This week on “Previously On,” I review the DC Animated movie Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, wonder out loud about the DC Animated Universe, and #readhellboy pride.
Feature Of the Week –
Justice League vs. The Fatal Five
(Spoilers For This Topic Follow!)
For one reason or another, I don’t usually make a habit of watching DC’s animated movies. Historically, these features have often been adaptations of comics storylines I’ve already read, and there’s just little upside to me to watch that play out in animation.
Justice League vs. The Fatal Five struck the perfect congruence of aligning factors, as I’m in the process of wrapping a Legion of Super-Heroes reading order, just read the first Silver Age appearance of the Fatal Five on DC Universe, and have been spending a ton of time on the DC Universe app now that the service has dramatically updated its comics content. Plus, the hook for this animated movie is right up my alley: A Legion of Super-Heroes vs Fatal Five battle spills over to modern day, where a lost Star Boy needs to track down Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, as both of them battle their own mental health challenges.
There’s an instant nostalgia that kicks in to a Justice League story executive produced by Bruce Timm, with all the old Justice League Unlimited voice actors in place. Whether it’s 2002, 2019, or 2999, this style and tone will always evoke the absolute adoration I have for Justice League Unlimited.
Much like that halcyon series of years gone by, Justice League vs. Fatal Five is a successful love letter to the DC Universe, tying together the Legion, Green Lantern Corps and Arkham Asylum, and seamlessly integrating “newer” Leaguers like Mister Terrific and Miss Martian. Honestly, the movie is so successful at invoking the joys of the long-concluded animated series that I’m left wondering why DC Universe doesn’t just relaunch Justice League Unlimited. Taken on its own Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is a fine watch, but as a two-parter lodged in the middle of 20 more episodes, I have to think fans would be ecstatic.
Likewise, the economy of storytelling throughout this movie is impressively efficient, but also has me excited to see more of Jessica Cruz in this world. Justice League vs. The Fatal Five takes time to delve into Jessica’s trauma and anxieties, but complex issues like this tend to require a larger tapestry. There’s a clear desire for the animated movie version of the JLU to feel “mature,” and tackling the mental health of Jessica Cruz and Star Boy is an ambitious move in that direction. Nonetheless, I still think this style would be better suited to an all ages audience (same themes included). Sure, Mister Terrific telling Superman he asked Hawkgirl to hit a discovery with “her big ass mace” is somewhat realistic, but M’gann busting out “It’s Miss Martian, Jackass” is a shot to my Young Justice: Outsiders naivety!
Speaking of Young Justice, this movie doubles as M’gann’s Justice League try out, but I’m completely unclear how the continuities of these various media properties are supposed to stack up. I’m under the impression the animated movies stand alone (and that’s certainly how I watched this one), but it all feels a bit fuzzy.
For me, the biggest setback is that this movie isn’t much of a Legion of Super-Heroes story at all. The Legion timeline bleeds into the League’s, but it’s not attempting that massive cosmic future scope of the Legion. This shouldn’t be surprising given the title of the film openly declares the Justice League is the focus, but I still couldn’t help wanting a more cosmic flare. Similarly, no one from the League seems to know anything about the Legion, which is generally fine, but particularly weird for Superman. Guess animated Supes hasn’t read Superman: Secret Origins…
All in all, I had a pretty fun time watching Justice League vs. The Fatal Five and if DC Universe is going to continue rolling out unique stories that aren’t pure adaptations, I’ll definitely be along for the ride.
TREND: Swampy Future
Recent reports have jumped on the fact that production of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing was suddenly cut short, and that the series has been reduced to 10 episodes from the originally planned 13.
While I’m generally all for shorter seasons, the vague assertions that Swamp Thing is in trouble are so discouraging considering where this service is at!
There’s too much evidence to suggest this could reflect a broader strategy, or a sign of problems across all of DC Universe. Crazier mismanagement has happened, but currently DC Universe:
- Is in the middle of its best, most critically acclaimed series, Doom Patrol
- Just added thousands upon thousands of comic books to its app library (to the absolute delight of fans everywhere)
- Is staring down the barrel of Disney+ and feature film credentials for the upcoming Marvel slate of TV shows.
My assumption – and certainly my hope – is that the powers that be simply weren’t happy with Swamp Thing as a whole, and that this has little to no bearing on the remainder of the DC Universe lineup. This is a bummer given that I’m quite excited for the potential of Swamp Thing, and given how gloriously weird Doom Patrol is allowed to get. Plus, this kind of meddling rarely ends well (what’s up, Justice League?!).
Again, though, viewing this is some sort of crisis-level evaluation of DC Universe streaming would be nuts. The service is barely 6 months old, and just started really moving the needle on competitive offerings. How Warner Bros, et al., could look at a future of Netflix, HBO, and Disney+ and think they need to get out of the exclusive streaming game would take some Nth level creative thinking.
LOVE OF THE WEEK
In the aftermath of what is by all accounts the biggest comic book movie bust of 2019, I’ve been loving all the Hellboy fans contributing to the #ReadHellboy tag. As someone who binged my way through the entire Hellboy omnibus sequence in the two weeks leading up to the ill fated movie, I can confirm that reading Hellboy is the greatest!
I’ll admit “the book’s better than the movie” is far from an original thought, but sometimes it helps to be reminded, especially with a long running series like Hellboy that can seem intimidating.
I have a full massive reading order (of course), but honestly the simplest thing you can do is check out those Dark Horse omnibus editions. The only caveat I’ll through in there is to make sure you read the “Complete Short Stories” collections after Omnibus Vol. 1. I skipped these the first time through, and they help a lot!