Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 3 - Episode 8: "The Return"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

The JLU Tabula is Pretty Full for "the Return" of Amazo

As the JLU heads for its first hiatus, those of us already anticipating its return can relish in the enjoyment of "the Return", the final new episode for a month or so. The title refers principally to the android created by Professor Ivo and manipulated by Lex Luthor in last season's JL arc, "Tabula Rasa", but it could just as easily refer to the return of Lex Luthor, the Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps, GL Kyle Rayner, Doctor Fate, or the real surprise guest star of the episode, Hawkgirl.

If the roster changes brought about by JL becoming JLU have any one purpose, that purpose may indeed be this superlative story. Masses of super heroes get together to solve crises like this one in the comics semi-regularly nowadays, but rarely is a comic book event this cohesive, reasoned, exciting and funny. This story is the animated equivalent of the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" sans the infinite earths. "The Return" should be required viewing for anyone who's ever read and enjoyed a DC comic.

To say that there's a lot going on during this 22 minute episode would be an understatement. There's GL John Stewart, still reeling from his betrayal by Hawkgirl in "Starcrossed", asking to return to planet Oa and, in exchange for Earth losing a GL, a suggestion - turned down by the Guardians - for GL Kyle Rayner to replace John. Animated universe fans will recall that Kyle made his debut - seemingly as the first GL on Earth - on STAS. Initially, when John Stewart was included in the new JL, Bruce Timm insisted that Kyle's origin on STAS never happened continuity-wise. But, in last year's "Hearts and Minds", a John Stewart spotlight episode, a throwaway remark acknowledged that Kyle Rayner was training with the GL Corps in space while Stewart was cavorting with the League on Earth. In addition, Rayner made a cameo appearance during Superman's funeral in last season's "Hereafter." Rayner's appearance as GL is a nice nod of the hat to a character who's endured as Earth's sole GL for the past 10 years or so in the comics as he's about to be supplanted by the returning Silver Age GL, Hal Jordan.

Then there's Oa itself, seemingly destroyed during the opening moments of the show by Amazo. Amazo reveals at the end of the episode that he didn't destroy Oa, but merely moved it to another dimension because it was in his way. Whoa, this guy really is a one man JL.

Dealing with past betrayal seems to be a theme of this episode as Amazo is on his way to Earth to talk turkey with the man who manipulated him into fighting the JL: Lex Luthor. Superman has two or three pivotal lines in the episode and "Team Superman", a.k.a., Supergirl and Steel, get to remove the seemingly reformed Luthor (ya right!) from his estate. In fact, Steel gets what is arguably the best line of the night, commending Lex for taking them to a hair salon to hide from Amazo: "I have to hand it to you Lex. This is the last place anyone would think of looking for you."

The JLU splits into three teams to stop Amazo from getting to Earth, a classic nod to those huge Silver and Bronze Age JLA tales where the League and its allies split up to deal with different aspects of whatever is the problem at hand.

And, perhaps not so ironically in an episode this big, the hero charged with helping Lex counter Amazo is the miniscule Atom. The Atom previously appeared briefly in the crowd shot in "Initiation" and was referred to by his secret identity of Ray Palmer during the closing moments of last season's "Hereafter."

But wait, there's more. Doctor Fate, the JLU's chief mystic (sorry Zatanna) shows up with an agenda that differs from the rest of the team. And the surprise revelation, of course: Hawkgirl's been hanging out with Fate and his wife in their Salem tower. Makes perfect sense actually - she's been abandoned by her home planet of Thanagar and the ties between Fate's magic and Thanagarian theological history were made during, yet again, a story arc from last season: "The Terror Beyond."

Unfortunately, it appears that "Smallville" is keeping Michael Rosenbaum from participating thus far in the new JLU as the Flash makes his second non-speaking appearance this year. Rosenbaum better show up to voice the Flash soon or the JLU creators may want to excise the Flash from his place of prominence during the opening credits. There are certainly enough speaking heroes worth including in the Flash's place.

A pattern appears to be emerging on the Superman fan Must Watch or Not Scale Good episode, bad episode, good episode, bad episode, and "the Return" returns a grand episode after last week's Booster bust. That's right, Superman, Supergirl, Steel, and Lex Luthor equals five speeding bullets -- a Kryptonian bulls-eye.

Finally, with respect to old business, I'd asked viewers if there was any connection between "The Watchmen", a classic DCU Elseworlds tale, and the storyline of "Fearful Symmetry". Chapter five of "Watchmen" sports the title "Fearful Symmetry" as well. Well, thankfully, reader "Stinkbird" (also known as the "Exploding Pelican") wrote in and explained that the heroes of "Watchmen" are based on the Charlton heroes that DC acquired some years back. One of those Charlton heroes was the Question, who appeared in "Fearful Symmetry". And the hero spotlighted in chapter five of "Watchmen" was apparently Rorschach, a character who is based on, of course, the Question. So, what do we call a bird with a keen analytical mind? That's right - it's a stink bird.

Peace out.

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