A Look at ‘Justice League Unlimited’ – Part One

In 2007, Conor took a look at Superman: The Animated Series. If you missed it, you can check out parts one, two and three. (Be forewarned, as the articles were imported from the old version of iFanboy.com, many of the graphics are missing and some of the formatting is wonky.)

In 2008, Conor examined the follow-up series, Justice League. If you missed that too, you can check out parts one and two. And now, as promised — the event two years in the making! — Conor takes a look at the final Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe series: Justice League Unlimited!

As I explained in my previous articles, while I was a big fan of Batman: The Animated Series, I only watched about half of Superman: The Animated Series when it was first aired, very little of Justice League, and none of Justice League Unlimited. I blame this on timing. I was in my early 20s and this was the time before the prevalence of DVRs and TiVOs. I had things to do and staying home to watch cartoons wasn’t high on the list.

With my examinations of Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, I kicked things off with my general impressions of the main characters, but I won’t be doing that with Justice League Unlimited. There are just too many damn characters! So instead I’m just going to jump into my brief general thoughts on the first season, followed by more detailed examinations of each episode.


If you haven’t watched the series and are worried about spoilers, there will definitely be some ahead.


Season One

The biggest concern that I had going into watching Justice League Unlimited was raised expectations. You can see in the comments of my previous articles people heaping praise on Justice League Unlimited and urging me to watch it right away. In fact, the most common reaction I’ve received when people found out that I had never seen Justice League Unlimited was shock. The show would always get mentioned in hushed, reverential tones.

Transitioning from Justice League to Justice League Unlimited took some getting used to. The former was very much a team show that was able to build on the dynamics of the interaction between the Big 7 over the course of two seasons, while the latter was much closer in format to The Brave and The Bold. The mix-n-match format was both a blessing and a curse, as my interest level in each episode was heavily influenced by which characters were in the spotlight.

Still, whatever the first season of Justice League Unlimited may have lacked in sustained character development, it made up for in story development and it was a hell of a lot of fun to see such a wide swath of the DC Universe getting the Bruce Timm treatment.


Initiation – A super market robbery is broken up by the anti-establishment poster boy Green Arrow. In the aftermath of the robbery, Green Lantern (John Stewart, sporting a newly shaved head) shows up and teleports Green Arrow to the Justice League satellite where just about every major (and minor — Waverider? Really?) hero in the DCU is… just kind of hanging out. They’ve all been summoned to the satellite because Superman is organizing all of the world’s heroes into a Mega Justice League coordinated by J’onn J’onzz. And as soon as Superman finishes his speech Janine hits the buzzer because THEY GOT ONE! There’s a nuclear anomaly in China and Green Lantern, Captain Atom and Supergirl are dispatched (with a Not-Interested-In-Joining-Your-Fascist-Justice League Green Arrow in tow catching a ride on their ship back to Earth). Of course the Chinese government doesn’t want the Justice League’s help. J’onn says they have to respect the Chinese government’s wishes, but Green Arrow goes rogue because no one tells him not to help the little guy! The nuclear anomaly is revealed to be Brimstone and in the course of fighting him, Green Lantern gets hurt and Captain Atom, Supergirl and a I’m-Not-On-Your-Team-Though-Really-I-Am Green Arrow have to learn to work together to take Brimstone down. After it’s all over and Brimstone is defeated, Green Arrow reluctantly agrees to join the Justice League… after seeing Black Canary in the (apparently co-ed and out in the open) locker room/changing area. Apparently strongly held moral convictions pale in comparison to a leggy, busty blonde.

Best Moment: Green Lantern yelling out “Shayera!” when he woke up in pain in the Justice League infirmary.

For The Man Who Has Everything – The classic Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (they get a screen credit!) story gets adapted (minus Robin), so if you read that story you pretty much know where this is going. Former sexual tensioners Batman and Wonder Woman show up at the Fortress of Solitude on Superman’s birthday only to find Superman under the spell of a Black Mercy plant (which creates a fantasy world of your heart’s desire in your head) sent to him by Mongul. While Batman and Wonder Woman match wits and fists with Mongul, Superman is living a fantasy life in his head: he’s on the farm in Kansas with his wife Loana – a combination of Lois Lane and Lana Lang (!), their son Van, their dog Krypto, and their robot manservant Brainiac. He’s even got his dad Jor-El hanging around. Fantasy life is good. In the course of freeing Superman from the Black Mercy, the plant gets transferred to Batman and we get to see Thomas Wayne beat the crap out of Joe Chill in Crime Alley. For these mental assaults, Superman makes Mongul pay, and how (including the famous line: “Burn”), which I feel like could have been a much more dramatic moment with a different line reading. This episode is a heartbreaker, especially as Superman (and to an extent, Batman) comes to grips with the fact that his fantasy life isn’t real and he has to turn away from it and the people in it in order to escape.

Best Moment: Batman’s “Noooo…” in response to Wonder Woman’s “Bruce, you didn’t get him a gift certificate?” (He got him cash).

Hawk and Dove – Something must be in the air because Wonder Woman is acting way more pissed off than normal. (I will not make the easy joke.) J’onn sends Wonder Woman to collect Hawk and Dove (voiced by The Wonder Years brothers Jason Hervey and Fred Savage, each playing opposite type) to go intervene in the war that is happening in Kasnia. The war is being inflamed by Ares, the God of War. A powerful rage-powered battle suit called The Annihilator (which looks kind of like Monarch) that Ares has introduced into the war is making life difficult for our heroes, especially with Angry Wonder Woman around. This episode is kind of a snoozefest and is the first indication that when Justice League Unlimited focuses on characters who aren’t all that compelling, it suffers.

Best Moment: All of the Peace vs. War bickering between Hawk and Dove. (Just kidding, that got really tiresome).

Fearful Symmetry (AKA Galatea) – Um, why is Supergirl acting all like a supervillain? She’s destroying buildings and throwing cars (with people in them) at bad guys in masks and jetpacks, and torturing a dude with her heat vis– oh, it’s an incredibly vivid dream… or is it a memory? DUN DUN DUN! Time for J’onn J’onzz to telepathically investigate! For like two minutes, and then the Justice League receptionist tells him he has a call on line two and he leaves. It sure is a good thing that super paranoid The Question has nothing else to do, so he and Green Arrow are on Supergirl’s case. It would seem that the military-industrial complex, and their secret partner S.T.A.R. Labs, engineered a clone of Supergirl, an unnamed Power Girl who Ollie very diplomatically describes as the “um, a little more mature” version of Supergirl (he means she’s got bigger boobs), and their psychic link is the reason for Supergirl’s dreams. This episode ties in to the best story from Superman: The Animated Series: the world, and its governments, are terrified of an out-of-control Superman and this was one of the government’s solutions.

Best Moment: The Justice League cafeteria, where the biggest names in the DCU just randomly eat while in full costume.

Kid’s Stuff – Whiny brat Mordred grabs a super powerful amulet from his mother, the creepily masked sorceress Morgaine Le Fey, and casts a spell to rid the world of anyone older than he is because adults are annoying and always getting on your case about cleaning your room, washing behind your ears, and eating broccoli. Oops! No more Justice League. Show over? No! The Justice League does not take this kind of thing lying down. Banished in a purple shadow realm with every other adult in the world, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern have Morgaine Le Fey transform them into kids, thus returning them to Earth to battle Mordred. Seeing the big guns as kids was really just endless amounts of fun — honestly, I’d watch a whole show about the Lil’ Leaguers — but I did find myself a little disappointed that this wasn’t an episode that would allow the younger heroes and the sidekicks to step into the spotlight to save the day.

Best Moment: “You okay, tough guy?” Lil’ Wonder Woman playfully asks Lil’ Batman after rescuing him. The sexual tension crackles between them even in pre-pubescent form!

This Little Piggy – Written by Paul Dini! While staking out Intergang, Batman and Wonder Woman bicker adorably about whether or not they should date. Wonder Woman is pro them dating, Batman is (not entirely convincingly) con. Thankfully for him, Circe intervenes before Batman’s worst nightmare comes true and he has to start talking about his feelings. In the heat of battle, the evil sorceress Circe turns Wonder Woman into a bracelet wearing pig and the only person that can help change her back is Zatanna and… uh oh, it seems as if she and Batman have some sort of history. (The ladies of the DC Universe sure seem to love brooding, emotionally unavailable men.) In the course of all the pig-to-woman spell casting, Wonder Pig takes off and Batman’s attempts at gathering a small, discreet search party (Batman doesn’t want the whole League to know about he and Wonder Woman) go horribly awry as B’wanna B’east, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, and The Crimson Avenger run around town waving “Have you seen this pig?” signs. In this episode we find out that, at the very least, Zatanna and B’wanna B’east are not overly fond of Wonder Woman. A bizarre but awesome episode.

Best Moment: Batman sings “Am I Blue?” on stage and in front of an audience in order to save Wonder Woman and it’s so heartfelt that Circe and Zatanna well up with tears. There is nothing that Batman cannot do!

The Return – John Stewart tries to switch places with Kyle Rayner and return to duty on Oa but the Guardians deny him because they are jerks. Just as the Guardians are giving John and Kyle (and J’onn J’onzz) the bad news, Oa is attacked by Professor Ivo’s android Amazo and not even Kyle Rayner and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps can stop him from making Oa disappear. No time to mourn Oa, though, Amazo is on his way to Earth! A whole mess of Justice Leaguers prepare to stop him and only Superman stops to ask why Amazo has come back. While the rest of the league takes to space to fight Amazo, Supergirl, Steel and The Atom consult with Lex Luthor, the man who originally sent Amazo after the Justice League in the last series. In space, while he’s kicking their asses, Amazo tells the Justice League that he has returned to Earth to kill Lex Luthor. For some reason the Justice League start acting like Lex is their best friend and not some evil genius who has tried to kill them all on multiple occasions. As Amazo confronts Lex Luthor, the surviving Green Lanterns, led by Kyle Rayner, grab John Stewart for one last attack on Amazo, who as it turns out is just having an existential crisis. Oh, and Oa is fine! It was just sent to another dimension and now it’s back. These things happen. And Dr. Fate takes custody Amazo so he can teach him about life and stuff.

Best Moment: The surprise reappearance of Sheyara! (It actually made me gasp.)

The Greatest Story Never Told – Booster Gold is down in the dumps after some dumb kid asks for his autograph thinking he’s Green Lantern. Seriously, kid? There’s not one thing green on or about him. I shudder to think what the kids of Metropolis are being taught in school. So Booster wants to be assigned some higher profile missions to boost his public profile! But when the dark sorcerer (there seem to be a lot of those on this show) Mordru attacks, he’s regulated to crowd control. Booster is again confused for Green Lantern by another kid, helps an old lady navigate the subway system, and performs a daring rescue of a kid’s ant collection from a burning building. He’s not feeling too good about himself until when, in the midst of the destruction, he discovers a lab experiment gone awry that has created an artificial black hole. Booster takes it on himself to save the day… mostly because the Justice League totally ignores his call for back up. (Hey, the plot point from the last series that Justice League are kind of jerks is back!) Booster saves the day, gets the girl… and still gets yelled at by Batman for abandoning crowd control.

Best Moment: Green Lantern kind of inexplicably being a dick to Elongated Man. When Elongated Man asks for an assignment in the attack against Mordru, Green Lantern snaps at him “Plastic Man’s down there. We don’t need two stretchy guys.” Ouch.

Ultimatum – Magneto causes a flood in New York Ci– no wait. That’s something else. An off shore oil rig has drilled into the sea bed, releasing a bunch of magma creatures and Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are on the case! Oh, and so are a bunch of young, earnest heroes called The Ultimen. (And you may recognize them as thinly veiled takes on familiar characters.) Maxwell Lord is the man behind this new team of upstarts and that can’t be good. And it’s not. It would appear that these Ultimen are genetically engineered heroes courtesy of S.T.A.R. Labs and Checkmate. They are the results of Project Cadmus, an effort to create superheroes loyal to the United States government, unlike that annoyingly independent Justice League. It would seem that The Ultimen are starting to breakdown on a genetic level and Amanda Waller couldn’t care less. They’ll just grow more in the lab! She probably shouldn’t say stuff like that around super heroes who can hear really well. With the emergence of Project Cadmus and Amanda Waller, and taken together with “Fearful Symmetry”, we’re finally starting to see some connective tissue to these one and done episodes. Oh, and up until this episode every time Batman and Wonder Woman have been on screen together, the sexual tension has been palpable. Now? It’s strictly business. Trouble in Paradise (Island)?

Best Moment: Aquaman’s underwater fight with a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a flooded office building. Yes, you read that right.

Dark Heart – Written by Warren Ellis! Creepy alien robot spiders have invaded Nevada! It’s a good thing there are about 500 Justice Leaguers, all en route to stop the attack. Unfortunately, there are way more robot alien spiders than Justice Leaguers. Who can save the day? Who is the one man who can stop the unrelenting horde of alien robot spiders? Ray Palmer, The Atom. Warren Ellis’ influence is all over this episode. It’s all about big science ideas, and superheroes acting more badass, super smart, and funny than normal. Ellis’ wit saved this episode which mostly involved a lot of fighting between the Justice League and the alien robot spiders while The Atom used his brain to save the day. All that smashing and punching can get repetitive after a while. With the alien robot spiders defeated, the army takes control of the nigh indestructible, self-replicating alien technology because they might need it in the future to take down the Justice League. You ever know. They worry about stuff like the Justice League’s satellite super fusion canon, the kind of super weapon that makes the army none too comfortable. Implications for the future all over the place in this one!

Best Moment: Realizing that the General Eling, whose character design looked almost exactly like actor J.K. Simmons, was also voiced by J.K. Simmons.

Wake The Dead – Listen up, bullies. When you terrorize kids at school they are just going to go home and conjure up demons that they can’t possibly understand or control in order to get back at you. And then we’re all screwed. Meanwhile, back in his sanctum, Dr. Fate’s discovers that Solomon Grundy has been reborn. It’s a good thing Aquaman, Amazo and a brooding and exiled Sheyara are just hanging out in the sanctum with nothing to do. They are like the anti-Monkees, this group. And how is Sheyara’s jilted ex-boyfriend Green Lantern doing? He’s beating up on Solomon Grundy with his new girlfriend Vixen and Superman. And they’re having a rough go of it seeing as how those amateur conjurers resurrected Grundy and made him a lot more powerful than normal. It’s time for Sheyara, Dr. Fate, Aquaman and Amazo to grab tambourines and sing “Daydream Believer” save the day, and it’s also time for an awkward reunion of exes. Here’s the thing, when you’re fighting a mindless zombie monster alongside your girlfriend, and your ex who broke your heart shows up to help… there’s no winning in that situation. Through no fault of your own someone is going to end up mad at you and you’ll probably end up sleeping on the couch. Sorry, John. On a more serious note, this episode really packed an emotional wallop as Sheyara is forced to kill (off-camera) Solomon Grundy, her friend from the last series. Really dark stuff.

Best Moment: Aquaman’s frustrating games of chess against Sheara and then Amazo.

The Once and Future Thing – Part I & II – Hapless physics Professor David Clinton uses an experimental time suit of his own design to steal historical artifacts that he then sells on the historical artifacts black market to finance his and his harpy of a wife’s lifestyle. His latest caper involves infiltrating the Watchtower to steal one of Batman’s utility belts. Confronted by Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lanern he activates his time suit to make his escape and accidentally pulls the three heroes into his time vortex with him. They emerge in the Old West – Oklahoma in 1879 – and quickly subdue some bandits. Now undercover, they run into Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, El Diablo, Pow Wow Smith, and a crooked sheriff with advanced technology he has purloined from Professor Clinton, who arrived in the Old West six months before the Justice Leaguers (time travel is dicey). Heroes both old and new team up to take out the sheriff and his team of dinosaur riding, tank driving, giant robot piloting deputies. Time travel. Just go with it. After defeating the sheriff, the Professor uses his suit to escape again and the Justice League follows… into the future of Batman Beyond! A show I never watched. In the future, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern team up with Future Batman, Static Shock, and War Hawk, who is revealed to be the son of Green Lantern and Sheyara (things are going to get really awkward when John gets back home). One odd thing? Young Bruce Wayne has blue eyes. Old Bruce Wayne has black eyes. Conspiracy! In the future, Professor Clinton has promoted himself to Lord Chronos, the self-proclaimed undisputed master of space and time. Lord Chronos’ mucking about in time is causing degradations in the timestream and everything starts going wonky and suddenly Wonder Woman disappears and John Stewart gets briefly replaced with Hal Jordan (and I get angry about Hal Jordan’s Timmverse exclusion all over again). The once and future Justice Leagues team up to fight and defeat Chronos and his future minions. With Chronos defeated, the timeline is restored to the point where it all began back in the Justice League satellite, and only Batman and Green Lantern remember what had happened. (And hopefully that includes Professor Clinton because in the Old West he saw Batman without his mask. A lot.)

Best Moment: More fun in the Justice League cafeteria! Awkward moments in the hot food line between Sheyara and Wonder Woman. Batman teasing Green Lantern about Sheyara and Vixen. Green Lantern teasing Batman about Wonder Woman. Looks like the romance is back on!


Next week — the second half of the first season of Justice League Unlimited!


  1. I added Superman to my Netflix queue based on Conor’s recommendation, and they JUST got here. Never would have gotten them if not for an article like this, and thank goodness I did. This is a valuable public service.

  2. @Conor Re: "This Little Piggy"

    You’ll remember that Bruce and Zatanna having a thing was revealed way back in the BTAS episode named for me.

  3. @Thursday "Named for her." Better grab another cup of coffee here!

     Also, and yes, it appeared in that ep that Zatanna was just a stage magician.

  4. I missed out on all the Justice League series for the same reasons you did Conor. I’m going back now and checking them out..i’m only on Disc 1 of JLU S1, so i’m not reading your spoilers! =) 

    I really liked how the pre unlimited series were longer stories over several episodes. I understand the network’s reasoning for requesting the one off episodes for unlimited, and so far they seem pretty fun even though each story is much shorter and like you said a bit more like Brave and the Bold.

    I just can’t get enough of the Bruce Timm animation style. What a great era for DC Cartoons.  

  5. Really brings back memories of that awesome show. Thanks for this!

    And now I bring you back down: The giant atomic robot in "Initiation" is more closely based on Mr. Atom than Chemo, I’d say.

  6. Super glad you’re doing this, Conor! I loved this show!

  7. @RapidEyeMovement: Actually, you’re wrong also. Its Brimstone.

  8. it’s possible I just bought Justice League Unlimited: Season One so I can watch all these episodes again.

  9. This Little Piggy might be the best episode of the series. Great amount of Dini humor and a weird ending of Batman singing makes it memorable. I must’ve missed that Warren Ellis episode and I definitely want to see it. I’m sure the original script for it had a ton of sex and violence not appropriate for children.

  10. @Conor did you notice the chracters in "wake the dead" are Defender analogs

    Dr Fate/Dr Strange Aquaman/Namor Amazo/Silver Surfer Grundy/Hulk I guess Hawkgirl would be Nighthawk

  11. @Conor – If you enjoyed the first half of this season, just wait until you reach the season finale.  Incredible.

  12. @conor: Hey what did you think of ‘The Question’ in this? I thought he was one of the best things about the series.

  13. @wulfstone: I didn’t. Good catch!

  14. Wow Conor this was really great. made me go back a watch some of the episodes again. You ever consider do one for batman beyond after you get done with JLU?

  15. I bought the entire boxset.  You can really appreciate the writing as it progresses form season to season and the characterd become more developed.


    I take the same satisfaction from watching an episode of this as I do after i’ve read a good comic.

  16. FINALLY!!! Haven’t read it yet, but it’s gonna be awesome!


  17. Every time I watch the time travel two parter, I laugh at Hex’s gag about "living an interesting life."

  18. @conor: I’m so envious of the journey you’re taking.  You can only ever experience something for the first time once but if I was allowed to break that rule, I’d do JLU all over again.  Looking forward to the next part.

  19. Conor, you’re missing out! If you haven’t seen Btaman Beyond, you didn’t get to se a) future dancing and b) Old Batman talk about "shwarbage"


  20. Wow, this takes me back. To last year when I finally managed to track these episodes down in Australia.

    Loved this show. So much awesomeness. This is where my love of the Bruce/Diana relationship comes from. Love the kid’s stuff episode. 

  21. These are always great Conor.  Thanks!

  22. Maaaaaaaaaaan now I REALLY wat to rewatch JLU. Hmmm, maybe I’ll invest in that Justice League Complete Series box set.

  23. Regarding For The Man Who Has Everything: Conor, how did you come to the conclusion that superman is married to Lana in his dreams? Cuz i swear that the character design and voice were the exact same as Lois in from Superman TAS… did i miss something in the credits?

  24. @wangman31888: She had red hair. She looked exactly like Lana from SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.

  25. @wangman31888: I just looked it up. The character’s name was Loana. She was a combination of Lois and Lana – she looked like Lana and had Lois’ voice.

  26. @conor: it looks like we were both right, kinda. IMDB credits her voice to Dana Delany, who played lois in Superman TAS, but the name of the character in the credits is called LOANA. I think they shoulda merged the two after final crisis and called her loana in the comics lol



  27. @Conor: If you’ve never watched Batman Beyond, do not, DO NOT watch JLU’s fisrt season finale "Epilogue". There is absolutely no connection to anything in JLU, it is literally just the Batman Beyond series finale they never got to make. It is a phenomenal ending to an awesome series, but watching it on its own would spoil Batman Beyond for you. (Which even if you’re never planning on watching it, the episode just wouldn’t have much meaning for you at all…)

    I hope once your JLU examination is finished, you might check out Batman Beyond. That would be the series I’d be most interested in hearing your input from, being the big Batman fan that you are.

  28. @TheDoctorGeek: Too late.

  29. You really should watch Batman Beyond. It’ll help make the last episode of…season 2? make a lot more relevant.

  30. the Lil’ Leaguers episode is one of the most epic things I have ever watched, ever. Also, I disagree on your choice of "Best Moment" for the Booster episode, the best moment was definitely the Superman/Batman mash-up with Wonder Woman’s voice

  31. Little known fact about "Kid’s Stuff": Dakota Fanning voiced young Wonder Woman.

  32. i like the series. great art. great stories. funny action. 

    but one of the things i didn’t like was i felt the batman was often shoehorned into episodes or given a bigger part in the episode then what was best for the show. i often found myself wondering why batman was in the episode at all.  i don’t know if this was a effort to keep one of the most popular characters always in the spotlight or blatant fanboy mentality from timm. 

     in the end the show sometimes feels more like batman and the justice league. 

  33. My favorite scene from Once and Future Thing Part 2 is Old Bruce interrogating Ghoul, the Scarecrow inspired member of the Jokerz.  Even if someone didn’t closely follow Batman Beyond (I didn’t, for example), it’s still hilarious watching Batman play good cop to Bruce’s bad cop.  Comedy gold!