DVD Review: ‘Justice League: Doom’

Justice League: Doom

Justice League: Doom

Directed by Lauren Montgomery
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Starring: Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern), Carl Lumbly (Martian Manhunter, Ma’alefa’ak), Michael Rosenbaum (The Flash), Bumper Robinson (Cyborg), Carlos Alazraqui (Bane), Claudia Black (Cheetah), Paul Blackthorne (Metallo), Olivia d’Abo (Star Sapphire), Alexis Denisof (Mirror Master), Phil Morris (Vandal Savage)

The latest feature from DC Animation offers another adaptation of a seminal storyline. In this case, Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower of Babel. It takes some liberties and shuffles a few characters, but Justice League: Doom retains the central conceit: Batman has unwittingly betrayed his teammates on the Justice League by brainstorming their demise. Vandal Savage has decrypted Bruce’s files, securing not only the individual weaknesses of each Justice League member, but also a unique strategy to take them down. What was conceived as a well-meaning failsafe against corruption may ultimately spell the team’s doom. Of course it doesn’t in the end, but Savage and his new Legion of Doom give it the ol’ college try. And though our heroes come out scott free (Note: That’s not an oblique reference to a Mister Miracle cameo. Sadly), they don’t exactly get the happy ending you might expect.

Doom employs the same terrific Phil Bourassa character designs from Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and the Young Justice TV series. Bourassa’s characters are sleek and expressive and rank among the smartest designs in superhero animation. While it’s always exciting when DC Animation experiments by aping a particular comic artist’s style–as in Frank Quitely or David Mazzucchelli–the new default look for the Justice League is the best it’s ever been, perfect for action, drama and humor. Bourassa’s take on Cyborg is especially strong, certainly cleaner and more forward -thinking than the current design in DC’s comics.

The feature also boasts the all-star roster of voice talent DC animations fans have grown to love. Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg return to their tried-and-true Trinity roles. Nathan Fillion is back as a particularly wonderful Hal Jordan. Michael Rosenbaum voices the Flash, but not the one he’s known for. This time he plays Barry Allen, and accordingly, it’s all a little less joyous. Carl Lumbly pulls double duty as Martian Manhunter and his nemesis Ma’alefa’ak. It’s somewhat disappointing that there isn’t a supplemental montage of Andrea Romano teaching various actors how to pronounce “Ma’alefa’ak” casually. It’s another nice venue for the Martians though as Lumbly gets to play J’onn in his human detective persona. The Legion itself is also pretty compelling, with Angel’s Alexis Denisoff  offering a very different, deeply unsettling take on Mirror Master.

Doom is bursting at the seams with content, opening with the full team taking on the Royal Flus Gang and leading into individual trials for each member and one of their major adversaries. But that’s just the first half. And Cyborg is running around to lend a mechanized hand. While a longer running time would’ve been a boon, Dwayne McDuffie did another masterful job in adaptation. A dozen threads resolved in the space of 77 minutes, plus his signature deft character work. The plot and premise are fantastic, but as with so much of the man’s work, it’s the relationships that truly sing. There’s just enough room for Batman to have a thrilling moment with each of his teammates. We see J’onn with his co-worker. We see J’onn kind of flirt. Cyborg has the most human interactions seen outside of a Titans book. It’s these combinations that make the Justice League concept so exciting.

Sadly, Justice League: Doom represents the final DC animated feature scripted by comic and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie. Many of us learned of McDuffie’s passing the very same day we received our copies of his previous feature, last year’s All-Star Superman. Both of these posthumous releases serve as bittersweet testament to a writer performing at his personal best. Justice League: Doom comes packaged with a supplemental documentary called “League of One: The Dwayne McDuffie Story,” featuring testimonials from the likes of Bruce Timm, Denys Cowan, Joe Kelly, Phil LaMarr, McDuffie’s wife Charlotte, and more. It’s a loving tribute to an extraordinary talent who deserved far more time and popular acclaim.

The tragic thesis of the piece is repeated by so many of his colleagues: Dwayne McDuffie was a certified genius, but the full extent of that intellect remained something of a secret until after his death. Close collaborators had an inkling of the stoic man’s abilities, but few knew he could’ve been working in outer space if he weren’t so damned tall. McDuffie studied physics and was enrolled in college classes before he was 13 years old. He reportedly wrote the teleplay for the first episode of the Static Shock animated series in a single day. Remarkably, the doc is not simply a retrospective on McDuffie’s time writing for animation or even DC Comics. In fact, far more time is devoted to his time at Marvel and the formation of Milestone. That’s simultaneously laudable and entirely understandable, given some sad truths. The scope is nice, but inevitably, the documentary probably doesn’t elaborate on the full story of McDuffie’s tenure at DC since he parted from the publisher on bad terms. Thus, it’s not the unbiased  portrait we’d get from a third party, but given the source, it’s a reasonably honest and very affecting homage to a writer whose story ended far too early. This supplement makes Justice League: Doom worth a physical rental or an outright purchase.

DC Animation is firing on all cylinders lately, so it’s no surprise that their latest Justice League feature is another outstanding effort. They’ve had a lot of practice with these characters. When they come together like this, the results are the best superhero storytelling in this medium or any other.

4.5 Stars

(Out of 5)



  1. Isn’t Bane knowing Batman’s identity a loose thread?

    • It is. Although, pulling the venom hose out of his head could potentially cause brain damage. Zap!

    • Im pretty sure Bane knows his identity. Didn’t he break The Bats back IN Wayne Manor?

    • Yeah. Bane knew that Bruce was Batman during the Knightfall storyline. I have no idea if that knowledge remained in later stories like those told in Secret Six.

    • I’m pretty sure in the movie he comments that he broke his back.

    • Savage also knows. KaPow!

    • @Paul
      You know, that venom hose used to be strapped right against Bane’s skin in his first appearances, minimizing its relevance as a weak point… but every portrayal afterwards has presented it as this big glowing videogame-like structural weakness that ALWAYS takes Bane out. I hope Rises doesn’t fall into that trope that is easily designed around.

      re: Doom. I got to see it at the Paley Center and loved it then (and the panel afterwards, particularly the panelists sharing their MacDuffie stories with his wife present in the audience) and just got my Blu-Ray in the mail today, looking forwards to the extras. It’s not the greatest or deepest or most emotional story… but considering the source material and the scope of the cast and the time limitations, it’s pretty incredible. It would be so easy to turn it into a confusing trainwreck and instead it comes off clear, coherent, and classy- honoring all the heroes rather than deconstructing them.

      If you miss JL/JLU or pre-New52DCU, this is a welcome reunion.

    • Haha! Yeah, severing Bane’s venom hose is a total quick time event. TRIANGLE. CIRCLE. X!

      And very well said. Early on as I was watching the movie, I worried that each League member’s trial was too small, the threads too numerous, and that the plot might not come together. But it works. Everybody works together and has their moments and it’s exactly what you’d want from a Justice League story.

    • I think the situation is Bane doesn’t mention Bruce’s identity. Bruce doesn’t mention Bane’s fruity disco-inspired asymmetrical costume

    • Maybe he should’ve shot him with an adamantium bullet?

    • It”s the new 52 Batman doesn’t give a shit who knows any more.

  2. Good review Paul. I enjoyed the movie and the animation very much. I am glad that I rented it first because it is not one that I could watch over again for some reason.

  3. Speaking of firing on all cylinders recently. Your review of Chronicle, The Grey and discussion on Planet of the Apes and what not have been stellar.

    I am expecting a Fuzzy Typewritter review sir.

  4. Podcast to follow?

  5. Really looking forward to this. And wow – I didn’t know those details about McDuffie’s academic genius. That’s so cool. He was such a talented person.

  6. This one sounds really great. I may just go ahead and rent this instead of waiting the usual six months or so for my reserve to be processed by my library.

    Dwayne McDuffie was something else. He wrote a little bio about himself for Marvel Comics in 1989. Here’s a link. It gives a little insight into his educational past and what he was all about.

  7. I miss Dwayne McDuffie.

    The animated DC is my favorite version.

  8. Anyone know why Waid didn’t get credit, or is the story considered far enough derived from his JLA arc? Is there a general rule for how this works? I.e. Morrison gets credit in All-Star, but Waid doesn’t here.

  9. Great review. Dwayne McDuffie’s final piece for these characters was great. Overall a great piece of work.

  10. Bruce Timm is starting to look a lot like Truman Capote

  11. Glad to hear this one is solid. As usual, I’ll probably catch this through Netflix before I can generate the scratch for it. Looking forward to it though.

  12. I have been waiting for this movie since the day it was annouced, and I for one will be purchasing this today at my first available retailer; probably WalMart since they usually have some sort of special Blue ray edition.
    The action looks good from the word go and if it is close to the Tower of Babel it should be damn good. I really hope there is more Barry and Hal in this movie since usually they do not normally get a lot of face time in these movies.


  13. I’m looking forward to this one. It sounds quite enjoyable.

  14. I was looking foreword to this one. I really liked the last JLA animated movie. But I found this to be really underwhelming. The animation felt really flat and uneven at times. Had this stuck closer to the original story I think it would have been more compelling.

  15. I felt quite let down by this to be honest. Tower of Babel is probably my favourite non-Morrison JLA story but this didn’t seem to have the same emotional impact as the source material. Nobody really seemed that upset that Batman had totally betrayed their trust, they were just like “Oh Batman, you scamp. What ARE we gonna do with you?” There was some unnecessary changes like substituting Ra’s Al Ghul for Vandal Savage (Ra’s already knows Batman’s identity) and changing Batman’s contingency plan for taking out Superman (isn’t Superman faster than a speeding bullet, kryptonite or otherwise). Maybe I’m just being overly critical but it just didn’t delve deeply enough into how paranoid Batman is or how betrayed the rest of the league felt for my tastes. Looked nice though.

  16. I am looking forward to adding this one to my DC DVD colelction quite soon. DC has been doing a first rate job on virtually all their animated DVD movies, making me wish they could do the same for their live-action offerings.

    But as excited as I am to see this, there will likely also be a touch of sadness, knowing that Dwayne McDuffie will not have the opportunity to pen more work (animated or comic). The man was an extraordinary talent.

  17. OK, here goes:

    1.Under the Red Hood
    3.Crises on Two Earths
    4.Year One
    5.Wonder Woman
    6.Tales of the Green Lanterns
    7.All Star Superman
    8.New Frontier
    9.First Flight
    10.Gotham Knights, Public Enemies, Doomsday

  18. I watched this last night. For me it was more a 7.5/10 than a 9/10, my main complaint is that there is a lack of introduction for non-DC fans to certain characters and I thought it could have been a bit longer than 1 hour 16 minutes.

    All in all the action, the animation, the plot and the characters’ voice acting were stellar and really really good! It could easily have been a 3 parter of the JLU animated show back then, though.

    Still prefer Batman: Year One and Batman: Under the Red Hood to this, but it was good entertainment, just not enough to buy it and watch it again and again and again.

  19. Justice League: Doom was forgetable and really dim-witted. Plot holes and nonsense were all over the place. The acting in this one was actually pretty good given what little the cast had which with to work. It’s hard to believe that the same Dwayne McDuffie who absolutely rocked on Justice League Unlimited wrote the screenplay. This plays more like a TV episode than features. Maybe that’s due to the restrictive 77 minute time limit.

    The DC movies are becoming unwatchable. I turned off Batman: Year One halfway through and really wanted to turn off All-Star Superman. I really like Action Comics #775 but I just don’t think I want to suffer through Superman vs. The Elite.

    I know I’m in the minority.

  20. I still have not bought a copy of this yet, I have had such a crazy week and I was all excited about getting this and could not wait. So hopefully I remember it on the way home tonight and I can find a copy.