So the second season of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Dwayne McDuffieâ€™s Justice League animated series (and last season before Unlimited started) has now been released on DVD for a few weeks, timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Superman Returns. Season 2 was a step-up in many ways from the lackluster first season, though it doesnâ€™t quite achieve the range and maturity of storytelling as seen in Justice League Unlimited.
The first season of Justice League picked up where the third season of Superman the Animated Series left off and was set to begin the climax of the Timm/Dini DC Animated Universe. Season 1 got the show off to a rocky start with several boring or predictable stories, a noticeably pared-down Superman and, frankly, nothing with a whole lot of â€œoomphâ€. Season 2 almost feels like a completely different show, with the writers and animators getting the hang of the characters, the dynamics with one-another and how to manage them in some truly epic stories.
The series starts out with one of the best Darkseid stories ever written, â€œTwilightâ€, which sets up elements which will be expanded upon in the third season of JLU. After viewing Twilight, right away you know that youâ€™re in store for a superior Justice League experience. â€œTabula Rasaâ€ is a decent arc introducing Dr. Ivoâ€™s Amazo android. While this version of Amazo is much more interesting than his comic book counterpart, the story doesnâ€™t stand out as one of my favorites. Now, â€œOnly a Dreamâ€, that one holds up as my favorite arc of the series. The best interpretation of Dr. Destiny (a personal favorite villain of mine) since Neil Gaiman wrote him into an issue of Sandman, the story runs like the Justice League vs. Freddy Krueger. William Atherton (Ghostbusters, Die Hard, Real Genius) plays a fantastic Dr. Destiny. Youâ€™ve got possibly the most important story of the season on disc 2, â€œA Better Worldâ€, which sets up everything of importance thatâ€™ll be used in JLU season 2. â€œWild Cardâ€ is a hilarious Joker-centric story which ties into Batman Beyond. Also of note, all the members of the Royal Flush Gang are voiced by the cast of Teen Titans. Nice little reference, there.
There are a few â€œmehâ€ episodes in the bunch, I will admit. â€œSecret Societyâ€, while a good super villain brawl with a less-than-subtle Challenge of the Superfriends inspiration, never really struck me as the high-point of the season. â€œMaid of Honorâ€ is a rather â€œblehâ€ Vandal Savage story, predictable from start to finish, starring an annoying spoiled Princess who falls in love with the villain. Easily the weakest link in the season. â€œHearts and Mindsâ€ is a Green Lantern-focused story starring Despero as the villain. Despite the phenomenal Keith David providing the villainâ€™s voice, the whole story just doesnâ€™t grab you at all.
However, the good episodes very easily out-weigh the not-so-good ones. â€œHereafterâ€ is a great twist on the Death of Superman idea, â€œComfort and Joyâ€ is a syrupy Christmas-themed comedy relief episode (with blink-and-youâ€™ll-miss-it Swamp Thing cameo!), â€œThe Terror Beyondâ€ is a great Solomon Grundy story thatâ€™ll appeal to any H.P. Lovecraft fan, and then thereâ€™s the 3-part series finale, â€œStarcrossedâ€, which is all sorts of hardcore. Really a fantastic selection of episodes, and even the worst of the bunch arenâ€™t nearly as bad as â€œWarworldâ€ from season 1.
The special features are decent-enough. â€œA Better World part 2â€, â€œTwilight part 2â€ and â€œStarcrossed part 3â€ all have commentary tracks with Bruce Timm, Dwayne McDuffie and various other members of the production team. Theyâ€™ve all improved their commentary skills since the Batman the Animated Series box sets (which had the most boring commentaries Iâ€™ve ever sat through) and listening to them geek-out is always fun, especially if youâ€™re a hardcore comic book nerd and can catch all their references. The only documentary included in the set is Justice League Declassified, an interview and question and answer panel hosted by the ever-entertaining Phil Lamarr (voice of Green Lantern). He interviews various members of the creative staff, which is very informative (though a lot of the info they give in the documentary is told during the commentaries).
You get 26 episodes on 4 disks with hardly a sucky one in the bunch. While Justice League Unlimited was an improvement, the second season of Justice League is still a marvelous show and should certainly be on any comic book fanâ€™s wish-list.