Tying-in with the theatrical release of Superman Returns, the climactic final season of Bruce Timm and Paul Diniâ€™s ambitious Superman animated series has been released on DVD. Not my personal favorite season of the series, though it does contain some of the best episodes (likewise, it also contains some of the worst). So letâ€™s take a lookâ€¦
This season seemed to have two major themes going for it; Darkseid and team-ups. The Darkseid episodes are the highlight of the season, with some trulyâ€¦well, DARK story-telling and many shocking â€œHow did they get away with that?â€ moments. While Darkseid was hinted at toward the end of season 2, he shows up full-force at the beginning of this season, with the â€œApokolipsâ€¦Now!â€ arc. Remembered best for its â€œholy crap!â€ ending that nobody saw coming, the 2-part arc condensed Jack Kirbyâ€™s New Gods mythos rather well. The â€œLittle Girl Lostâ€ arc introduces Supergirl (who I never personally liked until Justice League Unlimited) and splits an equal focus on Darkseidâ€™s Female Furies. Granny Goodness, a character who would typically be too goofy to ever be taken seriously, is brought to life amazingly byâ€¦Ed Asner! His voiceover work alone makes Granny Goodness an awesome character and is one of the higher points to an otherwise mediocre arc. Darkseid then takes a break for 10 episodes and shows up for the series finale, â€œLegacyâ€. A very serious, very violent story; one might not expect this sort of thing from Superman. The final battle between Superman and Darkseid is incredibly brutal. This story also leads directly into the Justice League series and the events carry consequences which heavily affect the story in Justice League Unlimited.
The other main draw of the season, the superhero team-ups, are hit and miss. You have two more Batman crossovers, â€œKnight Timeâ€ and â€œThe Demon Rebornâ€. While â€œKnight Timeâ€ gives us an excellent look at what Superman thinks of Batman, â€œThe Demon Rebornâ€ is a pretty uninspired Raâ€™s Al Ghul story. Regrettably, itâ€™s the last youâ€™ll see of the villain until his final appearance in Batman Beyond. A young Clark Kent living in Smallville and unaware of his powers comes into contact with the Legion of Superheroes in â€œNew Kids in Townâ€. A good episode featuring Brainiac as the villain with several nice nods to the old Silver Age Superboy comics. Thereâ€™s â€œIn Brightest Dayâ€, the best superhero team-up episode of the season, featuring Kyler Rayner, the Green Lantern. Although Kyle was unfortunately saddled with a character design that looks too much like Hal Jordan, he still shines as an interesting character. Itâ€™s a bit of a shame that he got pushed out of the way by John Stewart for Justice League, only being mentioned and making a very brief cameo in JLU. The last team-up episode, â€œFish Storyâ€, featuring (you guessed it) Aquaman, is rather lame. They do their best to make Aquaman cool, and they do an alright job, but the actual *story* for the episode just isnâ€™t very engaging. Aquaman is handled much better in the Justice League series.
My biggest beef with this season is how they handled many of the members of Supermanâ€™s rogues gallery who had been introduced in the previous two seasons. Just about all the episodes they show up in this time around are mediocre at best. Two of the better characters from earlier in the series, Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bizarro, star together in â€œLittle Big Headâ€. Gilbert Godfriedâ€™s rendition of Mxy is the only redeemable part of the episode, as there is little to no story and it just falls flat. â€œObsessionâ€ is a terrible episode centered around the Toyman and his obsession over an android doll he built. â€œSupermanâ€™s Palâ€, while a nice nod to Jack Kirbyâ€™s Jimmy Olsen series, has a number of problems; mainly, Metallo. No explanation as to how he came back from having his Kryptonite power-source smashed by Steel last season, and the show is usually very good at keeping continuity with the villains.
As far as the new villains that show up in this season, they donâ€™t impress much either. â€œWarrior Queenâ€ brings in Maxima, who was never a good idea to begin with. The Lobo cameo at the end was cool, though (cuz hey, itâ€™s Lobo). â€œWhere Thereâ€™s Smokeâ€ introduces a new villainess, Volcana, but she just doesnâ€™t amount to anything other than looking pretty.
So really, the only draws this season has are the Darkseid episodes and the superhero guest spots. For that reason itâ€™s both the best and worst season of the series. Never-the-less, Iâ€™d still highly recommend it to any Superman fan, because when the good episodes show up, theyâ€™re *really* good.