his dream world IS a dream, little details start to change. His father Jor-El, alive and well, speaks for a while… and then suddenly, for one line, his voice is that of Pa Kent.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.

Kid Stuff

The concept here is an oldie and a goodie. Mordred, the immortal and eternally young son of Morgan LeFay uses a magical artifact to exile all adults to Limbo. Morgan uses a spell to deage Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern leaving the World’s Finest preteens to save the world.

Based on equal parts “Sins of Youth” and “World Without Grown Ups”, this is the first episode to suffer from the new “one episode” stories. While the episode is quite amusing with John Stewart needing glasses and creating a Kyle Rayner style mask to fix his eyes and the exclamation that a baby Demon Etrigan with a dirty diaper “is REALLY a job for Superman!”, there are more than a few plot holes. How did Etrigan get changed into a Baby when he wasn’t there for Morgan LeFay’s spell to effect him? More, when Morgan LeFay shows up later to undo her spell, why does he just idly let her go when the whole “Knight of Shadows” episode of Justice League showed that he would stop at nothing to bring her to justice? Also, am I the only one who wonders where the heck the Teen Titans or Captain Marvel were when this happened?

Final Score: 6.0 out of 10.

Hawk and Dove

The weakest of the new episodes thus far, it centers around Wonder Woman recruiting a pair of superheroes, Hawk and Dove, to help her stop a war. Hawk and Dove are brothers; one a conservative hothead and the other a liberal pacifist. Hawk wants to beat the snot out of people while Dove wants to try and get the leaders to talk to each other, even as an Olympian-forged robot wreaks havoc in the name of Ares.

The voice acting is dead on here, with Jason Harvey and Fred Savage (who played the ever-fighting brothers on “The Wonder Years”) perfectly playing the mis-matched superheroic brothers. But the script has some problems, with Ares (playing the part of a mortal arms dealer) loosing his cool with the farmer leading a band of revolutionaries, using the phrase “stupid mortals”, delivering his dogma about how humanity’s purpose is to die for his amusement… and the only response is a muted (not in so many words) “Get out of my house.” Mythological fans as well as Wonder Woman readers may also wonder why Hephaestus, who hardly had a loving relationship with his brother Ares in ANY medium, would ever take part in such a mad scheme as selling god-forged weapons to mortals, much less take joy in it.

Final Score: 4.0 out of 10.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. NEW Matt Website.

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