As a huge fan of DC’s animated series, I was incredibly excited when JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION was officially announced. At that point, it had been years since series like YOUNG JUSTICE, BEWARE THE BATMAN, and GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES had been cancelled (I can’t believe YOUNG JUSTICE is coming back). And all we had in the meantime was TEEN TITANS GO!, a cartoon where the heroes apparently don’t fight crime (not a deal-breaker) and which, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t always honor its characters in its attempt to appeal to younger viewers (a deal-breaker).

Now, I recognize that not everything is meant to be consumed by me — a guy in his mid-twenties — but the absence of a DC animated series with great characterization and action was sorely felt. Enter JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION, right? Potentially. Like TEEN TITANS GO!, the series (which sees Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and other DC heroes going up against the villains of the DC universe, as usual) consists of 11 minute episodes and has an animation style designed to appeal to a younger audience. However, there are plenty of reasons why viewers of all ages should be excited for the series.

RELATED: Listen to the ComicsVerse crew talk about the history of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman — the DC trinity!

The Cast and Crew

First, the obvious: JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION has some serious pedigree behind it. Sam Register (TEEN TITANS GO!, but also pretty much every DC Universe Original Animated Movie) is serving as executive producer, Butch Lukic (JUSTICE LEAGUE, BATMAN BEYOND), Alan Burnett (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) and Jim Krieg (GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) are on producing duty, and Paul Dini (BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) has written 14 episodes of the show. Though it would be nice to see more diversity behind the scenes, these guys have had a hand in some of the greatest superhero stories ever, and it’s hard to imagine they would stop now.

Batman - Justice League Action
Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman in JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION. (GIF by Little Chinese Doll.)

On the voice cast side of things, a number of actors are returning to roles they’re famous for, like Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker (huzzah). But it’s the new and shifted-around voices — Rachel Kimsey as Wonder Woman and Diedrich Bader as Booster Gold (after voicing Batman in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD) — that I’m most excited for. Though the voice cast for JUSTICE LEAGUE was almost definitive, I’m glad DC animation didn’t simply tap them all for JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION. Along with the big change in animation style, it helps signal that the show is its own thing, and hopefully opened the series up to smart and unexpected casting choices.

Slick Animation

Superman - Justice League Action, Superman- The Animated Series, Batman- The Brave and the Bold
The different ways Superman has been outlined in (from left to right) SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, and JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION.

When I first saw the animation style for JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION, I wasn’t the biggest fan. The character designs, particularly their tendency to use thicker, lighter-colored lines to outline the characters (where most if not all previous DC animated series would choose thinner and darker or at least black ones — seen above), made everything look extremely kid-focused, and the lack of a hard edge made me think that the characters wouldn’t really stand out from the background. Luckily, the show’s SDCC highlight reel mostly allayed my fears on this front.

Seeing the animation in action really sold me, and for the most part, the lighter character outlines aren’t even an issue. Characters like Batman are already dark, and the lines are hardly noticeable when everything’s in motion and the camera doesn’t come in close. There are a couple of shots (Steppenwolf running toward the camera at 0:14 in the highlight reel, and Superman standing with his hands on his hips at 0:07 in this UK promo) where the lack of a proper outline makes characters look flat because of their design, the lighting, the environment they’re in, or a combination of the three. But these are short shots in the videos, and I don’t think they’re likely to be much longer (or more frequent) in a full episode.

The Humor Isn’t All-Encompassing

My major concern upon seeing that JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION would be more kid-centric, was that its action and story would take a backseat to the comedy of the series. But it doesn’t look like that will be the case. Newsarama said as much in their review of the first episode, and in an interview with Blastr, Butch Lukic said that “most of the episodes are like the episodes [they] used to do on JUSTICE LEAGUE [or BATMAN BEYOND] that were more lighthearted,” immediately making me think of the Christmas episode of JUSTICE LEAGUE, “Comfort and Joy,” and BATMAN BEYOND’s “The Eggbaby”; episodes that weren’t heavy on mythology or action, but which had something to say about the characters.

If this shot of Wonder Woman and Bleez about to beat up Lobo is any indication, action fans won’t be disappointed by the new series.

JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION promises to be no slouch in the action department, though. The footage in the SDCC highlight reel was of course cherry-picked, but it demonstrated that the series has every intention of delivering on its title noun, with fight scenes that look suitably frequent and exciting. What’s more, in that same interview with Blastr, Alan Burnett explained that the “action [of the show] is serious” and “the goals are important,” so shots like the one above won’t be happening because Lobo broke into the Watchtower and stole Martian Manhunter’s Oreos (though that has its place).

Characterization That Feels Right

A big part of why BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD worked was because, despite its campy tone and stylized animation, the core of the characters remained intact. Batman was still as committed to fighting crime and evil as ever; he just did so with the help of the “Hammers of Justice” (his fists).

Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman - Batman- The Brave and the Bold
Though it’s more lighthearted, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD’s characters stay true to their roots.

Based on JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION’s character designs, it would be easy to think that the characters had been “kid-ified” for the series, but the show seems to be taking a page from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD’s playbook in their approach to characterization. In response to being asked if Batman would be sharing in the show’s humor, Kevin Conroy said that Batman is “so dark that if anything is ridiculous going on around him, all he has to do is raise his eyebrow and the audience is going to burst out laughing. So, there’s…a little attitude adjustment” which goes for some, if not all, of the other characters as well.

RELATED: Learn what makes the Justice League tick with our essential reading list.

A Spotlight on Lesser Known Characters

One of my favorite aspects of YOUNG JUSTICE was the way the show focused on lesser known characters. As the series did with those already familiar to viewers, characters who hadn’t enjoyed as much popularity were fully realized and given time in the spotlight. Take Impulse, a character I had never read before, who I think has the boldest characterization and storyline of the entire series (so far).

Stargirl, Blue Beetle - Justice League Action
JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION provides an opportunity to see characters who don’t usually interact paired off (like Blue Beetle and Stargirl).

With a cast of 152 DC characters, including the Red Lantern Bleez, Stargirl, Blue Beetle, and Swamp Thing, alongside DC headliners like Wonder Woman and the Joker, JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION has a chance to not only highlight what makes the expanded DC Universe so special, but to tell stories that haven’t already been told beat for beat. The unlikely partnership of Bleez and Wonder Woman against Lobo, or the team up between Blue Beetle and Stargirl (shown above) already bode well for the series, and there’s an episode titled “Plastic Man Saves the World” that could spotlight Plastic Man in the same way JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED’s “The Greatest Story Never Told” did for Booster Gold. In an interview with Superman Homepage, Butch Lukic even said that “[they’ve] got some Apokolips stories that were never told before in other versions of JUSTICE LEAGUE.”

RELATED: YOUNG JUSTICE: Season 3 is finally on the way. Find out what the hype is all about with our reasons why you should watch the series!

A Lot Can Be Done in 11 Minutes

The official announcement for JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION explained that there was “no need to wait for the good stuff to start, each eleven-minute episode jumps in with lightning-paced action and heroics.” While this could easily get formulaic or limit the depth of the stories they want to tell, it also presents an opportunity to cut exposition many viewers already know or expect, instead focusing on stuff we haven’t seen before (as I mentioned in the last section).

In their review of the first episode, Newsarama acknowledged the show’s initial difficulty with cramming character development into 11 minutes, but explained that “that’s mitigated by writing that injects every line with personality.” Even better, they end their review by saying that JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION is set up “as the logical heir apparent to the DC cartoon mantle,” which is heartening, as if series like STEVEN UNIVERSE have taught us anything about, it’s that you can pack a whole lot of world-building and character development into 11 minutes, even when each episode is largely standalone (like JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION’s are).

If, after all that, you’re somehow still on the fence, willing to hold out until YOUNG JUSTICE returns or hoping for another JUSTICE LEAGUE, Butch Lukic has some words for you: “It’s nice to go back to the past series and everything, but that had its day,” he told Superman Homepage. “We’re a couple of decades almost into a new era, so it’s time to do something slightly different. But most of the people who loved the old show will feel like these are those characters.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way of saying you should check out JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION when it premieres on November 26, 2016, in the UK and December 16 in the US (new episodes will begin airing Saturday mornings beginning on December 24).

Advertisements

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!

Check Also

Kelly Thompson Is Now All Marvel All The Time

HAWKEYE writer Kelly Thompson has signed an exclusive deal with Marvel Entertainment. …