Justice League: The Animated Series – Part 2: The Golden Age

on March 25, 2015

Interestingly, Justice League‘s creators are very candid about their feelings of timid-ness and lack of experience during the show’s first season. While they do believe the first season to be good, they have openly lamented on how it could have been considerably better and how certain things went wrong. What they’ve said is true, as there is a vast leap in quality between the first season and second. That doesn’t mean the first season is bad, however. Quite the contrary. It’s excellent and serves as a rock solid foundation for even greater things to come.

The Justice League is introduced with a fairly generic alien invasion storyline in the premier episode “Secret Origins.” The show begins with astronauts looking for signs of life on Mars. One of them falls in a hole and stumbles upon ancient catacombs with runes written on the walls. He opens a door and it’s clear that something malevolent gets a hold of him.

Two years later, Batman is investigating security breaches in several Wayne Tech subspace monitoring centers. His latest adventures take him to the Wayne Tech outpost located in Metropolis. There, he finds three workers who at first appear human, but upon further examination, they clearly aren’t. The imposters plan to blow up the installation. Batman battles them, but their advanced strength and flexibility makes them difficult opponents to defeat. Superman arrives to help, but he has some kind of intense mental vision and collapses. Batman gets Superman to safety as the installation blows up at the command of the three strange employees.

In the World Assembly, Senator J. Allen Carter –who happens to be that astronaut who fell into the catacombs on Mars– is pushing for the world to de-arm their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Superman agrees to protect the world so that such deadly force won’t be needed. This is clearly homage to the movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and J. Allen Carter’s name is tribute to Golden Age DC characters (Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Carter Hall).

The show starts out with the familiar and gives us an update on what Batman and Superman are up to before introducing new heroes. Character-wise, they’re more or less in the same place they were in their respective solo cartoons. Superman is perhaps trying a little extra hard to get on the world’s good side after the S:TAS “Legacy” storyline, in which Darkseid brainwashed him into attacking the Earth.

The models for Batman and Superman are different from what was seen in previous shows. Superman looks worse than his Superman: The Animated Series self. He’s bulkier, his trunks are highlighted different, and most notorious among his changes are weird lines in his face that make him look older. Instead of Tim Daly (from Superman: The Animated Series) voicing the character, George Newburn provides voice acting. While Newburn isn’t bad, there are times he sounds a bit lethargic. Superman’s showing in season one is oft criticized. Despite that, he still has plenty of great performances. Things improve a great deal for Superman in season two, though.

John Stewart’s animated debut.

Batman has cool subtle updates to his design. His cloak and trunks have a nice dark cobalt highlight to them and the ears of his mask are longer. Both are welcome additions that make his costume more colorful and interesting. The legendary Kevin Conroy (from Batman: The Animated Series) reprises his role as the voice for the Dark Knight Detective, and he’s as splendid as ever.

Batman continues investigating in Metropolis. As he tracks those three scientists down in an old run down building, he’s attacked by a dog that morphs into an alien beast. When he gets in over his head, he summons Superman with a signal watch. The Man of Steel arrives to find Batman unconscious, and soon after a strange meteor crashes into Earth. Very odd and large alien walker things emerge from it and begin attacking Metropolis. Superman goes to battle them and Batman joins in the fight with his Batwing plain after recovering. Superman has another vision and leaves the battlefield. Batman follows, leaving things in the hands of the air force.

Batman follows Superman to a government installation where they find a captive Martian who was trying to make contact with Superman. Superman frees the Martian, who turns out being J’onn J’onzz, later known as the Martian Manhunter. He called out to Superman for rescue and explains his backstory. The same alien threat that came to Earth once attacked Mars. J’onn J’onzz’s people defeated the invaders with a powerful nerve gas, but J’onn was the only survivor of his race. He sealed the invaders in the catacombs on Mars and while he was hibernating, the astronauts released them. The invaders copied the Martians’ shape shifting abilities, which explains how they were able to disguise themselves as regular people.

Along with Martian Manhunter, “Secret Origins” introduces the audience to Diana of Themiscira, better known as Wonder Woman. She and her Amazon sisters live on Paradise Island, where men are forbidden to set foot. They can see that Man’s World is in peril, but are rather apathetic, since their island, also known as Themiscira, is protected by the Gods. Diana wants to help, but her mother, Hippolyta, forbids it. Diana refuses to sit idly by and watch the rest of the world get destroyed by aliens. In secret she takes the Wonder Woman outfit, with the bullet proof bracelets and tiara, and the magic lasso, and escapes the island to go help in the fight.

Meanwhile, outside the government installation, Batman, Superman, and Martian Manhunter are battling the invaders who were once disguised as human soldiers. This is when we’re introduced to the rest of the heroes.

Green Lantern, The Flash, and Hawkgirl arrive, having also been mentally summoned by Martian Manhunter. The Flash was introduced in the S:TAS episode “Speed Demons,” and though his voice actor is different -–this time he is voiced by the incredible Michael Rosenbaum– he is still the same brash and cocky character from the previous series.

The show doesn’t go much into any of these heroes and they’re all one note characters in this episode, but only for the sake of quickly getting their different personalities across. The producers opt to explore the nuances of their characters in future episodes.

The aliens have landed all over the world at this point, and there are key targets for the heroes to take out. Green Lantern shows his tactical and leadership abilities by laying out some plans for the newly assembled team. They split into groups to take out their targets, which are big factory like complexes that will send dark clouds to cover the Earth, allowing the aliens to function better, since they are nocturnal. This is when the different characters’ personalities shine as they bounce off each other.

The Brave and the Bold team up is a theme in this show. Throughout the ages in comic books, The Flash and The Green Lantern have been great friends. This show stays true to that, but it puts its own spin on the relationship. Oftentimes, the two heroes are guys from similar backgrounds and of similar age that just seem to get each other. Here, things are way different and more interesting. Wally West and John Stewart initially don’t get along well, but over time they’ll forge a very tight bond. The Flash is a young, jocular flirt who doesn’t take things very serious, while the Green Lantern is a bit older, more tempered, responsible, and solemn. Being polar opposites, they both get on each other’s nerves, with The Flash thinking Green Lantern is no fun, and GL thinking Flash is annoying. They are a true odd couple, which makes their budding friendship so endearing.

The World’s Greatest Heroes form into a cohesive unit; the Justice League!

With all the characters on the scene, the heroes eventually defeat the alien threat by knocking out their factories and exposing the aliens to solar rays. It is revealed that Senator J. Allen Carter is an alien in disguise, and the disarming of nuclear weapons that he spearheaded in the name of peace was a ploy to weaken the planet’s defenses and prepare it for invasion, as were the bombings of Wayne Tech space monitoring centers. Batman, ever concerned about loose ends, presents the team with a space station that will serve as a Watchtower against any other alien threats that may come. The whole ordeal makes Superman contemplate. They saved the world by combining their efforts as a team. He proposes that they stay together, when he gives a classic speech:

“I once thought I could protect the world by myself. But I was wrong. Working together, we saved the planet. And I believe that if we stay together, as a team, we would be a force that could truly work for the ideals of peace and justice.”

To which The Flash asks:

“What, like a bunch of Super-Friends?”

And Superman responds:

“More like a Justice League.”

All of the members agree to join except for Batman. He says he’ll only be a part time member, appearing only when he’s really needed, which is a pretty cool shade to his character that brings out his loner attribute. And thus, the Justice League is formed!

“Secret Origins” isn’t the best episode of Justice League by any stretch. Actually, it’s probably the worst, but it isn’t terrible. Surprisingly, there are no terrible episodes, which is a great credit to the series. It’s a simple story, but effective in introducing the League, the Watchtower, and giving the heroes a reason to join forces.

The Green Lantern mythos is very rich and creative, and prior to Justice League, Bruce Timm and his team only had one episode in Superman: The Animated Series to play with it. Along with exploring the Green Lantern mythology, the creators start their long, twisting journey into Green Lantern’s character in the episode “In Blackest Night.”

We see where John Stewart comes from and how magical a character he is while he walks through his neighborhood. It’s readily apparent that it’s a Black community. This is worth mentioning because it shows John Stewart offers a very real perspective that no other Justice League member does. The show artfully handles the fact that Green Lantern is a Black character. The creators never uncomfortably pound on “Black issues” with John Stewart, and they never even directly address his ethnicity, yet they never dance around the fact that he’s Black, nor do they let that unique aspect of his go to waste.

As Green Lantern is walking down the street, he casually stops the robbery of a convenience store without shifting into his Green Lantern uniform. This immediately shows one of the important facets of his character; he doesn’t have a secret identity. When he catches up with an old friend, it’s brought out how John has been away from home for so long, and some of the feeling of estrangement he has for his planet and community come to the fore. Phil LaMarr displays incredible ability at voicing the Green Lantern. He solidly defines the voice for the character, much as Kevin Conroy has for Batman.

While this is going on, far away on another world, a tribunal is in session where aliens demand Green Lantern’s presence. I find one of the most fascinating characteristics of John Stewart to be the jarring difference between his inner city hometown and the cosmic setting he so often finds himself in, and it’s brought out brilliantly in “In Blackest Night.”

The aliens dispatch Manhunter robots to retrieve Green Lantern, and they arrive in the streets of Detroit, Michigan. To touch even further on the above point, while the Manhunters are searching for John, he’s at the barber shop; a place which often holds special social significance in Black communities. The Justice League members view the Manhunters’ arrival as another alien invasion and engage the robots in battle. At this point, the show makes it clear that not all members of the Justice League appear in every episode. This setup is for the best, as it allows for stronger focus on the characters and their relationships. One of the greatest successes of Justice League is its deep characterization and the fascinating interpersonal dynamics among the cast. It’s more than just a show about colorfully costumed characters that hit each other. It’s also a show about very sympathetic and relatable characters. “In Blackest Night” showcases only Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter and thus allows for greater focus on these characters, specifically Green Lantern.

When Green Lantern arrives on the scene of the battle, he stops it and willingly surrenders his power ring and himself to the robots, telling the Leaguers to stay out of the issue. Green Lantern and his captors teleport away.

Of course, the Leaguers don’t listen, and the Martian Manhunter uses his telepathy to find out where Green Lantern and the Manhunters went. They track him down to the planet Ajuris 5, and as they enter the planet via their ship, the Javelin, they’re met with hostility, as several fighters have been dispatched to take them down. A cool air battle ensues with Superman, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter showing off some moves, and The Flash is left trying to pilot the Javelin, making for some light comedy.

Character attributes are further defined during the battle when Superman stops the fighters without harming the pilots, and Hawkgirl is a lot less gentle. Superman reprimands her about her overly rough fighting style, and cleans up her mess, making sure none of her targets are hurt.

The background shots of Ajuris 5’s city are breathtaking, and the myriad of zany alien designs are very fun, and perfectly fitting for a Green Lantern story. Also of note are the music themes. The smooth jazz that plays when John is walking the streets of his neighborhood sets a nice tone for the scene, and the Manhunter robots have a suitably ominous and authoritative theme.

Viewers are introduced to other Green Lantern Corps members; Arkis Chummuck, Galius Zed, Tomar-Re Kilowog, and Larvox (who has an especially fun design). They are present for the trial, and are less than brotherly to their fellow Lantern, John Stewart. The whole planet of Ajuris 5 seems to hate the Green Lantern.

The Justice League strong arms their way into the trial, much to Green Lantern’s dismay. The judges of the proceedings allow them to stay, due in part to Superman’s diplomatic nature. A space pirate named Kanjar Ro is called to the stand, and testifies against Green Lantern. The criminal tells of how he and Green Lantern crossed paths, and as GL was trying to apprehend him, the hero blasted a beam that reflected off one of Kanjar’s ally’s ship and shot toward the planet Ajuris 4. There, it hit a volcanic floor plot and enacted a chain reaction that caused the whole world to explode. Three billion people lived on the planet, and they are all dead, due to Green Lantern’s carelessness.

This story is based on a 1970s issue of Justice League of America, but it is also, in part, a call back to the comic story Cosmic Odyssey, in which Green Lantern John Stewart fails to save a planet and it explodes. It always surprises me when people say the character in Justice League is completely different from the John Stewart in comic books. While there are alterations (primarily with the Justice League version being a Marine Corps veteran), John Stewart displays many of the same features. In Justice League, he displays sadness that has plagued him for much of his comics life, yet he sometimes has an edge that was originally given to him by one of his creators, Denny O’Neil.

Hawkgirl thinks Kanjar Ro is full of it, but Green Lantern is confirming his story and isn’t offering any resistance. There is actually something to be said of the quiet grace and dignity of Green Lantern, as he’s fully willing to take responsibility for something he believes he did, and accept whatever consequences may come. Superman thinks the situation is fishy, too, and he takes Martian Manhunter to have a look at one of the moons of Ajuris and asks Hawkgirl and The Flash to buy time in court.

The creators of the show are wisely forming bonds with the characters very early on. The bonds between Leaguers are so authentic because we actually watch them organically form instead of just being told or having them suddenly plopped there. Superman goes on having a close connection with the Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern’s two biggest confidants in the Justice League will become the two redheads who believe in him and risk their selves for him here – The Flash and Hawkgirl.

The Flash filibusters to buy time, but the risk in being Green Lantern’s advocate is that he will suffer the same fate as the accused if he’s found guilty. The Flash is willing to take that risk for John. Hawkgirl steps out to find the other Green Lanterns when she notices they are no longer in the gallery. She finds them in a restaurant/bar and questions them on why they aren’t at the trial. The Lanterns plainly voice the disappointment they have in John Stewart and how much he shamed the Corps’ reputation. Hawkgirl is offended to hear them talk of John that way and she picks a fight with them in hand to hand combat. Hawkgirl manages to take all the Lanterns on, save for Kilowog, who chooses not to participate. Kilowog decides that Hawkgirl is right and goes to stand up for his friend.

At court, Kilowog serves as a character witness for John Stewart, and the Guardians of the Universe, who have been watching from their base on planet Oa, arrive to speak on Green Lantern’s behalf as well. This is pretty cool because it works to explain what the Green Lantern Corps is all about. While a Guardian is on the stand, it’s brought out that they are the masters of the Corps who grants the Lanterns their power rings, which the Lanterns use to police the universe in the Guardians’ name.

The show quickly establishes that John Stewart is part of a large organization called the Green Lantern Corps, which is comprised of beings from all across the universe who are in the service of the Guardians of the Universe.

Hawkgirl sees Kanjar Ro speaking with a Manhunter robot and she gets suspicious. Superman and Martian Manhunter discover a large illusion device hidden in the moon and Kanjar tries to kill them with his space fighter. Hawkgirl engages him in a fighter of her own that she took from the defense force on Ajuris 5.

Back in the courtroom, Green Lantern is found guilty and sentenced to death along with The Flash. As they are being gassed to death, Superman busts in again and damages the gas chamber, rescuing his two compatriots. Then, he signals Hawkgirl to destroy the projector. Suddenly, the planet Ajuris 4 is visible to everyone again. It had been there the whole time, and someone used the device found on the moon to make it appear as though it was destroyed. Green Lantern attacks Kanjar and the pirate confesses that the Manhunters paid him to lie.

The Guardians try to return to Oa, but are stopped by the League, who are looking for answers. The Guardians explain that they are the ones who created the Manhunters. They were what the Guardians used to police creation before the formation the Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians found the androids couldn’t understand the subtleties between good and evil, so they decommissioned them or programmed them for lesser duties.

The Manhunters hold a grudge against the Guardians for demoting them. With a good portion of the Guardians away from planet Oa, the Manhunters attack the planet in force, with their main target being the Central Power Battery that powers all the Green Lantern batteries and rings across the universe. By the time the League arrives, the Manhunters have already severely pushed the Guardians, and the Guardians are doing all they can to hold things together.

Green Lantern and the League join in the fight, and they’re soon joined by the other Corps members who were at Ajuris 5, and we see some pretty awesome battle scenes. Green Lantern has an especially rousing moment when he retrieves the drained power from the Central Power Battery while hollering the Green Lantern oath.

“In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power
Green Lantern’s Light!”

The Manhunters are defeated by the combined might of the Green Lantern Corps, Justice League, and Guardians of the Universe, and Green Lantern is touched that his Leaguer friends held out faith in him, even when he and his Corps fellows had lost it.

These earliest episodes suffer a bit from “cartoon logic,” like how nobody knew that Ajuris 4 was still there when it is a planet of three billion, and the beings of Ajuris 5 have space travel available to them. Also perplexing is how sometimes Manhunters drop like flies (unsurprisingly when there are a lot of them), and other times they’re very formidable opponents. I guess that can be explained away by saying they come in different power levels, or something. Even with those discrepancies, “In Blackest Night” is a really great episode that is a nice introduction to the Green Lantern mythos and John Stewart’s character, which also subtly builds bonds between the League members showcased.

Green Lantern’s character continues to shine in “The Enemy Below,” in which he has a very strong rivalry with Aquaman.

When a nuclear submarine is sailing across part of Aquaman’s underwater realm, he orders his forces to attack and they sink the sub. The Justice League, comprising Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, battle Aquaman’s fleet and encounter the King himself. Aquaman lets the Justice League save the men aboard the sub, but demands that the downed vessel stay, which Green Lantern takes an issue with, as there is plutonium aboard the sub, which Aquaman can use to threaten the surface.

Green Lantern is skeptical of Aquaman the whole time. He’s shown to be a patriot and isn’t particularly sympathetic to the Atlantean’s perspective. Superman takes a moment to patiently reason with Aquaman and invites him to express the Atlantean grievances to the World Assembly.

In a scene back on Atlantis, we’re shown things from Aquaman’s perspective. The Atlanteans are incensed that the surface dwellers sail their weapons across their realm and pollute their oceans with waste. They want to take action, but Aquaman isn’t sure what to do. He consults his wife Mera while taking time out to see their son. With the wellbeing of his family and realm in view, he takes Superman’s advice to heart and visits the World Assembly.

Though he may have good intentions, Aquaman happens to be a real jerk to the surface dwellers. He doesn’t respect them at all, but I imagine he has quite a bit to be frustrated about.

Meanwhile, Green Lantern goes on a covert mission of his own interest and visits the downed submarine, where he discovers the plutonium has been stripped from the vessel, leading him to wonder about the Atlanteans’ intentions even more.

This all swirls into a grand story of betrayal, as Aquaman’s brother, Lord Orm, plots to steal the throne through court intrigue, and wage war against the surface dwellers. Orm uses the plutonium to power a doomsday device that has the power to melt the polar ice caps. Aquaman had that constructed if worse came to worst with the surface dwellers.

Aquaman is a great character with plenty of superb scenes to behold. He sacrifices his hand to save himself and his son from a certain death situation concocted by Orm, he uses a killer whale in a battle with Orm’s forces, and when he’s battling Orm –his own brother– Aquaman unexpectedly lets him fall to his death instead of saving him. The earlier episodes of Justice League are tamer than the later ones, but they still pack quite a wallop, and it’s clear we’re dealing with very layered and nuanced characters here, especially for a children’s cartoon show.

Justice League features the bearded, shirtless Aquaman, so he’s gruffer and harder than the oft scorned orange shirted Super Friends character. Aquaman did appear in S:TAS with his more classic appearance, but the producers didn’t feel like explaining why he looks different. Even though Aquaman didn’t make it into the regular cast, the producers make sure to do him justice with great showings like “The Enemy Below.”

Everything is done seamlessly. The episode even features lessons in a way that isn’t at all heavy handed. Green Lantern comes to reconcile things with Aquaman and admits that maybe they’ve all misjudged, both surface dweller and Atlantean alike. Both Green Lantern and Aquaman are given character flaws that help round them out and make them convincing characters. Wonder Woman is shown to be regal and compassionate, but also strong, and Superman is ever patient, always looking for a peaceful resolution.

“The Enemy Below” is visually stunning, showing off really beautiful landscapes of Atlantis, and there are stirring compositions throughout, such as the emotional music during Aquaman’s sacrifice theme, and the music that plays when he battles Orm. Also of note is an especially great showing of the villain Deadshot, who makes an assassination attempt on Aquaman for Orm, and then tries to escape the League during an exciting chase scene.

Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor makes his Justice League debut in “Injustice For All.” Lex will becomes a very important character in this show, just as he was in Superman: The Animated Series. Clancy Brown reprises his role as Luthor, and he’s as good as ever. He really brings the character to life.

You can’t have a show with a superhero team comprised of heroes from across the DC Universe without pitting them against a supervillian team comprised of villains across the DC Universe. Lex forms such a team when he realizes he’s up against more than just Superman now. That realization hits him hard when the League fools him into blowing his cover as a benevolent business man, and he admits to smuggling weapons to terrorists. Luthor tries to escape the League via one of his many contingency plans, but winds up having a seizure during the incident. When he awakes, he’s in a hospital bed and sees Superman looking over him. A doctor explains to Lex that he’s been inflicted with a rare form of terminal blood poisoning due to carrying a chunk of Kryptonite around with him and being exposed to its radiation over a long course of time. After he is stabilized, Luthor is sent to Striker’s Island prison.

He allies himself with the genius freak guerilla, Ultra Humanite, and they break out of the penitentiary. Luthor puts together a gang to destroy Superman and the Justice League. I suppose his thinking is that if he’s going to die, he’s going to take them down, too. Along with himself and Humanite, Luthor’s team consists of Solomon Grundy, Copperhead, Cheetah, The Shade, and Star Sapphire, and they somehow become known as the Injustice League.

Many members of this League become staple villains of the series, and they’re all entertaining characters. Grundy is voiced by Mark Hamill and is a sort of Incredible Hulk-like character, with the same manner of powers and speech. The Shade is a dapper criminal brandishing a walking stick with shadow powers. Cheetah is a classic Wonder Woman villain, and Star Sapphire, brilliantly voiced by Olivia D’abo, is a menace to Green Lantern with powers comparable to his own, but her beams are in shades of violet. Luthor is paying them all a sizable amount to eliminate the Justice League.

The Injustice League. These characters become recurring villains throughout the series.

They stage a crime at the Metropolis Federal Building to lure the League into a trap. The League shows up and a great battle ensues. The Justice League winds up getting the upper hand and Luthor’s team escapes thanks to The Shade’s shadows.

However, before they got away, Batman planted a tracking device on Lex, but he took a poisonous bite from Copperhead in the melee. Copperhead is left behind, and the League questions him as Batman heals from his wound. Against Martian Manhunter’s wishes, Batman rises from his sickbed and goes by himself to track down the Injustice League. When he follows his tracker’s signal to their secret hideout, he’s knocked out by the Joker, who knew Batman would do exactly as he did. Since Joker has knowledge of Batman’s tactics, Luthor let him join the Injustice League. The two characters already have history with each other, having teamed up during the “World’s Finest” storyline.

After painstaking measures, Luthor breaks into the captured Batman’s utility belt. He’s also sealed Batman in unbreakable restraints and put a stasis field around the Caped Crusader to prevent the Martian Manhunter from making telepathic contact with him. Inside the utility belt, Luthor finds a transmitter that grants access to the Justice League Watchtower. He sends Star Sapphire, Grundy, and Shade up to the Watchtower to get the jump on Martian Manhunter and hide a bomb onboard the station. Once that’s done, they retreat back to Earth.
Suddenly, the League gets a call via a secure line, and the messenger on the other end tells them there’s a bomb on their station and they manage to find it in the nick of time.

After the bomb plot fails, the members of the gang threaten to walk, but Luthor decides to pay them triple of what he originally offered them, and they stay. However, he’s getting more and more ill, and Ultra Humanite offers to make him something that can keep him alive, but it will cost extra. Humanite makes him a vest that will stabilize his condition. Luthor decides to enact another plan to defeat the League, but he deduces that they have a traitor in their midst, who he’ll have to take care of first. He knows the only way the League could have found that bomb is if someone told them it was there.

While he was busy getting Batman’s belt open, and having Humanite work on his new containment chest gear, he had different members of his gang watch Batman. He checked the security footage and the whole team sees Cheetah kissing Batman. Luthor gives Cheetah to Grundy to do whatever he wants with her. Through other manipulations, Batman managed to break the stasis field and contact Martian Manhunter, and the Injustice League is expecting the League to storm their headquarters, and plans for their arrival.

The League falls into the trap and a classic hero/villain battle commences. It’s really fun to watch the Joker take on the different members of the League. He always has some creative trick. The real surprise is when Lex Luthor dons his classic green battle suit from Super Friends. It somehow channels Lex’s Kryptonite poisoning and concentrates it into Kryptonite laser blasts. Lex pummels Superman with the devastating rays, but just as he’s about to finish off the Man of Tomorrow, the Ultra Humanite hits him from behind and surrenders. The rest of the Injustice League goes down, too.

It turns out Humanite was the traitor, not Cheetah. When Humanite was alone watching Batman, off camera, Batman offered to double whatever Luthor was paying him, and the ape couldn’t resist.

This episode is good, and it sets up a key plot point throughout Justice League, by having Lex Luthor being a known criminal and convict, and it introduces plenty of great new villains. However, I never felt as though the League was really in great jeopardy from this threat. In actuality, the Injustice League appears to be the underdogs throughout the whole thing because they bumble and have difficulty cooperating because they’re all only out for themselves. This causes me to root for Lex Luthor, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. His never give up spirit while taking on larger than life heroes, especially in his weakened condition, is actually somewhat inspiring.

This issue also tries to drive home the point that Batman is a worthwhile member of the League. Some people complain about him being an invincible “Bat-God,” which is somewhat understandable. Then again, all the members of the Justice League are extraordinary, so Batman should be, too. Batman’s abilities are played too far at times, however, and this episode is one such instance.

“Paradise Lost” is a magical adventure that further explores Wonder Woman’s character and world, and shows the diversity of threats the League deals with. Previous stories involved extraterrestrial perils, but this episode dives into the mystical and makes full use of Wonder Woman’s backstory, which is steeped in Greek mythology. The sorcerer Felix Faust tries to open the gates to Tartarus, and bribes Wonder Woman into helping him recover artifacts that serve as the key, without her knowing what shenanigans he’s up to. One of the most interesting scenes is when a magical spell pits Wonder Woman against Superman, and it’s shown that the Amazon can go toe to toe with the Kryptonian.

It’s a bittersweet story, as Wonder Woman and the League narrowly defeats the immensely powerful Hades and save the world, but Wonder Woman is banished from Themiscira due to bringing men to the island (her League compatriots). The final scene is beautiful and saddening. Diana is left to find her way in a world completely unfamiliar to her, but it at least makes for some interesting stories in the future!

With all the characters firmly established, Bruce Timm and his team start to develop deeper interpersonal relationships between the League members. For John Stewart, that means a growing relationship with The Flash and the love of his life, Hawkgirl…
Continue to Part 3: Green Lantern Meets Hawkgirl