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The Adventures of Batman & Robin – Showdown (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Bruce Timm’s animated DC universe introduced me to a wealth of comic book characters I would never have encountered otherwise. While I was familiar with most of Batman’s iconic selection of bad guys, The Demon’s Quest introduced me to Ra’s Al Ghul. Later on, you could see Superman: The Animated Series making a point to introduce other iconic characters like the Flash or Green Lantern. However, Batman: The Animated Series also did its shared of universe-building. While Zatanna introduced the magician as a co-star with Bruce, Showdown is notable for introducing another DC hero with whom Bruce never directly interacts.

Showdownworks superbly as an introduction to the character of Jonah Hex. It certainly works much better than the recent feature film carrying the character’s name.

He’s a sharp one…

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Non-Review Review: Justice League – Doom

Batman has always had a bit of a curious relationship with the Justice League, as a concept. Justice League of America was introduced as a title featuring DC’s most popular characters, but it’s easy to spot the odd member out. While the team was composed of people who could move planets, forge objects out of willpower and move faster than the sound barrier, Batman was a more traditional pulp hero – a regular guy in a mask. His portrayal made him the odd man out – the paranoid loner fighting killer clowns and costumed nut-balls seemed a strange fit on a team of “science heroes.”

Dwayne McDuffie was one of the best writers of the team, making a massive contribution to the animated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited television shows, one of the best interpretations of the concept ever. As such, his exploration of Batman’s relationship with the group makes for fascinating viewing, despite the fact the movie occasionally veers a little too far towards the conventional.

A League of their own?

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Justice League Unlimited – Task Force X (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

I’ll freely concede that I’m not as fond of Bruce Timm’s Justice League and Justice League Unlimited shows as most seem to be. With a larger and more expansive cast, and an impressively epic backdrop, the shows often felt a little too impersonal, when compared to the work that Timm did on Batman: The Animated Series or Superman: The Animated Series. As a result, I tend to favour the smaller and more intimate episodes of those two spin-offs, the ones very clearly focused on the characters rather than on the larger story arcs. I think Task Force X is one instalment that stands among the very best that the animated DC universe has to offer.

X marks the spot…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Stolen Memories (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Superman: The Animated Series gets a bit of a hard time among the Bruce Timm “DC animated universe” shows. I think it’s fair to say that the show never reaches the highs (or even the average consistency) of Batman: The Animated Series, and it never matches the scale of Justice League, the pace of Justice League Unlimited or the ambition of Batman Beyond. However, it actually does a fairly wonderful job working with a character who has proved quite difficult to handle. I think Superman: The Animated Series was at its strongest when it distinguished itself from its direct predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, and I think that Stolen Memoriesis the perfect example of that.

He’s got the whole world, in his hands…

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Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory: Shining Knight (Review)

December is “Grant Morrison month” here at the m0vie blog, as we take the month to consider and reflect on one of the most critically acclaimed (and polarising) authors working in the medium. We’ve got a special treat for you this week, which is “Seven Soldiers Week”, so check back each day for a review of one of the Seven Soldier miniseries that Morrison put together.

Shining Knight is one of those heroes that Morrison picked from relative obscurity for his Seven Soldiers project. The only encounter I ever had with the character was watching an episode of Justice League Unlimited featuring the original Seven Soldiers line-up as a bit of an in-joke. So, I don’t really have any frame of reference for how Morrison is reworking the character here, but I imagine it’s quite thoroughly.

Winging it...

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Justice League Unlimited – For the Man Who Has Everything

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. We’re winding down now, having worked our way through the nine animated features, so I’m just going to look at a few odds-and-ends, some of the more interesting or important episodes that the DC animated universe has produced. The one adaptation of his work Alan Moore is actually happy with is well worth a look.

Van, when you were born, it was the happiest day of my life. When I first saw your beautiful little face, your tiny fingers squeezed my hand so tight, like you never wanted to let go. I’ve watched every step, every struggle…I-I’ve… but, Van… Oh, Rao help me… but I don’t think you’re real. I don’t think any of this is-is real…

– Superman confronts the fact that none of this is real

Alan Moore is one of the best comic book writers out there – and he’s perhaps the greatest writer ever to work with the character of Superman. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is an oft-referenced fond farewell to the Silver Age Superman (which prompted a similar storyline for Batman with Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? in the wake of the character’s recent “death”), but I’ve always preferred his one-shot story For The Man Who Has Everything. Adapted into animated form as one of the first episodes of the relaunched Justice League Unlimited series.

Super-dad!

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Justice League: A Better World

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, so I thought it might be worth a look at what a world run by an evil Justice League might look like.

One of the central challenges that the iconic Justice League characters have had to face over the years has been the way that the comic book world has slow and sometimes subtly morphed into something far more sinister than the bright-coloured origin stories of the forties, fifties or even sixties. There was a time when supervillains were a relatively harmless sort, the hero would always save everyone’s life and there would be a “happy ever after” ending thrown on – most obviously in the Silver Age, which produced characters like the modern Flash and Green Lantern. Even the characters who were originally somewhat darker and edgier – Superman and Batman, for example, were originally relatively indifferent to human life – passed through this phase with a healthy respect for a game based around rules – the first being “thou shalt not kill”. However, times changed. Villains went from being theives and irritations to being murderers and rapists. Naturally, the fact that no prison could hold a popular bad guy long enough kinda undermines the good that these heroes do – the Joker is always going to kill more people unless he is eventually killed.Sure, there’s comic book logic at play here – the same way that having genius heroes hasn’t altered the way normal people live too much – but at some point the old fashioned values seem a little outmoded. Somebody suggests that a line should be crossed. Various iterations of the characters have tackled the issue in multiple ways, and A Better World is the attempt by Bruce Timm and the writers of the DC animated universe to address it. 

Being the group's plucky comic relief isn't without risks...

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Justice League – Hereafter (Parts I & II)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. With the review of Superman: Doomsday earlier, I thought it might be worth taking a look at some of the other times Superman has “died” in these animated stories.

Despite the rather large cast that the writers and producers used in producing Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, I always felt that the show was better with a more narrow focus. Of course, new characters like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman got their own episodes, but Batman and Superman were rarely the focus of attention – perhaps because they had each had their own television show beforehand, and ample time for exposure. Hereafter is a two-part episode which really feels like two separate stories, both of which are fundamentally about Superman. The first is an exploration of who the hero is, based around removing him from the fictional universe and examining the holes left in his absence. The second half explores what makes Superman a hero, if it isn’t his collection of superpowers.

Part of me wonders where Clark Kent is buried...

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Justice League Unlimited – Flash and Substance (Review)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. To tie into the review of Green Lantern: First Flight today, we thought we’d take a look at an episode centred on that other iconic Silver Age DC hero, the Flash.

Justice League and its spin-off Justice League Unlimited were two very strange shows, at least from a structural perspective. They both featured expansive casts (the latter more than the former, admittedly) – most of which were crammed full of characters new to the DC animated universe. Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series had done a great job establishing the two biggest names, but the bulk of the characters were pretty much blank slates heading into the crossover series. So characters like the Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern relied on episodes centring on them to grow and develop character – although the focus was very much on the ensemble cast. However, my own favourite episode of the show is a more intimate character profile of a character frequently overlooked: the Flash.

Frenemies…

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