That wasn't bad at all. A while ago I'd been disappointed by the first series of Batman: The Animated Series, having bought some DVDs after hearing what appeared to be exaggerated claims about it. It seems that I'd missed the unspoken addendum "...considering that it's still a children's cartoon for American TV." Maybe it's just a question of expectations? The idea of a Justice League Unlimited series sounded ghastly and I'd been expecting the results to be rubbish, so maybe it was inevitable that I was going to be pleasantly surprised.
What's interesting about it is the scale of the fights. A solo hero can easily be overwhelmed and have to ask for back-up, especially if they're up against a group of supervillains. These are bigger battles than you'd get in a single-hero book (i.e. the norm) and it's perfectly possible for one hero to get casually flattened in the melee. I liked that.
There's also more character work than I expected. Wonder Woman's being sent on a diplomatic mission to a global warming conference, in which role she's pretty terrible. It's still nice to see an environmentalist message, though. Much more important though is the Martian Manhunter, who's in denial about the fact that he doesn't really like humans and has no particular interest in saving them as a superhero. This leads to him making a decision at the end of the episode that wrote him out of the series for a while. That's cool too. At the end of the day his decision isn't a particularly big deal, but it's still a minor format change in a medium that one expects to run on reset buttons. Because of this, if you're watching this as one of the bonus episodes on the Wonder Woman DVD, do it after Hawk and Dove
The heroes involved here are Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and the Martian Manhunter, if you don't count a walk-on for Mr Terrific. (No, I'd never heard of him either. For those who had, this one's Michael Holt, not Terry Sloane.) Meanwhile the story involves a bunch of supervillains going after a Viking ship that's been frozen in a glacier so that they can get at the body of an immortal Viking Prince in order to retro-engineer his superpowers for themselves. This guy gets a sufficiently tragic backstory that he's probably the most vivid character of the episode. Needless to say, we're all expecting him to jump out of the ship after millennia and kick bad guy arse... but the inevitable never takes place. The frozen dude stays dead. This is particularly surprising since he's yet another real comic book character, originally from The Brave and the Bold. His real name's Jon, but I don't think they ever mention this, perhaps because it might have been confusing with the Martian Manhunter being J'onn.
I have some superhero nerd notes. Wonder Woman does the Wonder Woman spin, presumably a nod to the Lynda Carter TV series, and can fly. Both of those will surprise anyone who's just watched the 2009 animated feature
. Meanwhile Green Arrow has enough trick arrows that to my surprise he's not laughably outclassed.
Overall, it's worth a spin. The animation's smooth and quite nice to look at. It's a good deal better than many of the cartoons we all watched as children and if taken in that spirit, it's enjoyable. It's also brought me around to thinking that a Justice League series might be worth watching after all, since the enormous cast will allow a greater range of character work than you'd get in, say, a solo Batman title. If nothing else, this was a bonus episode on the two-disc DVD sets of both Wonder Woman
and Justice League: The New Frontier, so someone must like it. Gets extra points for the unexpected elegy sequence at the end, even if I'm not sure that bit quite worked. I wish I'd known about the Jon-J'onn naming coincidence now.