Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 4 - Episode 2: "The Ties That Bind"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Michael Rosenbaum and the Flash are "The Ties That Bind" JLU and Smallville

Michael Rosenbaum returns to voice the Flash for the first time since JL series finale, "Starcrossed." While that is cause for celebration, I'd have preferred to see and hear him in an adventure with the rest of the JLU. The episode hinted at, where we see Jeremy Piven's Elongated Man playing "Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots" with Rosenbaum's Flash, would have been a lot more fun.

On the up side, however, the episode features a fun combination of voices -- Ed Asner returns as Granny Goodness; Farrah Forke returns as Big Barda who was a member of the JLU of the future in the two-part "The Call" on Batman Beyond; "Star Trek" vet Michael Dorn returns to voice Kalibak, son of Darkseid; and Arte Johnson parodies his "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" role as a German soldier in his portrayal of Vermin Vundabar.

Even if I missed the beginning credits, I'd have realized early on that this episode wasn't written by the regular JLU team. As with last season's "Dark Heart", which was penned by comic creator Warren Ellis, a comic book creator also wrote this episode: Steranko (no first name required, though it's Jim).

If, like me, you're exclusively a DC fan, you may not be too familiar with Steranko's work. He's been a prolific influence on comics at that other company. He's a unique presence, one that's difficult to forget if you've ever seen him -- think half the DNA of Christopher Walken in 1985's "A View to a Kill" and half the DNA of fictional WJM-TV Anchorman Ted Baxter and you'll have some idea of this guy's slick, lounge-singer appearance.

Who better to tell a story inspired by the Fourth World characters of Jack Kirby than a Marvel guy? Over at Marvel, Kirby co-created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, Silver Surfer, and the X-Men. I don't deny Kirby's import to comic books as a whole, but I find most of his work at DC uninspired.

Now it's not necessarily a bad thing to be inspired by Kirby. On Superman: The Animated Series, "Terrible" Dan Turpin of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit turned out to be a full-fledged character modeled after "King" Kirby. I even got a little misty when Darkseid killed him on S:TAS episode "Apokolips... Now!" But to act, as many creators do, as if everything Kirby touched immediately turned to gold is fallacy, at least in the DCU - anyone remember "The Dingbats of Danger Street" from First Issue Special #6? Oy.

Between Rosenbaum's return to the Watchtower from "Smallville" and the Fourth World characters, all technically Superman's supporting characters having been created by Kirby in "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen", it's too bad there isn't actually more here for a Superman fan to love. On the SFMWNS, Steranko rates a stinko - only two out of five speeding bullets.

A poorly rated JLU episode? This looks like a job for Superman and, luckily for us, Clarkie returns to the fold next week. Supes fights Doomsday - but since the Justice Lords killed Doomsday two seasons back, and the cloning facilities of Project Cadmus are supposed to play a role this season, is it Doomsday or just an incredible simulation? You be the judge. Till then, as always -

Peace out.

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