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'Justice League' Season One - Lame Launch for the League

With Batman Beyond, the previous DCU show on its way out and a sudden rejuvenation in popularity of the JLA comics thanks to Grant Morrison, the Warner Bros creative team decided that now was as good as a time as any to finally create a Justice League of America cartoon. Fans of the previous shows had dreamed of this for years—Batman, Superman and the various guest stars that appeared on Superman together in one show! Imagine their disappointment when it clearly didn’t live up to either show on any level.

Justice League, as the show was now thankfully called (the “of America” bit always sounded utterly lame) focused on a group of superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and The Green Lantern teaming up to save the world whenever the threat was too big for only one of them to handle. Given the epic scope of the show, it allowed them to tackle bigger stories than ever before. Aliens, Gods and Monsters were all fair game on Justice League as far as villains go, but the main problem was that none of them were really all that interesting.

This season is arguably the poorest DCU season ever and there are very few positives to balance out the negatives. The show isn’t terrible in the least; it just rarely gets above average, making it a very bland show. There are a lot of mediocre episodes to be found here, and the villains, usually a high point in the DCU, were often bad and sometimes downright poor. Vandal Savage stands as the best of the bunch and the returning Joker and Lex Luthor make “Injustice for All” much better than it probably should be, but the likes of Mongul, Aresia and Morgaine Le Fey are simply tedious to watch.

The heroes themselves are a mixed bag. As a team, they often came across as one-dimensional, Batman is the hard ass, The Flash is the wise guy, Wonder Woman is the girl etc, but they all prove to be perfectly likeable, especially The Flash. No one ever came close to threatening Batman as the favourite in this season however, not a chance.

Superman deserves special mention however, for being an easy scapegoat. In a team, Superman is easily the hardest character to crack, because there are very few threats that he couldn’t stop on his lonesome, but they went against him a little too much. Superman was always the first to be taken out because if the enemy can beat Superman, surely he is a threat! When it happens every episode, though, one gets the impression that Superman has become a little too much of a wimp. He was also an easy scapegoat with the show’s fans, too, especially due to his reactions. I’ve always thought George Newburn was a sensational Superman and he (and Hawkgirl, for that matter) took far too much bashing, 99% of it needlessly. Fuel was added to the anti-Superman fire because he had one of the most awful designs ever in the DCU. Considering how well they did with him in his own cartoon, it was bitterly disappointing to see Superman used so badly here.

Most of the stories lacked any spark and became dire and predictable before the action really kicked in. The show now featured two, sometimes even three-part stories, but the longer pacing often worked against the show, filling it with excessive, uninteresting padding. There are some good episodes to be found here, however. “The Savage Time,” “Injustice for All” and “The Enemy Below” are all worth a few viewings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I seriously considered skipping over “Paradise Lost,” “A Knight of Shadows” and “War Worlds” when I sat down to watch the set.

Whilst the writing was usually passable, the visuals took a huge nosedive. With digital colouring and all new models, the show was an eyesore. The new models were dull and unimaginative and the colours were absolutely hideous, on both the models and the backgrounds. It was just plain ugly to look at. The problems are obvious and it all boils down to one thing—inexperience. The crew had never done a team show before, they had rarely used digital colours and they weren’t used to the constant two part stories. That’s practically every aspect of the show against them, whilst the fanbase was expecting a hell of a lot more from the show. They did eventually get it—they just had to wait until Season Two premiered.

Warner Bros has surprised many and released the entire first season in a four-disc set. The packaging is a lot smaller than the various Batman: The Animated Series sets, despite featuring the same amount of discs. Featuring overlapping discs, it manages to save a lot of shelf space and spares us the often-hideous promotional art found in the inlay.

The commentaries are back and are on “The Enemy Below Pt. 2,” “Legends Pt. 2″ and “The Savage Time Pt. 2.” Once again, the dubious selection comes into play as there’s no commentary on the opening story or the downfall of Lex Luthor, the continuation of a major plot point from Superman: The Animated Series and one of the springboards for many episodes of Justice League Unlimited. The episodes selected are all fine however, and all prove to be worth picking the set up for, even if you do own a good portion of the episodes on disc already.

A lot of the features from the previous sets are pasted over here, including the excellent Look of the League feature and an extended look at the original network pitch. Interestingly, this pitch appears to have been for Kids WB! and features a host of younger heroes such as Robin, Impulse and some weird female Cyborg. I couldn’t help but feel I’d seen a lot of these features before and was hoping for a little more new material, but alas no.

The transfer is spotty at times, mainly on the reused “Paradise Lost” and “War World” episodes from the previous DVDs, which featured rather poor transfers. The rest of the episodes fair slightly better, but still aren’t without the slight bit of interlacing. Audio is relatively well done, as good as one can expect for a television show.

Overall, much like the show, the set is a little hit and miss. Don’t worry though, season two will arrive in June, and by the time that is released, you’ll have forgotten all about this season.

The images in this post appear courtesy of The World’s Finest Justice League Sub section.

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