Home > B-minus, Justice League > Justice League 2×13-14: “Eclipsed”

Justice League 2×13-14: “Eclipsed”

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Written by Joseph Kuhr
Directed by Dan Riba
Originally Aired: November 8th 2003
DVD: Justice League, The Complete Series

Summary: A special forces team tracking down a criminal in the Middle East brings back something other than Gulf War Syndrome – a diamond that possesses all who come in contact with it. Meanwhile, Flash’s attempt at a commercial career doesn’t go well.

Arc Notes: Flash’s energy bars and “standees” show up in the weirdest places over the remainder of the series.

Debuting Characters: Eclipso (sorta), Mophir, and the animated debuts of Mirror Master, Captain Cold and Heat Wave (again, sorta), G. Gordon Godfrey.

Focal Characters: Flash

Other Team Members: Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Hawkgirl, J’onn J’onzz.

Namedropped: Flash tries to get Batman on the phone at one point.

Background:

If you ever ask a comics fan to name the most unlikely character to have a successful (EG, ran for more than one year) series, if the answer isn’t “Eclipso”, they haven’t been reading comics for long enough.

Eclipso is a product of DC’s quasi-horror title, House of Secrets. In the original story, solar researcher Bruce Gordon was attacked my the mysterious sorcerer Mophir, who cut him with a large black diamond. As result, he turned into DC’s version of Dr. Jekyll; whenever the sun was blocked out, Gordon would transform into the villainous Eclipso, possessing super-strength and eye beams and a mad-on for the JLA and other heroes. However, thanks to a rather obvious weakness – exposure to sunlight – he never was viewed as anything more than a peripheral threat.

The character was given a major push as a villain in the early 1990s, as his origin was modified. Rather than being a manifestation of Gordon’s dark side, Eclipso was now a spirit of vengeance who had been possessing Gordon (the animated version is riff on this approach). The entity decided to take on a different plan than b-level supervillain-y, and set out attempting to possess every hero on the planet. After this plot  failed, Eclipso was granted his own series, where he tried to take over an entire country with Gordon leading a team of D-listers against him.

Now, just to put this in context if you’re only familiar with the DCAU, it would be like DC taking, say, the Mad Hatter, and basing an entire year’s worth of comics around him. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen much anymore. What’s even more shocking, it was relatively successful, as the series went on for quite a while before the rising tide of DC’s other successful titles of the era left it to be cut loose. Eclipso was revitalised as a heroic concept for Geoff Johns’ JSA in the epic “Princes of Darkness” storyline, but has returned to being a villain recently.

Thoughts on the Episode:

I noted in one of the previews that I love re-watching this episode, but I’m not really that big a fan of it. Part of that is the inherent Flash bias running up against an episode that is a bit scattered in its plotting, but it’s more due to the fact that it’s more of a series of interconnected vignettes than a unified episode. The story has a good deal of scope, ranging from an undisclosed Middle Eastern country to military locations to Central City to the Watchtower to the depths of space, with enough room for yet another villain origin flashback (which was becoming a bit played out at this point).

On the other hand, it’s a very funny episode, has a neat subplot involving legitimate questions about whether it’s ethical for heroes to cash in on their actions (appropos, given this entry is being cleaned up in the wake of the opening ceremonies in Vancouver), and re-works a rather lame villain into a concept that, for a few minutes, is one of the creepiest in the series. As a result, it’s a strange episode to try to review.

The problem, I think, is that the first half seems like a competition between a couple of B-plots which both have potential to be the main driving force of the episode, but ultimately amount to very little. The action in the middle east is a reasonably ominous setup, but it seems divorced from anything to do with the heroes for quite a while. While pretty much any setup can turn into a good plot with the right amount of skill, in this case the sheer vagueness of Eclipso’s goals makes the viewer not develop much of a hate for him.  The reaction is more of a ‘sure, you want to kill a lot of people, but why would the Justice League bother with trying to stop you when it looks like a few MPs can do the job just as well?’ While the general eventually dresses up in a comic book costume and attacks a major city, beyond the first bit with the soldier cold-heartedly murdering his teammates the plot doesn’t click on its own.

In Flash’s angle, however, things are a little bit better. The idea of exploring the conflict between doing good deeds altruistically and using the reputation from those deeds to acquire material wealth is one of the oldest ideas in superhero comics; although many of the classic heroes like Batman didn’t worry about money, it was a common theme of the second wave of silver-age heroes like Spider-Man, and played a major role in Wally’s comics life. Flash is the logical choice to play such a role; his naiveté allows him to be manipulated in relatively harmless ways, which comes in handy when the episode is basically out there to remind everyone that Flash is more than just the comic relief. The plotline isn’t completely successful in this regard, as Flash doesn’t get taken seriously until a much more famous scene in Unlimited, but it was a start. Godfrey’s modified characterisation is close to his most famous appearance in the Legends miniseries, and has actually aged rather well as the blowhard talk show host has gained more steam in the media. I think he predates Steven Colbert, but was likely based on Bill O’Reilly.

After the middling first half, the second half continues the trend of the plot jumping around, but there’s a lot more focus as the gem is now within the range of the Justice League and they can react to it directly, as well as Mophir becoming a more visible presence. Mophir is mainly used in an expeditionary role, which probably is a good thing given that even the brief scene of him holding his own against Diana stretches credibility a bit. The idea that the gem is inhabited by vengeful snakemen is a creative approach to take, and it makes for a neat visual with the ethereal snakes attacking every possessed hero; with a concept as potentially abstract as Eclipso, that’s probably the best approach to take. It actually feels a bit like a missed opportunity, as the visual designs of both the snakemen and barbarians seemed too good to only use for the brief amount of screen time they get here.

Once the action moves to the watchtower, the tone becomes a lot more creepy, ominous, and frankly different than anything that’s come before in the series. After convincing the league that something’s amiss (thankfully, there isn’t enough time to do a stale plotline involving the members not believing Flash; after so long, they should more or less take him at face value), the interrogation scene is pretty tense, and then that goes through the roof as the League gets possessed (complete with a great take on the Justice League Shot that I used as the image at the top of this entry). Flash getting the stuffing kicked out of him is good, and while the way he turns the table is creative, it does seem like a bit of a cheat (if you told me that a scene setting up the solar ray had been cut from the episode, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least), it gets the story to the real climax, Flash’s physics-bending race to the sun.

This is actually one of the most kid-friendly episodes of the entire series, in spite of the up-front violence, as there’s very little of it after that sequence; in fact, the League wins the day in a completely non-violent manner, which is nice to see. Sure, it’s heavy on the technobabble – which the dialogue openly acknowledges – but it’s a nice change of pace, a reminder that while the Justice League’s job is to save the world, they don’t always get into a punchup with a villain to do so.

And, of course, there’s the funniest gag in DCAU history to top it all off. After Flash saving the world and learning a lesson, it’s a bit of mood whiplash… but, if anything, it’s just the high point of an episode that’s consistent only in its inconsistency.

Grade: B-. It’s very watchable, but it’s transparently a series of interconnected scenes rather than a coherent whole, and the individual scenes aren’t quite strong enough.

Random Thoughts:

  • I know they didn’t have enough time to repair the Javelin, but there wasn’t enough time to get Flash into a space suit?
  • The commercial director is credited as “Snooty British Director”, but I think that got lost on the way to Andrea Romano’s office.
  • All of the Flash villains would appear later in the series.
  • Eclipso winds up being one of the most altered DC characters when he makes it to animation; there was nothing about snake men in his origin, but I suppose those were a bit in vogue in animation at that point.

Line of the Episode: “And what’s WRONG with the way I DRESS!?!” Enough to fuel hundreds of disturbing fanfics and bad women’s studies thesis papers.

Flash Line of the Episode: “Let’s get this cosmic treadmill rolling.” Nice touch.

Next Justice League: The DCAU pays tribute to Marvel’s strangest team in “The Terror Beyond.”

Next Time: Doctor Fate makes his debut in “The Hand of Fate”

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Categories: B-minus, Justice League
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