Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 5 - Episode 6: "Dead Reckoning"

Reviewed by: Barry M. Freiman

Deadman's Curve: League's "Dead Reckoning"

Some men are super, a few are amazing, but it takes a special kind of hero to be Deadman - the dead kind. With less than a dozen new episodes of "JLU" remaining and its future uncertain, it's both annoying and truly amazing that more than half this episode would focus solely on Deadman and the bad guys - with no "JLU" members to be seen.

"Dead Reckoning" is a first rate, well told story, no surprises there. This is what "JLU" does so well and why fans of the show are so full of venom toward a Cartoon Network that hasn't announced whether it will renew or cancel the show after this season ends.

Cleverly, the writers resist re-telling Deadman's origin story. That origin involves the murder of circus aerialist Boston Brand, his "reincarnation" by spirit Rama Kushna as the people-possessing but otherwise immaterial Deadman, and his hunt for "the Hook", a member of the League of Assassins, who killed Brand. Deadman searched for the Hook all over the DCU and - as it's hinted at in the dialogue between Batman and Deadman on "JLU" - Batman ultimately helps Brand solve his own murder.

The problem with Deadman in all the stories following his long time search for the Hook is that writers stretch credulity looking for the dead guy's new mission statement. DC's already got a dead ghoul in the form of the Spectre whose power levels far exceed those of Deadman's. Moreso, Rama told Deadman once he caught his killer he'd earn his final reward so once the Hook is caught, Deadman should be Heaven sent.

In "Dead Reckoning", Deadman is charged with balancing the scales for "accidentally" murdering Devil Ray as retribution for Devil Ray's murder of the Sensei. Except there turns out not to have been a murder after the Heart of Nanda Parbat is recovered and the Sensei and all the Monks regain their souls and come out of their spiritual comas. Deadman didn't mean to kill Devil Ray but his reckless actions caused Devil Ray's death, Rama Kushna judges, so Deadman must stay Deadman to balance the scales of good over evil.

Deadman's actions also impact pretty heavily on the guy whose body he possesses to shoot Devil Ray - a certain gun-averse crime-fighter named Batman. In a scene eerily reminiscent of the pilot episode of "Batman Beyond", Batman fires a gun. It doesn't matter to Batman that Deadman's consciousness did the actual shooting - when Batman's control over his own body resumes, he's disgusted with his body's actions. The writing, animation, and direction make this a truly powerful moment - even a casual Batman fan can recognize the hero's torment over an act that wasn't his own but was.

Superman returns, and he gets off pretty lightly. Superman actor George Newbern clearly is having fun acting possessed by Deadman. The tough-guy accent reminded me of another Super George's acting. In "Adventures of Superman" episode "The Face and the Voice", Superman actor George Reeves plays a gangster who has surgery to impersonate Superman and he plays the gangster with the same over-the-top Brooklyn-style accent.

As if Deadman's story isn't enough, the Society's story continues too. Lex Luthor makes his move against the Society's leader, Gorilla Grodd. Grodd tries to turn every human on Earth into apes from his base in the hidden "Gorilla City". Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman temporarily become Super-Ape, Bat-Ape, and Wonder-Ape. The heroes stop Grodd's plan but fail to stop Lex and Grodd from escaping. Lex betrays Grodd and takes over the Society. Though the set-up is there from the beginning of the episode, it's really only in the last five minutes or so that all of the events referred to in this paragraph take place. Action compounds and plot builds on plot -- when events moved to Gorilla City in the last 10 minutes or so of the episode, I thought for sure the show's events would continue till the next episode. Instead, the super-sized, great ape of a climax unfolds with the wholly unexpected Batman-possessed moment.

Superman fans have a lot to cheer in this show too - Lex Luthor's return to power, a Superman possessed, Superman fights Bizarro, Superman goes ape, plus the Society's ranks swell with Superman villains like Atomic Skull and Rampage.

The only hero other than the Big Three to get a speaking role is Mr. Terrific. The villains continue to be unlimited with appearances by Bizarro, Atomic Skull, Rampage, Tala, Blockbuster, Volcana, Star Sapphire, Sonar, Luminus, Copperhead, Tattooed Man, Cheetah, the Key, Weather Wizard, Psycho-Pirate, KGBeast, the Shark, the Dummy, and Sinestro. As I always promise, if anyone out there saw any villains in the episode I missed, write in and I'll give you the appropriate recognition next week.

Speaking of that recognition, my thanks to Steve Crow for identifying The Thinker as the purple and white costumed bad guy I couldn't name from last week.

Next week brings a team within a team as seven soldiers of victory emerge to battle in "Patriot Act". And the first true team-up between "JLU" and "Teen Titans" takes place with Green Arrow being joined by his sidekick turned titan Speedy.

Peace out.

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