It’s been ten years since the last animated series of our favorite DC superheroes was regularly on the air. Justice League ran from 2001 to 2004 and was quickly followed up by its predecessor Justice League Unlimited, which expanded the roster of characters and ran until 2006. The two shows were praised by critics and loved by fans. Not only did it bring beloved characters to the masses, but it did so with well-drawn animation and quality storylines. After this ten-year hiatus and a live action Justice League feature film about to debut in theatres, it must have seemed like the perfect time to bring back another animated series on Cartoon Network, where the previous two series had aired.
But this version isn’t quite the same as the other two. The big three, Batman (Kevin Conroy), Superman (Jason J. Lewis), and Wonder Woman (Rachel Kimsey), are still the most featured heroes in the show with at least one of them appearing in every episode. The animation has a slightly more cartoonish appearance to it, the storylines are a bit more comical, and the episodes are approximately 11 minutes each. Only the first four episodes have a connecting arc, while the rest are free-standing as they introduce different heroes as well as villains.
With the episodes being so short, it’s very difficult to pick out standouts. As the title suggests you mostly get the action and a lot less of the story. Even so, there were a few that were better than others. “Zombie King” was fun mostly because it brought little known characters Zatanna (Lacey Chabert), Swamp Thing (Mark Hamill), and Constantine (Damian O’Hare) into the Justice League while trying to stop Solomon Grundy (Fred Tatasciore) from raising an army of the walking dead to take over the world. “Time Share” is the best episode in the set. It involves Batman and Blue Beetle (Jake T. Austin) who are sent back into time where they must stop Chronos (Andy Richter) from killing Batman on his very first mission as a much younger and inexperienced Dark Knight. It’s a feel-good episode where the two heroes bond and Beetle learns that even Batman wasn’t perfect to begin with while the Caped Crusader learns he needs to be a little more patient with the young hero.
This latest DVD release contains 26 episodes on two discs. There are no special features. With the episodes being so short, it makes it much easier to throw on an episode and watch without it taking up a lot of your time. They are well written, and a lot is conveyed in such a short period. But all you have time for is a basic setup, a lot of action, and then a quick resolution. There isn’t any character development and for a lot of people they may have no idea who most of the characters are. There are a huge number of celebrity voices throughout, like James Woods, Patton Oswalt, Jerry O’Connell, John DiMaggio, Jon Cryer, John de Lancie, Carl Reiner, and Christian Slater.
Justice League Action fills the void for those missing DC animation programming, but it’s not quite as fulfilling as it could be with more storytelling, character development, and extended storylines. It’s more like eating your dessert without having dinner, it gives you a quick fix without completely satisfying your craving.