Tuesday, November 29, 2005

TV Review: "Justice League: The Brave & the Bold"

And now for something completely different, but still way nerdy.

Because all you bloggers kept talking and talking about the show "Justice League Unlimited," I started watching it pretty recently. Say, it's fairly good! But then, boasting writers like Warren Ellis and Gail Simone, of course it is. Thanks for the tip, bloggers.

(By the way, up there in that last paragraph, a good blogger would have put links on both "talking"s to other bloggers talking about "JLU," but as we all know, I am not a good blogger. No links for you! Find your own!)

Anyhoo. So, encouraged by such TV goodness, I begin to use my Netflix account to order "Justice League" DVDs. I see then that this is a different show altogether. It's not "Justice League Unlimited." Ah, the difference a word makes!

See, it turns out that the show "Justice League," without the last word there, is pretty bad. Not total and complete crap, but still pretty bad. I feel some trepidation in reviewing a children's show from my quasi-adult mindset, but I'm going to. It's what you bloggers have driven me to with your carping on about some lame ass cartoon.

This DVD has four episodes, a couple of two-parters.

The first is "The Brave and the Bold." Green Lantern and Flash team up to defeat Gorilla Grodd, who is bent on using mind control to destroy his hometown, Gorilla City.

I liked the characterization (GL is the moody, serious one, Flash the impulsive, not so bright one), and the dialogue was okay. I enjoyed the homage to the various transformations Barry Allen went through in his Silver Age title, viewed as an extended nightmare sequence after Wally West is knocked out. I also liked that the Flash pointed out that the DCU is a place of wonders after GL expressed doubts that Flash had seen a talking gorilla. (Sidenote. If there's ever a place to suspend disbelief, it's the DCU. I roll my eyes every time someone in a comic says something along the lines of, "I can't believe it! The bullets bounce right off him!" Actually, that would be fairly well-known. Superman's invulnerable. Don't shoot at him. Gee, look there, that guy's flying. Say, the guy with the ring is conjuring glowing energy contructs. The DCU's denizens have been seeing this stuff for at least fifty years. There's no reason to disbelieve it!) Finally, I liked Flash's defeat of Grodd at the end. Handled nicely, with some degree of imagination.

Here's what was crap: the writer is lazy, and that laziness is best expressed by his pathological, burning hatred of J'onn J'onzz (one of my favorite characters). Exhibit the one: Gorilla City is protected by some kind of technologically-constructed force field that also prevents its detection. During the show, Central City is covered with a similar field. J'onn can't phase through it. There is no mention of his telepathic powers, so it's unknown whether the field blocks him from being able to sense the inhabitants inside. Yet we're expected to believe that somehow Batman (snort) has some kind of, heh, technology-analyzing device? Yep, ol' Bats knows just what that advanced technology no one's ever seen before is. That's stupid. Exhibit the two: later, the Justice League is captured in Gorilla City. The manacles holding them resist J'onn's attempts to break them or phase through them. Man, those gorillas have some incredible technology! See, I'd accept that, except that then Batman breaks out of the manacles with some kind of fuckin' bent wire hidden in his glove. That's stupid. Exhibit the three: J'onn is punched around by a gorilla. What the hey --- J'onn's stronger than some stinking ape. That's stupid. Exhbit the four: when Wonder Woman is buried under some debris, the writer apparently forgot again that J'onn is telepathic, because he acts as if she's dead. What, he can't just scan under there? And even if you do think she's dead, how about the super-strong guy lifts a few of the bigger chunks of debris, just to be on the safe side, or hell, at least to recover the damn body, instead of just watching ol' Bats sit in the crater and chunk tiny bits of rock around? That's pretty stupid.

Green Lantern is also written by someone who, it seems, is puzzled by the character. Can he shoot "rays" or do other stuff? How much does the ring protect him? It's unclear. He's a badly defined character. It's a pretty bad use of the ring when you start missing Hal Jordan's giant green hands --- at least they provided humorous effect. (In a climactic scene here, this GL disarms missiles by wrenching some wires out with, uh, his bare hand.) On the whole, this two-part episode gets a C- for lazy writing.

Whew. All that hysterical ranting tires a geek out.

The next two episodes where called, I think, "Injustice For All." Luthor, discovering he's dying of kryptonite cancer (it turns out it has a deleterious effect on humans as well as Superman --- and by the way, why does it weaken Superman?), assembles a bunch of criminals to help him destroy the JL once and for all. Unfortunately, despite his giant brain, Luthor pulls together a bunch of stupid losers. Cheetah and Copperhead and Solomon Grundy? A lame lineup of weak characters, but that's okay, because in this animated universe, everyone is weaker than they are in the comics, except Batman, who is King God of All. Superman is knocked around by Solomon Grundy, for pete's sake, and yes, once again J'onn J'onzz is spat upon. He fails to recognize a trap despite his telepathy, he acts like a fool by rushing in without taking stock first, and for some goddam reason the Anti-Humanite zaps him with some stick while he's phasing (unless I saw it wrong and he wasn't phasing, but if he wasn't, why wasn't he?). Very bad use of J'onn again --- why not scope out the scene invisible, approach the Humanite disguised as Luthor, etc. etc. The writers of this show, it seems, simply do not know how to use this powerful character with diverse abilities. It's not just J'onn, though; there was too much mindless punching from Superman and Wonder Woman. They're more than just strong fliers. They too have a wide array of abilities. Where is the imagination? Where is the strategy? Not on this show. Even Green Lantern's ring is used boringly.

But these two episodes were better than the first two, though. Despite my anti-Batman stance, I did enjoy how he dealt with being held captive by seven deadly criminals. There was no stupid-ass Batfu or Bat-Houdini magic. He just used some Criminal Psychology and Fast Talk and Divide And Conquer. Now that's a dangerous man!

I grade the Injustice episode a B-.

I saw some other episodes, too, but I forgot them already.

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