Concise, satisfying slugfests in ‘Justice League Action’
DC Comics’ premier superteam, the Justice League of America, has gotten the animated series treatment since the ’70s. It has crossed over formats as the action-packed but campy “Super Friends” and, in the previous decade, the more serious adaptation, “Justice League.”
The team is more relevant than ever, as a live-action film is coming to cinemas in a few months. But before that inevitable blockbuster, the team is getting an enjoyable adaptation by way of the new “Justice League Action” cartoon series (Saturdays, Toonami, 11:20 a.m.), which focuses on core members working with the less-popular and obscure heroes of the DC Universe—in concise but satisfying 10-minute stories.
The flexible squads per episode go after recognizable villains from the long-running series of comic books, offering a variety of conflicts: Batman, the sorceress Zatanna and the plant creature Swamp Thing form an impromptu task force against the hulking Solomon Grundy and his zombie slaves; Superman, warrior-woman Barda and Batman face the terror of the otherworldly Steppenwolf and his flying lackeys—etc.
It’s in the episodes that show previously unseen sides to the heroes that the series is able to make smart use of its limited time. Two episodes among many easily stand out: One, when Superman loses his powers but won against Steppenwolf—but not without breaking his leg (“Hurts, doesn’t it?” quipped Batman). And second, when the all-knowing Batman admitted that he was wrong about the “lazy” newbie, Booster Gold.
Not a lot has changed since the previous iteration of the characters—Wonder Woman is still a formidable heroine, and so on—but, visually, there are altered or more modern costume designs.
Longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy still gives the Dark Knight that distinctly commanding and collected personality—and he’s done it since the early ’90s, with the classic “Batman: The Animated Series.”
Also lending their voices to the project are film and TV actors, including Mark Hamill (Joker, Swamp Thing), Jerry O’Connell (Atom), Cloris Leachman (Granny Goodness), Sean Astin (Shazam), Patton Oswalt (Space Cabbie) and Mena Suvari (Killer Frost).
The short, mostly standalone “Justice League Action” tales may not offer high-stakes epics, but they’re often tightly written and, just as importantly, they get the characters right. The big, fast-paced action sequences do not disappoint, either.