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Justice League 1×16-17: “Fury”

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Fury Pan

Written by Stan Berkowitz
Story by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Butch Lukic
Originally Aired: April 7 & 14, 2002
DVD: Justice League, Season One

Summary: A renegade amazon’s plan to unleash a plague knocks the male members of the Justice League out of action, forcing Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl to stop her on their own.

(Sorry for the wait, folks, work interfered yesterday. The consolation is that this is a monster-sized review.)

Featured Characters: Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl

Debuting Characters: Aresia, Tsukuri

Other Team Members: Full team in this one, albeit with Flash and GL barely showing up.

Background:

Oddly, there’s no real background to this episode, as the two new characters – Aresia and Tsukuri – are both original creations for the show. Tsukuri at least seems to have an obvious DC Universe equivalent in the form of Katana, a member of the Outsiders. Of course, this version is evil, and with the headband over the eyes reminds me a lot of Jinx from GI Joe.

Aresia is even harder to pin down, as there’s been more than a few rogue Amazons running around the DCU over the years. My best guess is that they wanted her to be a more recognisable character like Artemis, but decided to make her original in order to make her a full-fledged villain. Another theory – which is what I linked to above – is that she’s the equivalent of the Infinity, Inc. female hero Fury, who was the daughter of the Golden Age Wonder Woman back in DC’s days of hundreds of alternate realities. Either version works – this isn’t an obvious case such as the later appearance of “Power Girl.”

What the heck, let’s talk a little about Star Sapphire since she’s the most high-profile of the female villains. In the tradition of male heroes having female villains who they want to… marry… (hey, there’s kids reading these, maybe) as much as they want to fight, Star Sapphire was a Green Lantern villain who was powered by an alien gem that granted powers as well as manipulated the personality of its host. The catch was that she was originally (there’s been a few through the years) Carol Ferris, Green Lantern’s love interest. She’s been more active recently with the return of Green Lantern to a character more based on the silver age era, but the British upper-crust characterisation used here is entirely new.

Oh, and for the older readers, I’d be remiss in not mentioning Y: The Last Man, which, aside from being the best comic series of the decade, takes this exact scenario and runs with it in a non-superpowered world. Mature readers only, however (… he said, thus guaranteeing that anyone not old enough will order it immediately….)

Thoughts on the Episode:

This episode is theoretically the return of the Injustice League, albeit with a modified team from the one seen earlier (Tsukuri in, and Joker and Ultra-Humanite out, both for rather obvious reasons). However, it’s really a play on a classic comic team concept – namely, “get rid of all the male characters to ensure that  the female ones get to shine.” Of course, given the extremely token nature of females in action cartoons, it’s been pulled off successfully exactly once, namely the G.I. Joe episode “Song of the Siren” – and even then, it was the three female Joes vs. Baronness. Not exactly much of an episode. At least here, the sides are 3-on-3, making for a good final battle if nothing else.

This episode (and my apologiges if I got the opening scene here juxtaposed with one in Paradise Lost) obviously focuses on Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl, which is a relationship that, while not the same as the Flash / GL focus of “Brave and the Bold”, once again shows that the best way to go with a team-up episode is to take two heroes, find out where they’re the most different, and attempt to contrast them. It’s not as obvious here as with Flash and GL’s buddy cop routine, but Hawkgirl’s increased… experience… as far as men are concerned provides for a nice little exchange between the two, and seeing Hawkgirl in the more pastoral setting of Themescarya makes the first half of the episode fun (I also think she works better when paired with Batman than any other league member – her wit’s just as dry as his, and they have some very good scenes together through the years).

The bigger issue is that, once again, it feels as though this episode could get done in one episode rather than two. In spite of a good antagonist and a minor attempt at swerving the viewer via Star Sapphire’s sudden development of a conscience, there’s just too much extraneous material. Which is a shame, as the foundation’s there for a really good story.

Aresia’s origin, is, let’s face it, pretty heavy for an all-ages show – it touches on ethnic cleansing (odds are good Aresia was intended to be from somewhere in the Balkans), piracy, possible slave trafficking, and features entire villages wiped out by air strikes. As a character, she’s not a bad antagonist for Wonder Woman (who generally suffers from a lack of good ones) since, while her man-hating schtick isn’t especially original or groundbreaking, her Amazonian upbringing at least makes her something of a mirror image villain, and those are usually good for an episode or two before feeling tired. Admittedly, when I first saw the episode, I was 99% sure that the final revelation would be that she was Diana’s half-sister, given her shared blonde hair with her mother, but the twist with her being saved by a man is good enough.

What’s even better is that she really doesn’t care about that, and still goes through with her plan to kill half the planet because, well, she’s right that the actions of one man doesn’t mitigate the sins of the rest. It’s not the smartest plan in the world – did anyone mention to her that women outside Paradise Island aren’t immortal? – but, hey, any supervillain plan that involves something as simple as loading up a couple of cruise missiles and attempting to commit germ warfare on a massive scale is at least admirable in that regard. I think the point of the episode would be for Wonder Woman to see that men aren’t as evil as their actions may suggest, but she doesn’t get to that point inasmuch as seeing that women are capable of handling the world without the men around anyway.

This is also a rare episode with the entire team getting a speaking role, although the male heroes are only there to serve as cannon fodder for the virus (It’s pretty much pointless to come up with a Flash line of the episode). The scenes with Aresia’s tranining are, I assume, there to make up for the fact that Wonder Woman never receives a proper origin in the series; viewers are supposed to assume that Diana went through much the same thing, with the exception of having her powers from day one due to her unusual birth (more on that in JLU). It’s always weird to think that there were Super Friends episodes with more and better focus on the origins of the JLA than in this one, but that’s about the only area where Super Friends got things right.

I don’t know why Wonder Woman got a second focus episode this early when both of the plots were relatively thin – this could easily have been re-worked as more of a Hawkgirl origin story. The bigger shame is that the nature of the episode seems to set up a larger conflict, but even the neat climax on-board the stealth bomber feels a bit trite (other than the great shot of an angry Hawkgirl at the controls of the Javelin – she looks like a fighter pilot). The episode does have some good things to say, and focusing on the female members of the cast is never a bad thing, but in the end it’s another wasted opportunity.

Grade: C. The idea of a good Wonder Woman episode would be alien until Season Two.

Random Thoughts:

  • Star Sapphire looks like the original Huntress design, before they gave her the Jim Lee-designed costume.
  • Why the heck does Hawkgirl radio Batman to let him know she’s made landfall? He’s flying directly overhead!
  • I like how it’s subtly hinted that Tsukuri knows the full extent of the plan the entire time.
  • From the ending, you’d expect Aresia to come back for a return engagement, but it never happened.
  • Makes sense that Flash would be the first one to feel effects of the allergen, due to his accelerated metabolism.

Line of the Episode: “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, sister.” Hawkgirl certainly would try “it” a few times in the future….

Next Justice League: I’m a JSA fan, so be prepared for an infodump ahead of “Legends”, including a rare look at what the episode was originally intended to be.

Next Time: Since we’re going to be dealing with golden age heroes, it’s time for one of the best episodes ever produced by the DCAU team, and one of the best half-hours of television you’re ever going to see. “Beware the Grey Ghost” – same Ghost time, same Ghost channel.

(Not sure what I’ll do for Halloween – maybe a look at the Loeb / Sale Halloween specials, which I’m pretty sure are available in collected form.)

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