Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 3 - Episode 1: "Initiation"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Initiation is First Challenge of the New Justice League Unlimited

How many super heroes does it take to protect planet Earth? Well, if I counted correctly, the answer is 56. But I am relatively certain I missed one or two heroes so it could be even more. If you hate the line up of the new JLU, wait a week: unless you're a fan of the Blue Beetle -apparently the only hero that the makers of JLU were unable to obtain the rights to use - your favorite hero may show up any time now. Of course, if you have a TIVO, you probably already saw your favorite hero or heroine at some point during JLU's debut episode, "Initiation". Given that this is the Superman Homepage, odds are you are a fan of Superman and Supergirl and both of the Kryptonian cousins show up right out of the gate.

The downside to JLU is its length. Rather than two and three part story arcs, each episode is self contained, putting much more of the emphasis on action and leaving less time for characterization. Rather than take the easy way out, the JLU creators have opened the floodgates of JL membership to virtually every DCU hero and heroine save the aforementioned Beetle and the star-crossed ex-member, Hawkgirl. The last time that writers added regular characters to an existing, but shortened, DCU show, was in 1967, when Yvonne Craig joined the one-night a week third season of TV's live action Batman series. While I adore Batgirl (and where are Batgirl and Nightwing on the new Watchtower anyway?), the final season of Batman is regarded as its weakest plot-wise. Unlike Batman, however, JLU has infused the show with new life and created a whole new way to showcase the DCU's second and third string heroes.

When we last left the JL, Thanagar had decimated the Earth, the JL membership, the Watchtower, and the Javelin-7. The remaining big six heroes committed themselves to rebuilding the JL. Obviously, the heroes hit up benefactor billionaire Bruce Wayne who committed a little embezzlement once again to build a new Watchtower. Already hinted at in "Starcrossed", where the old Watchtower was animated using CGI in parts, the JLU's new hardware is displayed using CGI animation. This simply reinforces the notion that things are bigger and better this time out (albeit shorter). Bravo that there are non-heroing humans on board the Watchtower as it was always difficult to imagine Diana and Bruce taking turns dusting and cleaning the bathroom.

Some things never change and the mighty Man of Steel remains in charge of the new League. Supes provides the super welcome message to the assembled heroes. He is super-chairperson of the Board of Directors, the Board being the senior heroes from seasons one and two of JL, and the remainder of the corporation being the combined goodwill of DC Comics. There's no room for made-up heroes like Samurai, Black Vulcan, and Apache Chief this time out, not when this JLU makes room for people like Bwana Beast! It's good to know that no one can enter a room that Superman's in and take the spotlight off of him. Not even Vibe.

Supergirl is a welcome inclusion in the JLU mainly because the Girl of Steel has never been invited to be a regular member of the League in the comic books. There may be room for nepotism in establishing the JLU roll call, but obviously not in maintaining it, unless GL John Stewart was jive-talking Kara when he said he'd see that she was ousted from the League if she didn't behave herself and that he didn't care who her cousin is. What a great line! As midway between the jaded Green Arrow and the super soldier Captain Atom, no one plays the ingenue better than Kara.

Some people might be upset with the changes made in GL John Stewart's appearance and demeanor from last season. I think it adds an element of realism that John is scarred from betrayal and lost love. If one can believe Charlotte from Sex and the City, it takes half as long as the relationship itself to get over a lost love. This is why it's never a good idea to get involved with someone at the office - all that's left when the relationship goes sour are the responsibilities and obligations of the job. Poor heartbroken John - but at least there are a lot more than two heroines to choose from in the new JLU.

Super heroes attending "Initiation" were as follows: Superman, Batman, Flash, GL, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Captain Atom, Dr. Light, Hourman, Red Tornado, Atom, Atom Smasher, Dr. Mid-Nite, The Ray, Vigilante, Bwana Beast, Metamorpho, Etrigan the Demon, Waverider, Fire, Ice, Hawk, Dove, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Crimson Fox, Elongated Man, Nemesis, Booster Gold, the Question, Obsidian, Huntress, Starman, Steel I, Steel II, Vibe, Gypsy, Johnny Thunder, Thunderbolt, Dr. Fate, Creeper, Rocket Red, Black Canary, Aquaman, Wildcat, Vixen, Aztek, Blue Devil, Mr. Terrific, Sand, Zatanna, Orion, the Phantom Stranger, and someone who appears to be DC's first super-hero, the Crimson Avenger. While the nuclear powered robot villain never received a name during the episode, comic book devotees will recognize Chemo's big brother, Brimstone.

"Initiation" is a slam dunk of an episode. If you like Superman, he's there and so is cousin Kara. Plus a whole slew of characters who made their first appearance on "Superman: The Animated Series" like Steel II, Aquaman, Dr. Fate, and Orion. Not to mention a veritable legion of super heroes that has grown from Superman being the first. For reminding this reviewer of Superman's import (as if I could ever forget), "Initiation" gets five out of five speeding bullets on the Superman Fan Must Watch or Not Scale.

Starting with a perfect score only makes future challenges more difficult for the JLU. They appear up for the task, however, as next week is the first "Big Three" story featuring the animated League - an adaptation of Alan Moore's classic "Big Three" story, "For the Man who Has Everything." Start shopping now, fan boys and fan girls, because this episode features Superman's birthday and he melts crappy gifts with his heat vision.

Peace out.

(At 40 years old I don't have eagle eyes, so thankfully, the Crow flies -- Steve Crow, that is, who helped me out with a few of the heroes' names; thanks Steve).

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