"Justice League: Season Two" – The DCU Strikes Back!
Warner Bros Home Video has once again dipped into its vast animation well and has treated us to a full season set of Justice League: Season Two, mere months after the opening season was released.
After an incredibly lack luster initial season, I remember being anxious and I’ll admit, nervous, to see how how/if the show had improved since the first season finale. I remember avoiding any and all news of season two for months on end, waiting for it to premiere, and hoping that the show would undergo a revamp similar to what Iron Man and Fantastic Four went through a few years earlier. Both had terrible first seasons but turned into incredibly entertaining shows by the time they got to episode 14. Whilst I didn’t quite get my wish, by the time the season had finished I wasn’t complaining. At long last, I had the Justice League I’d wanted to see since “Secret Origins,” an intelligent show with interesting characters, complex villains, and intense stories wrapped up in visuals most pleasing to the eye.
Comparing even the very best the first season had to offer to “Twilight” is pointless, as Darkseid’s long awaited return blows anything else out of the water. These two episodes alone deserve special mention as it’s gripping stuff. The dull, lifeless models were tweaked slightly and the visuals became much richer in the process. The characters weren’t as two-dimensional as they once were. Superman became more of a hard ass instead of a tedious boy scout. Hawkgirl went from angry bird girl who smashed stuff with her mace to become a likeable, if not loveable, warrior and the Wonder Woman spotlights were no longer an exercise in seeing how quickly you can fast forward through episodes.
Wonder Woman is additionally a character deserving of special attention here. I’ve always found her to be a pretty bland character who owes the majority of her popularity to a campy TV show, but her romance with Batman in this show became intriguing and made the character worth watching. Back when the show was on the air, I remember being just as interested in seeing if Batman and Wonder Woman would interact again as I was in seeing which new villain would appear in the show. It, along with the romantic tension between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, added a hell of a lot of depth to the characters.
With the writing improving in spades, the visuals followed with a huge boost in quality. The backgrounds were still pretty dull, but the models, colouring, and animation all improved and the show became much sharper in the process. A lot of this could come from the fact the crew were now more experienced but I’d wager more of it is from taking the criticism from season one on the chin and going to extra lengths to improve the overall quality of the show.
After what seems like years worth of waiting, every episode from this exceptional season is now on DVD, collected here in a pretty set. There are a lot of highlights from the episodes themselves. The very best is the brilliant “A Better World,” in which an alternate reality version of the Justice League aren’t the world’s saviours, but their dictators, who have deemed themselves The Justice Lords. The aforementioned “Twilight” sees the return of Superman’s two greatest nemeses to the show and the season finale manages to place the team in their most intense episode yet. One of their own betrays them as aliens attempt to take over the entire planet whilst the Justice League is on the run. It’s gripping stuff, and is a more than fitting swansong for the show.
Usually this paragraph would be where I mention the lists of episodes I don’t like, but to be honest, there’s only “Hearts and Minds” that deserves to be included here. The likes of “Tabula Rasa,” “Only A Dream,” and “The Secret Society” don’t quite make it into the very best paragraph above, but they’re all very entertaining in their own right.
Simply put, it was a highly enjoyable season, which wasn’t just a touch better than the previous season; it completely annihilated it in terms of quality. As mediocre as Justice League season one was, season two was simply awesome. This time around, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this not just to Batman and Superman fans, but to animation, comic book, or superhero fans in general.
Since the announcement of the set, there has been a lot of controversy regarding the show’s presentation. Whilst Justice League season one was originally animated in full screen, season two was not, and a massive uproar occurred online to receive the show in all its widescreen glory. Whilst the transfer is not anamorphic, it still looks pretty damn nice. It’s been confirmed that future sets will be 16×9, but I’ve no real complaints about the transfer at all. There’s very little grain and Warner continues to improve upon its once horrendous interlacing problems, delivering a crisp, clear image. It’s certainly the best looking version available.
I admit I’ve never focused too much on the audio aspects of my DVDs, so I’ll just quickly add that I found no problems with its presentation. It comes through clear, which is all I ask.