Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 5 - Episode 5: "Flash & Substance"

Reviewed by: Barry M. Freiman

A Lot of Flash, Not as Much Substance, in "Flash & Substance" - But That's Just Wally

Let's hear it for the Flash. The Fastest Man Alive gets a well-deserved spotlight episode in "Flash & Substance", the first of a batch of new "JLU" episodes.

This show is all about Wally West (a.k.a. the Flash) and his entourage - and by entourage I mean his allies, his rogues, and pretty much all of his hometown of Central City. The people of Central City are like the audience on "The Price is Right" - needy, a little co-dependent, yet hopeful and optimistic. That makes the Flash the City's Bob Barker - don't forget to have your super-villains neutered and spayed. It's an appropriate metaphor as the Fastest Man Alive is a beacon, an inspiration, and even a virtual raison d'etre for all of Central City - including his rogues' gallery.

This is a nice spotlight episode for Michael Rosenbaum who voices the Flash. I've always felt that Rosenbaum is one of the "JL"/"JLU" franchise's strongest assets and this story re-proves that while paying tribute to the Flash's fleet-footed light touch - he can even bring light and humor to the League's ultimate sticks-in-the-mud, Batman and Orion.

This Flash-tribute also provides an excellent opportunity to remember that, once upon a time, in 1990, actor Mark Hamill was known even to those in-the-know as that guy who played Luke Skywalker. In two episodes of the short-lived live-action series "The Flash", Hamill wowed viewers with his over-the-top portrayal of James Jesse, the Trickster. He was the first costumed Flash rogue to appear on the series and he was followed by Captain Cold and Mirror Master (played by David Cassidy no less). His original gig as the Trickster no doubt convinced the creators of "Batman: The Animated Series" that he could pull off the maniacal maniac, the Joker, and now Hamill returns to the beginning - he voices the Trickster in this episode and the character's look is more than a little reminiscent of Hamill himself.

That isn't the only nod to "The Flash" series - Central City Police Headquarters looks an awful lot like the police station where Barry Allen worked on the old show. Speaking of Silver Age Flash Barry Allen, he showed up in the form of a crime scene investigator colleague of Wally's (who looked like Barry Allen from the comics) and again when Wally tells Batman that his "uncle" is coming to "Flash Appreciation Day" - Wally's aunt, Iris West, married Barry Allen, which makes Wally a second generation super-hero.

Warner Home Video owes the "JLU" team some kind of royalty for reminding geeks about the underrated "The Flash" series just as the show makes its January 2006 DVD debut. This is the kind of effective cross-promotion that Time Warner only wishes they had the ability to plan.

This episode was a fun diversion from the serious goings-on with Lex Luthor, Grodd, and the Secret Society. Should this turn out to be the series' last season, it would make this episode a well-timed tribute to the Flash, Rosenbaum, and animated universe voice pioneer Hamill.

I think I was able to identify all of the bad guys who appeared in cameos except one - the Top, Dr. Alchemy, Mr. Element, Weather Wizard, the Fiddler (passed out at the bar), Abracadabra, the Turtle, and the Pied Piper - and Grodd shows up as a statue at the museum. But who the guy is in the purple and white tights talking to Dr. Alchemy at the bar is completely beyond me. First one to write in and tell me who he is - and to name any other baddies I may have overlooked - gets special mention in the next review.

Superman shows up twice - blink and you'll miss him - first on the monitor screens in the Javelin off-Earth with Green Lantern and Vixen and then in a "Flash Museum" recreation of the Flash/Superman race from "Superman animated" episode "Speed Demons". Superman's quick-as-a-flash cameos seem somewhat appropriate in an episode devoted to the Flash but I wouldn't want to get used to more Superman-less stories.

Finally, did anyone else notice that, on this weekend's new episode of "The Batman", the Joker gets a sidekick and he calls him "Prank" - which is what the Trickster called his female sidekick on "The Flash"? OK, so I'm a huge geek. But at least I'm not former circus aerialist Boston Brand, tagged with the unfortunate but appropriate hero moniker Deadman. Deadman will be on next week's new episode, "Dead Reckoning" - if you aren't familiar with Deadman, think of him as Patrick Swayze's character in "Ghost" but better looking.

Peace out.

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