July 31, 2004

TV Review: Justice League Unlimited

If there is one thing that DC has done right, it's there handling of there comic properties in their animated forms. For over ten years they have given us some excellent shows, with the peak being their first, Batman the Animated Series. There was also the Superman Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, and Justice League. The only one I'm not that crazy about is Teen Titans, a lot of people seem to like it, but it's just not to my taste. Tonight, the latest show premiered on the Cartoon Network, Justice League Unlimited. It's like the original Justice League, only with more characters.

I haven't followed any of those shows religiously, save Batman, although I should have as I have loved every episode I've seen. Anyway, I was reminded that the new incarnation of The League was starting today, and made it a point to see if it would hold up. The answer to that is yes, and I knew that within the first five minutes.

Apparently the League has recruited many of the world's heroes into an organization to optimize their efforts. The episode begins with a speech from Superman explaining how it was going to work, with J'Onn J'Onzz (Martian Manhunter) coordinating from their space platform. During the speech Green Arrow is shown at the rear of the crowd with Batman enticing him to join. This was the segment that nailed it down, with Arrow talking about working alone for the little man, not unlike Batman himself. Batman realized that he could use the help, but also maintains a certain aloofness, and he recognizes elements of himself in Arrow. Most of this is inference based on the conversation, little is said but much is conveyed in this short segment. The show works on many levels, action and superheroes for the kids, and character development and a story that doesn't underestimate its audience for the adults who grew up on these characters in the comics.

Back to the story, the focus here is primarily on Green Arrow and his awakening, so to speak, of the bigger issues facing them. The antagonist here is a nuclear creature rampaging in North Korea, the government doesn't want help, but it is obvious that they will not be able to handle the situation. The team sent is Green Lantern, Captain Atom, and Supergirl. Green Arrow tags along looking for a ride home, as he isn't interested in joining up. Of course a battle ensues, and we see Arrow's eyes opened to what he would be able to do. By the end of the episode, Arrow's mind changes, sort of, much like Batman in the early episodes of the original Justice League toon.

Overall, I was impressed with what they were able to accomplish in just a half hour (minus commercials). The gave the focus of the League, fought a powerful villain, and gained a new member. The started to introduce the peripheral characters, and proved that the writing is up to snuff.

The animation was quality work, with some CG assistance which integrates well and wasn't distracting as it is in some other series. The animation falls in the same style as the DC cartoons since Batman (excepting Teen Titans, which tries to ape the anime style), this lends a nice continuity between all of the series and therefore placing them within the same universe.

It will be interesting to see how the handle the development and introduction of other characters. With more characters vying for screentime and only half hour long episodes, it will be a challenge to do a suitable job establishing them, but they have done a better job than the early JL episodes which were feeling around with all of the different heroes. This is definitely a show to keep an eye on.


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