Judge Dan Mancini thinks this superhero show could use a skosh more Gleek.
Our reviews of Justice League (published May 16th, 2002), Justice League: Season One (published April 12th, 2006), Justice League: Season One (Blu-Ray) (published September 1st, 2008), Justice League: Season Two (published July 19th, 2006), Justice League: Justice On Trial (published April 9th, 2003), Justice League: The Brave And The Bold (published November 17th, 2004), Justice League Unlimited: Season One (published January 3rd, 2007), Justice League Unlimited: Season Two (published May 2nd, 2007), and Justice League Unlimited: Saving The World (published March 23rd, 2005) are also available.
Superman: Working together, we saved the planet. And I believe that if we stay together as a team, we could be a force that could truly work for the ideals of peace and justice.
Flash: What, like a bunch of super friends?
When it comes to animated superhero action, producer Bruce Timm is the man. His Batman: The Animated Series is not only the finest animated comic book adaptation ever made, it's also one of the finest versions of Batman ever committed to film, animated or otherwise. Superman: The Animated Series was similarly awesome, only lesser than Batman: The Animated Series because, well, Superman isn't as cool as Batman.
Timm launched Justice League on the Cartoon Network in 2001. It ran for two seasons through 2004 before being revamped and rebranded as Justice League Unlimited, which ran for two additional seasons, leaving the air in 2006. All 91 episodes of the two shows were released in four complete season DVD boxed sets between 2006 and 2007. Those episodes have now been repackaged as Justice League: The Complete Series, a 15-disc mega-set with enough superhero action to sate any fan of DC Comics. The discs come housed in a sturdy, attractive, and colorful metal slipcase featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman on the front cover (along with an embossed Justice League logo), and Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, and the Flash on the back. Inside the slipcover are two chunky keepcases, labeled Volume One and Volume Two.
Volume One is an eight-disc set that contains both seasons of Justice League:
In its original form, Justice League was primarily a team-up of Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and the Flash, with lone wolf Batman lending a hand from time to time. With the exception of "Comfort and Joy"—a novelty Christmas episode late in Season Two—the show is a series of epic two- and three-part adventures. The stories are dense, action-packed, and serious—a far cry from the various Super Friends series produced by Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s and '80s. The League is formed in "Secret Origins," a three-part premiere that finds our heroes joining forces to battle aliens out to conquer Earth. Subsequent episodes feature the Justice League monitoring Earth from their orbital Watchtower base. Over the course of the two seasons, they take on a seemingly never-ending supply of extra-terrestrial invaders as well as high-profile DC villains such as Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Brainiac, the Joker, Gorilla Grod, and Solomon Grundy. They occasionally team with second-tier heroes like Aquaman, Doctor Fate, Etrigan the Demon, and the Blackhawks. Action-packed, intelligently written, and artfully animated, the show is made to appeal to comic book newbies and DC fanboys alike.
The first six discs of Volume Two contain both seasons of Justice League Unlimited, while a bonus disc offers a brand new supplement:
After two seasons of Justice League, Warner Bros. asked Timm and his crew to revamp the series, ditching the epic structure in favor of stand-alone episodes. They complied, but with a cheat: Though they began crafting less sprawling stories, they opened the Justice League up to nearly every hero they could think of from the DC and Charlton Comics universes. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman assumed supporting roles while characters like Green Arrow, Supergirl, Hawk and Dove, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, and the Question took center stage in various episodes. The show largely benefits from the expansion of its cast—especially in episodes that feature strong personalities like flaming liberal Green Arrow or conspiracy theorist the Question—but casual comic book fans may find themselves lost in the vast sea of unfamiliar faces (most of whom are never even named, let alone introduced).
Though the plots of individual episodes are mostly self-contained, each season of Justice League Unlimited features a secondary plotline that makes up a season-long story arc. Justice League ended its second season with "Starcrossed," an episode that found the League teaming with an army of Thanagarians (Hawkgirl's people) against yet another race of aliens attacking Earth. A Thanagarian betrayal of our heroes leaves the Watchtower decimated and Hawkgirl's status as a League member in question. Justice League Unlimited opens with the League aboard a newly launched and far more elaborate Watchtower. A major subplot of the series finds Hawkgirl regaining League members' trust. It also introduces Amanda Walker, head of a clandestine U.S. government project called Cadmus, tasked with breathing down the League's neck because of a growing realization among world governments that Earth would have little defense against a Justice League gone rogue. The show's second season continues the Amanda Walker plotline, while also pitting the League against the Secret Society, a team of villains assembled by Lex Luthor and Gorilla Grod. Justice League Unlimited may not be as accessible as Justice League, but its stories, drama, and animation remain exemplary for a television production.
The first 14 discs in Justice League: The Complete Series are identical to those in the four original complete season boxes, right down to their labeling. This means, of course, that all of the original extras remain intact. Timm and various crew members provide audio commentaries on "The Enemy Below," "Legends," "The Savage Time," "Twilight," "A Better World," and "Starcrossed" from Justice League, and "This Little Piggy" and "The Return" from Justice League Unlimited.
Volume One also contains the following video featurettes: "Inside Justice League: Creators' Discussion Panel," "Storyboards: The Blueprint for Justice," "The Look of the League: Character Design," "Justice League: The First Mission: Original Promo," "Voices of Justice," "Look, Up in the Sky!: The Amazing Story of Superman" (excerpt), "Justice League Declassified."
Volume Two offers the following featurettes: "And Justice for All: The Process of Revamping the Series with New Characters and a New Creative Direction," "Themes of Justice," "Cadmus Exposed," "Justice League Chronicles." There's also a music-only track for series finale "Destroyer."
Disc 15 of the set contains a 16-minute puff piece called Unlimited Reserve: Exploring the Depths of the DC Universe. It's the only supplement not included in the original set.
The only major drag of this new set being a repackaging of previously released content is that Season Two of Justice League has not been treated to an upgraded transfer. Season One was produced and broadcast in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Season Two was opened up to 1.78:1, but presented on DVD in a non-anamorphic transfer. Both seasons of Justice League Unlimited are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. None of the transfers look bad—all have bold colors and fine detail—but the out-dated transfer of the second season of Justice League is bound to annoy any viewer with a widescreen display.
Audio is presented in a decent-enough-for-television Dolby Stereo Surround mix that delivers clean dialogue, effects, and music even if it doesn't come close to matching the show's epic scale.
Justice League: The Complete Series is an attractive package, perfect for fans of the show who didn't invest in the previously released DVDs. If you already own those sets, the admittedly sweet metal slipcase and a new 16-minute featurette aren't enough to make this box double-dip worthy.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Episode Commentaries
Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.