This show always brings a lot of memories. Not only have I seen this show numerous times, but it is easily my favorite American show of all time and top 5 overall. It is the perfect adaption of a superhero team and I doubt we will ever see another such title top this one. Justice League ran for a very long time and got to fit in dozens of excellent episodes. They hold up well and you will be hard pressed to find a bad episode here. Even the worst episodes are still fairly good when placed in another title. Let us get started because this is an incredibly long review. Maybe it should be called a look back to be more accurate?
The show is divided into two parts. There is Justice League and then there is Unlimited. I count them as the same show but you could make the case for it being two separate titles. Part 1 is a lot more episodic, but each adventure was double length which made it easy to tell just about any story. Unlimited’s episodes were normal length, but they made up for it with long story arcs. Both had very different styles and worked well in their own way. I’ll talk more about Unlimited in a bit, but lets focus on part 1 first.
The show started off with ambitious three part event which showed how the league formed to fend off an alien invasion. Part of what made the DCAU so awesome was the continuity and Justice League builds off of what was already established. As a result Batman and Superman already know each other. The first aliens still manage to escape, but only because Superman was being telepathically attacked at the time. What starts off as a Batman and Superman story quickly transforms into a Justice League adventure. While I would have loved to have seen the team fight each other as per the trope, logically it makes sense that these veterans wouldn’t randomly start attacking each other when there are aliens to deal with. Priorities right? Superman may have been heavily nerfed so he wouldn’t steal the show, but beyond that I really had no problems with this start to the series. You could feel the tension and the danger from the alien invasion and the animation holds up extremely well. I dare say that it is the best looking episode in the series, particularly the first part of the 3 part adventure, but naturally there is a lot of competition there. You may see me nominating a few other episodes for that honor in this review.
I won’t go through all of the Justice League episodes of course, but the series had a lot of great episodes and I want to give a good chunk of them an honorary mention. After the explosive alien invasion story set the stage, the League got to fight many foes as a team. One solid episode was when the Manhunters arrived to arrest Green Lantern. I like this two part episode because of the great action scenes and story, but part 1 stands out particularly for the opening scene. The Watchtower is able to detect the arrival of these drones so the League quickly heads in to intercept them. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman aren’t available so the rest of the team has to make do. Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, and Flash put up a decent fight and get some hits in, but they are clearly outmatched. That is when Superman comes in, for one of the most satisfying moments in the series. This episode may have less importance in the grand scheme of things than other episodes, but it is still a personal favorite moment of mine. Superman has a tendency to lose to things that he shouldn’t in these episodes and is under powered at times to make the others look good, but not here. He is taking all 3 of the Manhunters down and calmly walks through one of their large energy blasts. It was definitely a lot of fun to watch and I am confident that The Justice League would have won that fight if it hadn’t been interrupted. The other members were getting their second wind as well. The music selection was also really good for this moment. The only weak part of the episode is Green Lantern taking his judgment so passively. I understand that he was feeling guilty, but he definitely should have looked into the situation more. Especially considering that you cannot atone for your mistakes if you are dead. I just disagreed with Green Lantern’s whole rationale here, but he got the job done once his innocence was proven and took the Manhunter leader down.
Another all star episode, and one of the greatest episodes in any show period, is the Amazo saga. Amazo is a being who can copy powers and abilities. They can be physical equipment, mystical abilities, or even biological ones. Amazo doesn’t seem to have any limits and he can mix and match different powers during combat. The only downside is that he gets the weaknesses as well but since most of the heroes have no weaknesses, it is definitely a worthy cost for such power. This is one of the rare episodes where you get to see the entire cast fight at once and Amazo makes for a very good villain. Superman provides us with the highlight moment once again as he actually appears to have the upper hand during hos fight with Amazo even though the latter should technically be more powerful at the moment. It just goes to show that Superman’s battle experience and tactics should not be underestimated. Batman meant well, but he probably should not have interfered this time or maybe he could have waited a little longer to make his move. He can’t take much of the blame though because the other League members should have been ready to nab Amazo once he was weakened. I think the League could have used more teamwork to take Amazo and Luthor down, but overall it was still a great effort and an epic saga.
Amazo would later return for another great episode in Unlimited. Unfortunately, this one was only a single part so it didn’t have quite as much time for the adventure. The episode did its best to cram in as much action and intensity as it could despite this limitation. Amazo has now become a super being with unlimited power and he wants to destroy Lex Luthor. The expanded Justice League assembles all of its forces to fight him, but their combined might doesn’t really have much of an effect. I definitely think that Amazo’s power was a little exaggerated here. He was portrayed as being completely and utterly invincible, which is a bit of a stretch. Sure, they did injure Amazo once or twice, but thanks to the fact that he can heal and can move whole planets with his mind, it isn’t much of a consolation in the end. It definitely would have been nice to have seen a proper fight between Superman and Amazo here. Amazo typically just beat everyone with a single energy burst which makes sense because there was only one episode to cover such a big plot, but it still would have been really cool to see this gold Amazo fight.
Another rock solid episode is the return of Mongul over in JL Unlimited. That episode is easily one of the all time best and it certainly has one of the best music selections out of all the episodes. The constant rock music really amps the episode up to the next level and the fight between Superman and Mongul is intense. Wonder Woman’s fight with Mongul is also pretty great even if it is very one sided. I could care less about the future fantasies everyone was having. They were all right, but at that point I just wanted to see more of the fight. It’s true that this episode makes no sense in continuity since Mongul was fairly weak in the original series, but it is an adaption first and foremost. Making Mongul this strong is a good move since he is always a big threat in the comics. Also, having an episode with just the main 3 League members was certainly a treat. The banter and intensity can’t be matched by the side member.
Next on our list of really good episodes is the debut of Shazam. It starts off with a fun mini fight as Shazam beats Superman to the rescue. The latter begins to feel jealous the whole time and makes things hard for Shazam. This escalates when Superman finds out that Lex has planted a bomb under the new city that he built. Lex even invited a lot of kids to this to make it even more stressful for Superman, but Lex denies this. Shazam chooses to believe Lex and that begins the big fight between Superman and Shazam. It’s definitely one of the better fights in the series as they both possess powers that are a blast to watch in combat. Superman is always my pick to win despite Shazam’s strength being magic based. Superman is simply more powerful. Still, Shazam does land a lot of good shots in and there is even a nice homage to the famous punch between Superman and Doomsday. Naturally, Superman wins this exchange. Superman was a bit extreme with how rude he was to Shazam in this episode though. That is probably the only negative that I would have with this episode. I do think Shazam should have shown up another time as the series went on. He may not be a member, but he is still a hero so I’d expect to see him during the alien invasions.
One fun episode involved Flash Appreciation Day as the Speedster got a whole museum in his honor. It is nice to see a hero being appreciated since a great number of them are treated like crooks and vigilantes. This episode may not have been incredibly action packed or plot heavy, but it was a fun episode that was handled well. The pacing was very quick and the writing was solid. Batman should definitely have put up a better fight against the Rogues, but I guess I can always just try to say that he would have won if he didn’t have to save the Flash. Flash also got another good episode a few seasons earlier when the Justice League went up against Eclipso. The JL was quickly taken out of action as they got mind controlled by an alien rock. Batman wasn’t around of course since that may have made things too difficult for the Flash. Be that as it may, Flash did a stunning job of taking on the League long enough for him to find a cure. The episode had some fun commercials and most shows don’t really deal with the PR angle enough. It is definitely something that the League has to deal with in order to keep their great reputation. Flash may have been outsmarted by the media in this episode, but he was still wise enough not to volunteer for the final commercial.
Green Lantern had a solid story where he went to an alien planet to rescue his mentor. Her squad had been attacked by a group of priests with white energy blasts which could actually break through the energy constructs that Green Lanterns could make. The opening fight scene is definitely very epic and starts the episode off on a solid note. The rest of the episode isn’t quite as interesting since Green Lantern has to relearn how to use his powers and the villains suddenly get a lot weaker. They had to nerf them since the strong members like Superman and Wonder Woman weren’t around, but it would have been the perfect time to just have a bunch of Green Lanterns show up. Still a good episode in the end, but one that had a pretty weak conclusion. Despero is a real fighter in the comics, it would have been cool to have seen that here.
Justice League had its fair share of aliens attacking the planet and one of the deadliest threats was the arrival of the Dark Heart. It was a self replicating machine that can eat anything and use the material to duplicate itself. This even worked on all kinds of energy so projectiles and physical blows would only make it stronger. This was the first time we got to basically see the entire Justice League Unlimited get in on the action. Towards the end even the stronger members like Wonder Woman were starting to weaken. It’s safe to say that Superman and Supergirl are the only ones who would probably be totally safe thanks to their durability. The Dark Heart was definitely impressive and its mechanical monsters made for good minions. This episode is definitely a classic and it even got to squeeze in the government acting shady at the end.
Aresia’s debut made for another fun story. Unfortunately she never got to appear again. She made for a fun good villain so that was too bad. She wanted to rid the world of men and gathered up a group of villains so she could accomplish this task. Defeating Superman is probably her best feat. It was cool to see a Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl team up. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman was nerfed as a result and I’d say that her mom was as well. Surely she should be able to fight off a human with a sword right? She is supposed to have super strength and must have been an incredible warrior to have become the queen. I’m not sure where it all went wrong for her. The episode also started out very strongly with Batman showing up to deal with Aresia’s group. He was super close to winning even though he was heavily outgunned. His fans would definitely be pleased.
While it didn’t have much of a plot, we can’t forget the Christmas special. It was a fun little episode where we got to see the team just hang out and enjoy a peaceful day for once. Flash definitely got the best plot as he had to try and find the perfect present for the kids. Ultra Humanite was even a decently likable villain here. This was the only Justice League episode that wasn’t a one hour special so it felt like a nice little bonus to the rest of the show. It’s always good to see a Christmas special and naturally one with Superheroes would be a lot of fun.
Back to the intense action episodes. Metamorpho was a really fun episode and that’s mainly because it was another episode where the whole team could fight. Having a 1 vs 7 (Usually more like 1 vs 5 since one or two members will be missing) fight is just a lot of fun. Granted, there is definitely some plot hax to be found here since Superman should be enough to deal with Metamorpho. Sure, Kryptonite gas is scary, but Superman should be able to keep on fighting a little better. It was especially sad for Green Lantern during that match. Metamorpho may have been a little overpowered, but it just continued to show why he is such a good opponent to have. As a character he wasn’t great though as he was fairly gullible, but more on that later. Even the giant monster fight was actually cool because it had a real cool theme as Superman flew towards it. He got wrecked of course, but I liked Superman’s confidence. No matter how many times he loses, Superman tackles the villain without hesitation.
An interesting episode was Task force X. It involves a lot of plot hax and instances where you will wonder how this can possibly be aiming to be realistic, but I suppose the episode did its best considering that having a team of humans infiltrate the Justice League would never really work. Superman and Batman weren’t around so that does add a little credibility. Throwing either one of those two into the mix would have not been wise. The Task Force definitely weren’t all that likable, but they were all right as the antagonists. I am glad that the government got to throw their weight around for once and this is probably the best depiction of the Suicide Squad in all of animation.
Wild Card was an interesting way to end Justice League. It didn’t have the same weight that an average finale would have, but it was a great episode regardless. We got to see the Joker show up and as he rarely gets to face off against the whole League, it was pretty interesting. His Royal Flush gang probably looked a little tougher than they should have as the League should destroy them in a fight, but the League did take the win in the end so that’s what counts. It was also one of the only times where we got to see a reality warper get in on the action so that was definitely interesting as well. She is a little overpowered and Superman should be able to resist this, but she was a good villain. The romance in the episode wasn’t handled all that well, but it very rarely is. It’s the only weak point of the episode and the adventure is pretty epic otherwise.
A fun episode which didn’t have a lot of stakes or importance in the plot was the Legion of Superheroes episode. Every series has an episode or two that has nothing to do with anything, but still ends up providing us with an great epic. After all, a solid self contained story can still have a lot of depth and excitement. Seeing the Fatal Five take on members of the Justice League is not something that you would expect. There was a lot of action here and the episode was great from start to finish. While it is one of the stronger episodes, I did have some power level complaints here. Is the show really trying to say that the Emerald Eye is stronger than the Power Ring? I definitely have a tough time buying that. While fewer people will agree with this, I do think that Supergirl could probably take out the whole Legion of Superheroes on her own. Mon-El and Ultra Boy would prove to be the toughest opponents, but I am confident that she would prevail. It would have been cool to have seen Superman break into the future and help out, but I suppose it would all be too easy if he did that all the time.
The Vandal Savage three part event was one of my least favorite episodes when I first saw it. It was a big deal because my cousin came over to watch this live with me and the rest of the family, but I wasn’t impressed. It was a swarm of plot hax all converging on the same spot. Random robots were handling the League and they had a tough time back in World War 2. The episode had aged decently and I like it more than I did the first time, but the concept is still better than the execution. Vandal Savage also just isn’t a very good villain. He is immortal, but beyond that I have a tough time seeing him as an actual threat.
He would end up returning in the Death of Superman episode where he apparently destroyed the Justice League. I don’t buy that. Even if he is immortal, there are many ways to beat Savage. The team may be a lot weaker without Superman, but they are still tough. I think the show was low balling them this time. Still, it was fun seeing a destructive future where WWIII occurred. It’s too bad that Superman’s powers were on the fritz though. I suppose it would have all been too easy otherwise. The present subplot with Lobo was definitely fun though. It had been a while since we got to see him in animation. Batman arriving on the scene without prep time against the villains was a little cheesy, but if there is any character who can save Batman fair and square, it is Superman.
A good one shot episode was the one with the underground arena where Huntress investigates why Black Canary has grown weaker. It turns out that JL members have been kidnapped and forced to fight in brutal battles. Ignoring how bad this makes the League look for not noticing this, it makes for a fun episode. Who doesn’t want to see a lot of good hand to hand fights? I am also glad that Wonder Woman was completely defeating the other members. Let’s face it, numbers alone isn’t enough to overwhelm this amazon. The soundtrack was really good in this episode and matched up well with the quick fight scenes. It was definitely a lot more fun than the first underground episode with Wildcat. That one needed more cool fight scenes like this one.
The Felix Faust saga is one that I have seen many times. It is a fun two part event because we get some fights that you wouldn’t typically expect to see. Hades vs Superman? That is definitely a winner right there. We also got a brief fight between Superman and Wonder Woman. Naturally, I do have to point out that there was a lot of plot hax here. I don’t care how magic based Hades is, he can’t take down someone as strong as Superman. He even beat the Flash. I don’t remember how GL lost, but I am pretty sure that he was in the fight. As always, it was great seeing just about the whole League getting in on the fight. If you ignore the power levels, then you can just enjoy the great visuals and hype. Imagine that Hades is a whole new character or something who was made to be Darkseid level. This saga also got a sequel where Felix Faust returned to get his revenge on Hades. One of the reasons I liked that episode is because the first time the Destroyer armor appeared, it could not be stopped. This time, the heroes got to actually destroy it, which is a lot more satisfying. WW and Hawkgirl were the only JL members on deck this time, but they were enough.
Now we are getting near the end so let’s look at some of the best episodes in the series. A really solid two part episode was the battle between Darkseid and Brainiac. The former asks the Justice League for help, but as you would imagine, it’s a trap. Superman did see it coming though so I’ll give him props for that. The only part that brings this episode down a little is the subplot with the New Gods. They’re all very unlikable characters who are overhyped to oblivion and are ultimately pointless. Still, the main plot is good enough to overshadow this as Superman finally gets a big rematch with Darkseid. Darkseid is one of those guys who really gets on Superman’s nerves and you can tell as Superman is a whole lot more aggressive in this episode than he usually is. He was really raring to go.
Time for what is still the best two part episode in the series, the Justice Lords! It features another universe where Superman crosses the line and takes a life. This causes the League to become crueler as they go about getting Justice through any means necessary. They don’t start murdering everyone or rule the world out of the blue, but they begin to take away freedom of speech. It is handled very realistically. If Superman did ever lose sight of the heroic path, this would be a reasonable direction to go in. He believes that he is doing it for the greater good even if the civilians may not like it. Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Wonder Woman would likely get on board right away because they are used to a system like this. Flash wouldn’t go for it, but that wasn’t really an issue since he was dead. Martian Manhunter would roll with it, but it is hard to see Batman rolling with this. The show did do a good job of making it feasible though. The Justice Lords aren’t going around murdering people or anything like that. They’re just acting as dictators now for the greater good. It’s not the right approach, but at least you can understand their reasoning.
We even get to see how they fight as a team when the Justice Lords take on Doomsday. It would have been cool to have seen Doomsday take on the League, but this was a fight that nobody saw coming and was just as satisfying. It really helped start the saga off on a good note. Naturally, things got even better as both teams fought each other. The only missed opportunity was not having both Supermen fight each other. That would have been a blast. Crisis on Two Earth’s, the movie also skipped this fight so I’m not sure what the deal is here. Still, seeing Flash take on Superman was cool as well. The Justice Lords never got to really return (Androids don’t count) but they had a nice impact. It just goes to show how one moment can completely change an entire planet. You always have to stay vigilant.
Continuing the Doomsday plot was an episode in Unlimited. I didn’t really buy the recon origin for Doomsday, but I’ll take it I guess. It felt unnecessary but seeing him get to fight the real Superman was definitely a blast. Superman definitely should have put up a better fight, but we can attribute that to the fact that he was fighting while inside a volcano and couldn’t go all out. Doomsday is a tough villain as well so the fight shouldn’t be one sided anyway. The Batman subplot was also engaging as he does what he always can beyond the shadows. While Superman was dealing with the obvious threat, Batman still saved just as many lives on his own. It was a solid episode and certainly one that holds up well as part of a bigger saga, but also as a stand alone. It also had a great soundtrack and if you’ve noticed, that typically happens. Great episodes have great themes to accompany them.
The Deadman episode was definitely a lot of fun. It took place during the Legion of Doom arc. He is a ghost because of a mistake Deadman made a long time ago and he needs to balance the scales to move on. The problem is that he never gets any closer to this goal. His temple is attacked one day and so he is forced to ask the Justice League for help. There is no time for backup so it is just the main 3. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. That’s part of why the episode is a blast since it is the three of them against the whole villain army. Needless to say, they clean shop. The villain group is actually pretty powerful since they have heavy hitters like Bizarro, but that just speaks to how strong the Justice League is. The episode is basically one large action scene and does a good job of ending Gorilla Grodd’s plot. It also reminds you of the difference between heroes and vigilantes. Deadman makes a call but it isn’t the right one. I don’t think he should be able to control Superman, but it’s not that big a deal. The music is great as expected and the episode has the thematic atmosphere that always elevates the episode to the next level.
Another personal favorite of mine is the epic Back to the future two part event which sees the return of Batman Beyond and a lot of other characters from that series. It is like the crossover that we had been waiting for. The first episode takes place in the past so it isn’t nearly as good. The guest stars aren’t very interesting and the villains are weak. The second episode is just so awesome that it makes up for this. Seriously, having the really cool futuristic music of Batman Beyond back once again is definitely very cool and even seeing the villains again was nostalgic. It does remind you that maturity isn’t always a good thing though. The old Terry would have jumped into the fray with Wonder Woman and the other JL members right from the start while this one decides to retreat. First of all, there is no way that the JL should be losing to these Batman Beyond villains. Superman isn’t there, but Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Batman can take these guys on. The fights definitely had a Lot of plot hax to try and make the villains look tough. I didn’t buy it for a minute, but it did make for some good fight scenes. Also, the Hal Jordan cameo was definitely really cool. Little tributes like that are always fun to see. It was definitely an epic way to end the season.
It’s time for another really epic finale, the return of Brainiac. It wrapped up the excellent Cadmus arc on a really high note. I also would have loved seeing the new Amazo body, but this is just as good. Brainiac’s fused form has a great DBZish design and he is certainly one of the toughest foes that the League has dealt with. I also really enjoyed the brief Justice Lords cameo. The music was really good and they made excellent use of the mindgames. I do like that the Flash was immune as he shouldn’t have any doubts that can be used against him. That’s pretty much Flash’s whole deal. Batman and Wonder Woman also didn’t seem flustered. In the end, Flash pays a pivotal role in stopping the threat and I’ve always considered him to be one of the secret heavy hitters. When the writers aren’t having him trip on everything and get knocked out by nonsensical plot lines, Flash can hold his own with the best of them. The thing is, you can say the same for most of the JL members, which is what makes the team so special. Flash fans had definitely earned this after seeing their favorite character downplayed for so long.
We can’t forget Lex Luthor’s original criminal group from the first part of the show either. He made his own mini Legion of Doom involving Ultra Humanite, Shade, Star Sapphire, and a few other members. Team vs Team fights are always a lot of fun and while the Justice League should have the huge edge over this team, the villains use a lot of teamwork to make it close. Throwing in the Joker also added an extra dynamic. He held his own pretty well considering the fact that he doesn’t have any powers. It was just a fun two part event. There weren’t any world shattering stakes or big guest stars, but it was a solid action two part event which showed that Batman still considers himself to be a loner at heart. For the record, I don’t disagree with his call. He’s the most experienced member and breaking into a villain base on his own seems reasonable.
Another good episode involved yet another team battle. Dr. Fate had gathered his own team to stop a supernatural menace. The problem is that he intends to sacrifice Solomon Grundy in order to do it. Superman decides that this is inhumane and while Grundy has given his consent, it’s hard to say whether he really understands the stakes or not. So, the Justice League decide to do battle with Fate’s Defenders. This episode involved a heavy amount of plot hax to make Dr. Fate’s team stay in the game. There’s no possible way that Aquaman can beat Wonder Woman. The only incarnation of his that has any shot is the New 52 version and that still doesn’t work because it’s also Wonder Woman’s strongest depiction and she’s still ahead of him. I think Fate should have beaten Hawkgirl, but having a magic disrupting weapon does make things tricky. Superman’s fight with Aquaman is the best part of the episode. Yeah, this was definitely an awesome two parter and it’s one of the episodes that I’ve seen the least so it’s always cool to revisit it.
Finally, we’ve got the final two parter with the return of Darkseid. The first part is exclusively used for a big villain team against team battle as half of the Legion of Doom sides with Luthor and the other half go with Grodd. There’s a lot happening in the episode so you have to keep your eyes peeled if you want to catch all of the background fights. The main bout with Grodd and Luthor is also handled really well and was epic despite both characters not usually being combatants. It all goes back to how great the show is. The second part is mainly Darkseid’s fight with Superman and Batman while also showing all of the other heroes handling the minions. This definitely should have been a three parter to fit it all in as it is very rushed, but the fight is still satisfying. Whenever Superman and Darkseid are on screen, you know that cool things are about to happen. One slight issue I have is the fact that Superman loses in the end. He really deserved this win after all of these years.
That’s it for individual episodes, but I’d like to quickly give a shout out to the overall Cadmus arc. It was a superb addition to the show and is part of why Unlimited was so good. The first part of the show always stuck to self contained episodes while the Cadmus arc connected a whole season of Unlimited. Amanda Waller’s group were portrayed well. They were outgunned, but there is a lot that you can do with science. The verbal debates between her and Batman were always good to see and the arc always asked the tough questions. It has the honor of being one of the only pieces of media to properly portray a more complex/darker Superman. He was forced to look at the gray lines and betrayal from his friends. Superman never snapped and took a life though, but he would get visibly irritated and temperamental. It doesn’t always make him look good, but it does show how he is still only human. Bending the rules to save Question was a morally iffy move, but one that I felt was completely in the right and I was glad he made the call. Whether you can prove that Cadmus is evil or not, it doesn’t change the fact that they kidnapped and tortured one of the League members. I’d have been very disappointed if Superman had not broken in ASAP. There was definitely no time to call in the League and no real need anyway. Superman can handle whatever they throw at him. Galatea, The Ultra Men, the Captain Atom battle, Luthor’s Presidential Subplot, there were a lot of awesome plots within the arc. To really understand just how great it was, you’ve got to watch it. There’s a reason why many consider this to be the high point of the franchise, it was just very awesome to watch and you’d be at the edge of your seat the whole time. I think Cadmus got off a little too leniently, but the fact that they are currently disbanded is a start.
We may as well start off strong with Superman in the characters section. He is easily the best character in the series and it isn’t even close. His character is portrayed to perfection and beyond in this series. While Superman does take a beating throughout, you have to remember that he is constantly holding back so that he doesn’t injure someone. He only really goes all out a few times and even then he goes to great lengths to ensure that he does not destroy the villain that he is facing. Superman is the ultimate hero and the Unlimited Cadmus arc did a good job of also showing that he can get angry as well. Storming into the Cadmus facility and rescuing Captain Atom may not have been playing by the rules exactly, but it was certainly the right thing to do. Even if Atom was a total traitor there. It is certainly hard to forget that and it will hurt the character in his right up. Superman has always been meant to be the ultimate symbol of heroism and justice. He does a great job of upholding this role and is portrayed as an intelligent guy in addition to being the world’s strongest fighter.
Next up is Batman, another highlight of the show. The DCAU is really how I became a Batman fan. His character is definitely a lot tougher to get right than Superman’s. That is because Batman can be more of a vigilante at times and some authors like to make him cross too many lines or show off his Bruce Wayne alter ego a little too excessively. In Justice League, these problems are nowhere to be found. First of all, Batman is portrayed as being very heroic in Justice League. He even gets along with the cops a lot more than he usually would. His voice is very iconic and helped make his scenes even cooler. He ended up saving the League several times and he started this tradition in the very first multi part story. Batman is basically perfect here and he is right under Superman. It is no wonder that both of these characters are my top 2 comic book characters of all time.
Wonder Woman is next on the list and she is very good. You are going to quickly notice that a great number of characters are pretty likable in this show. With the writing so on point, it is to be expected. Wonder Woman is always eager for a fight and that is really why she is such a great character. Once again, I have to point out For The Man Who Has Everything as a great example of this. Wonder Woman is eager to fight Mongul right from the start and doesn’t give up even when she is completely outmatched. The two part time travel adventure in Unlimited is another good example of why she is so likable as Wonder Woman declares that Justice League members never retreat even when the other characters were losing their nerve. WW is a warrior so she is made of sterner stuff. While the gap in power between her and Superman is rather large in this show, she is still quite formidable.
The Green Lantern in this show is John Stewart as opposed to Hal Jordan. Hal is still my favorite GL, but John is handled well here. One thing that I typically don’t like about army characters is that they tend to follow the rules a little too closely, even if it means letting a teammate get a bad deal. It is why I typically like the rebels like Batman…or Hal Jordan. Luckily, the army angle isn’t played up too much. If anything, that is Green Arrow’s role this time. John is maybe a little too quick to doubt himself at times like his terrible appearance in the Manhunter two parter, but just about every character is entitled to having a bad day or two in a series that is this long. He has plenty of good scenes to counter all of the bad ones like when he was able to get up and fight on in the Legion of Superheroes episode after getting blindsided. He also put in a great effort during the Starcrossed invasion. I also do appreciate the fact that he doesn’t have to keep his secret identity a secret. He just transforms whenever he wants too and that lets him act a lot quicker than some of the other heroes. As with Superman, his power is low balled quite a lot to make the villains look good since he should be able to take most of them down without a sweat. The Justice League is just too strong though so it is to be expected. Guys like Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, and Superman can take whole superhero teams down on their own. With all 7 united, there are very few foes who can last against them.
Next up is the Flash. This isn’t Barry though as the show opted to use Wally West. This means that his personality is closer to Spiderman’s than Superman. Wally can be fun to have around as he always keeps the atmosphere light. He can flirt a bit too much at times, but for the most part he is actually funny instead of just being super annoying the whole time. He does have a tendency to trip quite a lot, but that just goes back to the plot hax issue. There aren’t many villains who can legitimately land a hit on Flash so unless the writers can be really creative, they end up having to wave the flag of defeat by low balling Flash. One episode that did a good job of giving Flash a real challenge without a lot of plot hax was the Flash museum episode. Mirror Master’s abilities make him a decent match for the Flash and once the hero is stuck on a boomerang, there is only so much that he can do. So far, all of the characters that I have mentioned are likable and can hold their own episode with ease. That is about to change as I do not like the final two members.
Next up is Hawkgirl. She is the perfect example of a character who talks a great game, but can’t really back it up. She has some slight super strength as her stats are similar to that of a super soldier. Hawkgirl’s mace is a great weapon to have around as well. Unfortunately, we all remember how her character went down the tubes in Starcrossed. Granted that it was the movie so whether or not it should be counted in this review is up for debate. It colors all of her actions in a new light and I’d say that it is all right to count it here. Hawkgirl’s drama in Unlimited was also not very interesting and I missed the mask. A positive trait that she has is her eagerness to fight, but this time it was simply not enough to turn her into a likable character. I’m still surprised that she was chosen as one of the original 7. There were definitely other characters who could have worked better. At least Justice League’s writing is still top of the line so Hawkgirl is never terrible aside from Starcrossed. Put her in another show and she would probably outshine most of the characters, but we can’t just ignore Starcrossed. Thanks to that, she is definitely a very bad character.
Finally we have the Martian Manhunter. Theoretically he should be one of the strongest members since he has a great array of useful abilities. Well, I don’t think that the show agreed. He gets some super strength and still has his intangibility and everything, but despite all of this he never looks that good. He spends most of the time getting wrecked by everyone and panics quite a lot. When he tries to scan for Lex Luthor in the Amazo two part adventure, Manhunter is so distressed that he has to fly away and reconnect to himself. He also quite the team for a little while towards the ens of Unlimited and becomes a complete by the books fellow, which hurts him quite a lot. If you’ve read my reviews in the past, you will probably know that I think comrades should always come before the rules. Considering that a teammate was kidnapped by Cadmus, he should have been quick to approve the plan. He is not someone that you can count on in a pinch so there was no way that I was going to like him.
Aside from the main 7, I’d say that Lex Luthor deserves the first mention. He is portrayed very well in Justice League and is often the one who brings a lot of villains together. While he often acted on his own in the Superman show it would appear that he finally saw the value in having underlings work for him. He is easily the most likable villain in the series. His super powered Brainiac form was definitely quite the sight as well. It was a solid power up.
Justice League had a good track record with the more strategic villains. They don’t all have to be powerhouses although those tend to be quite good as well. Amanda Waller is another good example of a solid villain. She may not have been quite as charismatic as Lex, but she still did a pretty good job through and through. Cadmus needed to have a good leader to make them credible and she was really suited for the role. Her banter with Batman was always a lot of fun and she certainly did not lack in confidence.
Mongul is the polar opposite of Waller as he is all about physical combat. I didn’t care for him much in War World as he was portrayed as more of a pretender to power who needed blackmail to win. In Unlimited, they powered him up quite a bit which I thought was a really good idea. He should be able to give Superman a really good fight. I mean…isn’t that the point of a good Superman villain? He has tough competition to compete with there though since Darkseid, Doomsday, and Brainiac are all around as well. Brainiac was a mix of strategic and powerful. Needless to say he is also a great Superman villain. He didn’t get a whole lot to do in the series as his appearances were limited, but he made a big impact whenever he would show up. The two part fusion with Lex was definitely a big moment.
Doomsday is easily the best of the power villains. His first appearance really sold him to be as he had a very Vegeta sequel character to him. He wanted a challenge and was disappointed after wrecking the JL. In Unlimited, he kept his confidence and lived up to the hype. Honestly, I’d say that he was even stronger than Mongul and Darkseid in this continuity but I’d say that you could make a real case for any of the three. They were all very close in power.
Darkseid got the series finale to himself so he definitely had a big role. His final power up was a lot of fun to have and he was always a very cunning villain. Just look at how he baited Superman into doing one last Dash attack with a few well placed words. That’s part of what makes him such a good villain, he is anything but one dimensional. His voice actor did a good job with him and the episodes really gave him the status and recognition that is due. Darkseid is a planetary threat and he leads an incredible army. There are few foes who are this dangerous.
One kind of villain that is usually fun is when a hero gets a dark counterpart. This is a trope across all of media and Justice League was glad to throw a few in as well. Aresia is essentially Wonder Woman if the hero ever went too far. They have a brief fight and are fairly evenly matched. Aresia is an interesting villain who was a little underused, but still managed to be interesting. Galatea is basically evil Supergirl and she got a sizable role. She was one of the stronger villains in the show since she is Supergirl, but physically a little stronger. I’d argue that it’s debatable though as clones are rarely as strong as the original. Galatea’s Ulta (Ultra? Something like that) Men were less impressive, but they were mainly around as a distraction anyway.
Green Arrow is one of those characters that I didn’t remember being awful until I re watched the show for the 10th time. He’s definitely worse than I could have ever imagined. He only joins the team because he hopes to get a date and then he does his best to sabotage the team at every angle. He is supposed to represent the average joe who may find the team scary. Maybe this is good in theory, but certainly not in practice. We don’t need him egging on the civilians after the League was hijacked and nearly destroyed a lot of people. Even when he is “defending” the league, he makes sure to do it in a bad way so that they all look bad. After the Question is kidnapped and the team finds out that Cadmus is responsible, Arrow is against attacking them. (Martian Manhunter agreed…) Arrow just stands for the worst of the League and I was waiting for everyone to boot him out. When the going gets tough, Arrow gets going and that’s not the kind of guy that you want on your team.
Black Canary is a far better character. She is always ready to fight and doesn’t mind breaking the rules when necessary. Her rivalry with Huntress always made for a cool dynamic even if the fights were a little one sided. I still say that Huntress should have the edge in a pure hand to hand fight, but it is what it is. Huntress was even better than Black Canary. She became a mercenary and was booted off of the League. Once she became a loner, Huntress was able to help out a lot more from the shadows. Without her, the Question definitely would have been forgotten. She acts like Batman to an extent as she is certainly a vigilante through and through.
The Question and Captain Atom are two characters who are sort of good at first and then fall down the ladder. Atom’s decent is in a league of its own though. He betrays the whole League and allows the Question to be tortured while he just waits in another room. He did it for the Army, but that just shows that he has no moral compass. There was no way he was going to recover from that and he ended up being one of the worst League members. The Question also cracked as he went off to go destroy Luthor. That was never going to work, but at least I can understand his reasoning. It’s the wrong move, but it was logically sound so it wouldn’t make the character drop all that drastically at all.
Amazo is one of those figures who isn’t a good character, but makes for a good villain. I like having him as an opponent for the League because he’s super strong and his adaptive abilities are really fun. His personality just isn’t that interesting though as he goes from being super naive to super emotional. He also looks embarrassingly bad in his final ever appearance. That was definitely a nice moment of plot hax and Unlimited went a little too far with how powerful they made him. Still, he gave us some of the best episodes in the series. His first two part fight with the League was definitely awesome and his gold mode felt like something out of an anime with how powerful he was. I definitely wish he had gotten to appear more.
Solomon Grundy’s another good villain to have around. He got a really good power up in Unlimited that allowed him to finally have a really good fight with Superman. They’ve had good matches in the past I suppose, but it was always obvious that Superman would wreck him by the end. This new form changed all of that. The show handled the ending pretty badly though. Certainly not the way that the climax to such a fun episode should have went down. Grundy’s not very smart and the show tries to portray him as a nice guy sometimes, but I don’t really buy it. He’s not too bad though.
Gorilla Grodd is one of those villains that I never really cared for. He’s a classic “Talks tough, but can’t back it up” character. Thanks to the fact that this show is amazing, he’s not all that bad. Grodd will never be my kind of villain, but at least you can actually take him seriously here. His ultimate plan was pretty terrible and I’m glad that Luthor called him out on it. Grodd’s overconfidence was ultimately his downfall, but he made for a good sub villain.
Back to League members, Supergirl was certainly a great character. She got a lot of character development during the show as she went from being a pure hot head to an experienced fighter who was still eager for a challenge. Unlike a lot of the petty characters throughout media who don’t like to be in someone’s shadow, Supergirl embraced the fact that people would think of Superman when they saw her. She was proud to be related to him and continued to excel. It was a shame that we couldn’t see her in the final two episodes, but she had a great role in the series. She was one of the strongest fighters and she was the first one to charge in against Amazo once he made it to Earth. The League shall definitely miss her.
Aquaman’s one of those League members who gets a little too close to politics. I think he’d choose that over his ties with the League which is why I wouldn’t trust him much. This was before the New 52 days so he isn’t all that strong either. At least he’s fairly good at Chess right? Dr. Fate was the leader of the sub Justice League group and he was pretty annoying. He was always very cryptic and making the wrong choices. Sacrificing the few for the many…no wonder he never became a League member!
Felix Faust was a pretty weak villain who eventually became strong by grabbing a magical armor. It shows just how important a good artifact can be in a fight. I definitely didn’t like him as a villain, but at least he was tough in Unlimited. Hades is a villain who was definitely over hyped in Justice League. He actually takes down Superman and Flash, which is pure plot hax. His design is cool, but the character is not. It’s a bit of a trend for some of these villains, but if it makes for good fights then I’m game. There are certainly a bunch of other characters in the show so enjoy meeting them all once you start! Some characters are pretty cool like Star Sapphire and Mirror Master while others aren’t handled well like Hawkman and the Ult(r)a men.
You will not be surprised to hear that Justice League is a technical masterpiece. The animation doesn’t just hold up well against the newer shows, it destroys them. There has never been an American TV show with better animation and I’m starting to doubt that there ever will be. The character designs were all on point and that made the 3 fight scenes even better. Fights can only be so good when the character models are bad so having really good ones like the type found here can make quite the difference. Some episodes in particular also stand out for the great animation. One such example is the opening three part special. I dare say that it may have had the best animation in the series. It was also a rare example of a night time fight done right. The animation stays solid throughout the rest of the series and into Unlimited. It was simply way ahead of its time. There was never a moment where I looked at back at a full episode and didn’t find it to be brilliant.
We also can’t forget about the great soundtrack that the show had. It used a wide variety of themes over the course of the show. In particular, I’d say that Unlimited had the best themes. For The Man Who Has Everything’s music was extremely good. It had a lot of good rock music and really threw you into the episode. We also had a quick moment of Batman Beyond music. Another good tune was the one that played during the battle between Superman and Doomsday in Unlimited. Opera type themes like that can be quite epic. There are a lot of other great themes like that scattered around. As for the first theme song, its decent. I do appreciate it a little more than I used too, but it still isn’t great. Unlimited’s theme song is a big step up from the original as it sounds pretty inspiring. It is still rather low budget as far as the images are concerned, but the audio is good.
I think a perfect example of how great the show is on a technical level can be traced back to Luthor vs Grodd as I mentioned earlier. I don’t care for Grodd and I can’t usually take Luthor seriously in a fight. Despite this, the fight was actually very well done. This is due in part to the crisp animation during the fight. It was visually on point throughout. The music chosen was very fitting and illustrated just how important this fight was. The writing was good as proper trash talk can also really help a fight. Finally, the character development that both of them had already received had built up to this fight for a very long time. If a typically uninteresting fight like this one can be very good under this show’s direction, you can just imagine how awesome the other fights are. Superman vs Shazam, Captain Atom vs Superman, Superman vs Mongul, Darkseid vs Superman, Doomsday vs Superman, etc. It’s hard to describe just how awesome they are.
I really want to go off on a tangent about why I think the Justice League are so much better than the Avengers, but I do verbally attack the latter quite a lot lately. I’ll just briefly say that of the 7 members in the show, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Superman could probably beat the Avengers on their own. Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, and Batman teaming up could also potentially pull this off although it would be very close. Ignoring the power levels though, the Justice League are just a lot more likable because they are loyal. The Avengers are constantly splitting up because the government plays them against each other or adds some new law in. The Justice League have never taken orders like that and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. In the latest Avengers Assemble episode, The Avengers allowed the Hulk to be given a thunder collar that would constantly zap him and while they halfheartedly talk about it, they simply allow it to happen. They let the government treat the Hulk like a slave or an animal. The Justice League would never allow one of their members to be treated like that. Nuff said.
Overall, This was definitely a long review. Typically I discuss the arcs more generally or just choose less episodes, but Justice League has always been a very special series so giving it a more thorough review was fun. It’s my 5th favorite show of all time and if we discount anime, then it’s number 1. There is no comic book show even remotely in the same league as Justice League and I dare say that nothing will ever reach its level. It is American perfection as far as I am concerned with animation. I could go back and talk about the positives as I wrap up, but you already know what I think of the show in great detail. So, instead of all that I’ll just recommend that you go watch the series if you haven’t already. I have a policy of only giving one perfect score per field on the blog so Yugioh GX already claimed the 10/10, but that’s the only thing stopping this show. It’s essentially perfect and it will show you why the Justice League is and always will be the greatest superhero team in fiction.