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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Justice League: The Brave and the Bold
Justice League: The Brave and the Bold
Warner Bros. // Unrated // October 19, 2004
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted October 30, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Program

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 Soccer" retrospectives.]

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 judge.

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 comicdom.

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 Network.

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 whole.

The DVD

Video:

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.

Audio:

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.

Extras:

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 heroes.

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" episode.

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 (*megadrool*).

Final Thoughts

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.

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