Superman on Television
Justice League Action: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episodes 17: "Plastic Man Saves The World"Reviewed by: Thomas Dreyfuss
Originally Aired: January 15, 2016 (U.K.); May 6, 2017 (U.S.)
Written by Heath Corson
Directed by Shaunt Nigoghossian
Kevin Conroy as Batman (voice)
John de Lancie as Brainiac (voice)
Jason J. Lewis as Superman (voice)
Jasika Nicole as Vixen (voice)
Khary Payton as Cyborg (voice)
Dana Snyder as Plastic Man (voice)
Fred Tatasciore as Robot (voice)
Rating - 5 (out of 5): Plastic Man saves the world? Like, the whole world? Zuh? Okay, bit of backstory. So Plastic Man (aka Patrick "Eel" O'Brian) was created in 1941 by Jack Cole for Quality Comics. The character had his own comic book series up until 1956 when Quality Comics shut down. DC Comics later acquired all of Quality's intellectual properties and started incorporating characters like Plastic Man into the DC Universe. Here's the most important thing about Plastic Man, he's kind of a joke. The goofy name, shapeshifting/elasticity powers, and quirky demeanor made Plastic Man one of the first comic book superheroes to incorporate humor into action storytelling. But in an age where colorful costumed crimefighters are meant to be taken "SERIOUSLY," Plastic Man hasn't made that many recent appearances in the DC Universe aside from the occasional background cameo. Thankfully, the field of animation has been much kinder to Eel O'Brian as the character's jovial attitude and constant squashing/stretching makes him ideal for cartoons.
In "Plastic Man Saves The World," the extraterrestrial collector of worlds Brainiac is attacking Metropolis with the singular goal of shrinking the city down for his collection. While Superman, Batman, Cyborg, and Vixen try to stop Brainiac's forces, Plastic Man sneaks into Brainiac's spaceship with the intention of destroying the shrink ray and saving the world to prove that he is a superhero worthy of being a member of the Justice League. While it's cool to see characters like Vixen fighting alongside Cyborg and Batman, this is very much Plastic Man's episode. Plas' desire to be a true hero drives the plot and makes us empathize with his struggles. You can tell just from watching that a lot of thought went into Plastic Man's shapeshifting powers as they look very fluid in motion. Couple all of that with Dana Snyder's voice and you have a heartwarming, show stealing tour de force.
And really, my only gripe against this episode is that the non-Plastic Man material feels flat in comparison. We get our introduction to Vixen, but she's only given a couple of lines. Batman, Superman, and Cyborg use their powers to fend off Brainiac's attack but these scenes are nowhere as silly and creative as Plastic Man using his powers to transform from a duck, to a robot, and into a boxing glove. John de Lancie turns in a great performance as the cold, calculating Brainiac, but I've seen this "Brainiac invades Metropolis" story play out dozens of times so having Plastic Man thrown in is the exact kind of twist this episode needed to be great.
And make no mistake. "Plastic Man Saves The World" is a great episode with lots of ridiculous humor which help balance out that one poignant moment towards the end. It'll be interesting to see what the JLA crew does with the events that follow what goes down in this episode (Bottled City of Kandor, anyone?). For now though, I'm just so happy to see Plastic Man save the whole world (and many others) with his own brand of justice.
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