REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 2

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Powers Booth (Sin City)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Seymour Cassel (Dick Tracy)
Takayo Fischer (Moneyball)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Giselle Loren (Happy Feet)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween)
Kim Mai Guest (G.I. Joe: Reneages)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Alexis Denisof (Avengers Assemble)
Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time)
Juliet Landau (Aquaman)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Oded Fehr (V)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Amy Acker (The Gifted)
Virgina Madsen (Highlander II)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
Joanne Whalley (Willow)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Bud Cort (MASH)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)

MV5BMjQwMjQ0MTUzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_Since I was just a young lad, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have been showing me exactly what a superhero should be. They were some of the people behind the sublime Batman: The Animated Series, which is the definitive version of Batman in my eyes. They helped bring a certain Kryptonian to television screens in the late ’90s, taking an extra step into forming a coherent version of the DC universe to life. Hell, they even went so far as to help create a true successor to the Dark Knight. After doing all this, they managed to bring a clean, faithful and truly amazing assortment of champions of the DC Universe to life, showing us all exactly what a superhero should be.MV5BMTQxMjk3MTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDAwOTM2MjE@._V1_JLU – Season Two  remains faithful to its source material, which isn’t something you’ll find too often when translating a comic to a TV show or movie; whether it’s Green Arrow humming his own theme music while he’s fighting villains to Batman always being the baddest man in the room, the show conveys everything perfectly. A huge strength of the show lies within its voice talent, which is an assortment of voice-over veterans that have had some time to perfect their takes on characters: Kevin Conroy expertly delivers every line as Batman; Michael Rosenbaum has a wonderful, playful performance as Flash; and Clancy Brown is nothing short of brilliant as the ever-scheming, truly egotistic Lex Luthor. Though some of these actors have had over a decade to perfect their take on their respective characters, the guest stars who have little to no VO experience, much less know their characters, manage to be spot-on with their takes, making their characters memorable and charismatic.MV5BMTk4NTY4ODY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDYwOTM2MjE@._V1_Not only that, some of the guest stars who appear are more than enough to cause a nerdgasm to any self-respecting comic geek. Names like Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Amy Acker, Morena Baccarin, Juliet Landau, Michael Ironside, James Remar, and Daniel Dae Kim all bring their characters to life in the best way possible, creating a lasting impact on the series. As the series progressed from the seven core heroes, requiring the talent of so many guest stars, some viewers may be inclined to think, “Wow, DC has a lot of lame heroes in its roster.” Almost at the exact point in the series that the thought occurred to me, the show comes out swinging with the episode “Patriot Act,” hitting the nail on the head. This episode has an Incredible Hulk type character wanting to face off against the JLU varsity squad (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc&#Array;), but what he gets is a slew of D and E-list heroes, like Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E., Shining Knight, Vigilante, Green Arrow and Speedy.MV5BMzcyNjI0Nzc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI5ODM2MjE@._V1_Though you may be thinking “who?” at this roster of leaguers, and though they get thoroughly trounced, the episode manages to make the point of despite who they’re fighting, these champions won’t ever quit, and it’s a theme that’s brought up more than once during the series without beating you over the head with it nor becoming cheesy, and that’s fine by me. The writing of the series is easily its greatest strength as it has fun with its storylines and it’s very obvious that everyone involved knows their craft. They don’t bother setting up any more characters – they already had four seasons to do so. Rather than exploring the universe further, they jump into tales that can be enjoyed by newcomers and longtime fans alike. The main story-arc of the season is a huge nod to an older crowd as it deals with the Legion of Doom – well, maybe not in name, but without a doubt in spirit: A gaggle of villains led by Lex Luthor who use a giant Darth Vader helmet as a base of operations.MV5BOTE5NTA5MTc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIwOTM2MjE@._V1_If that isn’t the Legion of Doom, I don’t know what is. The storyline revolves around Luthor’s quest to reunite with Braniac and become a god. Unfortunately, he unleashes one of the most dangerous and powerful foes in the DC universe and the events that follow make for one satisfying bookend to one of the most prolific takes on a comic universe.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
George Eads (CSI)
Eric Robert (The Finder)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Fam)
Fred Savage (The Princess Diaries)
Jason Hervey (Back To The Future)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Michael York (Logan’s Run)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Rachel York (One Fine Day)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Annimator)
Robert Foxworth (Transformers)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So)
Billy West (Futurama)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Jeremy Piven (Old School)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Oded Fehr (V)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Tim Matheson (The West Wing)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Ioan Gruffudd (Ringer)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Robert Englund (2001 Maniacs)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Jason Bateman (Office Christmas Party)
Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Steve Schirripa (Must Love Dogs)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Nathan Fillion (Serenity)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)

MV5BMTk4NTc5Mzg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc5ODM2MjE@._V1_Fantasy now runs your life? Comic books become your vice? And your best friends still have their virginities? Then look no farther, friends, because this collection of episodes is so good you don’t need friends, significant others, or a single reason to emerge from your Geekdrome. But you know what the best part is? It’s not just for geeks – Justice League Unlimited stands tall as the best collection of American action/adventure animation you’re likely to find. While there is, of course, a certain geek charge some may get out of seeing characters like Powergirl and Green Arrow in action (not to mention an episode featuring Nathan Fillion voicing Vigilante and Gina Torres voicing Vixen – come on, how cool is that?), these episodes will entertain because of good characters, good humor, and good storytelling, even if you don’t know your Booster Golds from your Blue Beetles.MV5BMTA3OTAzMDYwMjdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDMzMDkzNjIx._V1_While the first two seasons of Justice League nicely expanded upon the world first established in the early ’90s with Batman: The Animated Series, it wasn’t until this, the show’s third season (or first, depending on how you look at it) that the format and structure was perfected for the genre. It was an interesting experiment having the previous seasons’ episodes run for one-hour, but with JLU the format is scaled back to stand-alone half-hour stories and, ironically, it fits like a bat-glove. It’s strange, but these shorter episodes actually manage to pack in more than the double-length ones. A lot more. And what a roster of characters to fill a show with! You’ll see everyone from The Atom to Elongated Man. Because this is a full-blown, all-star take on these characters, each character can shine their brightest. When you get Superman, you get the best of Superman. Wonder Woman? The best of Wonder Woman. B’wana Beast? Uh… well, I guess this is the best he’s ever been.MV5BMjIwOTMxMzk2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5ODM2MjE@._V1_The surplus of great characters is fun, but what really sells the show are the stories. Or, more specifically, story. No doubt borrowing a page from the work of Joss Whedon – showrunner Bruce Timm admits in a commentary that Whedon was a big influence – these episodes highlight a large and complex season-spanning plot that actually has meaning in today’s world. This is certainly the most mature and thoughtful storytelling you’re likely to get from a cartoon of this type. What elevates the show from great to brilliant is its ability to tell stories that are exciting and also manage to propel the larger narrative forward. For example, Dark Heart – penned by famous comic book scribe Warren Ellis – manages to mix a great science fiction plot (a self-replicating AI) with humor (Wonder Woman, needing both hands to fight, rests The Atom in a very interesting holding place) and its plot still manages to play a part later on down the road in the season’s climax.MV5BMjAwMTU4NDI0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIwOTM2MjE@._V1_The writing is the best the show has ever seen, no doubt a result of staff writer Dwayne McDuffie coming into his own; his versatility with the characters is fantastic. Comic book writers Warren Ellis and J.M. DeMatteis join in on the fun, and new series director Joaquim Dos Santos infuses the episodes with a dynamic energy that allows the show to compete with the best of today’s cutting-edge, anime-inspired programming. It’s like the entire DC animated universe has been supercharged in the best way possible.MV5BMTk3NjM3NzI3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQwOTM2MjE@._V1_This collection contains two seasons, and both season finales are just fantastic. The Once and Future Thing is an exciting time romp (with a great Western segment) and Divided We Fall is a showstopper of epic proportions. Either finale would make for a better DVD movie than any of what has been released thus far. Then there’s Epilogue – just brilliant. It manages to tie in the entire DC animated universe – including films Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker! – and still say something meaningful about a very important character. The episode isn’t just great animation, it’s great television.MV5BMTk1MDgzMTYzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUwOTM2MjE@._V1_There really is nothing bad to say about these episodes. The new rock-inspired opening credits do ring a bit too much of cheesy ’80s electronica, but you get used to it, and, after a while, it fits. Of course, the fact remains that if you aren’t into cartoons in the first place you probably won’t be willing to hop on the bandwagon no matter how cool a series is. But if you consider animation to be a legitimate and respectable medium, then this is the pinnacle of the form.  While there are bigger and more influential cartoon shows out there – namely, comedies like The Simpsons – Justice League Unlimited is still one of the best American animated programs you’ll find. With this show the genre has been perfected – it’s fun, exciting, and thoughtful. In other words, this is exactly what superheroes should be.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

Tim Daly (Madam Secretary)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
David Kaufman (Stargate SG.1)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sharon Lawrence (The Ranch)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Renée Taylor (The Nanny)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Brad Garrett (Christopher Robin)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Steve Sandor (The Yellow Rose)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Victor Brandt (The Batman)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
William H. Macy (Fargo)
Peter Gallagher (The Gifted)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mathew Valencia (The New Batman Advntures)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Glover (Smallville)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Bob Hastings (The Poseidon Adventure)
Charity James (Space Jam)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Melissa Joan Hart (No GOod Nick)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Bud Cort (Harold and Maude)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Gilbert Gottfried (Critters: A New Binge)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Carl Lumbly (Supergirl)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael P. Greco (Bleach)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Peter Mark Richman (Defenders of The Earth)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations)
Billy West (Futurama)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
David Warner (Tron)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
Michael Horse (Roswell)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

3447328-absolute-powerSuperman is everywhere. He’s also been everywhere; for nearly seventy years now the character has been inspiring us with his tales of heroism, adventure, and fantasy. Seventy years is a long time and with a character as popular as Superman it equates to a lot of different interpretations. From the original comic books to a radio series to a handful of television shows, it seems that the Last Son of Krypton has done it all. We are very lucky then to have these DVDs, because in all of that time, throughout all the years, the stories found in Superman: The Animated Series are his best. The fifty-four cartoon episodes (spread across three boxed sets) that make up the complete run of Superman: The Animated Series aren’t just the best take on the character because they’re faithful. Nor is it because they’re animated, for all ages, or very imaginative. It’s for all of these reasons. And several more.3447300-little_big_head_manThe creative team behind the series has plundered the rich mythology of the character and come up with a fantastic take on each and every piece of the Superman universe. For starters, their Clark Kent and Lois Lane interpretation is spot-on. Clark isn’t too much of a goof, nor is he too simple. Similarly, Lois is fiery, funny, and lovely. Seeing the characters come together at the end of Legacy, Part 2 makes for a great cathartic moment. Superman has saved Lois a countless number of times, it is only fitting then that Lois save him when he needs it. The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.maxresdefault (1)While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.stas-legacy7Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League. We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.Superman_TAS_2x27_001The animation is somewhat more limited when compared to the fancy digital effects that more modern shows exhibit, but the handcrafted style gives the show a wonderful atmosphere. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that a lot of effort has gone into the design of the animation – much more so than most animated series. The framing here is frequently packed. Helping flesh out the world are all of the voice actors; everyone from Tim Daly (as Superman/Clark) to Clancy Brown (as Lex Luthor) is perfect in his or her role. The only thing holding the show back, and this is a small point, is the fact that the stories, due to their child-friendly animated nature, are a little more limited than the best television shows tend to be. Even so, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better adventure series – animated or live action.Superman_meets_SupergirlIn one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 2

Starring

Tim Daly (Madam Secretary)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
David Kaufman (Stargate SG.1)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Lisa Edelstein (House)
Robert Ito (Midway)
Robert Hays (Airplane!)
Jonathan Harris (Lost In Space)
Gilbert Gottfried (Critters: A New Binge)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Sandra Bernhard (Hudson Hawk)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange)
George Dzundza (The Deer Hunter)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Jim Meskimen (The Punisher)
Victor Brandt (Neon Maniacs)
Joanna Cassidy (Six Feet Under)
Brad Garrett (Tangled)
Dean Jones (Beethoven)
Mae Whitman (Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Aria Noelle Curzon (The Muppets)
Michael Horse (Roswell)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Robert Morse (Mad Men)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Bob Hastings (The Poseidon Adventure)
Robert Costanzo (Die Hard 2)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Jennifer Lien (Star Trek: Voyager)
George DelHoyo (Rango)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket)
Cam Clarke (Akira)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)

MV5BMTQ5Mzg4MDE4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjUzNzU2MjE@._V1_Having written about virtually every Superman TV show released on DVD, I can say with more than a little certainty that the episodes found on The Animated Series – Volume 2 are some of the best Superman stories ever committed to film. Ever. You get it all – the whizzes, the bangs, the imaginative storytelling. After all, any show that has as much fun with Mr. Mxypltk as this one does deserves, in the parlance, “mad props;” seeing that fifth-dimensional imp cry “McGurk!” is both hilarious and classic at the same time.MV5BOTViZjU0MDAtYzJkYy00ZGVmLTg0ZGYtZjc1N2FjMzlhMDZiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_I went into this set expecting to like it, but not this much. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed the show – the first boxed set was good fun – but I don’t ever recall it being this entertaining. I mean, everyone knows that this series pales in comparison to its predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, but I think these eighteen episodes prove that Superman: TAS can be just as excellent.MV5BMTQ2MzA4NzQyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjgyNzU2MjE@._V1_What’s perfect about these episodes is the balance the writers and animators strike between ol’ Supes being perfectly impervious to physical harm and yet imminently vulnerable to real and very human emotional frailty. Superman always suffers complaints that he’s plain too invulnerable – there’s nothing interesting to do with a character who can shrug off meteors like they were dandelions. But rather than offering yet another series of action set pieces or a collection of purely existential crises, this show gets it right, balancing the man with the super in a serendipitous combination that reminds audiences why he’s such an enduring and beloved character.MV5BMTkzNWJhNzMtMDdiNC00Y2NlLTk2MzEtMDQ3NWZmMmY1MjY4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Take for example the Metallo episode “Action Figures,” in which the partly-human T-1000 finally emerges from his long walk across the bottom of the Ocean (where Superman sank him last season), having lost his memory. He arrives on an island that is being used as a volcanic research station where he makes friends with two little kids who are at first frightened of him, but quickly come to adopt him as a pet, or perhaps their own personal superhero.MV5BMTgwNjMxOTgxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQzNzU2MjE@._V1_Of course, the villain slowly regains his memory and reveals himself to be anything but a hero. Hearing reports of a robotic creature on the island, Clark Kent comes to investigate and quickly learns that his suspicions are confirmed: Metallo has returned. Naturally, the two duke it out, but not just in any old way; during the course of their fight the volcano on the island erupts, forcing Superman to save the civilians and battle the villain simultaneously. I’m sure that having one’s head dunked in flowing lava is painful, even for Superman. This episode is a great example of the balance between action, meaningful storytelling, and plain old cartoon fun.mxyzpixilatedMxyzpixilated is probably my favorite episode out of the bunch. It features the introduction of one of Superman’s goofiest (and funniest) villains, a fifth-dimension sorcerer imp named Mr. Mxyzptlk (Mix-Yez-Spit-Lick) who can only come to our dimension every ninety days. He makes a deal with Superman: if Supes can get him to say his own name, he’ll return to where he came from until the next inter-dimensional window is open, three months later. Of course, Superman finds creative ways to foil the little gnome every time.superman-animated-bannerOne of the episode’s gags had me laughing out loud. Frustrated with his failure, Mxyzptlk is seen in his home, over the three month period, constructing a massive robot battle-suit. A good three minutes is devoted to an amusing montage of him putting the thing together. Finally the moment of truth arrives: he jumps in the suit and teleports to Metropolis, ready to destroy Superman. However, we don’t follow him – the camera stays in his room. Five seconds later he teleports back, stomping around in the suit, obviously foiled again, “NUTS NUTS NUTS!” You’re led to believe the whole thing will lead to a massive Superman/Giant Robot showdown, and the episode (written by the excellent Paul Dini) has a great time undercutting the situation for humorous effect.maxresdefaultBrave New Metropolis gives us an alternate world where Lois dies and Superman becomes a fascist. Monkey Fun is essentially Superman versus King Kong. Ghost in the Machine sees the return of Brainiac. And World’s Finest is the excellent three-episode “movie” that sees Batman team up with Supes to take down the villainous duo of Lex Luthor and the Joker. These are all great Superman stories, making good use of the character’s strengths and smoothing over his weaknesses. The ratio of killer-to-filler episodes in this box is very high (in the good sense) and is easily equal to Batman’s best run. I went into this set expecting to have a good time, and I’m delighted to report that my expectations were off. I had a great time.

 

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 7

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Erica Durance (Supergirl)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Aaron Ashmore (Veronica Mars)
John Glover (Shazam)

Laura Vandervoort in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Phil Morris (Doom Patrol)
Jacqueline Samuda (Stargate SG.1)
Michael Cassidy (Batman V Superman)
Kim Coates (Goon)
Terence Stamp (Jor-El)
Tom McBeath (Van Helsing)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Eva Marcille (Crossover)
Christine Chatelain (Sanctuary)
Dean Cain (Lois & Clark)
Jovanna Burke (Fringe)
Christina Milian (Brin It On 5)
Christopher Jacot (Mutant X)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Van Helsing)
Elyse Levesque (The Originals)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Anna Galvin (Warcraft)
James Marsters (Buffy: TVS)
Marc McClure (Superman)
Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe)
Justin Hartley (This Is Us)
Alisen Down (12 Monkeys)
Corey Sevier (Immortals)
Connor Stanhope (American Mary)
David Orth (The Lost World)
Sam Jones III (Bones)
Gina Holden (Flash Gordon)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Jonathan Scarfe (Van Helsing)
Jill Teed (Godzilla)
Anne Openshaw (Narc)
Ari Cohen (IT)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager)
Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica)
Julia Benson (The Order)

Season 7 demonstrates a real maturity in terms of the characters and the wider Smallville universe. For the characters themselves we obviously have to start with Clark and Lex.Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)What I love about this series is that you don’t notice subtle changes that are going – its only when there is a sudden abrupt change that you realise that it had been going on for ages and you find yourself saying “Ah!”. Clark in this season is gradually waking up to the fact that his old life is practically gone – most friends and family have moved on. This really hits home with an episode that sees the (thankfully brief) return of Pete. This was a subtle episode that demonstrated that Pete and Clark are very different now – they are friends but have both moved on. Clark towards his greater destiny – Pete to his, well, lesser destiny. But the real tear jerker that forces Clark to face the changes is the video left by Lana in the series finale. Understated and brief – its all the more powerful. Lana functioned as a sort of bubble for Clark – a link back to his carefree past – her leaving all but cuts this.Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)For Lex – wow. Smallville always managed to avoid having him as a cartoon baddie. What really took off on this season was Lex rushing towards his destiny as the powerful enemy of the “Traveller”. We get to see the childhood of Lex and his inner struggles. The moment that he and Lionel have their final encounter – powerful stuff. But what really hits viewers is Lex’s view of what his destiny was. The link he has with the Traveller, the impact that has had on his life and how it will ultimately play out – this was biblical stuff.Laura Vandervoort in Smallville (2001)For the overarching storylines of the series. Well a special mention goes to the Veritas saga. Debate rages on message boards across the land about whether or not writers had planned this from the start of the series. Regardless if they did – the Veritas storyline weaves together almost 7 years of storylines. Smallville has always managed to pull of the secret legends stories, particularly in Season 4 and 7. But there is a real epic storylines going in season 7. Other storylines worthy mention: the return of Brainiac – always a joy. Bizzaro is also great fun. Tom welling clearly enjoys playing a baddy instead of straight-laced Clark. That and he gets to wear a blue jacket and red tshirt, instead of vice versa. And Lionel finally meets his maker.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 6

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Erica Durance (Supergirl)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Glover (Shazam)

Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Aaron Ashmore (Veronica Mars)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)
Justin Hartley (A Bad Moms Christmas)
Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie)
Brendan Penny (The Wedding Chapel)
Amber McDonald (Without a Paddle 2)
Bill Mondy (Blade: The Series)
Lucas Grabeel (Family Guy)
Bryce Hodgson (Izombie)
Sebastian Gacki (The Thaw)
Bow Wow (Like Mike)
Brandon Jay McLaren (Power Rangers SPD)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Dave Bautista (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Carmen Moore (Flash Gordon)
Tyler Posey (Truth Or Dare)
John Novak (Dr. Dolittle 3)
Zak Santiago (Caprica)
Tori Spelling (Scary Movie 2)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Lee Thompson Young (Flashforward)
Phil Morris (Doom Patrol)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Series)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Jordan Belfi (Entourage)
Peter Flemming (Stargate SG.1)
Greyston Holt (Bitten)
Adrian Hough (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Michael Eklund (Bates Motel)
Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
Barclay Hope (Stargate SG.1)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Emily Holmes (Dark Angel)
A.C. Peterson (Mutant X)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)

Justin Hartley in Smallville (2001)They say timing is everything, and for me the timing of watching season 6 of Smallville for the first time was perfect. Why is that? Because this was the season that introduced their take on Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, and I got hooked on the new show about him this last season on TV.Tom Welling and Justin Hartley in Smallville (2001)Of course, before we can get to new characters, we have a few cliffhangers to resolve. While all kinds of chaos is reigning down on the citizens of Earth thanks to the evil force that has taken over Lex Luther’s body (Michael Rosenbaum), Clark Kent (Tom Welling) can’t do much about it since he’s trapped in the Phantom Zone. While he does escape and manage to save the day, he unwittingly releases the evil prisoners from the Phantom Zone and must spend some time tracking them down this season. As things return to normal, characters explore new options. Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) become roommates and Lois starts a new career as a reporter for a tabloid. They also both get new boyfriends in the two new characters that are introduced.Lee Thompson Young, Kyle Gallner, Justin Hartley, and Alan Ritchson in Smallville (2001)Lois starts dating the previously mentioned Olive Queen (Justin Hartley) while Chloe falls for Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore), a young photographer at The Daily Planet. Lana Lang (Kistin Kreuk), meanwhile, has moved in with Lex and their relationship becomes more serious when she finds out she is pregnant. Chloe learns a very surprising secret and is reunited with her mom as played by TV’s Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter.Tori Spelling in Smallville (2001)Other storylines of the season involve Clark and Oliver’s clashes over how to use their powers for good. Lex is collecting and hiding people with abilities. Those storylines clash when we see the first glimpse of the Justice League Smallville style. This season is really about the young adults. No one is in college any more (did they all drop out after one season or did they all graduate at lightning speed?) While Lionel Luther (John Glover) is still around being unclear in his intensions, Martha Kent (Annette O’Toole) is given very little to do. And before the season is over, one character makes an exit from the show.

REVIEW: THE SUPER POWERS TEAM: GALACTIC GUARDIANS

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Batman)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek:DS9)
William Callaway (Darkwing Duck)
Peter Cullen (Transformers)
Danny Dark (Melvin and Howard)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Stan Jones (Tranformers)
Stanley Ralph Ross (Babe)
Mark Taylor (Melrose Place)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)

A look at what makes this incarnation vastly superior to prior efforts reveals a cast of individuals who would continue going on producing beautiful DCAU efforts even up through today: Andrea Romano (Batman: Animated series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, JL Unlimited, The Batman) directs the voice talent here and story editor Allan Barnett (The Batman) appears on the roster as well. Clearly this show was the stepping-stone to what would eventually become the DCAU as we know it today. Plus, thanks to reworked character models from none-other than famed comic artist José Luis García-López, the team received a much-needed makeover which coincided with DC comic books at the time.Lucy-Locusts-lucy-lawless-37131768-850-709The writing matured to include much more space-scenarios with  an improved scientific understanding throughout. Rather than carbon copy characters in different costumes, for the first time we receive individual personalities, struggles, and conflicts of each of the members of the Justice League of America (which are renamed the Super Powers Team here to better reflect Kenner’s corresponding toyline).The villains are given their proper due as well and, much to my appreciation, are used to near perfection. The Penguin, Lex Luthor, Brianiac, Darkseide, Felix Faust, The Royal Flush Gang, and even the Scarecrow make wonderful appearances. The show’s writers seemed also to finally have figured out that the only way to balance out a cast as diverse and powerful as the Justice League, separation is a necessity (a technique later mastered in Justice League). Many episodes focus on only one or two members of the Team which allows for far better story arcs and character development. Gone are the Wondertwins  and signed on is Cyborg who, like his comic book character, is quite well done and allows the younger set an opportunity for appreciation.Capt3ure_zpsfb4b8813

Episodes that stand out are The Fear, whereby for the first time we receive a Superfriends episode with our heroes out of costume and also Bruce Wayne’s backstory masterfully told without ever showing a gun onscreen. Death of Superman also comes on strong considering just a few short seasons earlier the word death was strictly prohibited. Here it shows up in the very title of one of the episodes which just so happened to be one of the hottest selling comic books of the era. In conclusion, The Super Powers Team: Galacatic Guardians was perhaps the biggest step in the right direction for the Superfriends franchise possible. Sadly this would be the last series but at least it went out on a high.