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Justice League Unlimited: Season 1 DVD

Posted by television On January - 14 - 2007

Warner Brothers Home Video, 2006

By Owen K. Craig

Series developers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini get comics. They understand what makes them work, they understand why superheroes appeal to people, and they understand what comics fans – both adult and child – are looking for. It can’t be easy developing a show aimed at both kids and adults, but Timm and Dini have repeatedly succeeded in finding that balance. Justice League Unlimited is no exception.

The original Justice League series ran for two seasons before the announcement that the show’s format was changing – the cast was expanded in order to allow for a wider selection of characters. DC Comics opened their vaults and told the producers to go nuts. Which is kind of like letting a fat German kid loose in a Lindt chocolate store. There are a few notable (and unfortunate) exceptions. I, for one, really wish a Blue Beetle/Booster Gold episode had been possible. Despite the expanded number of characters, the show still managed to balance a focus on the “big seven” seen in the first two seasons (that’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and J’onn J’onzz for all you Marvel zombies out there), with characters that people may not be as familiar with. It’s a real plus for longtime DC fans to get to see characters like The Question or Green Arrow, and for the uninitiated maybe the show will introduce some new favourite characters.

Much like Batman: The Animated Series and the original Justice League series, watching this show as an adult is a bit of a mixed bag. The occasional episode is clearly aimed at younger audiences. An episode where the League is transformed into children springs to mind, as does a preachy and slightly patronizing episode about why war is bad. That being said, much more often than not the show really shines. The season’s first two discs are primarily one-off stories bouncing back and forth between comedic episodes (Booster Gold assigned to crowd control in “The Greatest Story Never Told” is a personal favourite), fairly tragic episodes, and the occasional horror story. The real payoff, however, comes in the second half of the season, when it becomes clear that the first half was all groundwork for a larger plotline being developed right under our noses. A word of warning, however: for full effect it’s necessary to have seen season two of Justice League. It’s an extra bonus if you’re at all familiar with Batman Beyond, since two episodes reference this series.

Whenever I try to recapture my childhood by re-watching a show aimed at kids, I find that the plots are thinner than I remember, the characters flatter, and the dialogue laughable — I’m looking at you, Ghostbusters. By comparison, Justice League Unlimited will still hold up when I’m old and gray. In between the shocking and often brutal action sequences, the show still manages to portray intense personal moments between the characters. The characters are fully fleshed out both as people and as icons, often exploring through them what it means to try and find a balance between being a hero and being a human being (a much bigger challenge for Superman). The show even raises tough questions in the second half of the season, such as “at what point to we stop being protectors and start being overlords?” Heavy stuff for a so-called kids’ show.Would I recommend this show to everyone? Certainly not. But if you’re one of those people who can’t hear John William’s Superman score without getting a smile on your face, or who can’t see the Bat-signal without feeling a tingle run down your spine; if you can’t hear “Flash” or “Green Lantern” without your head turning to try and find the source, then this show is for you.

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