"Then welcome...to Death Race!" -- Mongul
Talk about your Wacky Races! This is probably the episode that epitomized and sums up what this show is and should be about: fun. Though before I get into the main storyline, let's talk about the intro for a bit. I've been waiting for a Captain Marvel appearance for a while, and finally got it! He helped Batman take out Blockbuster at a museum where Billy Batson was on a field trip. As soon as I saw the kid in the red sweater and the beady eyes, I knew what was coming. The fight between the two heroes and villain is a bit brief since Blockbuster is easily outsmarted and overpowered. Of course, Captain can't stay long, he doesn't want to miss the dinosaurs. How could you hate a hero with a child's sense of wonder?
The main story starts with Mongul's War Moon casting a shadow over Earth and blazing a trail, literally, into a remote desert. Suddenly, we see both heroes and villains teleported there and they look quite befuddled. In the assortment of heroes we have Batman, of course, Plastic Man accompanied by Woozy Winks (yes, talk about obscure, huh?), Guy Gardner, Green Arrow, and Huntress. On the villains side, we have Catwoman, Joker, Black Manta, and Gentleman Ghost. No one knows why they are there and good ol' Guy is ready to just start swinging at Mongul. Batman stops him, especially when Mongul reveals he can control War Moon's weapons and operating system with a thought, and could easily eradicate Earth.
In the spirit of Mongul's character, he proposes a race... a DEATH race. The rules are fairly simple. Should Mongul's champion, Steppenwolf, win the race, Earth will be destroyed. Otherwise, the winner will be the ruler of Earth, doing what ever he or she sees fit to do with it. If you are eliminated from the race, you would be transported to War Room to watch the rest of the spectacle and await execution. Though, Green Arrow brings up a good point. What if you don't want to participate? Mongul announces that anyone who refuses to race, he will obliterate that person's home city. Which makes me wonder: if Joker is from Gotham, why didn't he just refuse and had the city blown up? I know it's supposed to be a kid's show, but that would have been hilarious.
As Mongul has given time to the racers to prep their vehicles, we see Catwoman pimping out her Cat-illac and being hit on by Winks. Black Manta is tuning his giant spider-like vehicle, but the coolest thing was to see Plastic Man become his car with Winks driving it. Guy creates his own hot rod using his ring, which really seemed to fit well. The interesting part of the story is what is going on when Arrow, Batman and Huntress are working on their cars. Arrow is offering a team up, but Batman has decided he's going to win this race because he will not let Gotham fall on his watch. Batman and Arrow get into it, but are stopped by Mongul who insists that they save their anger for the race.
So the racers show up at the starting line and we get a good glimpse at all the cars. Green Arrow and his Arrowcar, Gentleman Ghost and his souped up limo, Huntress and her motorcycle, and of course Joker and his ever-legendary Jokermobile. Great classic designs, which makes me wonder if DC did this to possibly sell some toys later on based on these designs.
And they're off! Plastic Man takes an early lead, and it's sort of cheating to me. Well, Plastic Man is the first eliminated off the race by Steppenwolf, and him and Winks are transported to a holding cell. There's a neat sequence with Catwoman and Huntress up next and Huntress takes Catwoman out of the race. There's some tension between Arrow and Batman as it looks like Catwoman will fall to certain doom and Batman doesn't help Catwoman, then again neither does Arrow, but lucky for us she is teleported to the villains' holding cell. Too bad Winks still has the hots for her.
Meanwhile, Joker, Manta, and Ghost are trying to get rid of Batman. They knock him off of a cliff, but he uses grappling wires and takes Ghost down instead as Batman turns his car into the Batplane. Crafty, crafty. So Ghost is eliminated and Manta is barely hanging on. Joker then has a giant whoopy cushion and it blows Manta over the edge. So now the race consists of Steppenwolf, Batman, Huntress, Green Arrow, Guy Gardener and the Joker. Batman remotes back to the Batmobile and is in the lead. That is until Guy uses more willpower to give his ride more juice. Steppenwolf tries using an sonic emitter to break Guy's concentration, but Guy just creates headphones. Clever. Joker tries to distract Guy and succeeds by launching a jack-in-the-box on his windshield. After almost being run over by all the competitors, Guy is eliminated and when he arrives at the holding cell, he is without his ring. Arrow at this point has had enough. He tries to talk and reason to Batman, but Batman easily takes out Arrow. After Arrow crashes, he survives using flame retardant arrows and is confronted by Mongul. Quick on the draw, Arrow tries to take Mongul out, but is not fast enough and is sent to War Moon, where he is without his bow and arrows.
Back to the race, Huntress and Batman try to take out Joker, but Joker springs a Joker fish and derails Batman, then melts Huntress' tires with an acid-spewing flower. Huntress shoots Joker's tires and he is eliminated, but it looks like Huntress didn't survive her explosion. So, the remaining racers are Batman and Steppenwolf.
Back on War Moon, the heroes come up with a plan for their escape. Arrow has an instrument that uses some sort of electric magnetic pulse that breaks up the holding cell's energy bars, but just for a second. With Plastic Man being a bow and Guy being an arrow, Guy retrieves his ring and Arrow's items with Arrow leading the heroes out of holding cell and into War Moon's main power chamber. Back at the race, Steppenwolf is trying to remove the Batcycle with various weapons, but Batman isn't budging. From behind comes...another Batmobile? The Batcycle and Batmobile take out Steppenwolf and win the race. Turns out Huntress was in the Batcycle all along. Mongul congratulates Batman and Huntress, but decides to destroy Earth anyways. Well, he would have, had it not been for Green Arrow and company blowing it up. Mongul is now officially pissed off.
He attacks the heroes, but Batman has another ace up his sleeve as he transforms his Batmobile into robotic armor. Batman takes down Mongul with one punch... much to Guy's amusement. Oh, the irony. Turns out Batman and Arrow arranged this two-part attack to get the job done. You have to love it when a good plan comes together.
I liked this episode on the mere principle that it's so Silver Age and bizarre. I also love the fact that they even brought in Winks for some fun. So many nods and Easter Eggs, it was hard to not enjoy. I'd love to see a main storyline where Batman teams up with Captain Marvel again to -- oh, I don't know -- fight Bizarro in Metropolis since Superman is away... or something. The possibilities of this show are endless, and it's easily in my top three animated shows, right up there with The Simpsons and Venture Bros.
So, readers, what were your thoughts on "Death Race"? I'd love to hear them.