At long last - the Justice League! Yes... the Justice
League. Not the Justice Society (that was taken) or the
Justice Legion (not enough Flight Rings or goofy superhero names) or
the Justice Titans (not pubescent enough) or the OutJusticiders, or
Justinity, Inc., or the Justicide Squad, or the Seven Soldiers of Justice, or
the Justice Patrol, or Captain Carrot and the Justice Crew, or...
[Editorial Note: If Mr. Millheiser makes one more
ridiculously lame, way-inside and embarrassingly geeky comic-book-nerd
reference, we're gonna restrict him to reviewing little more than annual "Crab
Right... then. We were talking about the Justice League of America,
more commonly referred to as the JLA by obsessive types who care to make such a
distinction. Premiering in the pages of The Brave and The Bold #28
(March, 1960), the JLA featured the best and brightest of the DC Comics
pantheon: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman,
Martian Manhunter, and dozens of other four-color heroes. Pretty much every
major hero in the DC Universe has passed through the Justice League at one time
or another, with the notable exception of Black Lightning. Institutionalized
racism or an ongoing slam against Tony Isabella? You be the
What made the Justice League so gosh-darn unique was that they were more than
a team; they were a league. Webster's dictionary (and by Webster's
Dictionary, I mean dictionary.com) defines a "league" as
"an association of states, organizations, or individuals
for common action; an alliance." Indeed, that's a good description of the JLA as
any. Each of its individual heroes was a legend in his or her own right.
Together, they were an unstoppable alliance of good in a world threatened by all
kinds of no-goodery: aliens, evil geniuses, extra dimensional sorcerers, super
powered psychopaths, villainous androids, star-conquering madmen, etc. One of
the most popular comics to emerge out of the Silver Age of comics, the JLA ended
up becoming a victim of its own success. Emboldened by DC's triumph, Martin
Goodman, publisher of Atlas/Timely Comics, urged a young writer named Stanley
Lieber to come up with their own JLA magazine. The intrepid writer, who penned
his tales under the name "Stan Lee", came up with The Fantastic Four,
and the Marvel Age was born; an era which would eventually result in the
trivializing of the Justice League book for nearly two decades.
But that's schmootz for another Swiffer. The Justice League was easily DC's
flagship title, if in spirit if not in actual sales, acclaim, readership, or
popularity. That's not to say that the JLA hasn't been a popular, top-selling
title. The amazing work of Keith Geffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire in
1987, as well as the unbelievably popular Grant Morrison run from 1996 to 1999,
speaks volumes about how beloved the Justice League concept is to
Which brings us to the Justice League animated series. The project
really goes back to the Batman and Superman animated series
from the 1990s. Easily the best portrayal of both characters outside the comic
books themselves, both shows proved to be immensely popular and presented a
bright, stable, and remarkably consistent animated view of the DC Universe. Fans
clamored for years to witness team-ups and crossovers between these two legends
and their comic book allies. The producers responded with visits from Green
Lantern, the Flash, Zatanna, Aquaman, and other like-minded good guys.
Eventually, the pull was too great to resist, and the producers finally brought
Justice League to life on Cartoon Network in the fall of 2001. Culling
together a team consisting of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern
(John Stewart), The Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl, and combing the rich
tapestry of heroes, villains, worlds and settings of DC Comics, the production
team worked on creating a rich and exciting show that displayed the best and
brightest the DC Universe had to offer.
Except... the first season of the show was a little bit rocky. The dialog
seemed a bit stiff, the plotting a bit uneven, and damn if Superman didn't get
his ass severely handed to him every other episode. That's not to say the show
was bad or unmemorable, but it definitely wasn't living up to its potential.
Definitely not the potential that the show displayed in Season Two, which was,
for the most part, completely spectacular, or the wonderment that is Justice
League Unlimited, the re-tooled version currently airing on Cartoon
The good and the bad are both displayed in the latest DVD release of the show
entitled Justice League: The Brave and the
Bold. This disc contains four half-hour episodes, which are broken down
into 2 hour-long stories. The first, "The Brave and the Bold", is a tale that
focuses on Flash and Green Lantern as they tackle the villainous Gorilla Grodd.
The second story, "Injustice For All", features an epic battle between the
Justice League and Lex Luthor's newly formed Injustice Gang, a team which
features the combined villainy of Luthor, The Joker, Cheetah, Ultra-Humanite,
Copperhead, Solomon Grundy, Star Sapphire, and The Shade. Both episodes are
merely OK at best, with "Injustice For All" easily the better of the two. "The
Brave and the Bold", in comparison, seems like a decent half-hour episode padded
and decompressed to twice its normal running length. "Injustice For All" is a
likable throwback to the classic "Challenge of the Super
Friends" episodes featuring the Super Friends versus the Legion of Doom. Yet
it never quite soars and inspires like it should; instead, it's a simple little
story with tons of unrealized potential. The battles aren't too impressive and
the storyline seems a bit flat. Still, it's enjoyable for what is, but it sure
ain't all that much. That's a fairly apt description for this disc as a
Justice League: The Brave and the Bold is
presented in its original, full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This is a sharp
and impressive looking transfer, with only one real issue. Colors are strong and
vibrant, making the comic book feel of the series come even more alive. The
transfer is remarkably clean and free of compression noise, artifacts, dirt,
debris, and other detrimental items. Blacks are deep and rich, with smart
contrasts and a sharp, detailed appearance. The only issue - and I have this
issue with a lot of Warner Animation DVDs - is that the transfer is too
sharp. There's noticeable line noise and jaggies throughout the picture.
This is nothing overly distracting or detrimental, but it is indeed there.
Still, this shouldn't stop you from enjoying the picture
as a whole.
The audio is presented in a mostly monaural Dolby
Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Dialog demonstrates clarity and brightness without hiss
or distortion. There is some nice range to the soundtrack and a richer, more
satisfying delivery then you've ever heard on television, but overall this is a
pretty standard mix.
Behind The Brave and the
Boldis a seven-minute "behind the scenes"
look at the creation of "The Brave and the Bold" episodes. It's a short look but
an entertaining one that really shows the love the staff retains for the
characters and their origins as comic book
Storyboards for Justice also runs for about seven minutes, and the featurette
discusses and displays the importance of using storyboards in animation; in this
example, they focus more on the "Injustice For All"
Sneak Peaks contains trailers for The Batman, DC Comics
kids, Codename: Kids Next Door, October DC Comics Superheroes, Batman:
Animated Series Vol. 2 (*drool*), and Superman: Animated Series Vol. 1
While Justice League: The
Brave and the Bold doesn't display the very best episodes of Justice
League, at least it presents them in an agreeable and enjoyable format.
There aren't much in terms of extras, but you did get four episodes at an
extremely reasonable price. If you're a fan you'll probably enjoy this disc,
others may want to give this one a rental first. Or, if you're like me, hold out
for the almost inevitable Seasonal boxed sets.