Ever since I heard the announcement that Cartoon Network would have a new Justice League show, I had patiently awaited its release, hoping and praying that it would not be another Teen Titans Go! (Prepare for some harsh opinions on that.)
I am joyed beyond belief that my hopes came true with Justice League Action.
Rather than a cringey, kids only, bottom of the barrel, boring show, we got a worthy DC show filled with action and humor that can appeal to adults and children alike.
Now, some may be put off by the show’s art style, feeling it may be too bright or cartoony. However, every aspect of the show comes together in a really satisfying way. The art style is colorful and bright first and foremost because this is a children’s show, and secondly, because it is themed much brighter than a lot of DC content as of late to set itself apart. I know there are Marvel and DC fans alike who believe DC shows and movies should be solely dark and gritty, but in my opinion, that devalues the amount of great shows and movies that could come from a different perspective (like this one). The designs of all the characters, Wonder Woman and Batman especially, look incredible. Another great aspect of the show: the voice acting is well done by the entire cast. I am especially pleased with Kevin Conroy’s return to Batman, and Sean Astin’s performance as Shazam. That is not to devalue anyone, because every single actor had a stunning performance, however these are the ones that stood out to me.
In addition to voices and art style, the show also has fantastic writing, which is what people really want to see to set it apart from Teen Titans Go! in my opinion. Whereas Teen Titans Go!’s place on Cartoon Network relies heavily on appealing to children in the most asinine ways, whether it be through the brand of “LOL RANDOM” humor that appeals to many younger kids now, or making everything as simplistic and non-character-respectful as possible, Justice League Action takes the type of humor and concepts that the old DC Animated Universe employed, modernizes many of them, and presents them in an even more child-friendly manner, in half the time of its predecessors, and still winds up being entertaining to adults. The show is at an 8.6 on IMDb at the time of writing this, and there have been generally positive reviews across the web. Children are not writing these reviews (for the most part, I think, at least), so obviously something is clicking right with people. On top of the writing, the animation on this show is stunning, so well done it made me nostalgic for Batman: The Animated Series and its accompanying series. Absolutely visually pleasing in every regard.
Now there are a couple glaring issues I want to bring up quickly. You may notice the show seems to move by quite quickly per episode, and sometimes conflicts that are not the primary one are solved a bit fast. The reason for this is the 11 minute runtime, compared to Young Justice, Justice League, and Justice League: Unlimited’s 22 minute runtime. It does force an episode arc to swing by fast, but hey, good on everyone involved for making the show entertaining in spite of that. I also want to bring up that while I will compare the feeling this show gives me to Justice League: Unlimited, Batman: The Animated Series, etc. it is not those shows. This is its own beast, and I advise anyone looking to watch to take it that way, and you will enjoy it more.
Now, let’s get onto the review of the actual content of the episode. From this point on, this is a spoiler review.
Shazam Slam, the title given to the premiere special, is not actually a forty-minute pilot episode as much as it is four normal episodes put together to create one pilot. Most if not all have aired out of order in the UK already. All four of these episodes are one singular arc, revolving around Black Adam releasing the Brothers Djinn into the world, hence the episode’s title revolving around Shazam.
To avoid confusion, I will be referring to the wizard, Shazam, as Wizard, and the superhero, Shazam, as Shazam.
The plot of the first episode follows Wizard as he runs from creatures of darkness summoned by Black Adam, and Batman tailing him insisting on helping. Wizard has a change of heart on refusing help when he realizes to beat Black Adam and reclaim “The Rock” (in a few years this will be hilarious) he needs Batman’s help. Wizard and Batman manage to free Billy, who becomes Shazam, and defeat Black Adam, but not before Adam unleashes the Brothers Djinn into the world. Black Adam is sent to “the farthest reaches of the galaxy” (this is a lie and I will come back to it) and Batman and Shazam come to the conclusion the Brothers Djinn need to be caught.
The next episode begins with Superman and Wonder Woman battling Parasite. They win, but before he can be arrested, Parasite is struck by a meteor revealed to be the Djinn Calythos. Calythos possesses Parasite and begins absorbing first Wonder Woman’s, then Superman’s powers. He begins to raise a massive volcano off the coast of Metropolis with his flaming sword.
Superman and Wonder Woman go to the volcano to fight Calythos, but are again defeated and nearly powerless. Suddenly, Martian Manhunter appears, but too is defeated and has his powers absorbed.
This was a part of the plan, however, and Calythos becomes allergic to his own fire due to Martian Manhunter’s own weakness. He is incapacitated due to the pain, and Parasite splits from him, after which both are detained.
Next episode, we have Batman chasing down another Djinn, Uthool. He is assisted by Green Arrow, but the Djinn suddenly turns to dust. Batman and Green Arrow begin driving back to the Hall of Justice in the Batmobile, but Batman becomes annoyed with Green Arrow cracking jokes and ejects him into a river.
Inside the Hall, Batman is clearly acting strange as he discusses the Djinn with Superman and Wonder Woman. He enters the elevator down, giving a creepy grin as the door shuts.
Downstairs, Booster Gold stops Batman and forces him into their daily sparring sessions. Booster flips Batman to his surprise and joy, but then is brutally beaten down by the other hero. When asked how he moves like that, Batman replies with “I’m Batman.” (SQUEAL).
Wonder Woman then enters and attacks him, saying he is not Batman, because Batman would never be beaten by Booster Gold even for a moment (shown later by footage of Booster Gold being knocked out with one punch or dodge on numerous occasions). The fake Batman reveals himself as the Djinn Uthool, and ties Wonder Woman in her own lasso.
Uthool goes to the power core of the Hall next, where he uses a power cable to electrocute Cyborg, and then begins tampering with the core. Superman and Green Arrow enter intent on stopping him, but he turns into a giant bat monster (it’s reeeally cool) and destroys the Hall, and taking the fight with Superman away from the ruins.
Wonder Woman, after being freed, sees how poorly Superman is faring against the Djinn, and uses the power core as a bomb, blowing it up on Uthool and separating him from Batman. Uthool is then detained and returned to the Rock.
Final episode is a chase, with Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman chasing the three final Djinn. One of the Djinn recites a spell, naming Wonder Woman and Superman, who promptly lose their powers. The Trinity is nearly defeated by the Djinn but is rescued by John Constantine (who has been cursed with a severely heightened Australian accent by a warlock).
Constantine brings the heroes to his home, where they are met by Plastic Man, Swamp Thing, and Green Arrow. Superman and Wonder Woman’s powers have returned, and Green Arrow decides, to combat the Djinn’s magic, if they all switch costumes and alter their appearance, they will not be able to be cursed. Batman has no part of it and leaves to find another way.
The next time the heroes fight the three Djinn, the Djinn name them incorrectly due to their costumes, and their powers remain, allowing them to easily dispatch the Djinn. However, Black Adam appears, more powerful than ever, and traps all the heroes (who have reverted back to their normal costumes).
While Black Adam was supposed to have been sent to the far reaches of the galaxy, he actually was simply imprisoned at the center of the Earth in the prehistoric age (supposedly Superman had been told this by Batman as well), giving him thousands upon thousands of years to hone his magic, making him even more powerful than Shazam.
Speaking of whom, Batman appears with Billy, who transforms into Shazam to fight Black Adam. He is beaten, but the rest of the heroes join with him to fight Adam. Adam transforms the Djinn into large, dog-like beasts, who fight with and split up the heroes.
Constantine, in order to even the fight, creates a portal and tells the heroes to throw the Djinn into it. After a long fight they do, and all the heroes then turn to fight Black Adam, defeating him.
Shazam is then invited to join the League, and Wonder Woman realizes the mountain they are in is hollow enough to turn into a new home… The Watchtower, shown being built with Green Lantern’s help afterward.
All in all, I really liked this arc from start to finish. Booster Gold, Green Arrow, and Plastic Man are all great comedic heroes, and Green Arrow’s banter with Batman just feels so right. I am really excited to seeing more of that dynamic and Booster Gold, and from what we know about this show having a massive cast of heroes, there will be plenty of it.
While the 11 minute segment issue does make it seem a little quick for a 40 minute premiere, it is made up for by the huge amount of ground and characters they covered, and the overall enjoyment I had while watching. I do not know if these were intended to be aired together or if it was an afterthought, but it worked well enough that I am certainly not complaining.
I am complaining, however, about the Black Adam inconsistency. Wizard clearly states that he sent Black Adam to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. Superman, however, upon Adam’s return, was obviously told that Adam was sent to prehistoric times, by his own words. I guess it is a relatively small issue, but God, why make that one mistake when you could have had Adam come back either way regardless of which one is the true one?
Other than the small issues, however, I will be returning for more of this show. In the wake of DC losing a great show in Young Justice (Season 3 Hype!), it’s amazing to finally see a show worthy of taking its place, at least for a short while. I do not know if this will beat out Justice League or Justice League: Unlimited just yet since there’s only been these four short episodes, but I can say it is a great successor so far and I hope the quality continues henceforth, because this is a show DC fans young and old deserve.
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© 2016 by Vincent C. Russo. All Rights Reserved.
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