Justice League: The Animated Series – Part 5: More Than Just a Kids’ Show
on April 4, 2015
One of the show’s primary highlights is the episode “A Better World,” which features another parallel dimension. This time, the Justice League faces a twisted version of itself. The comics have done things like this, but never nearly as good. The Justice Lords are a play on the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, but what makes the Justice Lords so much more captivating is they’re not from a ridiculous reality where mostly everyone is evil.
The Crime Syndicate is certainly a charming Silver Age concept, but it’s very dated. The Justice Lords are a much more contemporary take on that concept, and they’re all around more compelling villains. It’s a shame that they’ve never been incorporated into the mainstream DC Universe. The comics often prefer to hang on to their corny roots instead of shifting when another medium shows them a better way. I understand tradition, but when something is better, I’m all for changing gears.
Remarkably, this episode somewhat serves as the basis of an entire season of Justice League Unlimited, so it is a milestone not only in terms of quality, but also in the narrative.
Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are battling soldiers in a rather ornate building. A crazed Lex Luthor is in an office gathering papers, and Superman breaks down the door and confronts him. They have an exchange of words and Lex threatens to press a red button. Superman tells his arch enemy that there are at least six ways he can stop him, but the megalomaniac retorts that all those ways involve deadly force and Superman doesn’t do that. After that, he tells Superman that he’s his most reliable accomplice. Superman could have stopped him anytime, but the Man of Steel kept the battle and chase going on to feed his own ego. Superman is startled to hear this, but doesn’t outright deny it. He loves being a hero, and to be a hero, he needs a villain. Lex goes on, inviting Superman to stop him this time, lock him up, and fix the situation, but Lex knows that he’ll beat it, as he always does, and they’ll start the cycle all over again. Superman admits he loves being a hero, but if this is where it leads, he’s done with it. Clancy Brown’s performance as Lex during this scene is so convincing and powerful. It is really difficult to imagine the character being better cast.
Batman and Wonder Woman join up with Superman in the office, and to their surprise, they find that Superman used his heat vision to incinerate Lex Luthor. Wonder Woman asks how he’s doing, and Superman turns to her with a confident grin and says he’s great. As the camera zooms out, we find out that all this happened in the White House, and Lex was President of the United States.
Two years after the event, Superman and crew have created a staff of non-powered people to assist in monitoring the Earth from the Watchtower. Martian Manhunter commands them as they keep a constant and tight vigil over the entire world. Elsewhere in the satellite, Superman has a video discussion with the new President, who is asking permission for an election, but Superman declines, saying that the people just aren’t ready for it. And that’s that.
We catch up with Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. It’s a familiar sight, Lantern is sad and Hawkgirl comforts him. For Lantern’s entire no-nonsense and gruff exterior, he’s really just a big softy. Green Lantern misses his close friend, The Flash, who died in some incident. While they are bonding, a disturbance arises. A protest at Smallville University gets the attention of the hands on deck. Green Lantern and Hawkgirl decide to head down to snuff it out, and Martian Manhunter asks them to try to pull Batman out of his cave while they’re planet side.
The alternate versions of Green Lantern and Hawkgirl seem to have gotten further in their relationship than the ones we’re familiar with.
During the flight to Smallville, Lantern and Hawkgirl talk to Batman over the commlink. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want to accompany them to Smallville, brushing them off with the excuse that he’s got too much to do. At Smallville University, the protest continues. The people are in uproar over Superman cancelling the elections. They protest despite the police giving them a hard time. However, once Green Lantern and Hawkgirl are seen, they run in fear.
Atop a roof, looking down at the cowering populace, Hawkgirl asks GL if she remembers when everyone liked them. She is worried about all the fear they see on peoples’ faces. Lantern says that when he was younger, he was afraid the whole world would blow up, but now they’ve found a better way and the world is safe at last. Another innuendo is slipped in when Hawkgirl asks Green Lantern if he sleeps better, to which Lantern responds with a grin, “You know I do.”
The Green Lantern and Hawkgirl romance is moving ahead at full steam. It’s gotten to the point where something between them happens just about every episode now, and it can’t be ignored or denied. This is perfect pacing. At this stage we’re wondering what this will lead to. The showrunners are clearly building up to something huge. When will they finally bust the whole thing wide open and how will it happen? It turns out that Green Lantern and Hawkgirl’s romance is the overarching bridge of this entire series, and culminates in the series finale. That’s incredible!
Speaking of romance, Superman is having a dinner date with Lois in her apartment, and the couple gets into a confrontation about the state of the world that Superman has created. Lois complains that the world is on lockdown and free speech is dead. Superman says she can’t see the bigger picture. In the middle of the argument, Batman calls Superman on his commlink. He urgently needs to see Superman and the others. In the Batcave, Batman shows them a scene on his computer of the Justice League battling Luthor. He explains that they’re viewing another dimension, live. He brings out that their mirror images don’t call themselves the Justice Lords, they’re the Justice League.
Lord Batman has constructed a device that generates a portal that leads to that other dimension. It seems to work like the machine Tom Turbine built in the “Legends” episode. The Lords are contemplating using it to bring the parallel world under their submission to save it from the sad state it’s in.
The scene then cuts to the Justice League battling Lex Luthor in his power suit, who is putting up a really good fight. Just as he’s finishing constructing some ray gun and is about to blast it, The Flash speeds in and knocks him down. Wonder Woman lassos him and Lex is defeated again, instantly claiming that he’ll be out of prison in a matter of days.
Suddenly, the portal opens and Lord Martian Manhunter appears with a false story about how their dimensions are collapsing on each other, and he went to theirs to find help in fixing the problem. Batman doesn’t trust him and voices his concerns to Martian Manhunter, but it turns out that Martians can’t read fellow Martians’ minds. The other Leaguer’s readily agree to offer assistance, and Batman joins them, despite his misgivings. The League steps through the portal leading to the other dimension, and are brought into a strange white room. Lord Manhunter fazes through the wall, offering a short apology, and then powerful bolts of electricity blast the League members. Hawkgirl absorbs some of it through her mace and begins breaks through the wall, but Lord Lantern gives her a heavy blast from his ring that puts her down hard.
Back in the Justice League’s dimension, the immensely powerful villain Doomsday falls from a meteor and begins attacking the city, and the Justice Lords show up to battle the beast. The fight is very heavy, causing tons of collateral damage, and eventually it just comes down to Superman and Doomsday. They both give each other their toughest hits, but it doesn’t look like the Man of Steel can measure up to Doomsday’s strength. During the battle, we get a scene at Stryker’s Island prison where Lex has been bribing guards to help him escape.
When Doomsday picks Lord Superman up to finish him off, Lord Superman uses heat vision to blast Doomsday on the forehead, which eventually lobotomizes him and ends the threat. Lois, who is on the scene covering the developing story, is very surprised by this, claiming that it’s so out of character, but some in the crowd agree with the change. Lex, watching from the prison television, can tell that who he is seeing on the T.V. is not really the Justice League.
Superman –even though he isn’t really Superman– has another strong action showing with his battle with Doomsday. Doomsday, a major character in one of the most famous stories in all of comics, just inexplicably shows up. There is a great dull, ominous tolling bell theme when he arrives. The music composers of this show continually capture moods so well, sometimes using only simple sounds or only a few notes, like the two note motif that would play whenever Amazo got someone’s powers in “Tabula Rasa.” Also of note is the solemn theme that plays when Superman lobotomizes Doomsday. Though it is ultimately a victory for the “heroes,” the actions taken by Superman represent somewhat of a fall for the hero.
The fight with Doomsday is incredibly well staged. Some may believe that Bruce Timm and his crew weren’t taking advantage of the Doomsday character and the “Death of Superman” storyline by not having Doomsday kill Superman, and ultimately wind up defeated within the span of minutes in a story where he’s not even the focus. But, really, the “Death of Superman” storyline is primarily one very long battle between Superman and Doomsday across the United States, and while it is good, it doesn’t seem like the type of story the writers and producers want to tell, and “A Better World” is, in the end, much better.
The villain Doomsday makes a surprise appearance for an incredible battle with the Justice Lords.
Timm and company do a take on the concept of the “Death of Superman” in the later episode “Hereafter,” and Doomsday does return in the Justice League sequel, Justice League Unlimited, so it’s not like they totally threw everything out the window. Besides, the way the show mixes things up and plays with peoples’ expectations is exciting, and it usually winds up doing things better than the comics anyway.
In an island prison in the Lords’ universe, Lord Batman has all the Justice League members in captivity. He interacts with the Flash while he’s checking their vital signs. The Flash yells at Lord Batman, expressing his anger at being betrayed and at Hawkgirl’s injury from Lord Green Lantern. Lord Batman says Hawkgirl’s injury was an accident and she’s in their best hospital. He reveals that they don’t want to lose another member. When the Justice Lord leaves, Batman, who is a cell away from Flash brings out that this whole scenario –with the Lords taking over– must have been set off by the Lords losing their Flash. When The Flash asks Batman for a plan, the Dark Knight has none. He says that his mirror image can anticipate everything he will do.
Meanwhile, across the dimensional barrier, the Justice Lords are beefing up the League’s Watchtower, equipping it with additional armor and cannons, including a big one that’s pointing down at the Earth. That is one of the factors that will play a part in Justice League Unlimited.
Back in the Lords’ dimension, Lord Batman sees on a monitor that the Flash’s vitals have flat lined, and he quickly goes to check up on the Scarlet Speedster. As Lord Batman is releasing Flash from his constraints, The Flash quickly knocks him out, and breaks Batman and the others out of their restraints. The Flash explains that he sped up his heartbeat to make it look like it flat lined. Superman is ready to attack the Lords, but they have Hawkgirl imprisoned in a hospital somewhere. Batman tells them to go get her while he looks for the portal that leads back to their dimension. He says he has to do this alone, likely having an idea where it is and what will be awaiting him.
Green Lantern figures out that Hawkgirl is held up at Arkham Asylum. The League goes in and pretends to be the Justice Lords. Inside, they find that the Joker is serving as a receptionist. The marks on his forehead clearly reveal he’s been lobotomized, as have all of Batman’s rogues. The Joker figures out that the League is impersonating the Lords and triggers an alarm that brings out robot Supermen that act as a defense force.
The League battles the Superman bots while The Flash waits outside, seeing as he’s supposed to be dead. There, he has a conversation with a peaceful Poison Ivy. It’s really nice to hear Diane Pershing reprising her role as the femme fatale from Batman: The Animated Series. The continuity and attention to detail in the DC Animated Universe shows is remarkable.
In the alternate Batcave, Batman finds the portal, but also Lord Batman, who ambushes him from the shadows. The two battle and argue over the ethics of what the Lords have done. Lord Batman believes that if you want to change the system instead of patching it, it requires stepping into the sunlight, like the Lords did. The war of ideals makes for a very strong scene, and it’s almost as if Batman is having an internal argument with himself. Eventually, Lord Batman convinces Batman that what the Lords do is right by telling him they’ve created a world where an eight year old boy will never lose his parents because of some punk with a gun. It’s not exactly clear whether real Batman really gives in or not, or but the remark jolts him and he seemingly surrenders.
The two Batmen join forces to stop the League’s attack on Arkham. While driving there, they see a scene at a restaurant where a man loudly complains about the price of the food. Apparently, the check was added up wrong. Nonetheless, he’s causing a disturbance and the police swiftly come to arrest him. Batman says that their parents would be proud of Lord Batman for the dystopia he’s created. That strikes a nerve with Batman’s alternate.
Green Lantern goes in to retrieve Hawkgirl while the other Leaguers continue battling the robotic Supermen. He sees her lying unconscious in a medical bed, obviously hurt from the powerful force blast his other self administered. He’s obviously very upset at the sight, and disgusted that some version of himself did that. He gently brushes her cheek as she lies unconscious. He picks her up, tenderly cradling her, which is at odds with the look of anger and determination set on his face. As Lantern takes Hawkgirl away, the Green Lantern and Hawkgirl love theme plays. That musical cue made its debut in “The Savage Time,” and it artfully repeats throughout the remainder of the series during moments with the pair.
With Hawkgirl retrieved the League attempts to leave Arkham, but they’re greeted by a squad of troops waiting outside. Lord Batman shows up and tells the soldiers to lower their weapons and let the League go. Superman says that he was fooled; even he thought the individual standing before him was Lord Batman. To that, Lord Batman gravely states, “I am him.”
Back in the alternate Batcave, a beautiful synth theme plays when Batman lets on that the Lords’ version of The Flash is dead, and that contributed to the current state of things. The Flash says that he’s the conscience of their group, and Lord Batman says it wasn’t that simple. Green Lantern makes a funny joke to take the wind out of Flash’s sales a bit when he says “C’mon, Jiminy.” The relationship between those two is always fun.
The League makes it back to their dimension with Lord Batman’s cooperation. Batman deduces that they can’t beat the Justice Lords, because the Lords are as good as they are, but they have an edge because they’re willing to kill. They have to cross some kind of line to win.
Back in the Watchtower, the Lords get a notice about Luthor escaping again, this time with a hostage. They go after him, but when they arrive on the scene, they find out that Lex is really Martian Manhunter in disguise and the whole thing is a trap. The situation mirrors the trap the Lords set up for the League, with the electric charged room and everything. The same music theme as before plays, too. The difference comes in when Green Lantern has trouble shooting at Lord Hawkgirl. Batman yells at him to fire, and Lantern eventually brings himself to blast the counterpart of the woman he deeply cares about.
The Lords engage the League in a climactic battle. The Lanterns have a cool sword fight, and the Wonder Women have a very hard hitting melee. The Flash gets a nice moment when he pulls some fancy moves on Lord Superman. Lord Wonder Woman is about to kill Batman, but the Dark Knight is narrowly saved by Wonder Woman. Likewise, Lord Superman finally gets his hands on The Flash and is about to kill him with one super-punch. The Flash tries to convince Lord Superman that he can’t do it, but Superman is totally gone, and unlike with Batman, it doesn’t seem like anyone will come to his rescue. That is, until the real Superman shows up with Lex Luthor.
Lex has that device he had earlier in the story; the ray gun he planned on using against the League. He uses it to shoot Lord Superman and the other Justice Lords. It turns out it’s a power disruptor. The Lords find themselves powerless and at the League’s mercy, all thanks to Lex Luthor. The League binds up the powerless Justice Lords and Lex hands the disruptor to Superman, claiming that “A deal’s a deal.” Superman explains that Lex gets a full pardon in exchange for his help in defeating the Lords. He admits it’s a high price, but it’s better than the alternative. that is the line the League crossed to defeat the Lords. After all is said and done, Superman has a word with The Flash. He knew that Flash wouldn’t be able to change Lord Superman’s mind, because he’s felt the same temptations his counterpart has, and he admits they’re pretty strong.
The story closes up with a press conference with the newly pardoned Lex Luthor. The reporters ask him if he plans on running Lexcorp again. Lex says that the business world isn’t as challenging as it used to be, and there’s no poetry in it. He has given thought to politics, however. That leaves the show on a resolved but uneasy note, because we saw what Luthor becoming president resulted to in the alternate universe. This is another thread that will be picked up in Unlimited.
Of all the “Evil Superman” stories, this is the best. With this whole episode, you can see the creative team turning things up to twelve. They’re doing everything bigger, better, and with way more impact. The action is superb. Lord Superman’s battle with Doomsday is one of the best fights of the series. The creators do not shy away from intimate moments with Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. It’s already something to have this much romance in a kids action show, but the interracial aspect of it propels it way over the top.
Every character shines here! Batman has his moments, The Flash his, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl get theirs, and so on. There is also a lot of fun banter between the characters. A particular moment I like is when Superman is irate at having been deceived and imprisoned by the Justice Lords, and Batman voices his concerns about not being able to beat them. In an annoyed tone, Superman tells Batman, “You’re the smart one, you figure it out.”
The music by Michael Mcquistion is notable. A beautiful synth theme that plays when Batman lets on that the Lord Flash is dead. A sad an ominous theme when a civilian is taken away for questioning how the bill was added up at a restaurant. The gallant anthem that compliments Lex’s heroic moment of defeating the Justice Lords.
“A Better World” is gold all around and is another great example of how a single, regular episode of Justice League is superior to the direct to video animated films that have been released since Justice League Unlimited finished up.
“Eclipsed” is a very funny episode with great characters, voice acting, and a somewhat silly plot that still entertainingly keeps the stakes high. The Flash has decided to take advantage of his star power by doing commercials, which has attracted the derision of talk show host Glorious Gordon Godfrey.
Readers of DC Comics may know this character as a servant of Darkseid who sways the populace of Earth to turn against superheroes. On Justice League, the creative team dumps some of that and just makes him a regular opportunistic television personality who exploits The Flash’s recent endorsement deals for his own ends. Some may feel this is dumbing down the character and missing an opportunity, but I like this approach better. It keeps the Justice League grounded with elements of a believable reality, which is important for this show, since it always involves wacky pseudoscience, out of this world villains, larger than life threats, and so on. Also, we rarely see the characters out of uniform or in their personal lives. It’s nice to see good entertaining subplots that aren’t tied to alien menaces or magical threats; just relatable, real life stuff. Even if this is a situation most of us have not found ourselves in, unscrupulous and cutthroat show business people are concepts most are familiar with, and it adds some nice levity while not being completely removed from the main plot.
The combined efforts of The Flash and Green Lantern save the world. The Flash gets some great scenes eluding the Justice League, and this episode focused on him is filled with fun and gags, but never in a way that takes away from the show or feels forced or out of place.
“Eclipsed” is a more lighthearted episode. The showrunners always seem to know when a change of pace is due. Speaking of changes in pace, there is nothing alluding to the Green Lantern and Hawkgirl romance in this episode, which is actually good, because they’ve been laying it on pretty thick lately. The producers know just when to push and when to lay off.
The episode begins with a platoon hunting a warlord dictator in what appears to be the Middle East. They see a man jumping around in the hills who heads into a cave. After pursuing the figure into the cave, one of the soldiers finds a large purple jewel. When he reaches for it, an old man dressed like Simon Belmont from the Castlevania games attacks. He says he’s trying to preserve the world. Regardless, the defending soldiers knock him out. The soldier goes back for the jewel, and when he touches it, something strange happens to him. He sings a strange song while appearing to be in a trance. Afterward, he turns on his fellow soldiers and caves them in with a grenade.
The scene cuts to one of Flash’s commercials, and Glorious Gordon Godfrey is publicly denouncing the Justice League for cashing in on their image. Green Lantern and Flash are in a diner watching the talk show on television. Lantern criticizes Flash for opening the League up to that kind of criticism, and asks what The Flash needs all that money for anyway. The Flash shows him a van he bought with a snazzy paint job decked out in his colors. He calls it “The Flash Mobile.” Lantern wonders for a second why Flash of all people would need a van, and when he sees the small lounge within it, it becomes clear that it’s to serve as a place to be intimate with women. Flash has a TV installed in the van and they turn Glorious back on. The Flash is tired of hearing him bash the League and quickly zooms to the studio to have a word with the host.
More wacky antics between The Flash and Green Lantern ensue as they save the world in the episode “Eclipsed.”
While on live TV, Glorious makes a fool of The Flash, claiming that since he’s a superhero, he goes where he wants when he wants and doesn’t have to wait for an invitation like everyone else. The Flash doesn’t have much of an answer for what Glorious has to say, and even makes Green Lantern look bad by quoting him out of context.
After the show when the cameras are off, Glorious tells Flash it’s just showbiz and nothing personal. Meanwhile, we catch up with that strange man who was trying to guard the purple jewel. It turns out his name is Mophir, and he says the end of the world is nigh. The possessed soldier has been picked up by another soldier in a jeep, and he asks about the deadliest weapon available, to which the other soldier tells him about nuclear warfare.
Glorious is still going on, and brings out a book that is clearly based on Seduction of the Innocent, which lambasted comics and contributed to their sterilization by ushering in the Comic Code in the 1950s, which destroyed entire genres. The Flash and Green Lantern are watching all of this on the Watchtower with Wonder Woman. Glorious accuses the Amazon Princess of having no modesty, pointing out the skimpiness of her costume. In a rage, Wonder Woman punches the screen, yelling that she won’t tolerate being denigrated like that. Green Lantern calms her down, pointing out that Glorious has a right to his opinion, no matter how boneheaded it is. She asks what’s wrong with the way she dresses, and Lantern and Flash haven’t much to say to that.
At a missile testing sight, Major General McCormmick is demonstrating a new device to other officials that will eliminate nuclear warheads upon detonation instead of shooting them down. As the demonstration is about to go under way, the possessed soldier uses the jeep to head straight for the nuclear missiles. The test is aborted due to the security breach, and the other soldiers at the base eventually catch the trespasser.
The Flash is in the middle of filming a commercial about gastric internal distress medicine. He has a problem with the writing and complains to the director, who in turn to tells Flash’s agent, Artie Bauman, to deal with him. The agent convinces Flash to continue, but the director continues to offend the Scarlet Speedster. The Flash zooms out of the studio after causing a scene, and the gust of wind produced by his surging speed knocks the director out of his seat and the whole set falls on top of him. The director says he plans on suing the agent. Artie can’t afford another lawsuit, and he gets an idea. He makes a call to Godfrey studios.
Back at the base, the possessed soldier is being interrogated. He now appears normal and says he has absolutely no idea what is going on. General McCormick now has the purple jewel, and he’s looking over the plans of the AFD. In the officers’ lounge, the General sees Glorious on TV, who has footage of The Flash zooming out of the former commercial studio set. His attention is piqued when he hears Glorious say that the Justice League has enough power to destroy the world if they wanted to.
The Flash goes to his agent’s office, accompanied by Green Lantern and Wonder Woman to find out how Glorious got a hold of footage of him causing a scene in the commercial studio. Wonder Woman roughs up the agent a bit when he offers to get her on the cover of the swimsuit addition of Sports Illustrated. Their meeting comes to an end when the power plant comes under attack, and the League leaves to help. As they arrive on the scene they see missiles flying around. General McCormick is now in a silly costume, and has taken control of an arsenal of weaponry. He’s torched the sewers with explosives. Green Lantern leads the trio; he and Flash put out the fire caused by the sewer explosions, while he tells Wonder Woman to deal with the weirdo general.
Bruce McGill delivers some great voice acting as General McCormick when he trades off dialogue with Wonder Woman. He sounds crazed, believing that she’s after his precious diamond. Wonder Woman does take the diamond from him and becomes possessed herself. The Flash enters as she throws the General from a high ledge. The Speedster saves him from the fall and is bewildered by the Princess’ behavior.
At the Central City police station, Green Lantern and those two cool detectives from “The Brave and the Bold” interrogate McCormick, who, like the soldier before him, claims not to remember anything. He took loads of weapons from the military base including the Anti-Fusion Device. He says the AFD isn’t a weapon; its power is purely defensive, unless one is planning to knock out a star. The possessed Wonder Woman listens intently to all of the interrogation, and ponders ideas.
When Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and The Flash go outside of the station, they see the people are responding very differently to them than usual. Glorious Gordon Godfrey has turned many people against the League with his propaganda, and The Flash’s agent, who is the one who sold Godfrey Studios the footage of the commercial fiasco that Glorious aired on his show, won’t even speak to him anymore. Suddenly, Mophir emerges from the crowd of civilians and attacks Wonder Woman. He’s tracked the spirits of the black diamond to her and plans to execute her. He blasts the Amazon with light from a large gem, which harms her a great deal. The Green Lantern defeats Mophir and takes Diana back to the Watchtower for evaluation. Flash stays behind to deal with Mophir, and they wind up in a hospital with Mophir spouting a bunch of crazy sounding stuff. The doctor writes it off as delusional paranoia, but when The Flash hears Mophir mention something about man’s time being forever eclipsed, he becomes intrigued. He heard the crazed general mention the same thing, so he decides to listen to Mophir’s story.
Mophir tells Flash of an ancient time before writing and civilization when man’s time was uncertain. For humans were locked in a desperate struggle for control of the world with moon worshiping snake men called ophidians. The ophidians were on the verge of extinction when they enacted a ritual during an eclipse when they sealed their spirits inside a black diamond. Anyone who touched the diamond would seek only the destruction of humanity. It is now Mophir’s job to guard the black diamond, which is why he attacked the Princess and the squad of soldiers earlier. Only light from his gem or decapitation can drive the vengeful spirits out of the host.
The Flash goes back to the Watchtower and tells his story to J’onn. He also visits Wonder Woman who seems to be doing better. Just as Flash is recommending a Martian mind scan, the Martian is alerted to footage on the security cameras, which shows a security breach. It turns out J’onn was doing something to the Javalin, but he has absolutely no memory of it. Flash goes and fetches Mophir’s gem, and tests it against the Leaguers. Green Lantern suddenly uses the power of his ring to blast the gem into pieces, revealing himself to be possessed. He’s eventually restrained by the others. Hawkgirl says the gem won’t cause any more trouble just before she bashes it to pieces, causing shards of the diamond fly all over the room. They’ve pierced all the Leaguer’s except Flash, who managed to quickly dodge them. The bits of diamond that are in the Leaguers have caused them to become possessed.
This is another instance of Hawkgirl messing up and not thinking ahead. She is passionate and means well, but she sometimes does foolish things. Rather than deride the character because of this, it only endears her even more to me. It’s nice to have heroes who aren’t infallible. It makes her one of the more interesting characters.
Now, The Flash has to deal with the rest of the League, sans Batman, who isn’t present. Martian Manhunter uses his power to shut the lights out on the Watchtower. The Flash barely escapes the League and goes into hiding. He watches as the League arms the AFD, and Green Lantern launches it into space toward the sun. When it hits the star, the anti-fusion will cause the star will collapse and humanity will be destroyed. Flash tries calling Batman, but is caught by Superman, and we’re treated to a cool ominous version of his theme.
The Flash has a really hard time. Superman injures him, and he can’t escape on the Javalin because it’s been rendered inoperable. The AFD hits the sun and darkness begins to consume it. The populace of the world goes into a panic, including Glorious. The Flash uses all his tricks to get away from the League, and eventually gets the idea to leads them to a 700,000 watt light, and he uses its rays to drive the dark spirits out of the League. Once they are themselves again, Flash informs them of the situation with the sun.
The Martian Manhunter comes up with the plan to create a wormhole to suck away the anti-fusion energy from the star. They can’t use the Javalin to generate a wormhole because it’s broken. Green Lantern gets the idea of using The Flash’s and his speed to activate the wormhole generator near the sun. We see Green Lantern and Flash team up to save the Earth again. The Green Lantern seals Flash in his emerald power and creates a green bridge through space, which The Flash uses as a path to run super-fast toward the sun. He then throws the wormhole generator towards the darkened star, and empowered by the immense speed, it generates a wormhole that drains the dark energy from the sun, saving the vital star and thwarting the ophidians’ plan of destroying humanity in revenge for their defeat eons ago.
The Flash is left unconscious due to the strain, but Green Lantern saves him and brings him back to the Watchtower. Due to the League’s valiant efforts in saving the world, the populous once again get behind the Justice League and their reputation is saved. Glorious loses his show’s time slot and his backing. The Flash’s agent, Artie Bauman, wants to get back in touch with Flash, but the Speedster refuses to chase the lime light. He recommends Mophir, and the old man gets himself into commercials.
“Eclipsed” is great episode with a lot of comedy, but also the usual larger than life spectacle for the League to deal with. It shows The Flash’s ingenuity when he has to escape the other Justice League members. It also introduces fun characters like Artie Bauman and Glorious Gordon Godfrey. Andrea Romano does another excellent job casting for both characters. The Flash and Green Lantern make a very entertaining team. It’s always fun to see them paired with each other. Wonder Woman makes an interesting addition to their duo, even if she acts oddly fierce and ill-tempered in this episode.
“The Terror Beyond” is an episode featuring lots of cool monster designs, and a surprising amount of hellish surrealism. We also get more of a glimpse into Hawkgirl’s background and find that she has no real respect for religion, which is a very interesting aspect to her character. Along with the Hawkgirl focus is the origin of Solomon Grundy. The two characters form a very unlikely bond that is remarkably touching.
This is the episode that confirms that Hawkgirl’s Nth metal energy mace is especially powerful against magic, which makes her a particularly useful asset to the League. Hawkgirl gets a cool fight scene against Doctor Fate in which she decisively defeats him. What I don’t like is that this episode disrespects Wonder Woman in that she is defeated by Aquaman. Oh, it’s not just that. That’s fine, I suppose, given certain circumstances. What I don’t like is that soon after that battle, Aquaman attacks Superman only to be easily taken down with one punch. I have no idea why the creators did this, especially since they showed Wonder Woman being a very formidable opponent for Superman in the season one episode “Paradise Lost.”
Rob Zombie voices the main antagonist Icthultu, which is a nice touch, and there is great voice acting all around. Doctor Fate’s spell incantation when he’s getting ready to sacrifice Grundy is particularly powerful. This episode features “Lovecraftian” monsters all over the place, which ties nicely into the Superman: The Animated Series episode “The Hand of Fate,” which also featured Doctor Fate fighting especially bizarre creatures. Up to this point, this is the only episode to chiefly focus on Hawkgirl.
“Secret Society” is another personal favorite of mine. Going back to the point of Dwayne McDuffie wanting to write actual “people” instead of cardboard cutouts with nothing more than amazing powers to distinguish them, this episode shows how the Justice Leaguers really think about each other, and it isn’t all pretty. They are very close at this point, but there are things they do that grate on each other’s nerves. This is pretty natural for relationships, but it’s interesting seeing it from the World’s Greatest Heroes, and it really humanizes them.
Green Lantern has very strong scenes in this episode. The moment he shares with Hawkgirl on a bluff with a view of the city skyline is beautiful. It’s a really lovely shot with deep blues and a silvery moon. What else is important to note is that when the rest of the League splits up due to their differences, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern stay together. Despite their quarreling, they did not turn their backs on each other like all the other heroes did. This shows that of all the Leaguers, theirs is the strongest bond.
The Injustice League characters almost feel like regulars themselves. They pop up frequently, and we get a good feel for them and their motivations. The last episode heavily focused on Grundy, and this time we follow The Shade, who is trying to make end’s meat by robbing a technology developing plant of a valuable computer chip. He and his goons make decent progress until Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter pick up a report from a guard about the robbery. They fly to Prime Tech and make short work of the thieves. The two heroes are working well together until they both try charging Shade at once and collide with each other, allowing the thief to escape, albeit without the coveted chip. Martian Manhunter says that Green Lantern should have held back, and Green Lantern says he’s not the mind reader.
As Shade is frantically scurrying through streets and alleys, a large beautiful woman in a massive jeep unexpectedly offers him a ride, which Shade takes. She introduces herself as Giganta and takes him to a secret hideout in a mountain. There, he finds Sinestro, Parasite, and Killer Frost. He puts together that Giganta is trying to form another Injustice League, and he’s not impressed with the notion, having tried it twice already. First in “Injustice for All,” and again in the season one episode “Fury.” Giganta tells them that they call it the Secret Society. Then, Gorilla Grodd reveals himself and says that the third time’s the charm.
Meanwhile, Green Lantern calls a meeting with the other Leaguers. He’s upset that he and Martian Manhunter couldn’t stop someone like Shade. He tells the others that the League, as a whole, is not working together as well as it could. A lot of their victories have been luck. When Green Lantern suggests practicing together, there is a great scene of some of the other Leaguers moaning. It’s interesting to note who actually does the grumbling, which is Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. Batman doesn’t moan, but thinks practicing is a waste of time, regardless. Superman says that a little more team work couldn’t hurt any of them.
This is such a great part because it tells so much about the characters. Green Lantern is the critical guy always looking for some kind of error or mistake and a way to improve. Batman doesn’t want to spend too much of his time with the League, always acting aloof and like he’s got something better to do. Superman is the patient team player.
Back at the Secret Society’s hideout, Grodd is getting his team to work together efficiently. He talks with Shade as they view the others practicing together. It’s through Shade’s perspective that we see this group. Grodd says it’s not easy to get loners, sociopaths, and psychos to work together, but he’s making it happen, which is something Luthor wasn’t able to do effectively with the Injustice League. The gorilla explains that none of the villains are doing this for money. Giganta is devoted to Grodd, Parasite hates Superman, Sinestro has sworn a blood oath against all Green Lanterns, and Killer Frost is just a psycho who likes killing. Shade supposes Grodd has him figured out as well, and the ape does. Grodd reveals that Shade is a master criminal, but could be a master of the world, and he asks Shade how he’ll feel in ten years when he’s still being chased around rooftops and alleys. Shade understands, but wonders how to stop the League. It turns out Grodd has mobile cameras set up that he’s been using to carefully monitor the League’s activities.
At a training yard in the desert, Green Lantern is running the Leaguers through their paces. Unsurprisingly, Hawkgirl messes up due to her headstrong attitude. Lantern explains that if she had listened to her partners, who are psychic and have x-ray vision, she could have avoided taking a big hit.
Meanwhile, using a high tech floating platform, Grodd flies his Secret Society to an island owned by Morgan Edge. Edge is a collector of art, jewels, and “other things.” He also has an impressive defense force, which Grodd’s group defeats very ably.
Grodd’s team finds Edge inside the mansion, and forces him to lead them to a group of canisters with warning markings on them. There’s a great moment when it’s suggested Killer Frost kills Morgan Edge, just out of the urge to kill. It turns out that the Batman villain Clayface is within the canisters, which is a pleasant surprise for fans of Batman: The Animated Series. The tragic villain made a large impression on that earlier cartoon.
At the League training yard, Batman arrogantly goes through exercises fast, without using any team work. He flies away in the Batwing and tells the League to call him when it’s important, and not before. The League continues having problems cooperating, and the show funnily addresses how Superman takes an unnecessary amount of damage. Green Lantern calls him on it, and Superman says that he takes damage so others don’t have to, which implies that the others can’t cut it. He points out that they’re not all equal in power levels, and they begin arguing. Green Lantern doggedly tells the group that they’re going to keep working until they get things right.
In the meantime Batman has heard about the attack on Edge’s mansion and the canisters that are empty. He decides to investigate while the Secret Society convinces Clayface to join their group back at their hideout. Clayface isn’t like the other villains, though. His only motivation is to be a normal person again, not a mutated freak. Grodd says he can make Clayface normal and let him keep his power. To support his claim, Grodd shows Clayface a photo of Giganta when she was younger, and it turns out she used to be an ape before she was the beautiful woman she is now.
Batman secretly visits the hospital room of one of the guards from Edge’s mansion and asks about the attack. The man tells him that all he saw was a living shadow. Batman then goes to a factory where the chemical product Clayface needs to appear normal again is developed. He knows Clayface and Shade are working together, but Batman is confronted by the entire Secret Society, but he’s brought the League with him to counter them. When the League reveals themselves, an excellent battle sequence is showcased.
The battle features Sinestro and Green Lantern striking at each other using medieval weapons as constructs, which makes for a strong visual. Batman gets some awesome shots that show off his maneuverability while fighting Clayface. Great characterization and plot building happens when Hawkgirl abandons her fight with Giganta to check up on Green Lantern when he gets hurt. Grodd, remaining hidden in the shadows, sent Green Lantern pain with his new mind power, which opened Lantern up for a pounding from Sinestro. In the end, the Secret Society defeats the League, leaving the heroes trampled in a warehouse. Grodd decides that killing them in a warehouse is far too small a stage. There is a nice theatrical, grandiose element to Grodd.
When the League comes around they begin arguing bitterly and placing blame on each other for the defeat. The great friends Flash and Green Lantern fight and the frustration Hawkgirl has with Wonder Woman comes out strongly. Things become very heavy when Superman, who suggested the idea of the team, says he’s considered going back to working by himself. However, it’s when Martian Manhunter, the heart of the League, says that the League diminishes them as individuals and he wants to walk away. The first one to start leaving is Batman, who’d been completely silent during the argument. The others leave as well. There is such strong character work in this scene that is both obvious and craftily subtle. Sometimes the characters do small things that speak volumes, from their mannerisms, to their words, to their actions.
The Flash decides to take care of the case himself. He tracks down two of Shade’s goons, and asks them where to find their boss. At first, they don’t take him seriously, but after The Flash roughs one of them up a bit, he finds out the Shade has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel.
Back at the Secret Society’s hideout, Grodd admits that The Flash’s deed in “The Brave and the Bold” –when he switched wires in Grodd’s mind control helmet– caused him to get his new mental powers. Shade surmises that Grodd willed the League to break up, but Grodd says he’s just been watching them carefully for months. He assessed that they’d been holding back considerable resentment for one another. His powers only sent out thought waves that affect those moods, allowing for those thoughts to come out.
Flash enters the abandoned subway station where Shade’s hideout is and instead finds Sinestro lying in wait. The two engage in a battle and Flash calls Batman for help. Batman gives him a cold response, but decides to offer assistance. When Batman arrives, he immediately realizes The Flash is a fake and gets in a preemptive attack on Clayface and Sinestro. But Batman finds himself way outnumbered as the rest of the Secret Society shows up. I’d just like to point out how ridiculous it is to see Sinestro nonchalantly taken down by a batarang. I suppose this would be another “Batgod” instance. Batman is taken down by the other Society members off screen, though.
Elsewhere, on a cliff overlooking the water and city, Green Lantern expresses his disappointment at the League breaking up to Hawkgirl. She blames it on him, saying that the heroes are just soldiers to him and that he doesn’t care about them as people. The two get into one of their arguments, but this time it goes deeper than usual, as it turns into a fight about whether Lantern cares about Hawkgirl or not. He says he does, but Hawkgirl doesn’t believe him, which causes Lantern to angrily admit that he would give his life for her. Though that catches Hawkgirl’s attention, she’s still upset with him, and tells him he doesn’t know what he’s saying. She flies away from him.
Even when the other Leaguers turn their backs on each other, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl choose to stay together.
This is an extremely exquisite scene that really pushes Hawkgirl and Green Lantern’s romance subplot forward quite a few strong paces. The image of Hawkgirl flying away toward the city is very serene. This touching scene is artfully abruptly broken when John suddenly turns around and blasts one of Grodd’s spy droids. He quickly identifies what it is and tries to find out who it’s broadcasting to. He calls up Hawkgirl on his commlink and tells her to meet him at the practice range. When she arrives to meet the other Leaguers and sees that Green Lantern is absent, they realize something is fishy and all their robotic practice equipment attacks them. The League fairs okay against the bots, but when the Secret Society attacks, things get considerably tougher. Another excellently frantic battle ensues, which has the League doing their best to fend off the highly harmonized Society, but the heroes are ultimately defeated again. The last one to go down is Martian Manhunter, who is frozen by Killer Frost.
Back at the Secret Society HQ, the villains have the League imprisoned and Clayface wants to kill the heroes right away. Grodd, in all his narcissistic glory, still wants a grand stage to showcase their victory, power, and dominance. Green Lantern having found their HQ by tracking the spy cam’s signal, is sneaking around in the shadows and overhears Giganta admitting that Grodd’s tampering with the League’s moods contributed to their victory. Sinestro keeps asking about what they’re going to do about Green Lantern, to which Grodd suddenly says, “I don’t know. What are we going to do about you, Mr. Stewart?” His mind abilities alerted him to John’s presence. Green Lantern wastes no time going on the offensive in an effort to rescue the League, but he’s taken down by Clayface.
At the Gotham football stadium, Grodd’s flying ship invades a game and disrupts a half time performance. Grodd gives a speech about natural selection and the strong ruling the weak. He feels that the weak do everything they can to shackle the mighty and he’s going to end it. He reveals the captured Justice League to prove the Secret Society’s might, and he’s going to allow Clayface to pull the switch and kill them in front of their audience, but Clayface breaks the mechanism and frees the League.
Grodd instantly puts together that Martian Manhunter tricked them with his shape changing ability and that Killer Frost froze the wrong one. When freed, Green Lantern informs the League that Grodd has been messing with their minds. When Flash asks how to fight it, Lantern just tells them that they need to get over it. Grodd is actually okay with the way things have transpired, and is willing to beat the League in front of the whole world. With two victories over the League, he’s quite confident.
Gorilla Grodd’s Secret Society proves to be one of the most formidable threats the Justice League has faced.
In the center of Gotham Stadium, the League has an extremely impressively choreographed battle with the Secret Society. It’s easy to tell the showrunners have really improved at handling so much action with so many characters. This battle has so much going on and it’s all easy to follow, and no characters are lost in the shuffle. The pacing of the fight is great and there is highlight after highlight after highlight. Now that the League is keen on Grodd’s mind tampering, they work much better as a unit and manage to take down the Secret Society.
At the end of the fight, the League solemnly considers the aftermath of all the things they said, which they all meant. Hawkgirl asks what they’re supposed to do now that all that is out there, and Green Lanterns says, “All we can do, is say we’re sorry, and move on.” He’s simple and strong, and uncomplicated and complicated all at once. It’s cool that he’s the one who speaks up, and the rest of the League quietly agrees with and follows his words. The episode ends on a somewhat soft and sudden note after the big battle in the football stadium, but it feels very right, and the ending carries a lot of weight.
“Secret Society” is another A++ effort! The battles are immense and frantic, the character development of the entire team, but especially Hawkgirl and Green Lantern, is sumptuous, the voice acting is superb as usual, and the entire team is showcased and highlighted well. The show continues to ramp up if you can believe it, and things only get better from here. The final episodes of the show are quite arguably the very best. Let’s see what makes this already superb show the greatest action cartoon on kids television there has yet been…
Continue to Part 6: The Pinnacle of Action Cartoons