Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 2 - Episodes 13-14: "Eclipsed"

A Black Diamond is Forever; "Eclipsed" League Definitely Not Anyone's Best Friend... Except Maybe (POTENTIAL SPOILER)

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

The Justice League writers and Cartoon Network have come up with an ingenious way to showcase villains from the comic books with silly Silver Age names: instead of mentioning the villain by name, schedule the villain's appearance to coincide with the natural occurrence that correlates to the bad guy's name. On this week's episode, "Eclipsed", an icon of evil in the DC Universe makes its animated presence known in the form of Eclipso, the same night that "our" Earth experienced a lunar eclipse. After the Smallville of a few weeks back that featured a solar flare that affected Clark's powers the same day we had a solar flare in the real world, one wonders if the power of the DCU has somehow infused mighty meteorological mental powers into the men and women who write Superman and friends.

In the comic books, Eclipso began as a vengeful spirit that possessed Dr. Bruce Gordon (pre-Crisis, he was Commissioner Jim Gordon's cousin) through a black diamond. As time went on, Eclipso achieved iconic villain status, even earning himself his own big DCU-wide crossover in the 90's with one of those unconventional "special" covers that DC was famous for back then. The first issue of the Eclipso miniseries featured the villain's frightening visage and the source of his "spirit" and evil, the black diamond, rendered in 3-D black plastic. Recently, Eclipso made his return to active duty in the comics by inhabiting the body of Alexander Montez, cousin of the deceased Wildcat II and manager of the Justice Society's headquarters over in the JSA comic book. (Aside: Superman movie fans would be wise to read JSA written by Geoff Johns. Johns attributes much of his timing and plotting skills to the influence of his former boss, Richard Donner, who directed Superman: The Movie. But I digress...)

My initial reaction on viewing this episode was mild disappointment with how Eclipso was portrayed. Instead of Bruce Gordon or Alex Montez as a repository for the bad guy, the military inadvertently unearths the last of the human tribe charged with protecting the black diamond and the diamond itself. Mofir, keeper of the light that can propel the spirits of the black diamond out of a possessed individual, is comedic fodder for the writers, from his "B" movie accent to his gladiator style wardrobe to his relationship that develops over the course of the episode with the Flash.

But, on a second viewing, I began to see more going on and revealed in this episode than the story itself, its plot, or its dialogue would have the casual fan believe... (if you like spoiler theories, you'll love reading 10 paragraphs down; if not, you'll need to skip that part.)

So far, I'm enjoying the way that each story arc gives one hero the opportunity to shine and still include the rest of the League. This is the Flash's time to shine. Only Batman is a no-show this time, not that the Flash doesn't try to reach him when trapped on the Watchtower with the possessed Superman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and Hawkgirl. In fact, it's Hawkgirl's slam-now, ask-questions-later attitude that results in the League becoming possessed by the black diamond as she shatters it into a million pieces that rebound off the floor into the Leaguer's skin - all except the Fastest Man Alive, who is able to evade the spray of black diamonds.

There has been much speculation concerning the Flash on Justice League; though it's yet to be disclosed, the Flash is clearly the public's hero, the celebrity hero who does endorsements, and is represented by a sleazy agent evocative of both the Funky Flashman (who, in the comics, went on to run the Secret Society of Super Villains - and which happens to be the villain group showing up in two weeks) and Rex Leach, the sleazy marketer who represented the post-Crisis Superboy following the infamous "Death of Superman" storyline. As comic aficionados know, there have been three principal Flashes: Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash who debuted in 1940 and still belongs to the seminal JSA; Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash who debuted in 1956 and died saving the Earth from the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 in 1986; and finally, the current Flash, Wally West, who is the first of the second generation super-heroes, having grown from Barry Allen's sidekick, Kid Flash, into the new Flash after Barry died. Jay and Barry were both more serious science types so it's been speculated that the animated Flash is Wally West.

We are essentially dealing with a Flash episode, and an integral part of the Flash is the venerable Flash Rogue's Gallery of villains, including classics like Captain Cold, Mirror Master (played by David Cassidy on the short-lived live action Flash TV Show), and the Trickster (Mark Hamill played him live-action on several episodes and must have been proof positive to the makers of Batman: TAS that Hamill was their Joker because the Trickster was essentially a live-action Joker). On this episode, Flash rogues (actually it turns out actors in a commercial in which Flash is acting) Heatwave, Mirror Master, and Captain Boomerang make their animated debut. Flash fanboys, rejoice.

Of course, the voice actor for The Flash is quite familiar to Superman fans currently, as fan favorite Michael Rosenbaum voices the Flash on Justice League and plays Superman's future arch-foe, Lex Luthor, on Smallville. As I watch Smallville and Justice League, it's a true testament to Rosenbaum's acting chops that, on Wednesdays, I think he's just vile, then, on Saturdays he's Justice League material. He's given the Flash a distinct, fast personality that immediately separates the role from Lex Luthor, who speaks much more deliberately than the impulsive fleet feet hero.

Everyone's pal, Superman, doesn't show up until the beginning of Part 2 of the story arc and he's window-dressing, showing up at the right moment to become possessed by the black diamond. Of all the possessed heroes, The Flash faces his greatest and most frightening threat from Kal-El, whose heat vision is an even more effective speed deterrent than Tonya Harding's lead pipe was to Nancy Kerrigan.

It becomes clear as the episode reaches its climax why Superman needed to be present. The possessed League has sent a bomb to the sun that will eclipse it forever, effectively annihilating the descendants of the humans who killed the spirits inhabiting the black diamond (for those of you who didn't know, it appears that we owe humanity to a bunch of Neanderthals who made sure snake-people didn't evolve as Earth's dominant life form - the things you learn watching TV). The possessed heroes had disabled the Javelin-7, which would have enabled them to reach the sun and create a worm-hole designed to suck off the eclipse (presumably to some other part of the galaxy where life forms unbeknownst to the League are now plagued in darkness forever). Superman's pivotal line - that he cannot fly as fast as the speed of light - is a welcome limitation on the animated Superman's power levels and truly enables the Flash to be The Fastest Man Alive.

And so, Green Lantern creates what Flash calls a "Cosmic Treadmill" (a Flash comic creation that allowed Flashes to travel through time and the multiverse and made a pivotal appearance in recent issues of the Flash comic book, also written by Geoff Johns) and, protected by a GL energy bubble, Wally races through space toward the sun and, at the pivotal moment, saves the day. Finally, proof positive that Wally is more than comic relief and belongs in the Justice League alongside the more serious heroes.

This episode was a strongly written episode that finally showcased more than the Flash's sense of humor and had him using his speed ingenuously and in ways Superman couldn't use his super speed.

But that's only half the story. Here's where the potential spoilers begin so you might want to skip down to the SFMWONS if you want to be surprised; mind you, these are theories only, but ones that lead to one inescapable conclusion:

Darkseid is behind almost everything going on with the Justice League this season. "Twilight", the first episode of Season Two left viewers with the impression that Darkseid had died in a fiery explosion and at least left the League convinced of that, though Superman remained dubious. The "B" character appearing in this episode, G. Gordon Godfrey, who came off like Jerry Springer on speed, is in fact based on G. Gordon Godfrey, the agent of Darkseid who came to Earth in 1987 and began a smear campaign against the Earth's heroes in the first big company-wide post-Crisis crossover, Legends. It's already been revealed that Doctor Fate will be showing up next week as a guest star - STAS viewers will recall he guested on that series as well. But eagle-eyed comic readers will recognize that Dr. Fate was the one Golden Age hero featured on the cover of Legends #1 back in 1987 and a member of the Justice League that grew out of that miniseries. Darkseid was a key player in Legends.

If that isn't enough of a clue, we know that Gorilla Grodd will be returning to the animated series (last seen in "The Brave and the Bold" in Season One) as head of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. The SSOSV were a super-team of bad guys who had their own title for about a year or two in the late 1970's; and it was eventually revealed they were funded secretly by Darkseid

So you are hearing it here first - Darkseid is, in this reviewer's opinion, pulling the strings on much of what is happening on the show this season. My own hunch is Darkseid will show up before long, probably close to the end of Season 2 as the great conspirator, having finally learned that coming to Earth, making big booms, and attempting to take control through bloodshed isn't the way to take over our puny planet. I suspect this is all Darkseid's way of back-dooring into ownership of Earth.

If I'm wrong when all is said and done, I'll eat Clark Kent's bowler; if I'm right, I'll sing a little song and do a little dance in the review where he finally reveals himself.

Now onto business: On the SFMWONS, this episode earns three out of five speeding bullets. Superman's power under another's control is always a frightening realization of the immensity of his power and he played more than just a cameo icon role - only slightly more, but more nonetheless. If you read the spoiler area above, and agree with my theory, you might want to add a fourth speeding bullet because, if things are headed where I think they are, there's a subtle undercurrent beginning to run through this season that can only end at the feet of {SPOILER.}

Next week: Guest stars Aquaman and Doctor Fate!!!


Back to the "Justice League: Episode Reviews" Contents page.

Back to the main TELEVISION page.