Yay! It’s new DC Animated Movie Time! For me, these always mark some of the most wonderful times of the year. I’ve always loved getting to explore different corners of the DC Universe through these movies, many of which we’d never expect to see in live action, at least any time soon. In the case of Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, that corner is the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion is been something I’ve always loved dipping into beginning with the animated television shows.
In this movie, Star Boy (who actually later goes on to become one of the many superheroes who takes up the Starman mantle) gets featured prominently alongside Jessica Cruz. Considering how many Green Lanterns and how many Legionnaires we’ve seen (hey, Supergirl cast!), it’s really refreshing to get to introduce and explore two characters who will be brand new to many in the movie-viewing audience.
They also allow the movie to explore the idea of superhero mental health.
Mental health is a discussion which has come more into the forefront in recent years—both in real life and in comics—and having our boldest and bravest interact with that makes for some really compelling storytelling. Jessica has proven this over and over again with her success across the Green Lantern and Justice League titles. Here she’s voiced by Diane Guerrero, which is an interesting and maybe even inspired choice. Guerrero also plays Crazy Jane on Doom Patrol, another character dealing with issues surrounding mental health (for more on that, check out the Couch Club’s recent column on Jane). Guerrero is a gifted, sensitive performer, and having her behind the mic results in a performance throughout Justice League vs The Fatal Five that’s both gripping and respectful.
Game of Thrones’ Elyes Gabel as Thomas Kallor is no slouch either. Star Boy has some pretty complicated mental breaks to play throughout the course of the movie. There’s a truly spectacular Star Boy scene in Arkham which features a popular villain from Batman: The Animated Series that I didn’t know I needed. The two characters actively engage in a discussion about their respective mental health disorders (some of Thomas’ wind up being misjudged) moments before a huge fight breaks out—I mean, this is a comic book story, after all!
Gabel and Guerrero have an incredibly tall order in Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. They have to stand toe-to-toe with the cast of Justice League Unlimited. The actors who brought that badly-missed animated series to life are some of the most iconic versions of their respective roles. Who doesn’t hear Kevin Conroy in their head when they read a Batman comic? The movie has a freedom the television show could never enjoy (because of censors and all that). As someone who grew up watching Justice League Unlimited as a kid, I won’t lie to you and say that I didn’t laugh at hearing some of these hallowed voices swearing and tossing about phrases my preteen heart never could have fathomed them saying.
For me, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman is the absolute standout of Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. Every time she returns to the role, Eisenberg seems to increase Diana’s ferocity, as if her own portrayal parallels the character’s ascension to becoming God of War in the New 52. Wonder Woman here is a certified badass. She presents a standard to which Jessica Cruz strives to hold herself as a Green Lantern, and for someone like Jessica, that’s both a good and bad thing.
Let’s admit for a moment that all of us would have anxiety if we had to live up to what Eisenberg’s Wonder Woman was throwing down. Wonder Woman, at least at this point in her life, is never less than confident. She’s strong, fierce and gets up immediately whenever she’s knocked down. In the opening scene of Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, we see Jessica first try her hand at wielding the power ring and the difference between the two heroes is profound. Yet, it ultimately makes Jessica’s accomplishments in the movie that much more impressive. Since we’re able to understand exactly what Jessica is going through whenever she fires up that ring, we’re cheering her (and Star Boy, by extension) on every step of the way. Her mental victories, which in reality would go unnoticed by almost everyone other than her, don’t go unnoticed by us. We realize that there are battles happening on different levels in this film, and we’re as invested in these internal ones as we are anything happening with the Fatal Five.
Miss Martian (voiced by Daniela Bobadilla) and Mister Terrific (the ever-outstanding Kevin Michael Richardson) also join the Justice League lineup for this adventure. Having recently seen Miss Martian in all her awesomeness on Young Justice, I loved watching her vie for the opportunity to take her uncle’s place on the roster. Mister Terrific is always a welcome addition to any team—Arrow proved that. He gets a few moments of real humor here which serve to off-put some of the more serious subject matter that Justice League vs. The Fatal Five deals in.
And I don’t even mean the epic—truly, epic!—fights peppered throughout.
Since Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is not derivative of a pre-existing comic book story, the filmmakers are free to set whatever pace they’d like, and the movie allows us to sit with the characters for a while. Writer Alan Burnett gives us scenes like Jessica’s Green Lantern, Star Boy and Miss Martian eating burgers together to appreciate where each young hero stands on their respective journeys. The theme of the movie could very well be that all heroes are not created equal and that’s all right.
Being a superhero is complicated. It takes a lot. Being a member of the Justice League means succeeding in spite of your fears. This movie proves to viewers that we all have it within us to do exactly what we want, whether we fit the mold that Superman laid out for us or not.
Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel.