Superman on Television
Justice League: Episode Reviews
Season 3 - Episode 10: "Dark Heart"Reviewed by: Barry Freiman
"Dark Heart" on Big League Show.
"Dark Heart" is, in many ways, a redux of "The Return" with its focus on the Atom's role amidst the huge gang of heroes and heroines trying to stop the end of the world. That is the episode's biggest fault as well as its great strength. In what is largely a 22-minute action piece, famed Wildstorm writer Warren Ellis contributes thrills-n-chills alongside a big little piece on the Atom's importance to the team. As with much of Ellis's writing the dialogue rings true and the plot is based in genuine science. The episode was fun and over the top, but it was also light on story and too repetitive of what's come before. Therefore, it's not that I didn't like the episode; to the contrary, I did. The heart of a good JLU story has to be good editing and Ellis's work might have stood alongside other Season Three episodes as a stand-out if it didn't feel so derivative of stories already told.
The plot is simple - a mechanical alien weapon lands on the Earth and essentially eats everything in its path, converting its food into matter which is then used to create more and more mechanical aliens that will keep consuming until all Earth matter is gone for good. The JLU has to save the day.
The theory of mechanics that use matter to replicate is a real one that was posited as a way for humanity to eventually chart the universe. It also reminded this reviewer of the cellular phone that converts to organic soil and nutrients when it's thrown away, which feeds the sunflower seed implanted in it, thus enabling today's refuse to be tomorrow's plant life.
The plot adds to the "us versus them" subplot that underlies this season's stories. Air Force General Wade Eiling (introduced in Captain Atom's comic book and with the same initials as Warren Ellis) keeps the defeated technology for study because it can beat the JL. Eiling's farewell shot at Wonder Woman about the JLU being in possession of a weapon of mass destruction is surely foreshadowing of events to come just as the events in "Fearful Symmetry" and "Ultimatum" were.
Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, I'd point out the obvious parallel to Earth Prime reality, but I don't want to get political in a column about a cartoon. (Readers recently skewered a fellow writer for positing political in a comic review elsewhere on the site.) If I see a political metaphor, it must be my own liberal bent and not something intended by Ellis in telling a super cool story. On Ellis's own online blog, he shares a few seconds of the San Francisco Halloween Parade in the Castro. Read whatever liberalism or lack thereof into that action that you want - I know I do.
Ellis's writing is sparse, not an easy task for a story with almost 50 characters appearing over only 22 minutes. I feel like my time is being wasted with the mountain climbers discovering the alien device during the opening moments. When JLU was just the seven member JL, and story arcs lasted for two episodes, there was time for this type of extended set-up, but no longer.
That Ellis could have used additional ink dialoguing and plotting makes it that much more unfortunate that his script contains such gross character inconsistencies. First, if the mechanical spider creatures can use any matter - metal or people - to make more robotic eating machines, why push people out of the way to get to machinery? And second, when the JL Satellite is powering up again after J'onn fired the cannon, J'onn should not be in the dark about whether the cannon succeeded - he's a telepath. His last line of dialogue inferred he was stuck in the JL Satellite with no information until the Satellite powered up again. If it were anyone but the Martian Manhunter who'd said that, it would be funny but, with J'onn, it's just untrue. He had two super options as I saw it -- he could either fly to Earth by passing through the Satellite walls or telepathically link up with any one of his 39 team members on Earth. Maybe Ellis didn't know the limits on J'onn's powers, but the director and/or the continuity editor should have
It's super cool fun to see the JLU in combat and hats off to whomever choreographed the slugfest, especially the mini-Seven Soldiers reunion with Shining Knight, Vigilante, Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E., Green Arrow, and Crimson Avenger.
Here's who I saw throughout the episode, heroically speaking: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Atom, Atom Smasher, Supergirl, Red Tornado, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Dr. Light, Dr. Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Vigilante, Shining Knight, Crimson Avenger, Aztek, Wildcat, Nemesis, Blue Devil, Rocket Red, Starman, Vixen, Crimson Fox, Gypsy Vibe, Elongated Man, Steel, Fire, Ice, Huntress, The Ray, Obsidian, Hourman Green Arrow, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and the Black Canary. If you saw any other heroes, let me know and you'll be recognized in front of your peers in next week's review.
On the SFMWNS, "Dark Heart" scores four out of five speeding bullets. In an episode that should have been fast-paced to the Flash (whose absence was noticeable this time out), there was too much time to breathe and that allowed me to focus too much on the errors.
Next week, be sure to keep quiet or you'll "Wake The Dead". And with the corpus delecti being Solomon Grundy, you don't want to disturb the deceased unless you have an ace in the hole for subduing him. Good thing the JLU's got Grundy's pal, Hawkgirl. Oh, that's right. They don't have her anymore. Or do they?
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