If any DC-themed animated movie to drop in 2019 offers the best of both worlds, it has to be Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. The reason I say that is because while it does chart new territory that I’ll detail momentarily, it’s a love letter to those of us who adored the sheer perfection that was Justice League Unlimited. Believe it or not, even the film’s score mirrors what we once heard from the beloved animated series. Rest assured that you’ll feel right at home as soon as you hear a well-placed electric guitar accompany Superman’s first display of heroics.
Right now, I’m guessing that you’re champing at the bit to ask me if indeed this flick is in continuity with JLU, as opposed to Batman and Harley Quinn, which really only shared visual similarities with The New Batman Adventures.
Well, if I’m to give you an honest answer, I’d have to say “probably.” Though not expressly stated by anyone that I’ve heard speak, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five could easily fit right into the well-established Timmverse. There’s nothing that outright contradicts the League’s previous encounter with the Legion of Superheroes in “Far From Home,” nor does this feel like a simple homage.
Of course, any bridge joining new and old would collapse if not for a certain trio of actors returning as the Trinity, those being Kevin Conroy as Batman, George Newbern as Superman and Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman. Needless to say, I’m grateful these folks were rounded up because their voices still echo in my head to this day whenever I read comic books featuring any of the icons just mentioned.
In my opinion, the modern additions to the JLU pantheon are what raises the appeal of this particular offering. Sure, there’s still a Green Lantern in the form of Jessica Cruz (Diane Guerrero), but you can also expect to spend time with Miss Martian (Daniela Bobadilla) and Mr. Terrific (Kevin Michael Richardson), the latter of whom wasn’t utilized as much on the TV show. Star Boy (Elyes Gabel), however, is more so accurately described as a key part to the story, as he’s not really part of the team when you get down to it.
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As you no doubt gathered from the movie’s blatant title, the Fatal Five – Emerald Empress (Sumalee Montano), Mano (Philip Anthony Rodriguez), Thorak (Peter Jessop), the Persuader (Matthew Yang King) and Validus – serve as the antagonists and, believe me, they live up their group’s namesake because they’re downright evil and rack up quite the body count.
Actually, I was quite surprised to learn that filmmakers settled on said quintet when the project was originally announced, but it always makes for an interesting viewing experience whenever various aspects of the DC Universe are unexpectedly pulled together – and it works.
Long story short, we’re gifted with a goulash consisting of familiar and lesser known characters from the present and future, some of which must deal with mental health issues. That’s right, Jessica Cruz’s crippling anxiety has followed her from the comics and is addressed head-on. Not only does this allow her to serve as an inspiration to those who suffer from this in the real world, but it fits in with the idea of Green Lanterns having to overcome great fear. Naturally, Diane Guerrero owns the role, having also proven herself to DC fans as Crazy Jane on Doom Patrol.
When it it comes to Star Boy, though, his affliction is much harder to describe, especially since you can get his medication only in the 31st century. As you could imagine, Jessica is the one who gets through to him best, and their friendship ends up being one of the highlights of the piece. Still, Batman’s working relationship with Miss Martian deserves an honorable mention.
With so many heroes and villains sharing the spotlight, I can’t help conceding that there might be a little too much action on hand. Yes, I know it’s expected of a JL movie, but it seems like the balance has shifted more toward epic brawls since Justice League: War hit in 2014. Don’t get me wrong, this film has more than enough character moments to satisfy, but it’s nice having those breathers and enjoying some dialogue before getting back to all the property damage.
Circling back to the topic of mental health, that’s further explored in the featurette titled “Battling the Invisible Menace,” which served as a nice complement to “Justice League vs. The Fatal Five: Unity of Hero,” a segment devoted to organically incorporating diversity into superhero storytelling. Enjoyable as those were, my favorite bit of supplemental content was the sneak peek at Batman: Hush, my most anticipated movie to be released this year.
It’s fitting that I mentioned Justice League Unlimited‘s “Far From Home” because that’s also included as well. Likewise, throwing in “Man of Tomorrow” from Legion of Superheroes was a no-brainer, as that contained many characters present in the accompanying feature.
Even though Crisis on Two Earths still reigns supreme in my eyes, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five may be my favorite ensemble piece released in the time since. Arguments could be made for The Flashpoint Paradox – and deservedly so – but this one possesses that certain quality that’ll keep me coming back for repeated viewings in years to come.
Not only is Justice League vs. The Fatal Five a wonderful addition to the DC animated library, but it's probably the most I've enjoyed a film featuring these heroes since Crisis on Two Earths.