Superman on Television
DVD Review for "Justice League Unlimited: Season Two"Reviewed by: Barry M. Freiman
Box Art - 3: Like all the DC superhero season sets before it, the box features a wallpaper background of different images from the show with a puffed out overlay of larger color images of the heroes. Warner Home Video is clearly putting more thought into their packaging than ever before. Even with a sampling of additional heroes in the expansive unlimited League, it didn't escape notice that the original seven Leaguers from the show's first incarnation as "Justice League" are all featured in one form or another on the cover. Still there are the usual WHV gaffes - Supergirl appears in her old costume and Shayera's wearing her Hawkgirl mask though she gave it up after "JL" series finale "Starcrossed".
Then there's the choice of name for this set. It's not particularly accurate to call this "Season Two" - the "Season One" set actually included two 13-episode seasons worth of shows. This ought to be "Season Three" - heck they could have avoided the issue altogether and released it as "The Final Season".
Disc Presentation - 3: There are two discs in this set. Disc one contains a stock picture of Solomon Grundy. Born on a Monday, Grundy died in the last season and didn't appear during the last 13 episodes. I give WHV props for putting a villain on the first disc for what is a very villain-centric season. But they chose the wrong villain. There are no errors about the choice of picture on the second disc - it's Superman!
Content - 5: Thirteen well-written, fun episodes. Like last season, more heroes than you can shake a cosmic rod at - but this season, more villains than you can shake a Spear of Destiny at too. Legion of Doom headquarters. Lex Luthor truly insane yet still very much a Lex Luthor who's cunning, manipulative, and egotistical. Grodd literally makes monkeys of the Big Three. Mark Hamill plays the Trickster for the first time since playing the role on TV's live-action "The Flash" series. The real Hawkman. Geoff Johns writes an episode. And Darkseid returns. This is definitely a different direction for the show than the previous season's Cadmus arc and yet it's still a logical progression of events. Post-Cadmus, this League operates alongside its government liaison for instance.
Creatively, Bruce Timm and company have taken the concept of an unlimited League to great new heights this season with guests like Viking Prince, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Speedy of the Teen Titans (and former sidekick to Green Arrow), Warlord, and Deadman, and locations like Blackhawk Island, Skartaris, and Nanda Parbat. Anyone looking to see an example of the breadth of the DC Universe should be given this DVD set. Surely there's at least one thing on it for every type of DC fan out there.
As the final episode ("Destroyer") ends, there's comfort in the idea that these adventures won't ever really end - for the time being at least, DC is still publishing an animated "JLU" comic. And in the bigger picture, of course, these heroes - especially Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman - permeate every aspect of popular culture. The episodes on these discs are just one part of the myth.
For episode by episode reviews of the shows included in this volume, check out the Superman Homepage's complete archive of "JL" and "JLU" reviews, which, coincidentally enough, were all written by yours truly.
Special Features - 4: Though there's no commentary track this time around, the extra features are pretty exhaustive nonetheless. First up is the oddly placed "Cadmus: Exposed". The "Cadmus" episodes all were included on the first season "JLU" DVD set. My understanding is that Bruce Timm, Dwayne McDuffie, and the rest of the animated universe team didn't realize WHV intended to release two seasons of "JLU" in its first season release and thus hadn't prepared any commentary tracks or featurettes related to the Cadmus arc. Regardless of its placement, it's nice to finally have some analysis from the creators on one of the truly great multi-arc stories set in the DCU for any medium.
"Cadmus: Exposed" is hosted by Mark Hamill. The feature is set up as a round-table discussion moderated by Hamill with participants Timm, McDuffie, and James Tucker. Like many others, Timm and company believe the Cadmus arc includes some of the best work they've done ever. Thankfully, since the Cadmus episodes aren't included here, the feature cuts to segments of episodes from the Cadmus arc. This way, you don't have to pull out your first season DVD set to understand the context.
Next up is "Justice League Chronicles", which essentially has the team of Timm, McDuffie, et al. sitting around analyzing three episodes from the final season - "The Great Brain Robbery", "Ancient History", and "Alive!". This is a surprisingly detailed examination of these episodes. My favorite revelation was about B-villain, the Key - Timm reveals that the Key is voiced by Corey Burton, who also voices Brainiac, because the original idea was that the Key would literally be a conduit through which Brainiac would return and Burton would morph his Key-voice into his Brainiac-voice. This idea fell by the wayside when they decided the payoff would be Darkseid returning rather than Brainiac.
Finally, there's a music-only audio track for the last episode of the series. The music-only version is preceded by a video introduction by Timm. Timm explains that "Destroyer" is ripe for a music-only presentation because it's such a narrative-intensive storyline and it's the longest score they've composed for any one episode. It's a very cool score worth listening to at least once.
Video - 5: This is a recent cartoon and it certainly looks better on DVD than it even did on my TV when the episodes aired last year.
Sound - 5: My DVD player and surround sound system hardly qualify me to render an audiophile's conclusion on the sound. These are recent cartoons and they sound like they did when I first watched them.
But wait, there's more: The same day that WHV released this set, they also released "Batman Beyond: Season Three". The first two episodes on disc two in this two-disc set are parts one and two of "The Call". The future Batman joins the future Justice League Unlimited. He's invited to join by Superman who's now wearing a black and white version of his super-suit and is voiced by Christopher McDonald, the same actor who voiced Jor-El on "Superman: The Animated Series" (and in the "For the Man Who has Everything" episode of "JLU"). Shortly after "The Call" aired, Warners formally announced the animated "Justice League" cartoon.
Eventually, on "JLU", time-traveling Justice Leaguers met up with the future "JLU" in the two-part "The Once and Future Thing." And it's even revealed in "JLU" episode "Epilogue" that there's a genetic connection between Bruce Wayne and his successor Terry McGuiness. It's definitely worth checking out "Batman Beyond: Season Three" for this future look at Superman and the League as they battle a herd of Starros (sentient, extra-terrestrial starfish with mind-control abilities - no, really).
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