The DC Animated Universe (DCAU) was a big part of my childhood; I know I’m not alone in that. Watching Batman: The Animated Series, Static Shock, and all the other shows always was a good time. That universe gave us what – at the time – we didn’t have with Marvel or any cinematic experience. It ended on TV after Justice League Unlimited concluded, but it continued living on through a few movies and comics.
During the last season of JLU, we saw Lex Luthor forming the Legion of Doom, basically the Justice League for villains. After many failed attempts at destroying the League, Luthor tried to reach godhood again by reactivating Brainiac; instead, he resurrected Darkseid by mistake. In the last episode, the Justice League and the Legion of Doom united to fight Darkseid; however, the one who “defeated” him was Luthor, who delivered him the Anti-Life Equation.
JLU had a near-perfect conclusion, but between its events and the start of Batman Beyond there still were many possibilities; Justice League Infinity represents one of them. From JLU producer James Tucker and animated series writer J.M. DeMatteis, accompanied by artist Ethen Beavers and colorist Nick Filardi, Justice League Infinity is a multiversal (and really nostalgic) adventure that gives a taste of the great DCAU.
JLU begins a bit after that. While the League happily celebrates Flash’s birthday, Granny Goodness and Kalibak attack them; the one who destroys the heroes will be the new ruler of Apokolips. But that’s not the actual conflict of the story. In his search for meaning, Amazo messes with the multiverse and risks destroying everything. The League will have to join old and new allies to travel through the universes and save the multiverse.
Since Amazo first appeared, he has tried to evolve and find purpose. Doctor Fate proposed to help him, but the android disappeared at the start of JLU, never to be seen again. Here it’s explained that he was traveling the universe and being guided by a voice that would answer his questions. He reaches a place full of mirrors, a (not very subtle) way of showing he needs to look inward.
Similarly, Martian Manhunter is also trying to find out who he is, but by different means. He is traveling the world while changing his form and connecting with other people. He wants to understand others to understand himself and his place on Earth. After leaving the League, Martian Manhunter is conflicted; he chose a more peaceful life, but he still worries about his friends that are always in danger. So he also has doubts about how to change himself and stop choosing a path full of violence and disaster.
These struggles become even worse and more apparent after Amazo enters the Mirrored Room and starts creating cracks inside it. They release unknown energy that affects the multiverse, making people change places with versions of them from other universes. This is a really interesting way of discussing the “who am I?” question. What do these different versions represent? The Batman from the DCAU is not the Batman from the New 52, but both are still the Batman. So what’s their difference? While it’s intriguing to think about what’s the core of a character (basically what makes them… themselves), it’s also entertaining to think about what can be created from that core. That’s how we get Earth-23 Superman, Red Son Superman, and Overman, an alternative version of the hero created for Justice League Infinity.
And that applies not only to alternative universes, but also to the versions envisioned by different writers. Scott Snyder’s Batman is really different from Tom King’s version, for example. To me, the core of a character is something relatively flexible. You can have Spider-Man without the death of Uncle Ben or without being friends with the Human Torch, but you can’t have someone writing Peter Parker as a Punisher-style anti-hero that goes through New York killing every bank robber. In Justice League Infinity, that is majestically represented by Darkseid.
Diana is transported to a world where Darkseid still searched for the anti-life equation, but had a kind side to him, one that made him and the Wonder Woman from that universe fall in love. He still kept on his quest for the equation, the only thing he believed could bring meaning to the world, but that ended up destroying everything. However, he is not the same Darkseid our Diana and all of us know.
Throughout the story, we see many other alternate versions of the characters we know besides the ones I mentioned. Superman is the first one to switch places, and the one who arrives is a cruel man called Overman; he is Kal-El, but from a Nazi Earth where he was raised by Savage. There’s Earth-D’s Justice Alliance and a Martian Manhunter known as the Oracle. Even the real villain behind everything, the one that guided Amazo to the Mirrored Room, is a different version of Amazo himself. Those characters aren’t there just to make everything more fun, interesting, and comic-booky; they enrich the message and the questions surrounding the characters.
The search for meaning and purpose is an element that’s also present in Darkseid’s life. As I said, he kept searching for the Anti-Life Equation, the only thing that – in his opinion – could bring meaning and control to the world. After the Anti-Life Equation destroys the universe, he keeps on a similar quest. When our Diana appears before him, he seems obsessed with the existence of a so-called Life Equation. In a way, he’s just like the Darkseid we know, but instead of having a futile death striving for the equation, he redeems himself by protecting our Diana and proving to her that he is not a monster anymore.
J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, has two alternative versions in the story; the Oracle and J’onzz-D, the one from Earth-D. Both of them devote their lives to good. The Oracle is so powerful that it seems like the only thing he feels is the pain of the uncountable thoughts entering his mind, but he still lived on to help the heroes save the multiverse at this moment. J’onzz-D witnessed and caused many deaths on Mars, but now, inspired by Superman-D, he is a member of the Justice Alliance. Though by different means, each version of Martian Manhunter fights for good. That allows our J’onn J’onzz to understand that he can still help the League and avoid the fights and the violence by being an ambassador seeking peaceful solutions. He changed himself while still keeping true to his ideals.
Superman also found two different versions of himself, but one of them – Overman – wasn’t like himself at all. Seeing how both our Superman and Superman-D show compassion and do their best to inspire others, we realize that Overman is an alternative version of Kal-El, but not Superman. Overman himself admits he has committed atrocities willingly and took joy in them and that he must pay for his sins. It’s terrifying to see a version of yourself being a monster, but that doesn’t mean you are the same. That’s why Superman doesn’t try to kill Savage or fight hate with more hate when he arrives on the other Earth.
Amazo-II, the true villain of the story, was created and left alone to find his purpose, but he didn’t have the League to stop him from bringing catastrophes to the universe while doing that. After witnessing the life of his mirrored self and how he evolved, our Amazo decided to help him change. He learned both could explore the universe and seek their purposes together instead of doing that alone.
I think it’s clear by now, but that was an aspect that I truly loved. The best thing about an alternative reality story is seeing the different paths characters could have taken and how that would change them. Justice League Infinity nails it ’till the end. And to make everything better, we see the characters we know evolve and find their own answers to questions like “What is my purpose?” and “Who am I?”.
The art style and the coloring are really different from what you usually find in comics nowadays; it reminds you of a cartoon, so it’s perfect for this story. Also, the character designs are the same. On a visual level, you get everything you’d want to see.
As it was made by the producer and the writer of the show, the writing obviously would be similar. But, surprisingly, it hasn’t changed at all. I kept reading it and remembering all the things I loved about the animation when I was a kid. To convey how big the League is, some characters simply show up. The relationships between the heroes are important and always evolving. Batman isn’t serious and broody 24/7. And much more.
Mainly in Justice League Unlimited, each episode would focus on a different superhero. In this comic, every chapter has a new narrator, from Martian Manhunter to Lois Lane. It gives us the same feeling of watching the old cartoon. It’s also great for learning more about these people; throughout the story, you realize that a lot of characters are trying to find their purpose or trying to understand themselves better. Like Darkseid’s search for the Anti-Life Equation or Shayera questioning if she still loves John Stewart.
The story is well-written, but, in some ways, it could be better. I think that sometimes it creates some solutions that are too simple or not explained, but funnily enough, I kind of feel the same way about the cartoon. The character development and interactions were almost always better than the plot. Justice League Infinity mimics that perfectly. Speaking of it, like I mentioned before, a lot of them develop and have their arcs concluded. Amazo finally finds his own heart and decides to help his alternative version. Shayera and John come back together. Martian Manhunter starts working as the League’s ambassador.
Even though some characters concluded their arcs and even the situation in Apokolips was approached for a bit, there’s still space for more. The JLU was full of great minor characters that could be the spotlight of a new comic. Maybe another story in which The Question and Huntress work together could be an interesting detective/action story. Or, as Huntress was kicked out of the Justice League, we could hope to get a DCAU version of the Birds of Prey. Many characters and teams didn’t make it to the DCAU, so it would definitely be interesting to see their reimaginations.
One comic idea that would surely be great if it were put on paper is a story of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st century. We have already seen the future in Batman Beyond, but that comic would bring something completely unique. We know Supergirl supposedly spent the rest of her days in that century, so we could see all kinds of adventures.
Justice League Infinity is a good comic that indicates the DCAU still has many stories to tell, even without the Justice League.