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The World Is In Their Hands

February 26, 2010

     Three things got me into DC Comics.  The first was the Teen Titans animated series.  The second was the writing of Geoff Johns.  And the third was the Justice League animated series, also known as Justice League Unlimited.  As a part of the DC Animated Universe, it was Bruce Timm’s attempt to adapt the greatest superhero team of all to animation.  Replacing Hal Jordan as Green Lantern with John Stewart, Barry Allen as Flash with Wally West, and Aquaman completely (since he’s kind of lame) with Hawkgirl, it builds off the previous Superman  Batman animated series.  When a group of aliens bent on taking over the world attack Earth, established superheroes Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkgirl, along with newcomers Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter, band together to defeat them.  When they are victorious, they decide to stay together as a team to combat future threats to the world’s safety that they could not handle on their own.  Over time, they face many different villains, including the Injustice Gang, the Royal Flush Gang, Mongul, the Manhunters, Darkseid, Morgan le Fay, and Lex Luthor.  Along the way, they gather many allies, including Etrigan the Demon, Metamorpho, Aquaman, Doctor Fate, and the Green Lantern Corps.  After a shocking betrayal, the team reorganizes with almost all the world’s superheroes working together, coordinated by Martian Manhunter and led by the remaining original members.  Then, they must face Amanda Waller and Project Cadmus, a U.S. organization bent on protecting the human race from them, as well as the still-kicking Lex Luthor and a few rather surprising guests.

     What this show does is tell all these great stories about the Justice League 1) without all the issues related with decades of continuity and 2) an inherently superb understanding of what makes each of them great.  At the beginning, the show is a tad stiffer, refusing to allow more amusing and emotional storylines to develop.  It focuses instead on building up the team and its rogues gallery.  Of course, the Flash is still funny, and Batman is still Batman.  But over time, especially as Dwayne McDuffie, who used to just be one of the original Milestone Comics guys, got more involved, the stories got a whole lot better.  It took the best of the comic books and added some great twists that really got to the heart of the characters.  It’s the kind of stuff that I love Geoff Johns for, just in a cartoon series.  The DCAU’s interpretations of characters like Batman, the Joker, Lex Luthor, John Stewart, Amanda Waller, etc. are pretty much the best.

     Then, the creators of the show had a rather impressive budget, allowing for really good animation (in the same tradition as previous DCAU shows, like Superman the Animated Series, Batman the Animated Series, and Batman Beyond, as well as the concurrent Static Shock) and hiring a host of amazing actors.  Of course, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Clancy Brown are as good as they were in previous shows.  Although Tim Daly wasn’t available to reprise his role as Superman, George Newbern did a great job replicating his work with the character.  Then, the ever excellent voice actor Phil LaMarr, as well as Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, and Maria Canals Barrera fill out the main cast.  Add to that a guest cast of actors including Olivia d’Abo, Powers Boothe, John Rhys-Davies, Michael York, Juliet Landau, Earl Boen, Virginia Masden, Kin Shriner, C.C.H. Pounder, and four members of the Firefly cast (Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, and Gina Torres), and you realize that the writers took this show very seriously.  That’s a damn good cast there.  To be honest, it was so good that many of them defined the characters for me and a lot of DC fans.  The music is also appropriately epic yet not too intrusive to the plot.  And everyone was just so happy to hear in the episode Epilogue the future version of the classic Batman the Animated Series theme.  Overall, I’d say that this was just another installment of the best adaptations of DC material possibly ever.  It got a lot of people to read DC Comics, myself included, as I said, and it was just an entertaining and often very intelligent show.  I just finished watching the whole thing from beginning to end, and it was just such an awesome ride of a tv show.  It’s just too bad that they don’t make cartoons like this anymore, both in terms of comic book cartoons and cartoons on the whole.

Plot: 9.4      Animation: 9.2      Soundtrack: 8.7      Acting: 9.8      Overall: 9.5

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