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Friday 16 February 2007
I've been watching the Justice League Unlimited cartoons on DVD recently. They really are much better than I used to give them credit for. Their characterization of most characters, no matter how minor, is usually spot-on; ripping comic characters straight from comic books and reproducing them onscreen in vivid detail. Black Canary, Green Arrow, Wildcat... all excellent.
However, there are still several things about their re-imagining of the DC universe that I really don't like. Foremost, I still hate their portrayal of Superman. (He's just not, well, super. Rather than take the Super Friends approach and have Superman be a big idiot, they instead just make him old, weak, and fatigued. That's hardly the approach that the genre-defining character deserves. I think he's the one character that they really get wrong.)
Other nitpicking problems that I have with the show include the premise that their gigantic satellite is run by several hundred regular humans who are treated like nameless grunt employees. (Not only is this not super friendly, it's a logistical nightmare, especially regarding healthcare and insurance.) I regret that Martian Manhunter's role has been reduced to little more than a police shift sergeant. And I also don't care for their inclusion of several redundant, less-than-super heroes. (I mean, what the hell are Vigilante, a sharpshooter with pistols, and Shining Knight, a time lost Arthurian knight with a magic sword, doing on that satellite? What, exactly, do they bring to the team that Batman can't do with Batarangs or Hawkgirl can't do with her Nth metal mace?)
I think most of my complements and complaints can be summed up in one character in particular: the Question.
The character is perfect on the show. Usually while he's onscreen, he's a recreation of the best objectivist/zen aspects granted the character by Ditko & O'Neil, the two writers responsible for the modern character. The JLU breathes life into a philosophically complex, yet uniquely entertaining character. That is the Question!
Yet, the Question is not really a superhero. He is an idealistically philosophical crusader. While he seeks to rout crime, just like his Justice League counterparts, he does it as an exercise to reveal the truth about people, society, and the world-at-large. The Question has an absolute view of the world and the way it is, not the way it should be. Unlike his fellow heroes, he doesn't try to maintain the status quo, he seeks to trim the hypocrisy and corruption of the world and reveal the truth underneath. His radical philosophy (at least in relation to the other heroes in the Justice League) puts him at odds with his teammates and makes him a poor candidate for League membership.
So Justice League Unlimited gets the Question right, but by doing so demonstrates that a lot of its answers are wrong.