Justice League: The Animated Series – Part 3: Green Lantern Meets Hawkgirl

on March 25, 2015

“War World” is a classic. When I first saw it years ago, I didn’t like it (I think part of it stems from it seeming like it was aired all the time), but I’ve really warmed up to it, and now it’s one of my favorite episodes.

It opens with Martain Manhunter and Superman on an asteroid preparing explosives to blow it up, since it threatens to hit Earth. Hawkgirl is running the monitors for them back at the Watchtower, and keeping them up to date with statistics involving the operation via com-links. There happens to be hydrogen pockets in the asteroid, which the monitors pick up a little too late. The blast from the explosions turns out much larger and more powerful than anticipated, and Superman and Martian Manhunter are caught in it.

Across the vastness of space, viewers are taken to the planet War World, where the leader, Mongul, entertains the populace with gladiatorial matches to take their minds off their destitute lives. In fact, Mongul is using these matches as a means of keeping the peace instead of being a responsible ruler and giving his people food, medicine, and other necessities.

Hordes of people gather to watch these battles in a large arena. It’s a bit comical how the combatants are teleported to a wasteland to do battle, and the huge crowd present watches the events on a massive titantron-like monitor.

The champion of these “games” is Draaga, who is splendidly voiced by William Smith. We see Draaga make short work of his latest opponent, Krodar the Terrible, and the masses get unruly because the matches haven’t been good lately. Draaga is mopping the floor with everyone he faces. While one of Mongol’s cruisers is scouring the galaxy, they happen upon an unconscious Superman and Martian Manhunter drifting through space, and the Captain has his crew tractor beam them aboard. The Captain is impressed that they were able to survive while floating through the void. He brings them back to War World, believing they’ll make strong opponents for Draaga.

Meanwhile, back at the Watchtower, Green Lantern browbeats Hawkgirl about the botched asteroid job. The Javelin was destroyed in the giant blast, so the duo sets out into space via Green Lantern’s ring to retrieve Superman and Martian Manhunter. When they reach the site of the blast, the two heroes they are looking for are gone. Lantern’s ring picks up an ion trail, which indicates a ship passed through. They follow the trail, hoping it will lead them to their friends.

This episode marks the start of quite possibly the most epic romance in superhero fiction, which is between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. The romance doesn’t officially begin, but it’s here where the characters really first notice each other, though it’s not necessarily on the best of terms. The tension between them makes for incredibly fun back and forth verbal sparring.

Green Lantern and Hawkgirl begin behaving antagonistically toward each other. Though they’re both very different, they share some traits, such as stubborness, which causes sparks to fly. Their interactions are some of the best parts of the series. Their relationship develops and evolves very naturally.

John Stewart is judgmental as all heck to Hawkgirl, but in a way, that winds up making him funny and endearing. It’s the blend of great writing and Phil LaMarr’s excellent voice delivery that makes it work so well.

What is so great about John is, though he has these character flaws, he always comes around and admits he’s wrong when he is wrong, like in “The Enemy Below.” This is one of the things that make his self-righteousness appealing, and the deep feelings Hawkgirl develops for him believable.

Back on War World, Superman and Martian Manhunter try to escape the complex they’re being imprisoned in while they await their matches. Something in the atmosphere saps the Martian’s strength, and to make matters worse, there is an energy field surrounding the complex. Martian Manhunter is able to phase through it and escape, but Superman gets blasted by defense robots and taken directly to Mongol. For his defiance, Mongol decides to pit him against Draaga right away. Mongol had originally planned on building Superman up with preliminary matches. It’s funny to think that the villain of this episode is an evil promoter.

Green Lantern and Hawkgirl’s search brings them to a planet or moon that serves as a refueling port, where they seek out information regarding their missing allies. Hawkgirl manages to get into a fight with some of the aliens there, and Green Lantern begrudgingly gives her a hand while continuing to chide her. After defeating the aliens, they grab one and learn that there is a Kryptonian on War World. Hawkgirl demands that the alien take them to the planet.

Superman is about to have his match with Draaga, and Martian Manhunter sneaks into the crowd to see. In front of the packed stadium, Superman tells Mongul he won’t fight, but as he’s teleported to the wasteland battlefield, it’s clear he doesn’t have a choice when Draaga unrelentingly attacks. Draaga and Superman have an incredible battle. Nothing especially groundbreaking is done animation-wise, but each blow feels ferociously hard hitting and there are some excellent scenes. One of my favorite is when Draaga picks up a massive chunk of rock and falls over as he hurls it at Superman. It just seemed like a very realistic touch to add, that makes it look like Draaga put his full force in the throw. The score swells with powerful horns and strings to compliment the battle and further raise the intensity.

The clash goes back and forth. Draaga proves a worthy opponent for the Man of Tomorrow, but in the end, Superman is the victor. Mongol commands Superman to kill Draaga as the grand finale, just as Draaga had done to his opponents.
Superman refuses.

Mongol decides to kill Superman with his robots. While the beams from their arm cannons are powerful, they fail to mortally injure The Man of Steel. Martian Manhunter gets the crowd going by cheering on Superman. The mob joins in, inspired by Superman’s strength and defiance. Mongul spares Superman, since that is what the people want, but he becomes jealous when Super-mania starts running wild across War World. Superman has gotten huge support from the populace of War World and Mongul sees that as a threat to his position. Everyone cheers Superman for challenging the dictator, including Superman’s fellow gladiators, which Mongul keeps imprisoned. Rather than have Draaga killed, Superman cuts a deal with some of them to put the defeated and unconscious champion on a garbage scow that dumps waste off world to get him off War World. Superman would like to put distance between himself and Draaga, since the gladiators warned him that Draaga would never rest until he kills Superman.

Elsewhere, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl are aboard a scoundrel’s rusty ship as he resentfully takes them to War World. Hawkgirl –who we later find out is claustrophobic– is cranky about the lack of space in the vessel, wondering why they just don’t use Lantern’s ring to travel. When the alien points out that he needs his navi-computer to find the planet they seek, Green Lantern admits he has a point. Suddenly, Hawkgirl goes off on Lantern, complaining about how he always thinks she’s wrong, and other things she doesn’t like about him. The scoundrel uses their bickering as an opportunity to put up a barrier between them and him, in the guise of giving them privacy, and he proceeds to gas them. He then dumps their unconscious selves on some garbage world and takes off.

The entertaining quips continue between Hawkgirl and Green Lantern, and the suggestion of them being left alone together forever on the garbage world is brought out, since GL doesn’t know where they are, and his ring may run out of energy before they find another habitable world. That is another discreetly suggestive point brought out by the writers. The heroes happen to find Draaga on the trashy world, and since all of them want to go to War World, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl get Draaga to show them the way.

Back on War World, Mongul bribes Superman into losing a match against him. Mongol just happens to have a gigantic planet destroying cannon, and he warns that if Superman doesn’t throw the fight, he’s going to blow up Draaga’s world. The Martian Manhunter uses his stealthy abilities to eavesdrop on the conversation, and while Superman is having his big battle with Mongol in front of the planet’s inhabitants, Martian Manhunter attempts to knock out the cannon.

A very great moment happens once Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Draaga reach War World. Draaga punches GL in the head as they’re suspended in midair within Lantern’s emerald bubble. The unexpected blow causes Green Lantern to lose his concentration, and the bubble dissipates, sending Draaga plummeting to the ground. The proud gladiator works his way back into the arena and beams himself into the wasteland where Mongol and Superman are having their showdown. Green Lantern and Hawkgirl — who let Draaga go — manage to find the planet destroying cannon and help Martian Manhunter take it out. For whatever weird reason, some of Mongul’s lackeys defending the facility decide to fire the weapon without being given the order. Fortunately, Hawkgirl uses her mace to deflect the blast as it gathers a charge to fire out the cannon. The blast recoils, causing the cannon and entire facility to blow up. With Mongul’s ace dealt with, the trio heads to the arena to assist Superman in his struggle.

Before Mongul can deliver the finishing blow to Superman, Green Lantern and the others arrive on the battlefield. They inform The Man of Steel that they destroyed the death ray, which causes all bets to be off. Superman is about to clean Mongul’s clock when Draaga appears. The Leaguers step aside and let Draaga settle his score with Mongul personally. The two titans engage in an epic fight, and Draaga comes out victorious. He decides not to kill Mongul, despite the mob egging him on, and the years of cruel servitude he’s suffered under the tyrant. Draaga claims Mongul isn’t worth the honor.

The victorious gladiator offers Superman Mongul’s crown, but Superman, in turn, offers leadership of War World to Draaga. Draaga doesn’t see himself as worthy, because he could not defeat Superman and was left to live with his shame. The Kryptonian tells him that the real test of honor isn’t how you die, but how you live. Green Lantern seals the League in a bubble and, at long last, they head for home.

“War World” is a splendid episode and the first to really get into the fascinating interpersonal relationships within the League. Some blame Timm for depicting Superman as weak, or being upset that Superman wasn’t the one to take out Mongul, but I’m really not the type to get off to incredible feats from the characters. While that’s all great, I value excellent character work over displays of power, and Superman’s ability to inspire and give people hope where there once was none is strongly shown here. However, I do admit that it is odd to see Superman having so much trouble with generic defense robots. As awesome as Superman is, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl supply a lot of the fun. It’s easy to tell the writers enjoy working with them, and the delivery of Phil LaMarr and Maria Canals really brings the characters to life. Another notable moment is when Green Lantern and Hawkgirl are stranded on the garbage world, Lantern finds alien smut lying around and takes an interest in it, saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This seems to play on John Stewart’s preference for extra terrestrial women.

Green Lantern and his relationships with his teammates are further explored in “The Brave and the Bold.” Hawkgirl and Green Lantern share one of the most moving romances in television and certainly animation, but Green Lantern’s friendship with The Flash is also very endearing. These two characters have been trading witty remarks since “Secret Origins,” but it isn’t until “The Brave and the Bold” that the writers really have fun with the all-work vs. all play dynamic between Lantern and Flash.

A criminal named Grodd escapes from Gorilla City, which is a society of highly intelligent gorillas safely hidden from humans. Later on, we see The Flash chatting up two girls in a diner, which shows how comfortable he is with the people of Central City and how comfortable they are with him. The Flash cuts his conversation short due to chaos on the road outside. In a really cool chase scene, The Flash stops a maniac motorist, and the Green Lantern shows up to prevent the driver’s truck from going over a bridge. It turns out the two culprits are scientists who stole radioactive isotopes, but they claim they can’t remember any of that.

The Flash and Green Lantern investigate the theft, which leads them to question a colleague of the scientists. She says she can’t understand their behavior, as they’re both highly respected. All she can offer is that they may have cracked under the pressure of their demanding work. While Flash and Green Lantern are taking a break in the park, they discover a gorilla that happens to be on the loose there.

The Flash goes to stop the ape, and is surprised when it talks to him, even throwing out a Planet of the Apes reference. While Flash is talking to the ape, the doctor they questioned earlier blasts the Scarlet Speedster with a beam that knocks him unconscious. We’re then shown a really strange dream sequence that brushes over The Flash’s origin, revealing him getting struck by a lightning bolt and dowsed with chemicals in a lab.

When Flash wakes up, he’s in a jail cell and is then taken to be questioned. The detectives show him video tape evidence of him stealing radioactive isotopes. Just like the scientists, The Flash has no memory of this happening. Green Lantern gets him out of the situation by posting bail, but not without punishing him with a brow beating. The detectives are both fun characters, with one being weary and out of patience, and the other being charmingly sly.

Another character Green Lantern forges a strong bond with is The Flash. Green Lantern is the straight man to The Flash’s funny guy.

The heroes decide to head back to the park to find the speaking gorilla, which is still at large, believing it may have something to do with Flash’s memory lapse. They find him, and after taking a blast from Green Lantern –who assumes the ape to be an enemy– he introduces himself as Solovar. The talking ape goes on to tell the duo about Gorilla City and how he is head of security there. A genius known as Grodd tried to take over the city with a mind control device. He needs the isotopes to power his devices. Through investigating, Solovar discovered that Grodd was holding an e-mail correspondence with a Dr. Sarah Corwin, which is the same person Flash and Green Lantern questioned in the beginning of their investigation. Flash zooms over to her lab before Solovar can equip him with a headband device that blocks Grodd’s mind control tactics.

When The Flash arrives, he’s confronted by the doctor and Grodd. The genius ape uses his mind control on Flash and makes him battle Solovar and Green Lantern. The Green Lantern manages to incapacitate Flash, and the Speedster eventually comes around to being himself. The gang follows Grodd further into the facilities, where he manages to power a large device that causes all of Central City to vanish.

Some other Leaguers discover the disturbance and go to check it out. When they arrive at the limits of Central City, they realize there is some sort of force field where the city used to be, and they can’t penetrate it. Batman finds the same sort of energy signature emanating from a location in Africa. They look into that to see if there is a connection, and when they arrive, they’re suddenly incapacitated by Gorilla City defenses.

Back in Central City, Grodd has taken control of everyone’s mind, and Green Lantern, The Flash and Solovar –who were protected from Grodd’s mind control wave by their headbands– are attacked by the populace once Flash gives away that they’re not zombies like the rest of the people.

They manage to escape the mob, and follow Grodd to a military base, where he launches four warheads toward Gorilla City, where the other Leaguers are put into custody and interrogated by the Gorilla defense force, who thinks they are spies. Thanks to Batman’s skills as an escape artist, they manage to break free but are pursued. The gorillas abruptly lose interest in giving chase when their force field barrier is lowered, which was done by Grodd.

Upon learning four missiles are headed their way, the commanding gorilla officer orders an evacuation of the city. The League volunteers to help and takes to the skies to stop the missiles. Green Lantern manages to disarm two of them, but he’s struck by some debris and knocked out. The other Leaguers succeed in stopping the other two, but not without some complications. Hawkgirl, being the rash bruiser she is, carelessly bashed one with her mace, which almost sent the warhead colliding into the city, but it was narrowly stopped by Wonder Woman.

While that is going on, Solovar and The Flash confront Grodd. Flash uses his super speed to cross some wires in Grodd’s mind control helmet and then dupes the genius into trying to use it on him. This causes Grodd to fry his brain, leaving him unconscious and defeated. His accomplice, Sarah Corwin fawns over the beaten ape, lamenting the loss of what she believes to be the greatest mind in the world. It turns out Grodd never used his mind control on her. She was legitimately in love with him, which, of course, The Flash has a jape about.

With all threats neutralized, the League delivers Grodd back to Gorilla City authorities, who apologize for misjudging the heroes. Grodd has seemingly been turned into a vegetable and the Gorillas promise the League that he will receive the best of care. At the end, it’s made clear that Grodd still has his mind intact, as his rage becomes apparent on his countenance when the others aren’t watching him.

This episode is filled with gold. Composer Mike Mcquistion delivers a rousing score. Of particular note is The Flash’s high energy theme that plays during the chase scene, which seamlessly leads into Green Lantern’s more regal theme when he appears, despite the themes having two completely different rhythms, tones, and characteristics.

The Green Lantern and The Flash have a very entertaining and natural dynamic. The creative team puts a unique and enthralling spin on the legendary relationship between the Emerald Crusader and the Scarlet Speedster, which we’ll see develop even further as the show presses on. Hawkgirl messes up in disarming the missiles, which goes hand in hand with her hit first, ask questions later attitude. Hawkgirl’s imperfections are aspects that make her so interesting. Sure, she’s not the strongest or smartest, and she has plenty of character flaws, like a lack of patience, general crankiness, and rash behavior, but she’s a heck of a lot of fun, and she balances out the team dynamic perfectly, and that’s what matters most. Powers Booth supplies the voice for Gorilla Grodd, and he owns the role like nobody’s business. He gets across Grodd’s superiority complex brilliantly.

“Legends” is a touching tribute to the old Golden Age of comic books. In the comics, the Justice League of America would sometimes team up with the Justice Society of America, which was comprised of several heroes of the Golden Age who lived on a parallel world called Earth 2. The production team wasn’t allowed to use the Justice Society of America, so they made analogues of them, naming the group the Justice Guild of America, who are featured in this adventure.

“Legends” is one of the best episodes of the entire series, and certainly one of the most poignant. Once again, Green Lantern is the focus, and his relationship with Hawkgirl continues to advance. They don’t get romantic just yet, but we see them begin to truly bond, as Hawkgirl shows John her soft and compassionate side, while never totally betraying her toughness, irritability, and passion for bashing things. The pacing of their relationship is absolutely perfect and plays a huge part in how entertaining it is to watch. It’s one aspect that makes their romance so believable. We actually see them get to know each other on screen, and we see why they have these feelings for each other. The producers never give too much at once, which makes all the small things more palpable, and the big payoffs worth so much! The depth of their relationship and masterful handling by the producers is unprecedented for a Western action cartoon show.

The episode begins with the Justice League battling a massive robot that Lex Luthor is controlling from a boat out at sea. The League manages to destroy the robot, but the goliath is about to smash Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl in its fall. To prevent his teammates from becoming super pancakes, The Flash runs around them in a circle causing a powerful air current to keep the mechanical monstrosity aloft. He runs so fast, that the heroes, the robot, and some of the objects around them disappear into thin air, leaving Batman and Superman looking on in confusion.

It turns out the four teleported Leaguers are okay, and they’ve been taken to a strange place called Seaboard City that has a serious 1940s to ’50s retro vibe. Martian Manhunter tries to contact Batman and Superman telepathically, but he’s assaulted by strange blurred visions and is pained by the effort.

Suddenly, a robbery is taking place at a music store. A strangely dressed man has taken a priceless Stradivarius violin, jumps into a clarinet shaped car, and zooms down the road. Green Lantern leaps into action to stop him. The man called Music Master mistakes Green Lantern for a person called Green Guardsman, and puts up a fight with an accordion weapon. Lantern manages to get the instrument back, but as he does, he’s attacked by another character.

Suddenly, the Justice League finds themselves in battle with a group of characters, some of which mirror The Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman. A small boy looks on excitedly, and The Flash uses his super speed to stop some debris from crushing him. One of the colorful characters notices this, and calls off the fight. He says that anyone who would risk themselves for another so selflessly couldn’t be evil, and reasons the battle must be a misunderstanding and has all parties stand down. He invites them back to their mansion and the team introduces themselves as the Justice Guild of America; The Streak, Black Siren, Tom Turbine, Green Guardsman, and Catman. The young boy is a junior member named Ray Thompson.

A really excellent moment happens when Black Siren offers to get cookies and milk and attempts to get Hawkgirl to help her while they “let the men talk.” Hawkgirl doesn’t take well to the type of misogyny that goes on in this old fashioned world, but Green Lantern convinces her to play along so that they can get answers.

Green Lantern is especially perplexed because he knows the Justice Guild as fictional comic book heroes he was a big fan of when he was younger. He tells The Flash how much they made a difference to him, even saying that without their influence, he may not have turned out as a Green Lantern.

Tom Turbine has a theory on how the League came to Seaboard City, and we’re introduced to some classic DC pseudoscience. He hypothesizes that there are an infinite number of “Earths” that vibrate at a different speed. When The Flash ran at the high rate he did during the battle with Luthor’s robot, he might have matched the vibration rate of the Earth that they’re in now, which caused them to appear in the Justice Guild’s world. The writers of the old comic books that Green Lantern is a fan of may have had a psychic link to this world, thus causing them to write stories about the heroes. This is the first time Justice League plays with the multiverse concept, but it won’t be the last.

In a secret hideout, Music Master tells his villainous cohorts about the new heroes he saw. The Injustice Guild –as the group of villains is called– decides to have a contest to see who can come up with the most dastardly crime, and the winner will be the one to construct the plot to destroy the Justice League and the Injustice Guild. They conduct a crime spree, and whoever returns with the best treasure wins. It’s an incredibly silly idea, but again, this is a charming tribute to 1940s comic books.

When the League and Guild get news of the fiendish capers taking place, they split into teams to stop them. When Green Lantern is complimenting The Streak and says it’s an honor to fight with him, The Streak points out that GL is, “A credit to his people,” to which Green Lantern responds with a weirded out, “Thanks.”

The cool thing about this episode is it shows the allure of “a simpler time,” but it doesn’t overlook the dark underbelly of those olden days. It discreetly points out the misogyny and racism that were prevalent in the 1940s and 50s. Being a children’s cartoon, it doesn’t go deep into the subjects, which is great, since that’s not the show’s aim, but it doesn’t ignore them in favor of rose tinted glasses. Though The Streak’s comment wasn’t ‘racist,’ it was the perfect type of strange and uncomfortable to get attention, but not too much attention.

The Injustice Guild may be corny villains, but they’re still formidable, and they give the heroes a run for their money.

While pursuing Sportsman, Martian Manhunter has another disturbing vision –this time of a ruined city– and the villain gets away with a valuable tennis trophy. During a battle with Dr. Blizzard, The Flash gets distracted by a school bus filled with nuns that is about to collide with a TNT truck. Flash manages to prevent a terrible accident, but gets knocked out in the process, and Dr. Blizzard captures both himself and his partner, Black Siren. Elsewhere, Hawkgirl is locked in battle against Music Master. She gets knocked out of the air and crash lands in a graveyard… where she suspiciously finds the graves of the Justice Guild members.

After their defeats, the League regroups at the Justice Guild mansion, where Hawkgirl tells Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern about the graves she saw. The League tries to make sense of it all and Lantern, in frustration, flies away, refusing to believe that his childhood heroes are dead. Martian Manhunter notes that he seems to have taken the news rather personally.

The Justice Guild of America–analogues for DC Comics’ Justice Society of America, make a strong showing in one of the series’ best episodes.

Dr. Blizzard wins the villains’ contest by bringing in Black Siren and The Flash. He comes up with a plan to rob the Seaboard City mint and escape via a huge flying blimp. When the police call the Justice Guild, they, along with Martian Manhunter, spring into action. While this is going on, Green Lantern is paying his respect at Green Guardsman’s grave when Hawkgirl finds him. GL admits that Hawkgirl was right, and the two of them try to figure out who those individuals back at the mansion are if the Justice Guild is dead.

Green Lantern stops an ice cream man on the street and questions him about the graves. The man gets nervous and tries to leave, but Lantern continues to press him about the oddities of the world they’re in. The man zooms off in a panic, claiming that “he” might hear them. GL wants to find out more about the history of the weird world, so he and his winged companion stop by the library, which is completely unoccupied. All the pages in the books they find are blank, and when they try to go to the basement to find newspaper archives, there is a brick wall right beyond the basement door. Hawkgirl, in typical fashion, knocks the wall down. Beyond, they find a ravaged subway tunnel. The subway itself is peppered with bullet holes. Green Lantern finds a newspaper dated decades into the past, which tells of peace talks breaking down and imminent war. He also discovers that the Justice Guild died in battle. He finds out that the day the Justice Guild died was the day the last Justice Guild comic was published in their world. This revelation gives the impression that this world’s Cold War (or something equivalent) went quite a bit differently.

The Justice Guild winds up defeating the Injustice Guild and rescues The Flash and Black Siren. When they return to the mansion, junior member Ray Thompson elatedly recounts the events of their battle, but they meet a rather dour Green Lantern and Hawkgirl waiting for them. The two heroes confront the Guild with what they discovered. The Justice Guild is incredulous at first, but Lantern shows them the newspaper.

Suddenly, Martian Manhunter realizes that Ray Thompson is behind all of this, and he reaches into his brain to expose the truth. Ray morphs into a hideously deformed creature, and suddenly a large robot comes to attack Seaboard City. The Justice Guild goes to defend their city, but Green Lantern and Hawkgirl realize that Ray keeps conjuring up threats to occupy the heroes whenever they start getting too close to the truth, like the Injustice Guild attacks, the nuns and dynamite, and now the giant robot.

The League members continue battling Ray, knowing he is the true threat, but Ray has incredible reality warping powers and is making mincemeat out of Lantern and his party. When the Justice Guild sees what is going on, they break off their attack to the big robot and decide to help defeat Ray, even though a victory would mean that they’ll disappear, since Ray is the one sustaining them and the world they know. They sacrifice themselves to break Ray’s illusion, putting so much pressure on him and making it so he can no longer maintain his hold on the world he’s created. When Ray’s concentration breaks, Seaboard City turns into a destroyed wasteland. Martian Manhunter explains that the radioactive fallout of the nuclear blast that hit mutated Ray’s DNA and turned him into that creature. He was granted incredible powers, and instead of accepting reality, chose to create an idyllic illusory world in which his favorite heroes were guardians.

As The Streak solutes Green Lantern, he and the rest of the Justice Guild fade away. The populace of Seaboard City begins to gather, and Lantern is surprised to discover they’re all real, since the Guild he fought alongside with were figments of Ray’s mind. Green Lantern apologizes for destroying their world, but the people thank him for giving them back their future. They would rather work on rebuilding their ruined world than being forced to live a lie forever. The Justice League returns to the ruins of the JGA mansion, and Green Lantern uses his ring to power Tom Turbine’s inter-dimensional portal. The League goes through and leaves Seaboard City behind for good.

Back in their own universe on the Watchtower, The Flash is recounting the tale of their adventure to Batman and Superman, and Hawkgirl notes Green Lantern’s absence. She finds him sulking near a window on another deck and asks if he’s okay. He’s upset at himself for feeling so sad about the Justice Guild’s death, since he says they weren’t even real. Hawkgirl puts her hands on his shoulder and another around his arm, and tells him that they gave their lives for them, which is real enough for her.

This is another episode with a lot to enjoy. The background art is very beautiful. Seaboard City has a clean and bright look, filled with soft pastel colors that work well for the tone of the episode. The scenes in the graveyard have a very serene feel. It’s fun to watch Flash trade wits with the corny villains, matching bad pun with bad pun. He has a ball in the wacky world of the Justice Guild, reveling in the hokey madness of the place. The designs of the characters have an amusing Dick Sprang style, for example, Tom Turbine has squinty eyes, and Catman has sunset shaped eyes. The Streak’s silly design, with his football helmet and goggles, is a particular favorite of mine, which is a play on of the charmingly silly character design of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.

Hawkgirl and Green Lantern begin to bond more as they become comfortable with each others’ idiosyncrasies. Hawkgirl shows John her more tender side when he’s distraught by the ‘deaths’ of his childhood heroes.

Lolita Ritmanis’ music score has some very strong moments. It is truly sad when the Guild members heroically sacrifice themselves, and the music has a lot to do with strengthening that scene. Speaking of which, this is the first really touching episode of Justice League. Prior to this, the saddest moment was when Wonder Woman was banished from her home in “Paradise Lost,” but this pulls at the heartstrings considerably more. I think Green Lantern is supposed to be an analogue for real comic book fans, who actually do get legit upset when their favorite heroes die.

“A Knight of Shadows” is one of the few episodes dedicated to the Martian Manhunter… and even then, J’onn has to share about half the focus with guest star Etrigan the Demon. Etrigan is a very strong foil for Martian Manhunter, and a generally bitter, rude, and distrustful character. He teams up with the League when they face a common enemy in the powerful immortal sorceress Morgaine Le Faye, who seeks the Philosopher’s Stone, through which she can take over the world and grant it to her spoiled son Mordred. In the days of King Arthur, Morgaine manipulated the Demon’s alter ego, Jason Blood, into betraying Camelot. In the modern day, she uses her magic to tempt the Martian Manhunter into serving her ends by showing him visions of Mars and his family, and leading him to believe he can be with them once again.

I have a problem with many of DC’s magical characters. Their powers are often very ill-defined, and they do much of the same stuff, which is basically ANYTHING. By ill-defined, I mean that we don’t really know what they can and cannot do, other than what they say. There doesn’t seem to be many limits to their powers. They read minds, stop time, send people to other dimensions, transform people into goats, and turn inanimate objects into living soldiers, and so on. I would like them better if their powers weren’t so random and vague, and if they WEREN’T ALL LIKE THAT. Zatanna, Doctor Fate, Morgaine… they’re all the same. People sometimes harp on Superman for pulling powers out of his butt, but if anyone does, it’s the magicians of the DC Universe.

Morgaine is so randomly powerful that the League can’t get a decisive tactical victory over her in battle. She attempts to lure Martian Manhunter into giving her the philosopher’s stone, but the Martian gets a hold of his senses, fights against his greatest desire, and crushes the stone into dust. Afterward, Morgaine leaves the battle, since there is no real reason to fight the League anymore. I actually think it’s interesting that the League doesn’t best Morgaine in battle, but I’d prefer it if her power set wasn’t so broad and vague.

“A Knight of Shadows” features a beautiful score by Michael McQuistion. I’m especially fond of the theme that plays when Batman is investigating the scene of a crime in the beginning, and when J’onn is receiving the vision of Mars from Morgaine. The background art of Mars is also stunning.

Morgaine is an exciting villainess, sans the unclear powers. While Olivia D’abo does an excellent job voicing her, it’s rather redundant to hear her for this role and Star Sapphire. Though she is a bit more dramatic as Morgaine, D’abo voices both characters with a very similar tone.

The first part of the episode “Metamorphosis” has a sort of retro class that is reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. It’s a story about people and the situations they’re in more than it is about amazing super heroics and in that, it’s a nice change of pace.

After an accident at an oil drilling site, a business man named Simon Stagg is having a meeting with board members responsible for the operation. He points out that due to the unsafe working conditions, unions are demanding higher wages, and the insurance companies aren’t willing to cover their risks. Right off the bat, I appreciate how sophisticated this is. This is a great example of the show featuring real world adult problems, but without alienating children, as these corporate problems lead right into the fantastical.

Stagg presents the board with a computer simulation of a chemically altered worker he calls Metamorpho. Metamorpho will not only survive in hazardous environments, but will thrive in them, thus cutting out all the risk involved with the board members’ business ventures.

Even so, Mr. Bradick of the board isn’t having any of it. He feels Stagg is wasting their time with computer simulated fantasies and the members take their leave. Stagg is determined to convince them of the truth of Metamorpho’s power and practicality; however, he needs a volunteer to undergo the transformation so that he can have a more solid presentation.

Later on, a passenger train is zooming along, and we’re introduced to one of its travelers, a suave man named Rex Mason. He continues the air of sophistication of this episode with his stylish flirtatious demeanor and the cool lounge music that plays during his introduction.

A very large man with a briefcase boards the train. The attendant makes the man put his luggage in the back, despite his objections. While the train is traveling the briefcase hits the floor and opens. A vial falls out and cracks, expelling an acidic chemical that burns through the floor and into the hydraulics system of the train, causing serious damage. The train picks up speed and the engineers lose control of it.

Suddenly, green aura envelopes the train and The Green Lantern is seen flying over it, pouring his willpower into his ring in an effort to slow the runaway down. Green Lantern manages to stop the train, but it slams into a station.

Afterward, as Green Lantern is talking with a railroad official, Rex Mason sees him and begins talking to him like an old friend. It turns out Rex and John were in the Marine Corps together. Rex invites John to his place so they can catch up. As GL is talking to Mason, Batman swoops down and begins investigating the scene of the incident. Batman’s entrance is accompanied by a lovely flute flourish that leads into a motif from his music theme, which is a really nice touch.

Green Lantern spends some time at Rex’s place, which is a fancy penthouse apartment. Lantern notes that Rex, who works for Stagg enterprises, has done quite well for himself. Rex points out that a hero like John must make a fortune on the side, but John somewhat uncomfortably admits that it doesn’t quite work that way. Then, a beautiful blonde woman in nothing but a bath towel walks in, and Rex introduces her as Sapphire Stagg, his fiancé. Sapphire, voiced by Danica McKeller of Wonder Years fame (and also the voice of Frieda from Static Shock), openly flirts with John Stewart, and it appears that’s just how this couple works, as Rex flirted with the attendant aboard the train earlier.

Mid-conversation, Batman contacts Lantern via commlink and tells him that the train lost control because someone was transporting illegal chemicals in the baggage car. John immediately becomes suspicious of Rex, since he works for Stagg Enterprises, which is well known for being into the chemical business. Lantern confronts Rex with the issue. Mason asks John why he would do that, and Lantern brings out that Mason always said he’d do anything to get ahead. Rex Mason can tell that John Stewart is jealous of him and says so. Green Lantern gives Rex Mason a communicator to use if he decides to talk about the matter. Lantern departs, leaving his relationship with Rex Mason very tense.

By this point, most of the key players in this story have been introduced (the only remaining one being Hawkgirl, who we already know). There are really excellent character designs that further the sense of retro class. Sapphire has a striking swinging ’60s hairstyle, Java, the large goon who actually was transporting the chemicals, looks like a villain out of Dick Tracy, and Simon Stagg has an outstanding look with his wild hair, bushy eyebrows, and a Colonel Sanders suit. Along with the overall style, the fact that this story is more about people than amazing super heroics or other outlandish things helps make this episode more recalling of Batman: The Animated Series.

Rex takes what Green Lantern said to heart, and confronts his boss, Simon Stagg, about why his aid, Java, was on the runaway train. Stagg beats around the bush by saying Java was running an errand for him. Rex point blank asks if the errand was picking up a load of illegal mutagens. Simon tells Rex to forget about it, but Rex won’t let go so easily. Simon eventually threatens Mason, saying that he made Rex Mason, and he can always unmake him. Rex departs on another tense note.

Later, Simon Stagg is summoned to his daughter’s apartment for something urgent. There, he’s surprised to see Rex Mason with his daughter Sapphire. Rex announces that he’s taken a job offer in Chicago and Sapphire says she’s going with him. Simon Stagg is obviously angry and distraught by this news and he excuses himself. Back out in his limo he tells Java that he’s found his volunteer.

While Rex is cleaning out his desk at the Stagg Enterprises building, he notices a security breach and goes to look into it when security doesn’t respond to his calls. As he’s inspecting a room, the instruments within become active. He’s sealed in a tube and dowsed with chemicals, after which he passes out. It’s pretty clear he was lured into a trap.

The next scene is through Rex’s perspective as he’s waking up in a hospital room. Java –who is taking photos of Mason– and a concerned Stagg are standing over him. Sapphire arrives, and she faints at the sight of Rex. Rex gets up to look at a mirror and finds himself transformed into a multicolored monster of a man. He begins wrecking the room in fury. Java tries to stop him only to be easily knocked down. Upon taking a look at his beautiful fainted fiancé, he breaks the doors down and runs outside into oncoming traffic, causing a car wreck. Police arrive, and when they see him he’s a gelatinous form, which causes them to become worried and open fire and their bullets bounce off the target. Rex retreats from the scene.

Green Lantern arrives asking if there is anything he can do to help. He comforts Sapphire, who’s come to, and she hugs and kisses him, while Java is still on scene taking photos.

Green Lantern is caught up in a story of envy and betrayal in the episode “Metamorphosis.”

Simon Stagg returns to his office, where he finds Rex Mason waiting for him. Mason has discovered the Metamorpho project on Stagg’s computer and realizes what happened to him was no accident. He strong arms Stagg, asking who turned him into the creature he is now. Stagg shows Mason photos of Sapphire kissing and embracing Green Lantern, but Stagg is emphatic in noting that Sapphire had nothing to do with the accident. Mason leaves in a rage.

Green Lantern calls in the other Leaguers to help look for Mason. As he’s patrolling with Hawkgirl, they notice an armored car robbery and set in to stop it. Green Lantern stops the robbers, but one approaches from behind to shoot him. Before the thief can get a shot off, Hawkgirl knocks him out. She chides Lantern for his sloppy job at taking down the crooks, and understands without having to be told that something is wrong with him.

She asks him if he wants to talk about it, and Lantern reveals that seeing where his old friend is at in life has gotten himself to consider his own life and the choices he’s made. He notes that Mason is wealthy and successful, and Hawkgirl –in a somewhat teasing tone– points out that he’s also engaged to a beautiful woman, showing that she knows John envies that, too.

As the two are having their heart to heart, Rex uses the communicator that Lantern gave him to give the hero a call, saying they need to talk. Green Lantern tells Hawkgirl to stay and watch the defeated criminals until the police arrive, and he sets off to meet with Rex Mason.

They meet at a hangar and Rex Mason, now Metamorpho, battles Green Lantern. Rex’s mutation has given him incredible powers, allowing him to manipulate his body as if were plastic, and transmute into a wide array of elemental compounds. The element man launches accusations at Lantern as he presses his attack. Lantern claims not to know what Metamorpho is talking about, but Mason doesn’t want to hear it. A ways off, Simon Stagg and Java are in a van video recording the fight to show to Bradick and the others. Metamorpho knocks Lantern down and prepares to literally fry him, ending the first part of this story.

So far, “Metamorphosis” is a great personal story involving jealousy, betrayal, and love. It serves to further flesh out Green Lantern as we learn more about his past and what is currently concerning him behind the veil of the mighty cosmic superhero. We see him continue to bond with Hawkgirl, and it’s very interesting watching the two go from being nuisances of each other to compassionate confidantes. The scenes of the two are never overdone, which helps keep their progressing relationship natural and never getting in the way of the rest of the show. There are plenty of great musical themes, such as Metamorpho’s battle anthem, the jazz played during the scene in Rex’s apartment, which seamlessly turns to quavering strings when the conversation between Rex and John becomes more strained, and the surreal twinkly melody heard when Rex first wakes up as Metamorpho.

Indeed, the first half of “Metamorphosis” is one of the best Justice League episodes. Unfortunately, the second part is one of the worst.

As the tale continues, Metamorpho is about to roast Green Lantern, but Superman shows up to lend a hand. Metamorpho makes short work of the Kryptonian by turning his arms into Kryptonite. Other members of the League arrive to intervene, but Metamorpho goes toe to toe with all of them and stands his ground. Eventually, Green Lantern wears of the battle and unleashes a torrent of energy at Metamorpho, but the element man escapes by liquefying and going into an underground water stream. He finds his way to the penthouse apartment where Sapphire waits, and he materializes through the plumbing to angrily confront her about cheating on him with Green Lantern. Mason breaks yet another mirror when he gazes upon himself, and realizes he can’t blame her for wanting to be with a superhero instead of a freak. She slaps him at the very notion, and claims that she loves him and that she always will. She says whatever Rex saw in the photos Simon Stagg showed him was a lie. Rex finally realizes that this whole thing was set up by his old boss.

Stagg has delivered the video footage of Metamorpho battling the League to Mr. Bradick, and the once incredulous businessman is now very interested in purchasing Metamorpho. Stagg and Java are celebrating right when a very livid Rex Mason appears and attacks them. Mason asks Stagg why all of this was done to him. He questions if it was because he asked too many questions about Stagg’s scrupulous project, or because he took Stagg’s daughter. At that, Stagg goes into an angry frenzy and tells Metamorpho that he’ll never let him touch Sapphire.

Java grabs a subzero spray blaster and freezes Metamorpho. Stagg tells Java to dump him. Now that he’s perfected the formula, he doesn’t need Mason anymore. He was just the prototype.

Green Lantern visits Sapphire and asks if she knows where Rex went. She doesn’t, and she’s very worried. Once again, John consoles her, and says that he’ll find him and bring him back safe. Sapphire tells John that Rex always looked up to him and envied him. Green Lantern is surprised at that, because Rex is the one who had it made from his point of view. Sapphire says that Rex would trade places with him in an instant. Green Lantern is surprised, but he understands that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.

Metamorpho gets away from the industrial waste goons who were planning on dumping him and goes right back after Simon Stagg. He finds Stagg at his usual place of business and attacks the tycoon while he’s hooked up to robotic instruments as he’s working with a mutagen. Metamorpho damages the control panel of Stagg’s machines, which causes an accident. The chemicals explode out of the canister containing them, and Simon Stagg is electrocuted from the feedback, leaving him in a catatonic state. Suddenly, the green substance Stagg was working with morphs into a giant humanoid monster and crashes through the Stagg Enterprises building and sets off.

This is pretty much when “Metamorphosis” starts going downhill. Whereas once the episode was very intelligent, stylish, and intriguing, it now devolves into a lengthy slobber knocker between an uninspired King Kong-like foe without a clear motivation.

Green Lantern and Batman investigate the incident at Stagg Enterprises, where they find Metamorpho. Green Lantern is ready for another fight, but Rex apologizes for jumping to conclusions before. He mentions the new monster and is anxious to stop it. The giant chemical creature is attacking the city. Hawkgirl, Superman, and Martian Manhunter try to stop it to little avail. They radio to Batman and Green Lantern, and confirm Metamorpho’s story about there being another threat. Green Lantern and Metamorpho go to join up with the others, while Batman works on a formula to counteract the chemical colossus.

Martian Manhunter says that he can detect an incomplete and irrational mind within the creature, which is driven only by base desire. Metamorpho puts together that the feedback from the accident may have transmitted part of Stagg’s mind into the creature, and then reasons the thing must be after Sapphire. His deduction is correct, as the seemingly unstoppable monster grabs Sapphire right out of the penthouse apartment and begins scaling a large skyscraper.

The Justice League still can’t stop the monster, but Batman radios in and explains that the beast is made up of artificial protein, and he’s developed a polypeptide to neutralize it. The problem is it will take days to synthesize. Metamorpho’s abilities allow him to whip up a batch instantly, but Lantern objects, saying that if he combines the polypeptide with the Stagg monster, the mixture could destroy them both. Rex Mason realizes this, and hits John Stewart with sleeping gas to stop him from further objecting. Batman tells him what chemicals to combine, and Mason dives into the monster, and the combination destroys it in a big burst. Simon Stagg cries out from his hospital sickbed when the monster dies.

A resuscitated Green Lantern catches the falling Sapphire, and with the sacrifice of her fiancé, he continues to console her. As Lantern stands with Sapphire, with the rest of the League a short distance away, some of the residue that was left after the explosion begins to reform, and it reveals itself as Metamorpho. Sapphire is over joyed that Rex is still alive, and it’s made clear that despite his freakish appearance, the beautiful Sapphire still loves him. As Green Lantern and Hawkgirl watch their happy embrace, Hawkgirl quietly asks Lantern if he still dreams of the road not taken. Green Lantern vaguely and gently answers, “What do you think?”

“Metamorphosis” is a very mixed bag. The first part introduces captivating characters and features a great personal story, heightened by incredibly solid presentation in music, voice acting, and character designs. The second half clumsily delves into the usual Justice League pseudoscience, but puts little effort into it, hastily coming up with a new, generic big threat for the League to hit, which has no motivations except to brainlessly wreck the city with Sapphire in its possession. By Justice League standards, it’s not the greatest episode, which is a shame, because “Metamorphosis” showed potential to be one of the best. Still, it has plenty of merit and is an entertaining romp that continues to develop Green Lantern’s character, and slowly progress his mushrooming connection with Hawkgirl.

The last story of the first season is “The Savage Time.” Justice League has dealt with alternate realities in “Legends,” and this three part epic tackles something just as complex; time travel! What else is of interest is it’s the first legitimate war story of the series. Like “Legends,” “The Savage Time” is a big tribute to the Golden Age of comic books, in which superheroes frequently battled Axis forces during World War II. “The Savage Time” sees the League journey through time to the Battle of Normandy, where they team up with classic comic book figures like Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, the Blackhawks, and Wonder Woman’s old time love interest, Steve Trevor.

Even today, over ten years later, “The Savage Time” puts the great majority of direct to video movies DC Entertainment has put out to shame. It features intelligent, likable characters (unlike, say… Justice League: War), a well-executed grand story with suspense, stunning battle scenes, romance, and a great character arc for Green Lantern, who must prove to others –and most importantly, himself– that he’s more than just the power ring on his finger.

Though “The Savage Time” has great moments for all the Leaguers, the true stars of this three part epic are Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, two characters the first season has wonderfully explored. It’s truly surprising how much attention the show gives the once obscure ring slinger. In a single season, the producers took him from being a comic book footnote to a well-recognized major superhero.

The adventure begins with the Justice League returning from a mission in space. The Green Lantern is towing a damaged Javelin back to the Watchtower. He mentions that hauling the vessel halfway across the galaxy has seriously drained his ring, and he’ll be due for a recharge once they get aboard the station. Suddenly, a huge pulse courses through space and the League finds the Watchtower missing, along with Batman, who was on board.

They land in Metropolis to find an altered landscape. Posters of an unfamiliar man are everywhere, and Flash tears one down to examine it. Suddenly, civil defense agents ask to see Flash’s identity papers, and when he doesn’t supply them (because he doesn’t have any), the agents attempt to place the Speedster under arrest. Hawkgirl sticks up for Flash, but when the officers try to push her out the way, things get out of control. The short tempered Hawkgirl throws the officer, which leads to a battle. The officers quickly get back up and the Justice League escapes underground with the help of an individual who seems to be Batman.

He takes them aboard a subway and through secret tunnels that lead to a hidden base, where he has a whole resistance movement set up. He acts as though he’s never seen the Leaguers, and after a precarious introduction, takes them to his computer to explain the state of the world they’re in. In this reality, the Nazis won World War II, and the oppressive regime of a dictator named Vandal Savage is what Batman is fighting against. When he was eight, storm troopers killed his parents for speaking out against the regime, and he’s dedicated himself to fighting Savage’s establishment since. The origin of this Batman is the perfect amounts of familiar and unfamiliar for this new setting.

The Justice League asks him about the weird pulse, and Batman says his team felt it, too. They isolate its point of origin to a laboratory, and Batman assists the League in invading it. There, they find a time machine. Batman deduces that someone must have gone into the past to change the present. The tunnel that is open can only hold for forty-eight hours, but the Justice League decides they must go back and set things right. Batman agrees, even though their success may very well mean that version of him will cease to exist. He says nothing will make him happier.

When the Justice League comes out the other side, they find themselves right in the middle of the famous Battle of Normandy. The Allies are taking a pounding due to the Axis forces using giant War Wheels; technology that certainly wasn’t present in the 1940s. The Justice League springs into battle against the German forces and momentarily pushes them back. One of the enemy War Wheels is left behind and they discover that it’s making use of transistors, which weren’t invented until after the war.

Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman decide to go to Berlin to see if they can discover anything about the advanced technology, while the rest of the League stays on the front to help with the battle.

A delightfully shuddering and ominous theme introduces viewers to the main antagonist of this adventure. Vandal Savage is attending a war council in which he unveils advanced technology and even abuses one of his subordinates –General Hoffman– with it. Suddenly, there is an explosion somewhere in the facility, and we see famed Wonder Woman character, Steve Trevor, making an escape from the grounds. Though incredibly daring, he runs into trouble with the defense force there. He is rescued by Wonder Woman, who he is immediately enamored with. He also meets Martian Manhunter, who spooks him. Trevor explains that he’s a spy and knows of a forthcoming Axis attack on Britain, but he doesn’t know where or when it will happen. He sheds some light on this Vandal Savage character, who is a genius weapons maker. Such a visionary is he that the high command made him the new Führer of the Reich.

Martian Manhunter decides to investigate a high security laboratory of Savage’s while Wonder Woman accompanies Trevor on his vital mission.

Meanwhile, the battle in France rages, and the Americans are being pushed back to the beach in the wake of strong future tech enhanced German defense. The League is doing what they can to save troops. Green Lantern’s ring gives out while War Wheels plow through Allied forces. Hawkgirl tries to save him, but Lantern hands her a wounded soldier to carry away instead. He assures her that he’ll be okay, and tells her to go. Hawkgirl is obviously distraught, but she leaves him. Green Lantern is left to deal with the onslaught of the German attack without the aid of his ring or fellow heroes…

John Stewart gets to do some old fashioned soldiering when he meets up with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.

The Allies retreat and The Flash criticizes Hawkgirl for leaving Lantern behind. She takes The Flash’s words harshly, but rather than get sad, she becomes angry and explains why she left him behind enemy lines with nothing but his Marine Corps training.

Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor relax at a blown out chateau where they’re supposed to meet with a code breaker named Ernst. Trevor escaped Berlin with a coded communicator that will allow the Allies to listen in on the German high command and thus figure out when and where the invasion will take place. While they’re waiting, Steve Trevor takes the opportunity to flirt with Wonder Woman, and she displays a curiosity in him. Wonder Woman has never romantically been involved with a man before, so all of this is kind of new to her.

Elsewhere, the Luftwaffe launches an attack on the retreating Allies and Superman and Hawkgirl engage them in a great air battle, which showcases beautiful animation. The Blackhawk squadron comes to help, and their triumphant theme is certainly worth noting. Lolita Ritmanis scored the theme, and it plays right along with the lyrics of the true Blackhawks theme from the comics:

“Hawkaaa! We are the Blackhawks!
Hawkaaa! We’re on the wing!
Over land and over sea,
We will fight to make men free
And to ev’ry nation liberty we’ll bring!

Hawkaaa! Follow the Blackhawks!
Hawkaaa! Shatter your chains!
Seven fearless men are we,
Give us death or liberty,
We are the Blackhawks,
Remember our name….”

Wonder Woman is amazed at how Steve Trevor risks his life so daringly, seeing as he has no special powers. The suave Steve merely says some things are worth dying for. Just as they are about to share caviar and wine, the Germans find them and attack. Trevor surmises that Ernst must have been captured and gave up their meeting place to the enemy.

While wandering behind enemy lines, Green Lantern meets up with Easy Company, led by Sgt. Rock. The soldiers decide John Stewart isn’t a German by looking at him. John lets them know that he’s spent time in the U.S. Marine Corps and is willing to do whatever he can to help. Rock takes him up on it, and lets him in on their plans. A soldier named Bulldozer has a problem with John, however, and gives him a hard time at every turn. It’s not blatantly said that he dislikes John because he’s Black, but given the date in which they’re in, and Dozer’s immediate dislike for John, it’s what is implied. I congratulate the producers for once again not skirting around the issue of racism in a bygone era, but not beating on it so hard that it becomes uncomfortable. Easy Company’s job is to take out an air field. We get to see John Stewart doing some real soldiering, and it’s cool to see the action from such a down to earth perspective in this episode.

After repelling the German air attack, the Blackhawks introduce themselves and take Superman, Hawkgirl, and The Flash back to Blackhawk Island. It turns out they’re ace pilots from Axis occupied countries. They show the heroes a factory complex that they spotted on a map. They’ll need the heroes to take out anti-aircraft batteries before they can make their bombing run and destroy the factory.

In Vandal Savage’s heavily guarded laboratory, Martian Manhunter finds a laptop computer and comes face to face with the dictator himself. Savage explains that he’s not from the future, as the Martian suspected he was, but his future self found a way to open a door to the past, through which he sent his past self technology to help him take over the world during World War II.

Martian Manhunter manages to destroy the laptop and escape, which causes Savage to move up his plans for the invasion. However, he can’t because the coded communicator, which is what Steve Trevor took, is missing. It’s great how well the different Leaguers’ missions intertwine with each other, sometimes even in subtle or unexpected ways.

On the battlefield, Green Lantern’s confidence wavers when he misses a sniper in the trees and Wild Man of Easy Company almost gets killed because of it. Green Lantern is left wondering if he really is anything without his ring. The Easy Company member Bulldozer certainly doesn’t help, as he continues to chide John. John’s uncertainties are kind of a running theme with the character, and they’re played on well here.

As season one comes to a close, it becomes very apparent that Green Lantern and Hawkgirl have romantic feelings for one another.

Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor interrogate one of the German soldiers who attacked them after defeating his unit. They learn where Ernst is being held and go to the prison compound to rescue him. Though it’s true Ernst is there, the whole thing is a setup, as War Wheels were ready for them and level the facility with their cannons in an attempt to kill Ernst, Trevor, and Wonder Woman, as well as destroy the coded communicator.

Wonder Woman manages to protect Ernst and Trevor from the blast of the cannons and breaks off the top of the communicator to make the Axis think the communicator is destroyed when they examine the ruins. With the belief that the coded communicator is gone, Savage begins the invasion.

Meanwhile, Superman, Hawkgirl, and the Flash take out the anti-aircraft batteries protecting the factory, which allows the Blackhawks a clear path to bomb the facility. Flash makes sure all the civilians workers are out the building before the bombing takes place. The League discovers that the factory workers were building jet engines; more technology that is too advanced for the period they are in.

Martian Manhunter rendezvous with them and explains how Savage has gotten his hands on the advanced tech.

Elsewhere, Ernst breaks the code on the communicator and listens in on the high command. He learns that the invasion has already started, and that Britain isn’t even the target. The Axis is preparing to invade America.

Green Lantern and Easy Company find not only the air strip they’re looking for, but also Vandal Savage, who is personally leading the invasion. At the strip, the Axis forces are boarding their new giant jets to fly them to America.

Easy Company attacks, and a midst the confusion, John Stewart manages to jump aboard Vandal Savage’s vessel as it’s taking off. Savage is desperate to begin the invasion, so he doesn’t wait for anything.

Hawkgirl, Superman, and Martian Manhunter battle Savage’s force in the air, and Wonder Woman joins up to help, too. Green Lantern becomes somewhat of a gremlin aboard Savage’s ship, working as a secret saboteur, damaging the vessel’s mechanics and decelerating it, thus slowing the entire fleet of airships, since they’re following Savage’s lead. Lantern is eventually caught and brought directly before Savage.

When Green Lantern refuses to tell Vandal Savage if there are any more saboteurs aboard, the dictator takes out some of his technology –a glove that shoots out powerful electric bolts– and blasts Green Lantern, Emperor Palpatine style.

When Savage diverts his attention to the air battle outside, Green Lantern takes his chance and bests Savages guards, taking one of their guns. He uses the weapon to cause even more damage to the ship, but he’s left to battle Vandal Savage, who he takes on in hand to hand combat. It’s cool that Green Lantern is the one to have the epic showdown with the villain as the plain is about to crash into the watery deep. However, before Green Lantern dies at sea, Hawkgirl appears to save him. She had feared he had died when she left him behind enemy lines, but Martian Manhunter could telepathically feel him on Savage’s flagship, so she rushed to his rescue.

There is a romantic moment between the two as they’re flying hand in hand. When Green Lantern asks where she’s been, Hawkgirl jokes about having to wash her hair, and the two squeeze each other’s hand affectionately. It’s a huge moment of pay off and the first overt signal that there are, in fact, romantic feelings between the two Leaguers.

The Flash alerted the U.S. Navy about the impending invasion and they dispatched carriers and battleships to greet Savage’s air force with their anti-aircraft batteries. Savage’s force gets obliterated and they retreat back to Europe, pursued by the Blackhawks. Savage goes down with his ship.

With Savage gone, General Hoffman declares that the Germans must fight on. He goes to revive Hitler from the cryogenic sleep Savage placed him in.

The League goes back through the time portal, relieved to find the present exactly how they left it. The episode closes with Wonder Woman visiting a convalescent home to see an elderly Steve Trevor, who remembers her.

The first season of Justice League wraps up with a huge, action packed story that is big on tributes and geeky knowledge of comics. The romance subplot between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, which continues to advance, is extremely daring on multiple levels. Firstly, it’s not traditional, from a comic book status quo perspective. Prior to Justice League, all Hawkgirl had going for her was being Hawkman’s love interest for years and years, and through multiple incarnations. Secondly, it’s not normal for a children’s cartoon to feature such a well-developed romance, which leads to the biggest factor. Not only is this a well-developed romance, it’s a well-developed interracial romance between a White woman and a Black man. It’s a symbol of how bold and mature the show is and the relationship functions as the real emotional core of the team.

If Justice League would have stopped after the first season, it still would be one of the greatest action cartoons, but the second season propels it into surprisingly amazing territory, securing it as one of the best cartoons of all time. What is the most impressive aspect among the many is the incredible dynamic between all the League members. In season two, the great Dwayne McDuffie joins the regular production team. Let’s found out how his influence is strongly felt, and how the second season propels Justice League to unprecedented heights…
Continue to Part 4: Season 2-Bigger, Better, More Daring