REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 1-2

Image result for JUSTICE LEAGUE  TV LOGO CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The KIlling Joke)
George Newbern (Superman/Shazam)
Susan Eisenberg (Justice League: Doom)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals Barrera (Camp Rock)

Image result for JUSTICE LEAGUE   CARTOONRECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Gary Cole (Chuck)
Susan Sullivan (The Incredible Hulk 70s)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Rene Auberjonois (Stargate SG.1)
Garrett Morris (New Girl)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Scott Rummell (Rugrats)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
John Rhys-Davis (Lord of The Rings)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
William Smith (Conan The Barbarian)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Powers Boothe (Agents of SHIELD)
Julie Bowen (Lost)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
Tom Sizemore (Heat)
Danica McKellar (Young Justice)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Patrick Duffy (Dallas)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Tara Strong (Sabrina Down Under)
William Atherton (Die Hard)
Fairuza Balk (Almost Famous)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Dany Delany (Superman: TAS)
Larry Drake (Firefly)
Keith David (The Cape)
Michael Jai white (Arrow)
Brian Doyle Murray (Wayne’s World)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Rob Zombie (Super)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Arleen Sorkin Duet)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Scott Menville (Frozen)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Elizabeth Pena (The Incredibles)

When it comes to comic book related cartoons there are several that have gained mainstream popularity over the years. From Spider-Man to X-Men or Batman to Superman, DC and Marvel have been fighting it out through animation for some time now. One could argue when Bruce Timm brought his talents to the Batman series DC struck gold and they have been on a roll since.

For over a decade Batman and Superman have been mainstays in the world of cartoons thanks to Timm. His unique design breathed new life into the shows that he produced and brought Batman Beyond and Justice League into the spotlight as well. While Batman Beyond may be the most original concept, the Justice League has technically been around since the 60s. There have been many incarnations of the superhero group over the years, though this one feels modern yet somewhat closer to original JLA. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Hawkgirl, Flash, J’onn (Martian Manhunter), and the Green Lantern (John Stewart not Hal Jordan) all come together to form this new team.

If you have been a fan of the previous DC cartoons and haven’t checked this one out then you’ll want to pay attention. Just about everybody from the run that started over 10 years ago is contributing to the Justice League. That’s a lot of consistency and means that if Batman sounds familiar to you when you hear him it’s because Kevin Conroy is still his voice.

As is the case with a lot of productions of this nature you really need to have some basic understanding of what’s going on in order to really appreciate it. In fact a lot of what goes on this season is based on the assumption that the viewer knows certain characters and histories involved with them. Unlike Batman Beyond which basically built its world from scratch, the Justice League tiptoes the type of line that could have fanboys throwing their arms up in frustration. Fortunately even though this first season is a little more action-oriented and oddly paced, it is very successful.

Since there are so many characters and most of them are familiar the series takes its time introducing them to us. This means that character specific episodes are in the mix here but some of the League’s personalities don’t get fleshed out as the season progresses. Most of the attention seems to be paid to Green Lantern, Hawk Girl, Wonder Woman, and J’onn. That’s not to say that Flash, Superman, and Batman don’t get their fair amount of screen time. It’s just difficult to find a perfect balance with so many heroes to focus on. While there isn’t a lot of continuity within the episodes that are featured here the episodes themselves are like mini-arcs. Each story in the first season is split up between two or three episodes. This gives the plot more room to develop and doubles the run time. For the most part each episode in the first season here is pretty good.


Some of my favorite episodes were “The Enemy Below”, “In Blackest Night”, “Metamorphosis”, and “The Savage Time”. In “The Enemy Below” Aquaman’s character is introduced with a plot that involves Atlantis destroying the surface civilization. I always liked Aquaman and the way that he’s portrayed in this episode showcased the strength of his determination. “In Blackest Night” was enjoyable as well and featured Green Lantern being put on trial for the destruction of a planet. Probably the biggest treat for me in this season was “A Knight with Shadows”. In the DC universe The Demon (Etrigan) always struck me as one of the most interesting side characters because of the ties to Arthurian legend. Imagine my surprise when Etrigan and his human form Jason Blood show up muttering about the villainess Morgan le Fay. She’s looking for the Philosopher’s Stone and the Justice League joins Etrigan in an effort to stop her.

The dialogue was much better in the second season as well with more fluid storytelling and greater character interactions. Yes, the creators, actors and writers finally hit their stride with this season and there’s nothing to complain about. These episodes are bigger and bolder than the previous ones. More risks were taken with the storytelling and the franchise tapped into the vast pool of DC resources. The result is a collection of the best that Timm and company have had to offer over the years and something that comic book fans shouldn’t be without.

The way that Justice League tells its tales is in the form of two part episodes instead of stand alone adventures. The first season did the same thing and quite honestly it adds a certain amount of quality to the manner in which the story unfolds. With roughly 45 minutes to bring a plot from point A to B instead of 22 minutes things are allowed more time to flesh out and develop. Sometimes past events even come back so don’t be surprised if you see some things that are referenced to an episode in the first season. In the second season there are quite a few stories worth mentioning because they are simply amazing.

One of my favorite story arcs from this season is one called “Tabula Rasa”. In it the League sends Luthor packing but during his flight he stumbles across an android called AMAZO. It’s a cheesy name for sure, but once AMAZO’s powers are revealed he takes on a life of his own and becomes one of the greatest challenges that the JL has ever faced. His ability is to analyze and mimic the powers of anyone that he comes in contact with. As he squares off against Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, J’onn and eventually Superman he just gets stronger and stronger. The battle not only threatens to destroy Metropolis but the League as well when things get out of control.

“Only in a Dream” was cool because it showed that without Batman the League would probably have been defeated long before now. It’s just ironic that despite all of the super powers that they possess it’s up to Bruce Wayne and his utility belt of toys to save the day. In this particular episode an inmate becomes imbued with psychic powers and can enter people’s dreams. One by one the League falls under his spell and are left in a catatonic state. Batman and J’onn have to team up to take down the bad guy and bring his victims out of their dreamland.

My second favorite adventure in this set has to be “A Better World”. The story starts out in typical fashion with Superman and company taking down Luthor. The twist here is that Luthor is the president and Superman crosses the line between Boyscout and murderer. Two years later the Justice Lords dominate Earth and keep humanity in check to save them from themselves. The super dictatorship seems to be going well and good until the alternative Batman discovers a universe where our Justice League lives. Evil Batman and company capture our heroes and set out to take over their world. The most definitive moment from this episode is when Doomsday comes to town. You’ll remember him as the guy that “killed” Superman in the comic books. Well, the Justice Lord Superman isn’t going to put up with that so when the fight doesn’t go as planned he simply lobotomizes Doomsday and takes him out of the picture completely. This plotline has everything you could ever want from a comic book standpoint and really makes the what if scenario shine.

Several other episodes like “The Terror Beyond”, “Hereafter” and “Wildcards” all prove to be just as exciting though the crown jewel is probably the three part story that ends the season: “Starcrossed”. The hawkpeople from Thanagar arrive on Earth and destroy a Gordanian battleship. They bring news of an impending invasion and form an alliance with Earth to construct a force field to save the planet. It is revealed that Hawkgirl has been a spy for her people all along and is actually betrothed to a high ranking officer. In the meantime Batman discovers that the Gordanian’s aren’t actually attacking Earth and that the invasion was in fact being conducted by the people of Thanagar. The League has to battle for their planet and Shayera Hol (Hawkgirl) has to figure out which side of the fence she is on. This was the perfect way to end this great season and leaves things open for Justice League Unlimited.

To say the second season of Justice League was better than the first would be a gross understatement. Everything in the show was improved for the second year and that was mostly thanks to the big risks taken by the creators. They thought bigger and out of the box and it shows once you finish watching the end result.

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REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 1

CAST

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
Carlos Valdes (Arrow)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jessie L. Martin (Injustice)

NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST STARS

Chad Rock (Sanctuary)
Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
Patrick Sabongui (The Cabin In The Woods)
John Wesley Shipp (90s Flash)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Michael Smith (Fringe)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Anthony Carrigan (Gotham)
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Dominic Purcell (Blade: Trinity)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Kelly Frye (Rake)
Greg Finley (Izombie)
Robert Knepper (R.I.P.D.)
Michael Reventar (Kidnao Capital)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Anna Hopkins (Defiance)
Robbie Amell (Scooby-Doo 3 & 4)
Amanda Pays (90s Flash)
Andy Mientus (Smash)
Victor Garber (Alias)
Malese Jow (The Scoial Network)
Britne Oldford (AWOL)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Peyton List (Smallville)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Matt Letschr (The Mask of Zorro)
Viro D’Ambrosio (90s Flash)
Devon Gaye (Dexter)
Brandon Roth (Superman Returns)
Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Peter bryant (Dark Angel)
Martin Novotny (Art History)
Paul Anthony (American Mary)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Ciara Renee (Legends of Tomorrow)

The Flash was unique in its first season in the sense that it never really needed to find itself or grow into something better. It simply started strong and continually got better over the course of seven months. Much of the credit rests with the fact that the Flash was hardly starting from scratch. This show is the first spinoff of Arrow and its growing superhero universe. It features many of the same producers as Arrow and several writers responsible for Arrow’s stellar second season. Not only did The Flash not have to waste much time establishing its universe, it didn’t even have to introduce viewers to its protagonist. Grant Gustin debuted as a pre-speedster Barry Allen midway through Arrow’s second season, culminating with the accident that created the Flash. By the time this show came around, viewers already knew Barry, what made him tick and what fueled his particular quest.

Gustin rapidly grew into the role of Barry Allen once the spotlight was placed on him. Gustin brought a winning blend of youthful energy, latent pathos and Peter Parker-esque awkwardness to the table. He gave us a Barry Allen that’s impossible not to connect with. Barry is immensely likable. He’s less intense than Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen. He’s driven by tragedy but anchored by a small family unit. He’s faithful to the comic book Barry Allen. One of the main reasons for The Flash’s success, though, was its supporting cast. So much of the drama and the emotional core of the show centered around Barry’s ties to his core circle of friends, family and allies. There was his adoptive father, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). There was his adoptive sister/unrequited love, Iris (Candice Patton), a dichotomy that never came across as creepy or incest-y as it could have. There was his newfound father figure/mentor in Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). There were his new friends/partners in metahuman-busting, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). And rounding out the core cast was Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Barry’s colleague and sometimes rival/sometimes ally.

The show exploited these various relationships to great effect. Above all, the father/son relationships between Barry/Joe and Barry/Wells were the source of great drama. Martin and Cavanagh were the MVPs among the cast. Martin brought a crucial warmth to his role as a concerned father and a man simply baffled by the increasingly bizarre state of life in Central City. Cavanagh, meanwhile, helped mold Wells into the show’s most captivating figure. It quickly became apparent that Wells was far more than he seemed, eventually emerging as the primary antagonist of Season 1. But thanks to Cavanagh’s performance, it was always apparent that Wells cared for Barry even as he plotted and schemed and tormented the hero.

Caitlin and Cisco became increasingly compelling characters in their own right as the season progressed. Caitlin, initially cold and a little haughty, grew as her relationship with Barry blossomed and her past relationship with Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) came to light. Cisco was largely a comic relief character at first. And while he remained the show’s most reliable source of comedy, he too was fleshed out and developed a father/son connection to Wells of his own.

Iris and Eddie were a little more uneven when it came to their respective roles within the show. At times it was easy to forget about Eddie given his tendency to drop out of view. However, he definitely became an integral player in the final couple months of the season. I appreciated how the writers never took a one-note approach with Eddie. He may have been Barry’s romantic rival, but he was never written as a bully or a jerk, just a guy with his own set of hopes and desires. As for Iris, there were some episodes where she filled what seemed to be a mandatory quota as far as superhero relationship drama. The Barry/Iris/Eddie love triangle definitely had its moments, but some weeks it came across as pointless filler. The big offender was “Out of Time,” which featured a terrifically epic climax but dull build-up. The premiere episode,  did a fine job of laying out the cast of characters and basic status quo for the show. The idea that the STAR Labs particle accelerator created a new wave of metahumans alongside the Flash offered an easy way to start building a roster of villains and put Barry’s growing speed powers to the test. Luckily, it wasn’t long before The Flash began moving away from the “villain of the week” approach and building larger, overarching storylines. Bigger villains like Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) were introduced, paving the way for the Flash Rogues.

 

The show played its part in expanding the CW’s superhero universe, introducing Firestorm and crossing paths with Arrow at several points. The mid-season finale, “The Man In the Yellow Suit,” offered the full introduction of the Reverse-Flash and set the stage for a conflict that would drive the show all the way until the season finale. As that conflict developed, the question of just who Dr. Wells was and what he had planned for Barry became paramount. Wells symbolized just how much the show was willing to play with expectations and shake up the traditional comic book mythology. I noted in my review of the premiere episode that the show was showing signs of being too predictable for seasoned comic book readers. It wasn’t long before that concern faded away.

Looking back at these overarching conflicts and how they were developed over the course of the season, it’s clear that The Flash succeeded because it managed to adopt the serialized nature of superhero comics so well. Each new episode offered its fair share of twists and surprises, culminating in a dramatic cliffhanger that left viewers craving the next installment. It served as a reminder that, in many ways, TV is an inherently better medium for superheroes than film. A weekly series can do serialized storytelling in a way a couple superhero movies every year can’t. The show started out big with the premiere episode, pitting Barry against the first Weather Wizard and a massive tornado. Even that was chump change compared to later conflicts. Barry’s battle with the second Weather Wizard culminated with the hero stopping a tidal wave at supersonic speed. But the most impressive technical accomplishment was more subtle. The late-season episode “Grodd Lives” introduced viewers to Gorilla Grodd, a completely computer-animated villain who looked far more convincing than we had any right to hope.

Perhaps one of the strongest episode of Season 1 was “Tricksters.” That episode paid terrific homage to the short-lived 1990 Flash series as Mark Hamill reprised the part of the prank-obsessed villain the Trickster and former Flash John Wesley Shipp was given his most in-depth role as Barry’s father, Henry. Not only was “Tricksters” a fun love letter to the old show, it proved that this series can venture into full-on camp territory without losing sight of itself.

Ultimately, though, it’s the finale episode that stands out as the crowning moment of Season 1. The show bucked the usual trend by getting the physical confrontation with Reverse-Flash out of the way in the penultimate episode (via a team-up between Flash, Firestorm and the Arrow, no less). “Fast Enough” wasn’t concerned with the visceral element of the Flash/Reverse-Flash rivalry so much as the psychological one. The finale was intensely emotional, forcing Barry to decide just how much he was willing to sacrifice to save his mother. Just about every actor delivered their best work of the season. It was a tremendous payoff to a year’s worth of build-up.

The finale ended the season with a big question mark of a cliffhanger. The great thing about the way the season wrapped is that now the door is open for practically anything. The finale touched on the idea of the multiverse – other worlds inhabited by other Flashes like Jay Garrick. The Flash didn’t suffer from the familiar freshman growing pains most new shows experience in their first season. This show built from the framework Arrow laid out and made use of an experienced writing and production team, a great cast, and a clear, focused plan for exploring Barry Allen’s first year on the job. The show was never afraid to delve into the weird and wild elements of DC lore, but it always stayed grounded thanks to a combination of humor and strong character relationships.