Home > A, Justice League > Justice League 2×01-02: “Twilight”

Justice League 2×01-02: “Twilight”

December 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Written by Rich Fogel & Bruce Timm
Directed by Dan Riba
Original Airdate: July 5, 2003
DVD: Justice Leauge, Season Two (not yet out on Blu-Ray from what I can find, so you may want to hold off)

Summary: A vulnerable Apokolips is attacked by Brainiac, and to take his planet back, Darkseid must seek the help of the man who hates him more than anyone else in the universe… Superman. Thankfully, the only vampire in sight is the information sucking Brainiac.

Arc Notes: This episode sets up the season finales of the final two Justice League Unlimited seasons. Hawkgirl’s “origin” is revealed. New Genesis is removed from the ongoing war of the New Gods, as Apokolips descends into civil war.

Debuting Characters: Well, this is SUPPOSED to be the debut of Forager, but, well, we talked about that particular screwup back in “Apokolips… Now!” A few of the more obscure New Gods make their first appearances here, such as the Forever People.

Featured Characters: Superman, with Batman and Hawkgirl playing supporting roles.

Other Team Members: Wonder Woman and J’onn J’onzz.

Guest Team Members: Orion hangs around for most of the episode and gets pounded by Darkseid at the end for his troubles.

Background:

For an episode with so much in the way of characters and plotlines going on, we’ve already covered most of the elements at play before (this is the first real look at New Genesis society and culture, however). Which is good, because Bruce Timm had a LOT to say about this one, starting with the unusual scheduling of the episode:

“We were in production on Season Two for a while and, with the vagaries of scheduling, as it turned out we actually finished all of Season Two before they started airing any of them – except for “Twilight.” “Twilight” they ran early as a “summer bonus” thing [ed note: Twilight actually aired on Cartoon Network as part of a three-hour block featuring earlier Superman / Darkseid episodes as the lead-ins].”

Bruce Timm, Modern Masters, p 76

Even though the production team was willing to continue the Superman / Darkseid storyline, Timm was reluctant to pair two of Superman’s big three villains in the same episode:

“Initially, myself and James Tucker both were kind of reluctant on his pitch, just because we didn’t think pairing up Darkseid with Brainiac was necessarily a great idea. There aren’t that many DC villains who are, on their own, big and strong enough to take on the entire Justice League, so we thought it was using up two big villains all at once when we should have on Darkseid story and one Brainiac episode. We told Rich (Fogel) our misgivings about it and he said ‘Let me work on it. I think I can make it work.'”

Bruce Timm, Modern Masters, p.77

The episode actually had enough issues that Timm wound up getting a co-writer credit as it was beaten into shape, although the core concept of Superman being pushed to go too far and Batman acting as  the voice of reason was part of the episode from day one:

“That was all there in Rich’s original idea. He kind of danced around the issue a little bit, I thought, in his version of it, so I dotted the i and crossed the t just to make sure it was clear as to what was going on… I just went in and gave it a polish more than anything.”

Bruce Timm, ibid.

Okay, so that was a little too much Behind the Music, but whatever, there’s very little in the way of new material in this one to brief a new viewer on. Well, aside from the fact that this was originally titled “Twilight of the Super-Heroes”, which is of course the name of a famed Alan Moore story pitch that some say was the basis for Kingdom Come.

Thoughts on the Episode:

One of the bigger issues with the first season of Justice League was that by playing up a silver age vibe, the production team didn’t really leverage the extensive history of the DCAU in order to add weight to the stories. From this episode it was obvious that things were going to be very different. This story not only draws on a whole bunch of Superman episodes, but also ties the New Gods into the mix in a way that they never have been before, with the result that even though what’s actually on-screen may not necessarily be any better than a good episode from season one, the integration of the story into the larger tapestry of the DCAU means that it gets elevated to a higher level.

This episode also ‘tracks closest to the Morrison run on JLA. First of all, stacking bad guys on top of one another was something of a Morrison trademark; in fact, one of his more famous arcs led off with the Injustice League and finished with Darkseid. In this case, while Darkseid is clearly the lead villain of the episode, Brainiac works very well in a somewhat subservient role. Brainiac may be somewhat neutered in the second half of the episode, by that point it’s apparent that it’s all building to a Superman / Darkseid confrontation, but unlike with Legacy, we’ve seen Superman doing a slow burn the entire episode rather than reacting to everything around him.

Secondly, this is an episode that recognizes, much as Morrison did, that the League’s most interesting relationship is Batman and Superman, and their differing reactions to situations. In this case, Clark does have something of a point: Bruce obviously sees Brainiac as a major threat as a result of their prior interaction, but he’s somewhat blind to exactly what Darkseid’s capable of. Maybe this is simply Batman paying more respect to the foe that’s actually taken him down, but Superman does seem to be more in the right in this particular argument, especially when Darkseid betrays both the League and his erstwhile partner Brainiac. Because the viewer knows how Batman and Superman should react, the fact that they’re both slightly different from their usual stances gives the episode a sense that anything could happen.

The initial conversation, with Batman delivering a verbal dressing-down of Superman in front of the rest of the team, is one of my favourite scenes in the series; what makes it work is that Superman’s moral conlict is played off Batman’s usual moral certainty. That type of thing is essential for a story revolving around the two: a good writer will always find a way to keep Batman on the moral high ground, even though he’s the one who makes a living out of playing dirty. But Superman actually rejecting the idea of helping against Brainiac – whom he has no love for, obviously – is shocking, essentially saying that he’s happy to let an entire planet get wiped out by the being largely responsible for his own world being destroyed, as long as the planet being destroyed this time around belongs to Darkseid.

(In fact, Superman sounds like Orion, and Orion seems to be the only one who is completely unconvinced that Superman is on a rescue mission.)

Although the focus is on the big two, Hawkgirl finally gets a significant amount of development that isn’t tied in with Green Lantern, which clearly was the producers getting going on setting up the finale. My favourite aspect of the deception in this episode is how she steers J’onn away from looking for information on Thanagar while in the midst of Brainiac’s collection, as that would clearly show something far different than the isolated, distant situation she portrays in her story to J’onn.

Unlike the alien invasion that started the first season, merely blowing up a giant battleship is the prelude to the real action of the episode, as Darkseid conscripts Brainiac and prepares to wipe the universe from existence. While it’s probably required that the League deal with threats which are global in nature, in this case the larger threat is not nearly as important as just putting Darkseid down for the count. Superman confronting Darkseid – first closing off his avenues of escape, then engaging in a brutal fight with him that sees Superman fight as dirty as we’ve ever seen – is the moment that Superman re-asserts his alpha dog status.

While I didn’t mind that Superman was often beaten up in the first season in order to put over new threats, this is the better role for him, as he’s in a much darker, angrier place than ever before, and that potential darkness in him will be a major feature of the ongoing storylines. What’s also great is that the episode takes the time to show some denouement, with Superman’s angry rebuke of Batman, even echoing Batman’s earlier use of his real name. Earlier episodes wouldn’t bother to show that extra bit of conflict; this does, and it’s better for it.

As a turning point in DCAU  history – taking two of the most prominent villains off the playing field for a couple of seasons each, as well as showing the team may not be as united as they seemed in the first season – this is a superb episode (even the relatively pointless Highfather scenes tie into Hawkgirl’s storyline at the end). That it manages to set up storylines for later in the season and series is the final touch in an episode that turned out very well, even if it was against all expectations.

Grade: A. Like “Legacy,” only better-paced and with Batman. What more do you want?

Random Thoughts:

  • Gotta love any episode that starts with such a blatant Star Wars homage.
  • Hawkgirl’s “origin” is actually quite similar to J’onn’s comic book origin, with elements of fellow DC space hero Adam Strange tossed in (Strange is one of the more prominent DC heroes to never get a cameo appearance .
  • J’onn apparently isn’t in the habit of scanning Batman’s mind, as he doesn’t identify him as an orphan. It’s reminiscent of my favourite line from Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, where Martha Kent told Clark that Batman probably visits his parents more often than Clark does.
  • See? I told you Batman hated boom tubes. No, seriously, look it up back in The Call.
  • Speaking of which… how exactly did Batman and Wonder Woman get to New Genesis in the first place? The J-7 had to be boomed to Apokolips by Darkseid, and the Watchtower doesn’t have teleporters yet (not that they’d have the range anyway). I assume we’re supposed to think that they used the same Mother Box that Supergirl used to retrieve Superman from Apokolips at the end of “Legacy”, but it’s a weird oversight.
  • Brainiac’s portrayal here, including the construction of a mysterious device that taps into Apokolips somehow, is reminiscent of yet another Jack Kirby creation.
  • You’ll note that Batman doesn’t really let Superman formulate too many plans (at least, when they’re on the team together) after this episode. He’s a man of his word… that, or he’s worried Diana will actually hit him.
  • REVIEWER HULK SMASH STUPID NON ANAMORPHIC DVD (play around with the upscaling settings on your Blu-Ray player to get it to look right).

Line of the Episode (more like a soliloquy) – Batman: “We know he used you, humiliated you, brainwashed you. Wound you up like a toy soldier and turned you loose against Earth… Cry me a river. On the outside chance that this isn’t another one of his schemes, we have to take action… so I suggest you get over it.” So awesome.

Next Justice League: The debut of one of the League’s longest-tenured adversaries, Amazo, in an episode that also features the return of Lex Luthor.

Next Time: Since we’re talking about robots, might as well take a look at Batman’s previous experiences with them. “Heart of Steel” is first on the agenda, and I have an idea for a weekend aside as a result.

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Categories: A, Justice League
  1. Red Hedgehog
    December 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I remember a lot of people raving about this episode when it came out and I just didn’t get it. Turns out, it loses a lot if you are unfamiliar with the whole New Gods story. As I hadn’t seen the final season of DCAU Superman, I was kind of dumbfounded about why I should care about these characters as the episode doesn’t do a good job of fleshing them out – especially the New Genesis people. Anyway, while I definitely agree that it shows the different (and generally better) tone the second season would take, it isn’t actually much more entertaining than a first season episode.

  1. December 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm

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