Superman on Television
Justice League: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episodes 9-10: "Hearts and Minds""Hearts and Minds" of Leaguers Bore for the First Time in Season Two; JL Roll Call Cries Out for any One of the BIG THREE in Interstellar Battle with Three-Eyed Despot Despero...
Reviewed by: Barry Freiman
"Your story sounds a little derivative," Green Lantern says during the pivotal first meeting of Earth's GL and the "three-eyed, one finned non-flying purple despot leader," Despero. And he's right. This entire episode is built around one line of dialogue that serves to repair animated continuity. When John Stewart's alien teacher and ex-lover, Katma Tui, retorts during an argument that John's "almost as bad as that Rayner kid you sent me to train", both Green Lantern fans and Superman animated fans finally can breathe an animated sigh of relief. To comic readers, Kyle Rayner has been Earth's Green Lantern in continuity for almost a decade (though Stewart has returned to the in-continuity fold as a result of his renewed popularity on Justice League); and to watchers of STAS, Kyle Rayner was the first animated Green Lantern to make his chronological debut back in the late 90's.
The only episode of the Batman and Superman animated series that, until now never fit into the new animated Justice League continuity was the Superman episode that introduced Green Lantern Kyle Rayner as an artist for the Daily Planet. Rayner receives his ring from Abin Sur during Sur's death at the hands of GL iconic bad guy Sinestro. And Kyle and Superman need to team up to save the day. When JL debuted last year, Rayner is never mentioned and African American Green Lantern John Stewart appears to have been Earth's only GL. This became such an issue on the internet message boards that the JL creators have been quoted on numerous occasions as initially wanting that episode ignored and ultimately acknowledging they would eventually need to explain Rayner. Now they have.
However, when Rayner is mentioned about 35 minutes into the episode as a throwaway line of dialogue, it becomes apparent that the semi-unofficial Kilowog (an alien GL) / Flash team up should have been a Kyle Rayner GL/Flash team up. Like Kilowog, Rayner is a creature less of discipline and more of the type of willpower approaching instinctual levels than GL John Stewart. And including Rayner as one of the Corps members in the episode would have presented the first on-screen meeting of Earth's (at least) two Green Lanterns. In fact, it would have made perfect sense that Rayner would be with the Corps in training and thus technically not Earth's GL at the present time. And it would have been more exciting to fans to see the first on-screen meeting of Kyle Rayner and Wally West, who continue in comics the somewhat senseless strong friendships between Flashes and Green Lanterns begun when comic characters Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were generic and interchangeable in the Silver Age.
One thing every story arc on JL this season has had in common has been an almost "to-do list" like quality. And, it's beginning to feel like the animated creators actually compiled a written list between seasons of those issues most in need of repair or clarification to make the animated universe fit together as a seamless new integration of heroes. (Kyle Rayner versus John Stewart; Diana's lack of three-dimensional character; and Superman's power levels and strength of character being three of the more obvious needed fix-its or clarifications).
Given that Superman animated guest star Flash is a founding League member, and Superman guest star Aquaman (sans a regular haircut) has already shown up and is set for a return splash this season in an episode that also features Superman guest star Doctor Fate, the hole of how does Kyle Rayner fit into Justice League continuity is important to geeks everywhere. Pretending that even one episode of any of the previous animated shows didn't happen is almost blasphemous to those working on the animated 'toons and their fans.
In fact, the fictitious country Kasnia, taken over by Vandal Savage in JL's "Maid of Honor", shows up as a central part of the action underlying the just released direct to video/DVD, "Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman", literally tying the story of the DVD directly into JL continuity right out of the gate. While this is the SUPERMAN Homepage, I do highly recommend "Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman" to die-hard animated fans and if either Batman or Batwoman were invulnerable, they'd both get five speeding bullets. But I digress.
So, while the writers get points for tightening continuity once again, they lose points for the first episode of season two that puts aliens, not humans solely at jeopardy; and for creating a villain who would have seemed much less threatening and potent had even one of the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) been present.
Returning to the JL word of the week, "derivative", the first half hour of the episode drags with alien dictator Despero about as fleshed out a villain as Mongul was in "Warworld" or the Manhunters were in GL's big Season One spotlight episode, "In Blackest Night".
While the Corps is an integral part of John Stewart's history, episodes featuring others with the same powers and identities as JL members (such as those with the Corps or Wonder Woman episodes featuring other Amazons), tend to dilute John Stewart's iconic presence as "The" Green Lantern. And, while the shorthand deaths of two GLs during the opening appears intended to make Despero seem like a viable threat, it simply makes the Corps seem as disorganized and less than the most intelligent super-heroes in the 'biz just as they seemed in "In Blackest Night."
Katma Tui, John Stewart's GL trainer and ex-lover, troubles Hawkgirl, hinting at the possibility of romance between John and Shayera. However, Earth is never in jeopardy even once during this episode and somehow that saps any suspense in this episode and makes it most derivative of the least well written episodes of the League's freshman year.
On the SFMWONS, "Hearts & Minds" receives only two out of five speeding bullets. The episode is important to fans of STAS for finally taking every episode of STAS and making it official cannon. But now that you know, there's really no other reason to watch this episode unless you are the type of comic fanatic who still needs oxygen after the last few excellent JL episodes.
More than anything, this episode demonstrates that, at least one of the Big Three ought to be present in every episode if for no other reason than to hold the entire team together. And that, tight plotting aside, there remain a few Justice League kinks in need of repair even still.
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