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Justice League 1×10-11 – “Paradise Lost”

October 19, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Paradise Lost

Written by Joseph Kuhr
Directed by Dan Riba
Original Airdates: January 21st & 28th, 2002
DVD: Justice League, Season One

Summary: Wonder Woman is having trouble adjusting to life in Man’s World, and returns home to re-unite with her mother. Unfortunately, the master sorcerer Felix Faust is waiting for her, and in order to free her mother Diana faces the prospect of freeing Lord Hades from imprisonment in the Underworld.

Featured Character: Wonder Woman

Returning Characters that I think I forgot in “Secret Origins”: Hippolyta

Debuting Characters: Lord Hades, Felix Faust

Other team members: Batman, Superman, The Flash, J’onn J’onzz

Background:

This episode is the start of the writers’ characterisation of Wonder Woman. True confession time: I really don’t care much for the character. It’s not that I’m biased against female heroes or anything – for crying out loud, have you seen how much I plug Manhunter in these background pieces? – it’s just that Wonder Woman simply hasn’t ever interested me as a character. The DCAU version is my favourite version of her, but at the same time, she’s certainly less interesting than every other JL member featured in this series.

Maybe it’s a fault of conception. Superman was created by a pair of kids from Cleveland and Toronto who were influenced by science fiction. Batman is the next obvious step in the development of the pulp hero in the aftermath of heroes like The Shadow and The Crimson Avenger. Wonder Woman, justifiably referred to as the third member of the “Big Three” of comics, was created by the man who invented the polygraph as a means of increasing the educational quality of comic books, and was intended to be a strong female hero, yet somehow wound up in bondage on every cover (Marston stated that he wanted to create a hero that men were supposed to submit to, which is odd considering what was actually produced).

However, once the weird self-contradictory nature of Wonder Woman’s early years is taken away (which took a good long while, including a very awkward period where DC just threw up their hands and turned her into Emma Peel), she does represent a type of hero distinct from Batman and Superman: the mythologically-based. The origin used in the animated version, which is explored thoroughly for the first time in this episode, is that Diana is the product of a miraculous conception, sculpted by her mother from clay and granted life by a deity, and journeys to “Man’s World” as a sort of ambassador with the power to beat peace into people. Although her “ambassador” status isn’t used frequently in Justice League – it’s touched on later in JLU – it does give Wonder Woman one of her better character hooks, namely that she’s more a part of the global political scene than her fellow JLAers, who are more apolitical (and American). I’ve often thought that a more detailed examination of that part of her duties would be a better direction to take her than a traditional superhero; Greg Rucka sort of went that way, but his storyline kind of drifted off-base. Then again, maybe that’s Wonder Woman’s problem – she’s great in contrast with other heroes. Female where most are male, mythological while most are sci-fi, political while most are not. On her own, that gets lost.

Of course, smarter people than I have tried and failed to figure Wonder Woman out. Let’s just get to the episode.

Thoughts on the Episode:

As noted above, Wonder Woman is sort of the go-to superhero of the JLA when it comes to all things magical or mythological. In this case, it marks the first such threat faced by the Justice League in this series, with a smaller bad guy, Felix Faust, followed on by a full-on demonic god. This is all set against Wonder Woman realizing that she should probably try and re-connect with her mother, although obviously by the end of the episode Hippolyta is more distant from her than ever.

But… it doesn’t really work. The story’s good, but the big problem with this episode is that there just isn’t a lot of meat to it, beyond making it clear that Diana still isn’t comfortable in Man’s World. The first part in particular is like something out of an old GI Joe episode with the League dashing around the globe to retrieve parts of a mystical artifact, but beyond the entertaining gag of Flash getting his piece from within a South American temple in about ten seconds it’s a couple of meaningless fight scenes and not much more. I’m all for attempting to characterize Diana, but frankly Hippolyta gets more meaningful moments in her limited screen time than Diana does. For instance, the bit in the opening credits where she’s confused by the modern fashion / cosmetics in a department store is interesting, but it’s virtually repeated in the deserted mall in a scene with Superman at the end of part one.

The second half is much improved, with a vocally unrecognisable John-Rhys Davies turning in a heck of a performance as Hades, who represents the single most powerful foe the League’s dealt with to this point. As opposed to the army v army fights that have filled the past several episodes, this one is all about the League throwing everything they’ve got at a super-powerful foe.

It’s a nice change of pace to see, as rather than Superman tearing through robots or Atlantean soldiers, he barely dents Hades, leaving Diana and her mother to try and take him out. Again, most of the cool scenes go to Hippolyta, as she keeps Hades busy long enough for Diana to perform the impressive task of wrenching the key loose from its base to destroy it, and then kick Hades back into the pit from whence he came. But for the first time in this show, this episode really felt as though it was about ten to fifteen minutes too long. If the added space had been used for Diana actually exploring the world and establishing a life for herself, it would have been interesting, but instead the entire show just feels slow.

The grade is only as high as it is because the animation quality’s so good this time around. All the flames look much better with CGI help than they ever did using traditional animation, and the characters in general are very dynamic. Traditionalists will decry a lot of the wow factor as computer-aided cheating, but if it ends up with a product this good, there’s no reason to complain.

Overall Grade: C-. I actually cut this back a grade on repeated viewing – it’s really shallow.

Random Thoughts:

  • I always like the look of any scene with Wonder Woman and Superman on screen together – thanks to the limited palette of both comics and animation, the costumes always look nicely complementary of each other.
  • Something lost in Justice League was J’onn’s paralyzing fear of fire. I think we’re supposed to get that from the fact that he gets KOd offscreen by the snake, but it would have been nice to have it explained.
  • Faust isn’t much of a villain – for most of the episode, he’s largely keeping his power under wraps, and by the end of it he’s quickly removed from the scene by Hades. He makes a much better return later in JLU… as does Hades, for that matter.
  • Wonder Woman fighting against an angry god and dealing with undead legions has been done better since.
  • Is it just my DVD (or the PS3), or does the red Superman’s costume start looking really pink around this point in the season?
  • The final scene with Flash showing his loyalty to any team member no matter what, only to be talked down, was really good. Flash wouldn’t get a showcase episode for a while, but his character was built slowly and effectively.

Line of the Episode: “Hippolyta… you never told me you had a daughter. I wonder if she is as… loving… as her mother?” – Hades, being supremely evil. But can you blame him?

Flash Line of the Episode: “Picture it… the sun, the sea, hundreds of women just like her running around, and me.. the first man they’ve seen in, oh, maybe forever. And look what I’ve brought! Iced mochas for everyone! Sweeeet.”

Next Justice League: Oooh, time for a real stinker. It’s all about Mongul’s debut in “War World”

Next time: The start of the Darkseid arc, via STAS’ “Tools of the Trade” and “War World.”

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