Sunday, May 18, 2008

Justice League 1.4: In Blackest Night, Part 1 (11/19/01)

Disclaimer: Knowing full well there is a wealth of resources available to fans of the "Justice League" animated series, I have no intention of doing a bunch of dry story synopsis with the occasional new screen grab. I will chronicle, within reason, J'Onn J'Onzz's specific journey over the course of the series, but chiefly I will be reviewing the episodes through my own jaundiced perceptions.

For as long as there had been talk of a Justice League cartoon by the creators of the acclaimed 90's Batman and Superman animated series, Bruce Timm had made clear that John Stewart was his choice for the Green Lantern role. Having seen the character as he appeared in Justice League, I have a tough time finding a reason for this, beyond tokenism. You see, Stewart and Guy Gardner are my favorite GLs for vastly different reasons, and none are readily apparent in the cartoon version of the former. John started out as something of a social activist, but as he developed, it became clear Stewart was more concerned about himself than his fellow man. It isn't that he's in any way unheroic-- it's just that he prefers not to deal with most people. Once he was convinced he couldn't cure racism on Earth ethically by waving his ring at it, he chose to leave his home planet for the diversity and more general acceptance of other worlds. He routinely shacked up with non-African (and usually non-human) women, developed an existentialist viewpoint, and generally became the intellectual's Lantern of choice. The John Stewart of the cartoon, meanwhile, was a grating, myopic militarist who's adventures were most often terrestrial, to allow for his inclusion in the League. Plus, Phil LaMarr gave him that painfully affected voice, enhancing a sense of his being a stuffed shirt.

As for the episodes in review, on the League Satellite, J'Onn J'Onzz silently expressed disapproval of Flash's romantic overtures toward Hawkgirl...
"What? Don't you ever get lonely?"
"More than you could imagine."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to--"

Alarm sensors lit up. "It's an incursion." The pair watched as Manhunter droids with jet boots flew past their post toward the Earth below. "I'll notify the others." None were available, however, so the three present would have to do.

It's important to note at this point that while you'll see the name "Martian Manhunter" all over comics and merchandising, as Bruce Timm once noted, "we never really call him [the Martian Manhunter.] We just call him J’onn…" So despite my expectations at this early meeting between Manhunter and Manhunters, the issue never actually came up.

The cult had come to apprehend John Stewart, as he was being held accountable for the destruction of a populated world. J'Onn J'Onzz wanted them to back off, and well, they didn't. J'Onn J'Onzz took some nasty blasts from power batons, actually growling angrily at one point, before being thrown through some kid's window in Stewart's old hood. Superman joined the throwdown shortly before J'Onn recovered to squash a Manhunter robot into a car. The droid objected violently to this abuse of his person, so much that Flash spirited the Martian away. The static dissipated when Stewart arrived to turn himself over to Manhunter custody. Stewart's final wish was that the League not follow where he was headed.

J'Onn J'Onzz ignored that request, telepathically tracking Stewart to his otherworldly prison. "I sense turmoil. A heavy heart." The League followed J'Onzz's directions into a conflict with airships from the planetary defenses of Stewart's accusers. J'Onzz allowed a ship to pass through him, only to materialize and smash out the back end. He used variations on the same trick against armed guards on-world, aside from the one he put down psychically. The team were reunited with John Stewart at his trial, where he declared to his teammates his guilt.


Anonymous said...

While I'm sure everyone reading this blog already knows it, I would point out that the "In Blackest Night" cartoon episode was basically a rewrite of Steve Englehart's Justice League of America #'s 140-141, with John Stewart taking the place of Hal Jordan and J'Onn shoehorned into Batman's role.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, I alluded to that, but I'm glad you gave the specifics. I never read the original, so I didn't know Batman got owned as a detective by Superman there. Sadness...

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, not so much. In the original story it was Batman, not Superman, who figured out that the planet had to still be there.

Superman, with his Kryptonian super-brain. Wonder Woman, rasied on Paradise Island with the wisdom of Athena. The Flash, a police scientist with one could assume a basic knowledge of physics. And it took the world's greatest detective to figure out that a moon can't be in orbit without a planet there!!!

Diabolu Frank said...

Call me a heretic, but once again I must ask-- if Batman is such a great character, why must the JLA be made to look bad so that he can play at their level? Bah!