"Justice League Unlimited" Season 3: Thank Grodd for One More Season
After an unprecedented fourteen-year run of top-notch cartoons and Static Shock, the regular run of the DC animated universe (DCAU) comes to a close with the DVD release of the final seasons of Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond. I choose not to whine and moan about its passing: The DCAU lasted a lot longer than anyone really thought it would, and I’m more than satisfied with what I got. I am quite happy to finally add the third season of JLU to my DVD collection and hope I’ll get a nice sense of closure from its digital goodness.
Season Two’s Cadmus storyline and “Epilogue” seemingly gave the series a fitting conclusion, but for the third season the producers bravely attempted another season-long storyline. They revamped and improved an old idea: With the Justice League now Unlimited and far too powerful for most villains to feasibly defeat, it only makes sense for the villains to unite in counter attack. This basically means you get a good old-fashioned superhero team vs. supervillain team story, like you used to do with your action figures when you were knee high to a grasshopper or, if you’re old enough, like they did back in the Superfriends days. The story isn’t quite as riveting or intriguing the Cadmus story, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.
The season actually has a pretty weak start by Justice League Unlimited‘s standards. “I Am Legion” and “Shadow Of The Hawk” are both thrill-free, and “To Another Shore” and “Chaos’s At Earth’s Core” pretty much suck, to be blunt. But things bounce back with the utterly sensational “Flash And Substance,” an episode so good I feel bad including in the same paragraph as the above-mentioned episodes. It’s pretty much the Flash episode I’d been hoping to see since the show started, and it was even better than I could’ve expected. Michael Rosenbaum gives his finest-ever performance as The Flash, and it makes you pray that one day they’ll make a The Flash: The Animated Series show that’s half as good as this episode. It also includes Mark Hamill’s DCAU swan song as he reprises his role of The Trickster from the live action Flash TV show.
The season treats us to more new characters (like Deadman) and the return of such favourite Superman: The Animated Series villains as Bizarro, Metallo, and Toyman, who now appear in the new Secret Society/Legion Of Doom. Best of all, though, we get the greatest Superman/Darkseid battle ever as the Lord of Apokolips returns in the show’s finale to exact his revenge on The Man Of Tomorrow for killing him in the season two premiere. On the other hand, we don’t see as much of Green Arrow or The Question as I’d have liked, and we get not one but two thoroughly tedious Supergirl-related episodes, one of which makes so little sense you wonder how it managed to get past the concept stage.
Overall, it’s a mixture of good, bad and mediocre episodes. The most important thing about the set is that we get an awesome finale with the world in peril as never before, and everyone in the Justice League answers the call. “Destroyer” is just wall to wall fun as everyone gets their fifteen seconds of fame beating the crap out of Parademons, and the show stages a dignified exit with our heroes running off into the sunset to battle more supervillains. I don’t really care that the least entertaining character in the group gets the final line, but it’s nice to hear that the adventure continues even if we aren’t there to see it.
The set presents thirteen episodes across two discs. None of them get a commentary; instead, the new extras feature the creative team talking about their favourite episodes of the season. I was rather sceptical when I first heard they would be doing this, as I really liked the commentaries, but I think I prefer the new approach. You don’t get the random, off-topic asides like you do in commentaries (which can be seen as a blessing or a curse) but you don’t get the odd, awkward silence either. There are also no more “who storyboarded this?” moments, either. I’d complain that “Destroyer” doesn’t get a spotlight whilst the tedious “Shadow Of The Hawk” does, but “Destroyer” does get an awesome isolated score, which means you get to hear, in all its glory, the terrific final scene with the League running off to future battles. Mark Hamill also moderates a discussion that delves into the creative team’s thoughts on Cadmus, and it’s a hell of a lot better than previous roundtables, which, whilst enjoyable, felt like they only scratched the surface. It’s nice to see more from the voice actors on these sets, and as most of you are probably aware, Mark Hamill is a huge fanboy himself.
The transfer is up the standard set in the last release. There’s the odd bit of interlacing that is barely noticeable when you watch it on TV but which gets slightly irritating if you’re watching it on your monitor. (But given that the set presents the season in glorious 16×9, you really shouldn’t be watching it on your monitor anyway.) The audio is fine.
If you’re hesitating about picking this set up, don’t. While the season isn’t quite as good as the one before it, there’s still plenty worth watching over and over again. And given the current state of a lot of cartoons on TV, Justice League Unlimited may stand as one of the last great action cartoons for a good long while. Whether you feel it overstayed its welcome, ended before its time, or exited at just the right moment, this set comes highly recommended.
Screengrabs courtesy of World’s Finest.