Home > B-minus, Justice League > Justice League 2×21: “Comfort and Joy”

Justice League 2×21: “Comfort and Joy”

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Written by: Paul Dini
Directed by: Butch Lucic
Originally Aired: December 6, 2003
DVD: Justice League, Season Two

Summary: After averting a crisis on an alien world, the Justice League splits up to grab some personal time during the holiday season. Superman invites J’onn home for Christmas, Hawkgirl shows Green Lantern how she celebrates, and Flash lives out an Arnie movie.

NOTE: If you’re watching these episodes for the first time with the reviews, this one contains very slight spoilers since I’m reviewing it out-of-sequence in order to post it on Christmas Day. When the reviews catch up, it’ll be placed in the right spot.

Arc Notes: Hawkgirl and John go on their first ‘date’, and Hawkgirl kisses John, even though he’s not conscious.

Focal Characters: It’s an anthology episode.

Team Members: Superman, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, J’onn J’onzz, Flash

Villains: The Ultra-Humanite shows up in Flash’s segment.

Debuts: First time J’onn takes his “John Jones” form in the series.

Background:

One of J’onn J’onzz’s more amusing character traits in his comic form is that he has a fondness – occasionally characterised as a borderline addiction – to Chocos, the DC Universe’s brand-erasure equivalent to Oreo cookies. While I’d normally save this type of thing for a Weekend Aside, since Saturday is Boxing Day and I’ll be hunting for a new laptop I might as well group it in here since it’s referenced in this episode.

The amount of spinoff JLA product after it turned into a hit was staggering; DC never hesitated to have the Justice League show up in a new title or give creators who were slightly interested in the characters a miniseries, as everything with the JLA name on it sold in big numbers for about three years after the relaunch. The best example of this is that J’onn got his own series. Considering J’onn has always held the role of the prototypical “team book” character who’s great in a large cast but unable to carry his own title, this was proof that the JLA would sell anything. Of course, the fact that John Ostrander – creator of Suicide Squad, my pick for best book of the 1980s, as well as the man who turned Barbara Gordon into Oracle – was on writing duties didn’t hurt.

Anyway, beneath one of my favourite comic covers of all time lies a story wherein J’onn flashes back to his days with Justice League International (we’ll cover them in more detail one of these weekends), specifically to a prank played on him by resident jokesters Booster Gold (we’ll cover him in more detail later when we get to Unlimited) and Blue Beetle (… who, sadly, never appeared in DCAU, although his successor, Jamie Reyes, appears fairly regularly in Batman: The Brave and the Bold), Knowing J’onn’s love for the creme-filled chocolate delights, the Blue & Gold steal J’onn’s stash, as well as buy up every cookie on the island of Manhattan.

Suffice it to say, things don’t go well, and eventually JLA chief Max Lord and Batman (who was on the team in those days, even if he vigorously denies it to maintain his good name) are called in to straighten things out. This is one of the funniest single comic issues I’ve read, simply because, well, J’onn acting like a cross between a green-skinned hero who plies his trade at Marvel and Cookie Monster is really funny. It’s not my favourite J’onn storyline – Brian Augustyn’s brilliant  ‘pulp’ detective tale in the first JLA annual takes that honour – but it’s the most enjoyable to read by a mile.

Thoughts on the Episode:

You’d think that it would be easy to write a good Christmas anthology episode for Justice League, but this is ultimately a lot less successful than the previous Batman effort. It’s probably because it’s played relatively straight again, although at the very least there is an attempt to make it feel like a traditional holiday special. As the episode is broken up into three stories much like Holiday Knights, albeit interleaved this time. I’ll cover it the same way as that episode for consistency’s sake.

The Flash / Ultra-Humanite segment is my favourite of the three, although that’s possibly the inherent Flash bias speaking again. On the other hand, there actually is a bit of a – gasp – message behind this one, as it focuses on kids craving the hot toy of the moment, a rapping robotic duck that makes “poopy noises”, but in the end being impressed by a take on a more traditional Christmas story. The idea of the Humanite as an evil NPR listener is a great way to take him; Justice League is a series with a couple of articulate apes, but he’s easily differentiated from Grodd by actually being cultured instead of merely speaking intelligently. Acts like attacking statues because they offend his sense of propriety are certainly unique to the show, feeling pulled from the 60s Batman TV series. Playing him off against Flash reliving an Arnie movie – with the cute twist of being able to superspeed directly “to the source” in the north… of Japan… – is nice, and the plotline follows something of a traditional Christmas episode plotline, with Humanite ultimately being redeemed thanks to his nostalgia for the holidays of his youth. Even with the ending, this plotline doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s better for it.

The other obviously Christmas-y section sees Superman taking J’onn home to Smallville and J’onn experiencing the holidays from the Kent family’s perspective. There isn’t exactly a plot going on behind this one, just a series of scenes where J’onn gets a peek at Superman’s more human side for the first time. Superman going home to Smallville to keep him grounded, as it were, is a great character point, but once there J’onn is a passive observer for the most part, although he does befriend let’s-call-him-Streaky (I can’t remember if Kara called the cat that name back in “Unity” and don’t have the DVDs with me to check) via the hauntingly beautiful Martian music at the end of the episode. It almost seems as though Dini wrote this entire sequence to get in the one inside gag about the cookies, and if so, I salute him for it. Since Superman: TAS never did a Christmas episode, this isn’t a bad substitute, but taken in isolation from the rest of the episode it becomes obvious that there’s not much substance to it.

The one section of the episode that’s actually related to the overall Justice League story sees Hawkgirl bemused that the normally serious John Stewart is having a great time in the snow, and winds up engaging in a snowball fight with him that comes off really well (a combination of her usual nature and semi-obvious flirting). She then invites him to indulge in her own form of celebration, which leads to John doing the fish out of water routine prior to a giant bar brawl. This has the most action of the three sequences, and Hawkgirl blaming John for the mace shot to the monstrous alien is very funny, but the whole point is basically for Hawkgirl to kiss an unconscious John before curling up next to him for the night. After his overplayed “I’d give my life for you” speech in a prior episode, this is a welcome return to their relationship being more subtle, and it leaves the episode with the pastoral scene of two Leaguers curled up amidst the wreckage of an offworld bar. It’s oddly sweet.

The episode itself is no Holiday Knights – not enough humor or Christmas warmth – but in actually managing to advance the long game plot it winds up being more than a throwaway Christmas episode. The only other real complaint is that they couldn’t find a way to work Wonder Woman into it somehow, if only for a glance at holiday season on Themyscira. Unless of course she was also hanging around the Watchtower….

Grade: B-. Justice League isn’t really a series that lends itself to quieter storylines, and it didn’t have the wrap-up sequence that would’ve taken it to the next level.

Random Thoughts:

  • This story was one of Paul Dini’s last writing credits for the DCAU, as at the time of this episode he was a writer on Duck Dodgers, prior to taking on story editor duties on Lost. He would return to write one episode of Unlimited.
  • Sneaky little mention of Barbara…
  • How the heck has Hawkgirl been offworld since she was beamed to Earth? I thought it was supposed to be another problem with her cover story, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe she borrows the Javelin on weekends and flies around touring dive bars….
  • For our younger readers / those overseas, the aliens all yelling “SHAYERA!” when she walks into the bar is a gag from a legendary sitcom.
  • Is it me, or does the alien Hawkgirl high-fives when she walks in yell “Arriba”?
  • Batman begging for Christmas Eve monitor duty is a perfect character note.

Line of the Epsiode: “Oh, we’re no strangers to aliens in this house.” Pa Kent has always been one of my inexplicably favourite characters, either in animated, live-action or televised form. It’s a shame they keep killing the man off.

Flash Line of the Episode: “I kinda liked it when he made the poopy noises… but this is good, too.”

Next Justice League: The return and origin of Vandal Savage in “Maid of Honor.”

Next Side Story: Talia plays Marion to Bruce’s Indy in “Avatar.”

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Categories: B-minus, Justice League
  1. JFink
    December 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Merry Christmas

    I just watched this and the Superman/J’onn section is my favorite. I really liked seeing the real Clark while he was home. Between your line of the episode, which showed why Pa Kent is awesome, and MY line of the episode, “We used to have to wrap his presents in Lead foil so he wouldn’t peek.” Clark: ” You mean Santa wrapped them?” Ma Kent: “Of course dear.”, and later you had Clark holding up a gift and staring at it for a minute “Lead”, that’s why it was my favorite of the two segments.

  1. December 25, 2009 at 1:32 pm
  2. March 10, 2010 at 12:23 am
  3. November 29, 2010 at 8:28 am

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