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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 575 min.
• Creators’ Commentary on 3 Key Episodes
• Inside Justice League: Panel Discussion
• Storyboards: The Blueprint For Justice
• The Look of the League: Character Design
• Pitch Reel
“Okay, we did a great Superman show, and knocked the spots off Batman. Which superhero should we do next?”
“How about all of them?”
Kevin Conroy, Maria Canals, Susan Eisenberg, Phil LaMarr, Carl Lumbly, George Newbern, Michael Rosenbaum
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, The Flash
"Who does your ears?"
From the slick, streamlined minds who brought us Batman: The Animated Series (Read Nick and Matt’s Season One reviews HERE and HERE, and Micah’s Mystery of the Batwoman review HERE), Superman: The Animated Series (David’s big-ass combo review, HERE), Batman Beyond (Steve’s Return of the Joker review, HERE), and… Static Shock… comes Justice League! DC Comics’ greatest superheroes join together and hang out in the ultimate clubhouse—a private space station. Girls allowed.
With an ensemble cast like this, where each of the heroes have their own detailed histories and trademarks, the challenge is how to respect all the characters and give them equal time. You’d think the solution would be to put the characters on rotation and give a different one a starring storyline each week, but stories like “In Blackest Night” (Green Lantern on trial for destroying a planet) and “War World” (Superman forced into gladiatorial combat) don’t give us much insight, and rely on cliché plot devices to boot.
"Oh hi, girls. Umm, how long have you been standing there?"
Far more satisfying is “Injustice For All”, in which an all-star crew of supervillains gives the team some trouble. Not only do TAS veterans Mark Hammill and Clancy Brown reprise their roles as Joker and Luthor, but we get Solomon Grundy (Hammill again) and the freaking Ultra-Humanite (Ian Buchanan), plus a wicked nod to the Wonder Twins. By the end of it, we’ve actually learned something about Batman. On any other show this wouldn’t work, but the Leaguers are at their best when the stories are overloaded with guest characters and inside references drawn from the sprawling DC universe. Like the Dini/Timm shows before it, Justice League is mindful of official continuity, but not shackled to it.
If I have a creative issue with Season 1, it’s one that goes back to the JLA comics: the problem of Superman. The other superheroes need to have a chance to do something, so Big Blue gets knocked on his ass an awful lot. This is distracting, considering (A) he is the strongest man on Earth, and (B) he takes out plenty of supervillains unassisted on his own series. Does working with a team slow him down? How does he feel about that? Also, while I understand that JLA storytelling requires the heroes to be in costume full-time, it would be nice to get a glimpse of Clark or Bruce now and then. Perhaps later seasons address this: as a newbie I’m content to wait and see.
"Enough with the ‘Hal Jordan’ this, ‘Hal Jordan’ that! Like anyone cares which Flash you are!"
Although Season 1 is technically 26 episodes, each story is broken into two or three parts, resulting in 12 compound shows. On TV, that’s a cliffhanger every other week; on home video, that’s a lot of time spent fast-forwarding through the ‘previously’ montage and the opening titles. I’d prefer to have them edited together, as was done with Batman/Superman: World’s Finest.
The commentary tracks, featuring Bruce Timm, James Tucker, Glen Murakami, Rich Fogel, and Dan Riba, are solid—it’s too bad there aren’t more of them. Spoilerphobes should note that they spend a good deal of time talking about future seasons (i.e., the stuff they’re working on now), but at least they apologize for the Wimpy Superman thing. The “First Mission” pitch reel is fascinating evidence of how easily the whole project could have gone wrong.
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The case is a double-faced DigiPak containing four discs, two on each side. The trays are that annoying overlapping design where you have to remove Disc 1 in order to get at Disc 2. The box art is consistent with other sets in the DC Comics Classic Collection, but the Timm/Dini style never looks right with the airbrushed look they keep using.
The video is standard 1.33:1, although the show had been broadcast widescreen. As the creators point out, we’re not losing visual information since the action was composed for the middle of the frame; get out some masking tape and bingo—you’ll have your letterboxed show. Later seasons would be produced in true widescreen, and presumably those will be released in 16:9.
This is a strong start, with room to grow.