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JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION Is a DC Explosion for Younger Viewers

JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION Is a DC Explosion for Younger Viewers

Since Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, there have been a pretty steady list of DC Comics animated series. Whether they’ve been part of the Bruce Timmverse or not, it’s been nice to know some permutation of heroes is protecting our TVs from harm. But, there hasn’t been a Justice League iteration since 2006 when the Timmverse series ended. The new Justice League Action has a lot of elements of that show, specifically a lot of the voice casting and general designs, but those expecting a return of the grown-up tone of the original show or of Young Justice might be disappointed. It’s a fast, fun, exploration of DC characters for a younger crowd.

The tone of Justice League Action is what really sets it apart from its predecessor, being much more in line with Batman: The Brave and the Bold or Teen Titans GO!. It’s bright, it’s quick, it’s got a lot of humor, and very brief stories. Within each 22-minute episode, there are two shorter 11-minute stories. The first episode, “Shazam Slam,” is 44 minutes long, consisting of four separate adventures, tied together through the theme of collecting monsters borne from Black Adam’s treachery. They contain different sets of heroes, different settings, and different plots. It’s this kind of pacing that really makes the show feel like it’s for a younger audience, as enjoyable. and actually fairly intricate, it may be for adults.

The basic plot of the first episode has the wizard Shazam (Carl Reiner!!!) lost in Gotham City after having his powers stolen by Black Adam. Batman (Kevin Conroy) helps the wizard return to his throne room to get his powers back and free Billy Batson (Sean Astin) so he can become Captain Marvel. Before banishing Black Adam to the depths of Earth’s history, he sends monsters to different parts of the globe. This leads to the next two parts. The first has Superman (Jason J. Lewis), Wonder Woman (Rachel Kimsey), and Martian Manhunter (Crispin Freeman) fighting a beast that can absorb and utilize the heroes’ powers; the second sees a shape-shifting monster assume the form of Batman and infiltrating the Hall of Justice where he almost gets beaten by everybody’s favorite whipping boy, Booster Gold (Diedrich Bader).

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The final chapter was easily my favorite, and mostly because it expanded the DC animated universe in a way I hadn’t expected. In order to catch the final three monsters, and ultimately Black Adam himself again, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman recruit the Justice League Dark, including John Constantine (Damian O’Hare), Plastic Man (Dana Snyder), and FRIGGING SWAMP THING (Mark Hamill). They have to work together to outsmart the evil wizard, and being the show it is, crack jokes along the way.

What this series definitely has going for it is a desire to populate the adventures with as many DC Comics characters as possible. Looking at the season trailer above, you can see a whole host of characters that make appearances and team up with our main trio. To go along with that, the show has chosen to cast a lot of actors who’ve played DC characters in animation before. Naturally we have Conroy as Batman, and Hamill plays the Joker in other episodes along with his portrayal of Swamp thing; Freeman voices Manhunter here but played Red Arrow on Young Justice; Bader is Booster Gold in this show, but played Batman on Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And Lewis, I have to imagine, was cast because he sounds like a young Tim Daly. It’s a cool little treat for fans of these animated shows over the past 20 years.

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Whether you watch with your kids or watch for yourself, Justice League Action has a lot to offer. It’s definitely light and frothy, but it’s got enough fun DC ephemera and cameos to make most hardened fans happy. And it shows the ubiquitous nature of the characters that they can be used for this type of fun action series at the same time that incredibly dark and violent feature films are made. It’s all about balance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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Justice League Action premieres Friday, December 16, at 6:00pm ET/PT on Cartoon Network.

Images: DC Entertainment/Warner Bros Animation


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and the writer of the lengthy retrospective Batman: Reanimated. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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