Best Shots Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION Is Heir Apparent To JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED & TEEN TITANS

Still from "Justice League Action"
Credit: Cartoon Network
Credit: Cartoon Network

Justice League Action Season One Episode One
Produced by Cartoon Network
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

For a certain generation of fans, Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited is the definitive version of DC Comics. For a group just slightly younger, that honor may fall to Teen Titans. Justice League Action brings good news to both of these fanbases as it brings together the deep DC Comics bench and dynamic action of the former, while incorporating the eye for design and sense of humor of the latter. If Justice League Action’s first eleven-minute installment is any indicator, this is the cartoon fans have been waiting for.

It’s no coincidence that Justice League Action wears its Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans influences on its sleeve; producer Alan Burnett worked several of the previous JL movies, and hired numerous animators and writers from Teen Titans to bring his new vision of the team to life. The first episode of Justice League Action, in which the team squares off with a video game-inspired version of the Toy Man (voiced by none other than The Hangover star Ken Jeong), focuses on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg, establishing a clear dynamic for the core of the team.

For those worried that a younger skewing DC cartoon with a sense of humor will be too silly, rest assured that you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Yes, the show’s sense of humor permeates this eleven minute installment, but it doesn’t overshadow the storytelling or action-packed pacing. Even better, the jokes actually work without betraying the core of the characters that fans know and love. Justice League Action doesn’t rely on the kind of absurdity that makes up the Adventure Time brand of Cartoon Network humor, instead starting from the same place of youthful energy but branching out more broadly, allowing adults and kids to easily share the laughs while also thrilling to the story’s adventure.

Though the cast of this episode is limited, Easter Eggs throughout hint at a much larger roster of characters, including a few surprises. A sizzle reel shown with the episode also gave glimpses of many upcoming heroes and villains, with fans of all eras of the League having something to look forward to. On top of that, there’s a veritable murderer’s row of voice talent lined up. Along with Jeong, who brings a surprising subtlety to the role of Toyman along with his comedic chops, the legendary Kevin Conroy returns to voice Batman. Future guest stars promised include comedy luminaries such as Diedrich Bader, Patton Oswalt, and Hannibal Buress.

Eleven minutes may not seem like much in the way of storytelling potential, but the brief runtime of Justice League Action’s episodes really means that the writers can cut through some of the exposition that usually anchors action cartoons and dive right into the adventures at hand. Sure, the inherent brevity of the format makes diving too deep into character development a difficult proposition, but that’s mitigated by writing that injects every line with personality, and a wise focus on a smaller core group of characters in each episode.

Justice League Action doesn’t achieve the epic scope of Justice League Unlimited or the soap operatics of Teen Titans in just one eleven-minute episode (and expecting it to would be folly), but the show’s care with its characters and seamless balance of action and humor set it up as the logical heir apparent to the DC cartoon mantle.

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