This review is based on the series premiere.
Despite their continuing dominance when it comes to direct-to-video animated films, DC’s animation division has unfortunately been a bit quiet on the television front in the past few years with the exception of Teen Titans Go!, a series that has catered more so to children under the age of 10 as opposed to appealing to all ages as WB’s superhero cartoons have often done over the past 25 years.
Now, however, Justice League Action is looking to put things back on the right track. Although it does pack a healthy dose of humor, it never in any way feels like a farce or overly juvenile. Without a doubt, this is not as dark as, say, Batman: The Animated Series or Batman Beyond, but it can keep a straighter face than Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The tone feels right for today’s children, and adults tuning in will be treated to sharp dialogue brought to life by the likes of Kevin Conroy, who reprises his role as the Dark Knight for the umpteenth project. You can also look forward to Mark Hamill (The Joker) and James Woods (Lex Luthor) joining the party later this season, just to name a few.
Something viewers will have to get used to is the 11-minute episode format. The series premiere, “Shazam Slam,” consisted of four offerings occupying a one-hour timeslot. Knowing how the show is being laid out, I wasn’t at all disoriented, but those unaware of this fact may find some of the transitions to be a bit difficult despite one fluid story being told. To be quite honest, the second tale sticks out like a sore thumb when placed among the rest due to its abrupt shifting of focus from Batman to Superman and Wonder Woman and having less of an occult vibe.
On that note, the Trinity is most assuredly the central focus, especially Batman, which doesn’t come as that great of a shock. Much like Justice League Unlimited and the aforementioned Batman: The Brave and the Bold, JLA fully embraces DC’s rich pantheon of heroes. In addition to utilizing familiar faces like Green Arrow, Cyborg, and Booster Gold, diehard comic book fans will probably go bonkers when seeing the likes of Swamp Thing and John Constantine. It’s quite admirable when the creative minds can play with so many toys in the box and everybody has just the right amount of screentime.
Given the truncated running time, it comes as no surprise that the series has hit the ground running: The Justice League has already been formed, the Hall of Justice has long since been erected, and although we weren’t treated to an origin story for Shazam, what we got catapulted us into his corner of the DC Universe just as effectively. In short, you’ll know how his powers work, who he hangs out with, and be introduced to his arch-nemesis, Black Adam.
A major concern of mine since first learning about the show was whether a delicate balance could be found between storytelling and action, the latter of which there is no shortage of (it’s in the title, after all). And, for the most part, the creators manage to achieve that, with the exception of the part that focused mainly on Superman and Wonder Woman that I spoke of earlier, which comes off as too much of a straight up slugfest in my view. As long as the show doesn’t devolve into Avengers Assemble though – which is akin to watching a kid smash some action figures together for 22 minutes – I think we’ll be fine.
Although Black Adam bookended this premiere, the primary antagonistic focus was placed on a handful of Djinn that plagued the Justice League in a variety of ways from merging with Parasite to even possessing Batman. Sure, our heroes were forced to counter these foes in some rather interesting ways, yet the threat ultimately seemed a bit underwhelming. But then again, many DC animated series seldom knocked our socks off out of the gate before becoming the stuff of legend.
Minor gripes aside, I can’t wait to see what the show has to offer in the near future. Knowing that we’ll see some oddball pairings of superheroes along with them battling villains that would otherwise be atypical for them individually, it seems as though a niche has been generously carved and just in time. With Zack Snyder’s Justice League arriving in theatres in November of 2017, now is the time to make sure these characters have permeated the public’s consciousness on a variety of fronts. It’s subtle synergy done well, to say the least.
Overall, Justice League Action offers much excitement and is not without heart, as it shows what makes these characters so great and enduring. While it remains to be seen if it will ever match the compelling drama that was Justice League Unlimited, the wheel has yet again been reinvented and a new generation of fans will no doubt be made by its efforts.
Although not perfect, Justice League Action delivers a heroic experience that is sure to delight children and adults alike. Not afraid to use more obscure characters from the start, this new series will serve as a great DC primer for a new generation.