Hello, my friends. I’m back and better than ever. Not only am I ready to tackle one hero, but I’m ready to take on loads of gallant figures. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to my series known as…
A series where I go over every single entry in the mini-franchise and give my opinion on how each film holds up. For this entry, we’ve got a ’50s era piece called…
Originally released on February 26, 2008, this film is based on the 2004 mini-series “DC: The New Frontier”, written and drawn by Darwyn Cook. Unlike the source material for Superman: Doomsday (which was 39 issues spanning 6 books and a special over a whole calendar year), the six issues that make up the original story came out on a nine-month stretch within 2004 (the first three issues were monthly while the last three came out bi-monthly). Also, unlike last time, I have the source material collected in two volumes. You can bet that I’ll point out as many differences as possible.
Our story begins with an ominous voice (voiced by Keith David) from an unknown being as it narrates humankind’s evolution and how it must be wiped off the face of the Earth due to its destructive nature. We see this as an unseen author (who is unable to get the story out of his head) completes the book before picking up a revolver and taking his own life.
Following our title sequence, we then cut to the Korean skies on July 27, 1953. Fighter pilots Hal Jordan (voiced by David Boreanaz) and Kyle “Ace” Morgan (voiced by Peter McCallister himself, John Heard) are hearing an Armed Forces Radio broadcast from Lois Lane (voiced by “The Closer” herself, Kyra Sedgwick) tell them that the ceasefire has been signed, thus ending the Korean War. Shortly afterwards however, they get attacked by Korean MiGs (who are unaware of said signing). Hal gets shot down and is forced to eject from his plane.
After deploying his parachute, he floats down towards a bunker occupied by a North Korean soldier. After landing on said soldier and knocking him out in the process, Hal picks himself up and ignites a flare to signal for rescue. However, the North Korean soldier quickly recovers and tries to kill him with his knife.
Hal tries to say that the war is over, but the soldier doesn’t understand English. Despite going against his nature, he’s able to press the barrel of his gun to the soldier’s face and shoots him.
At the Gotham City Observatory, a scientist named Dr. Saul Erdel had a signal to Mars accidentally teleport an actual martian to Earth. The shock from the encounter causes him to have a heart attack and die. It turns out that the alien is J’onn Jonzz (voiced by Bob Morton himself, Miguel Ferrer) and with him knowing that he has no way to go back home, he transforms himself into Erdel and proceeds to take his wallet and identification.
We then cut to Indo-China in 1954 where Superman (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan) comes across a cabin hut inhabited by a group of armed Vietnamese women who are around the main reason for their celebration, Wonder Woman (voiced by “Xena: Warrior Princess” herself, Lucy Lawless). It turns out that the women helped out a group of French soldiers and the Vietnam rebels didn’t like it, so the soldiers were kills while the women were kept in tiger cages. Wonder Woman came along and easily disarmed the rebels while freeing the women. However, she allowed them to kill the rebels with their own guns, which dismays Superman. Despite making his case that this act of vigilantism is frowned upon by the American government and it only showcases them as super-powered bullies, Wonder Woman states that it doesn’t mean much here and demands that he leave.
In Gotham City, Martian Manhunter uses the form of Dr. Erdel in order to disguise himself from society while trying to learn about the human race through television. As he watches various programs, he’s able to continually perfect his transformations, practicing on the forms of Groucho Marx, Bugs Bunny, and the Station I.D. Indian.
Over in Metropolis, Superman and Lois have a conversation on the actual top of the Daily Planet. We learn that following the incident in Indo-China, Wonder Woman has left America and returned to her homeland of Paradise Island. Lois states that despite Wondey’s actions, Batman’s vigilante nature, and the bullying times of McCarthyism, there must always be a need for superheroes to be around and show what America really stands for.
We then cut to Las Vegas where Ace has an eventual surprise for Hal. Nearby, we have reporter Iris West (voiced by Vicki Lewis) on assignment to interview a lounge singer named Buddy Blake and catch his act.
Following the interview, she makes a phone call back to the midwestern municipal of Central City and to the residence of her boyfriend Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash (voiced by Barney Stinson himself, Neil Patrick Harris). Barry is watching the Vegas-located boxing match of Grant v. Cooke (“I wish” as Darwyn said in his commentary) and the phone call starts out pleasant enough.
However, things start to take a turn for the worse when Captain Cold (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) breaks up the lounge act with his two henchwomen to rob the cashiers’ booths.
While Barry’s hearing all of this over the phone, Buddy Blake tries to make a run for it. However, Captain Cold spots him and uses his freeze gun, encasing Blake in ice and killing him after he falls onto the floor and shatters right in front of Iris. This gets her spotted by Captain Cold who freeze up the phone and her right hand in the process, knocking her out.
Upon hearing all of this, Barry gets into his Flash costume and uses his super-speed to run all the way to Vegas. After thawing out Iris’ hand and stealing a kiss on the cheek, he confronts Captain Cold who tells him that he planted six cryogenic bombs throughout the city and that they’ll go off in 90 seconds. Upon hearing this, the Flash starts running around town and easily finds five of them. After searching through every corner of the city, he finds out that there wasn’t a sixth bomb and that it was a lie in order for Captain Cold to escape.
After tying the five cryogenic bombs to a car dealership’s balloon and letting them fly into the sky, the Flash proceeds to head back to the Zenith building, run up the stairs, enter a hotel room, and jump out the window that Captain Cold’s helicopter was flying next to. After a swift punch disables the chopper’s controls, the Flash grabs his target as they fall into a nearby fountain. Immediately afterwards, Captain Cold gets possessed by the same unknown being from the beginning and asks why the Flash is faster than the “lesser beings”. Barry is puzzled, but Captain Cold immediately regains consciousness and tries to freeze him. However, the Flash was also able to rewire the freeze gun during the fall. He hops out of the fountain in time while Captain Cold gets encased in a giantic ice formation as the cryogenic bombs explode in the sky, snowing all over town.
We then cut to Hal speeding out of Vegas and into the desert alongside Ace as they head towards the main reason why they came out here to begin with. During the ride, Hal explains that ever since he was a kid, all he wanted was to go into space. However, his incident in the Korean War got him hospitalized for medical trauma and he hasn’t had much luck afterwards in reaching his goal. Eventually, they arrive at their destination. It turns out that Ace’s surprise will be the main job that can help Hal reach his ultimate ambition: Ferris Aircraft.
We then get a quick scene of the Martian Manhunter continuing his small-screen education on humanity. After watching a detective program, he decides to use the image of the show’s main character as a way to help out.
Later, Hal is having dinner with the boss of Ferris Aircraft, a woman named Carol Ferris (voiced by Brooke Shields). It’s thanks to Ace’s recommendation that Hal is in a good position of joining her father’s company. Carol notes that in his resume, there’s a gap between July and December 1953, to which Hal mentions about his time in the V.A. Hospital’s psyche ward and that he gained valuable experience during his recovery. Ferris concludes the interview with him getting the job and that he’ll report for training duty in two weeks.
In Gotham City, the Martian Manhunter is in his human disguise of John Jones, having already joined the police department and managing to reach detective status in just a few years. He’s accompanied by Samuel “Slam” Bradley (voiced by Jim Meskimen) on a case that’s going down at a church.
When they arrives, they find the front door chained up with a padlock. John tells Slam to go enter through the back, serving as a means to distract his workmate while he phases through the door. After entering, he sees an evil cult that’s under attack by Batman. He also sees a young boy tied up with his mouth taped, seeing that he’s going to be the sacrifice.
John enters the fray and helps Batman beat the snot out of some hooded rogues. However, he knocks one of the cult members into a candlestick holder, sending the candles onto a nearby curtain and setting it ablaze. The nearby fire stuns John (due to it being his weakness), causing him to collapse to his knees. The cult’s leader starts to make his way towards the young boy and prepares to sacrifice him for “The Centre”, but Batman quickly ropes him up and defeats him. Slam then comes in with an extinguisher and gets the fire under control. Batman approaches the young boy and starts to rescue him by removing the tape from his mouth, but his image frightens the kid prompting John to come save him. After freeing the boy, Batman manages to vanish from sight. Immediately afterwards, the same mysterious being possesses the bruised cult leader in order to present itself and says that “Judgement is coming”.
Over at Ferris Aircraft, Hal Jordan is undergoing extensive training under the watchful eye of Col. Rick Flagg (voiced by Lex Lang), which has him placed inside a capsule and then a crane drops him into a small body of water within a canyon. Hal manages to turn in a really good performance which impresses the higher-ups.
As such, Carol takes Hal to a top secret location deep below the surface. It turns out that the airfield was just a front for Ferris Aircraft and that an underground base is what the company is REALLY all about.
In said headquarters, Hal meets King Faraday (voiced by Phil Morris) who gives him the lowdown about Erdel’s encounter with our favorite martian. Afterwards, Rick and Carol join Hal and reveal that they’ve got a mission to Mars that’s getting prepped. Finally, Jordan’s dream of going into space has become a reality.
That night in Gotham City, John arrives back at his apartment and discovers that Batman (voiced by Jeremy Sisto) was waiting for him and was shielded from his telepathy. In their conversation, they talk about Centre-worshiping cults spreading at an alarming rate and that they should work together to learn more about this growing menace. Before leaving, Batman tells John that he trusts him, yet knows about his weakness to fire should he ever be double-crossed.
In Central City, Gorilla Grodd is on a rampage throughout the town. The cops have him surrounded, giving the Flash the space he needs to confront his foe. He punches Grodd’s chest plate, but is immediately knocked back. It turns out that Grodd was nothing more than a robotic duplicate.
It also turns out that the robot was placed there for a reason, as government officials arrive and shoot a net out at the Flash, trapping him within the webbing. More officials from the rooftops and within buildings then shoot out canisters of smokescreen. A gas-masked official comes up to the Flash with a small tranquilizer gun and says that he’s government property now and that they intend to learn the secrets of his powers. He fires a tranquilizer dart, but the action moves at slow-speed in comparison to the Flash who easily vibrates through the net and escapes capture.
At the Gotham City Police Department, John Jones investigates the children’s book from the prologue and mentions how the author who committed suicide believed that the world was going to end soon. He then gets told about a former Ferris Aircraft worker named Harry Leiter who killed a cop while under The Centre’s control and had his mom stowed away in the trunk of his car. During John’s interrogation, Leiter talks about The Centre’s impending destruction and about the upcoming Mars mission.
Just then, Faraday arrives with government officials to take him away. Shortly afterwards, John uses his telepathy on Faraday and discovers that Leiter was telling the truth. There’s a mission to Mars on the horizon and he finally has a way to go home.
John decides to take up the opportunity to go back to Mars after a disheartening moment where the Flash interrupts a news broadcast to announce that he’s bowing out of the superhero business and retiring, since he has a loved one to protect and that the government will continually hunt him down. Jones completely makes up his mind to go through with his plan after the fellow diner patrons make snooty remarks towards our speedster.
Prior to enacting his attempted return, John manages to sneak into the Batcave where Batman is continuing his investigation on The Centre via microfilm. Jones gives him every piece of information he had on said being and tells him that he’s leaving. Batman nonchalantly accepts the evidence and bids him farewell.
The day of the mission to Mars has finally arrived for Hal Jordan and Col. Rick Flagg as they await aboard the vessel (Codenamed “Flying Cloud”) for the countdown to launch.
Meanwhile, J’onn returns back to his original form and tries to sneak on board via invisibility. As the exhaust starts to fill at the rocket’s base, Faraday catches J’onzz trying to sneak aboard via security cameras as he notices the silhouette. Just as J’onn is about to reach the rocket, King catches up and holds him at gunpoint. J’onzz manages to disarm Faraday and ultimately prevails in a quick struggle. However, with five seconds left on the countdown, he’s left at a crucial decision: Quickly get on board the rocket and get back to Mars or save your attacker from being burned to death from Flying Cloud’s boosters. He decides to rescue Faraday and eludes the booster rockets in time as Hal and Rick begin taking off. After reaching a nearby platform, J’onn collapses from exhaust onto Faraday in time to get caught by officials.
Hal and Rick manage to get into the upper parts of the atmosphere as everything is going as planned. However, the rockets start malfunctioning as Flying Cloud starts losing ground and begins to severely head back down to Earth. Hal starts trying to ease the rocket downward, but Flagg states that it’s a no go. It turns out that Flying Cloud was also storing weapons of mass destruction in case they reached Mars and came across hostile aliens. Unknowingly to Hal (and even Carol), the rocket was housing nerve gas, germ bombs, and even a nuclear warhead. Flagg starts to reach for Flying Cloud’s self-destruct button, but Hal delivers a key series of punches that knocks him out so that he can try and get the rocket back to Earth.
After a quick chat with Faraday that informs Carol about the weapons that were sneaked on board Flying Cloud without her knowing (ending with King picking up the red phone and calling in “The Big Guy”), the rocket begins to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. As Hal continues to steady the spacecraft for its landing, Flagg comes to and they have a fierce struggle. After a brief struggle, Rick disengages the cockpit. Because his seatbeat was unfastened during the fight, Hal struggles with all of his might to stay on board and prevent Flagg from pressing the self-destruct button. In the end, the atmosphere starts catching fire to his suit and Jordan is separated from the rocket, doomed to burn up in the re-entry.
Fortunately, “The Big Guy” arrives as Superman manages to save Hal just as Flagg presses the self-destruct button, blowing up Flying Cloud and its housed weapons. Afterwards, Superman gets Hal back to Ferris Aircraft where a tearful Carol embraces him for his safe return. As the launching doors close, Hal feels gloomy as he has lost out on any chance of getting into space.
Deep within the compounds of a separate base, Faraday has J’onn J’onzz imprisoned within a specialized cell. Superman arrives and berates him about the weapons secretly stored within Flying Cloud. Kal mentions that both he and J’onn are alien, but he’s the only one accepted since he looks human. Superman even brings up the fact that J’onzz could easily escape from the cell by phasing through the wall, but doesn’t want to in order to build some trust.
We check back on Paradise Island as Wonder Woman is practicing her sword-fighting skills with a fellow Amazon named Mala (voiced by Vanessa Marshall & credited as ‘Amazon Woman’). During their joust, they talk about the little changes in America and how they keep pretending like they’re “In The Right” yet don’t act like it. Mala has even questioned Wondey’s ethics since her time in America. However, their exchange gets interrupted as The Centre starts to bear down on the island, prompting out heroines to stand poised in order to try and fight it off.
Back at Ferris Aircraft, Hal is sitting in an aircraft simulator moping about losing his last chance of getting into space. Suddenly, the pod starts breaking free from its restraints as it becomes enveloped within a green light, blasts out of the hangar and flies away. After crashing into the desert, Hal discovers an alien being lying wounded against a rock formation. As he approaches, the alien tells him that his name is Abin Sur (voiced by Corey Burton) a Green Lantern for Space Sector 2814. He originally came to Earth to help fight against The Centre, but he arrived during the Flying Cloud mishap. The rocket’s explosion did a severe amount of damage to him, since it was yellow and the ring is no match for said color. Abin Sur sent his ring to find someone with extraordinary courage and it ended up chosing Hal, even though he has been doubting himself ever since the Korean War. Abin Sur reassures him that the ring wouldn’t have chosen anyone it didn’t seem worthy. Hal asks how the ring works, but Abin Sur is only able to mention about “The Guardians” before he succumbs to his injuries and passes on.
Later on, Superman arrives at the Batcave to talk with Batman. In the intervening times, the Caped Crusader got himself a kid sidekick named Robin (voiced by Shane Haboucha) in order to prove that he only intimidates criminals, not children. After a brief introduction to Superman, Batman makes Robin head out to take of his homework.
Superman and Batman mention how the book “The Last Story” seems to be lining up with a series of Daily Planet articles and wonder if the being was speaking through the author. Just then, they start getting a broadcast from Lois Lane about a gigantic pterodactyl attacking Cape Canaveral.
Superman arrives and has little trouble in disposing of the ancient beast by tying it down with steel cable. Shortly afterwards, Wonder Woman arrives in her Invisible Plane. However, the cockpit is heavily soaked with her blood as she crashes onto the runway. Superman reaches her as she says that the Amazons posed an insignificant threat to The Centre, she barely escaped with her life and that it’s coming right for them. After Wondey passes out from her injuries, Superman heads out to get her medical attention.
Back at the holding cell, King Faraday is locked in a chess duel with the Martian Manhunter (who wants to win the game without reading Faraday’s mind). J’onn tells King that he has read his thoughts (and by extension, his heart) and reveals that he sees someone who believes that there will come a day when the tools for war will no longer be needed. As such, it has convinced him to be hopeful of the human race. Afterwards, Faraday is informed of the situation brewing at Cape Canaveral involving The Centre. Having earned his trust, J’onn is invited to come along with him to help take care of the situation once and for all. He accepts and transforms into a more presentable martian form.
Meanwhile, Hal arrives at the Saginaw Diner following his Green Lantern ordeal. Shortly after entering, he notices the main bartender and her customers are hearing about the crisis taking place at Cape Canaveral on TV.
In her broadcast, Lois describes The Centre as a living island that’s 25 miles across and has large quartz that not only unleashes energy blasts, but also draws enemy aircraft into itself. Upon seeing this, Hal realizes what he must do.
Back in Central City, Barry and Iris have also caught Lois’ broadcast. After shutting off the TV, he prepares to tell his love that he’s the Flash, but she informs him that she already knows. Iris suspected the two to be one and the same and was confirmed from his “retirement speech”. It’s through her support that gives Barry the strength to go into action and help out against The Centre.
Back at Ferris Aircraft, Hal suits up for combat and prepares a new prototype plane for launch. Carol, after a few seconds into berating him for his sudden disappearance and mentioning The Centre incident down in Florida, realizes what he’s got in mind. She brings up the fact that he never fired a single shot back in the Korean skies, but Hal reminds her of his scuffle in the trench and that he would kill to survive. Afterwards, they share an embrace before Hal takes off for the final conflict.
The Flash arrives at Cape Canaveral only to discover that the military soldiers are still at weary odds with the present superhero company of the Blackhawks, Adam Strange, and Green Arrow. After drawing their weapons at each other, a loud rumbling clap knocks everyone down.
It turns out to be Superman who berates both sides for still being at fearful (yet pointless) odds with each other while The Centre is about to annihilate all life as they know it. He tells them that they can’t continue living in fear of each other and that they need to band together in order to show that America is a place where anyone can be allowed to follow their destiny. King Faraday comes in with the Martian Manhunter and agrees that they need to unite as “Free Americans” in order to deal with the growing threat.
Superman then proceeds to fly out to The Centre and scout around it. It responds by having loads of flying dinosaurs attack the Man of Steel. Superman puts up a good fight, punching off a couple prehistoric beasts and even using his heat vision to take out a few more. However, one powerful shot from The Centre was enough to blast Superman into the depths of the Atlantic. Heroes and humans alike watch in horror as one their most powerful allies gets taken out of the fight. Many hours go by, but a search party fails to find him. Lois gives a tearful report about Superman’s defeat and that America’s top minds are working on a plan to take down The Centre. In the end, she gets caught up emotionally and is unable to finish her broadcast.
At a nearby hangar, Ace Morgan, Walter Mark “Prof” Haley (both are members of the Challengers of the Unknown, a small group of adventurers who deal with paranormal crises), King Faraday, Martian Manhunter, and Dr. Will Magnus (voiced by Townsend Coleman) look over “The Last Story” book and discuss the possibility of a brand new life form.
Just then, Batman comes in and introduces them to the man whose special scientific field will greatly help them against the Centre, Ray Palmer (again voiced by Corey Burton). He specializes in matter reduction, where anything that shrinks becomes unstable and explodes.
After our heroes and the military are assembled, Faraday gives them the lowdown on how they’ll go about in attacking The Centre. First, they’ll use an all-out aerial strike as a means of distraction. For the true means of fighting back, Ray Palmer proceeds to give a demonstration on his matter reduction light upon an orange, shrinking it down to a level where its structure becomes unstable and explodes. Faraday goes on to say that for this to work, The Centre needs to be exposed to their special light piece by piece. When Ace asks how, Batman mentions about the Flash. Just then, Hal joins the meeting and says that they’ll also need to go inside The Centre with bombs in order to weaken it, in which Ace agrees and joins up with him.
With everyone knowing what to do, the heroes and humans prepare for battle as they all walk besides each other united against a common foe.
On the ground, Faraday is giving final preparations for when the Flash will be needed to use Ray Palmer’s matter reduction machine. Just then, the pterodactyl from before has its stomach burst and a whole army of prehistoric dinosaurs, creatures, and monsters pop out to attack. While Faraday and the soldiers start to retaliate, Martian Manhunter tries to confront them. However, he starts holding his head in pain as The Centre fights back mentally. Fortunately, Faraday is able to reach him and continues his assault.
Up in the air, the fighter jets begin a fierce dogfight with a huge legion of pterodactyls. During the fight, Batman starts getting ambushed by a small group, one of whom lands right on the nose of the Batplane and starts tearing up the cockpit. Batman is able to shock the majority of them, but the aforementioned one withstands the abuse and prepares to finish off the Dark Knight.
Fortunately, Green Arrow comes along and accurately shoots the pterodactyl off, saving Batman’s life in the process.
From there, we see the rest of our flight-based heroes doing all they can to fend off the dino-menace. The Blackhawks comes in and bomb away at the creatures on The Centre’s surface, while Adam Strange uses his energy gun to shoot away at any prehistoric foe that he can.
Back on the ground, Faraday gets J’onn back to the high platform. However, the Centre’s psychic attacks start to make the Martian Manhunter shift into various prehistoric creatures. Just then, a tentacle comes from out of nowhere and grabs Faraday, pulling him towards his doom. As his gets dragged past the weapons table, he grabs a pair of grenades, unpins them, and sacrifices himself as he falls into the mouth of a T-Rex, causing its head to explode. After regaining control of his mind and seeing his friend’s valiant last act, J’onn reverts back to form and begins his assault on the various dinosaurs.
Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen continue their coverage of the gigantic onslaught. Suddenly, he gets captured by a tentacle and starts getting dragged towards his doom.
As Jimmy looks into his camera lens and prepares to get eaten, Wonder Woman comes to his rescue and knocks out the T-Rex. Afterwards, she yells at the fellow soldiers to “Fight On!”.
Thanks to all of the various actions, Hal and Ace were able to get inside The Centre and begin their assault. As they make their way deeper and deeper within, they start to get bum rushed by an hallucinogenic attack that tries to disorient them.
They then get attacked by balls of think, red fluid that starts to encompass their crafts and prevents them from using their bombs. It even starts to break into their cockpits to try and engulf them. Ace then orders to trigger the self-destruct mechanisms on each of their crafts, but Hal starts to get completely covered in said liquid.
Just then, his ring starts to glow as the Guardians of the Universe (voiced by Robin Atkins Downes) tell their new ring-bearer to clear his mind and focus on what matters.
As such, the ring puts Hal into his Green Lantern costume and enables him to get out of his craft just as it explodes. Just as Ace manages to trigger his plane’s self-destruct sequence, Hal reaches him in time and saves him just before the explosion. They then make their way out of The Centre, having succeeded in their mission.
With Hal and Ace having done their job, it now falls upon the Flash to deliver the knockout punch. While Ray Palmer’s matter reduction machine is being completed, J’onn flies down to Barry and gives him comfort in knowing that he’ll get the proper back-up during his run.
While Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter give him aerial support, the Flash manages to use a wave to jump onto The Centre and starts using Palmer’s matter reduction machine.
As Barry continues to cover more and more ground, Palmer’s device start to take effect as The Centre starts to shrink and become unstable.
As such, the Flash jumps off and lands into the Atlantic Ocean where he gets rescued by Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman.
Realizing its imminent doom, the Centre starts making its way towards the main land and hopes to use its destabilizing explosion to cause massive destruction. Green Lantern then takes action by encompassing the Centre within a giant ball of green light and uses his will power to take it up into space and fling it away from Earth in time for it to harmlessly explode. Immediately afterwards, Hal realizes that his new superhero status is how his childhood dream FINALLY comes true.
As nightfall descends on Cape Canaveral and our heroes take comfort with each other on a job well done, an Atlantian Battle Tank rises up out of the ocean and makes its way onto shore. After arriving, the door opens to reveal Aquaman (voiced by Alan Ritchson). It turns out that Superman’s body was discovered by the ruler of the oceans and that he’s still alive. As such, our heroes gather together in celebration as Jimmy Olsen captures the moment to be shared by the Daily Planet.
And so, our story ends with images of things to come for the DC Universe while we hear President John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” speech. From the formation of various teams (Doom Patrol, Metal Men, Teen Titans, etc.), to the rise of certain well-known villains (Lex Luthor, the Joker, etc.), the eventual comings of new heroes (John Henry Irons as Steel, Rick Flagg, Jr. as the leader of the Suicide Squad, etc.) and concluding with the formation of the Justice League of America.
Because six issues had to be condensed into a 75-minute film, some various parts of Darwyn Cooke’s original story had to be either changed or left out altogether. First off, the Losers had the entire opening chapter of the book dedicated to their venture on The Centre when it was disguised as Dinosaur Island (instead of a microfilm clip seen by Batman). In fact, it was John Cloud’s death that was used in the film for King Faraday. In the comics, Faraday dies when the Centre is penetrating J’onn’s mind and he wants him to spare his new friend by letting it take his mind. He dies when the Centre penetrates his own mind, allowing the Martian Manhunter to fight again.
There was also an entire subplot in the comics about a black man named John Henry whose honest Tennessee life was taken from him by the Ku Klux Klan. It continually shows John on the run from said devious organization and trying to escape. In the film, the only times he mentioned is a picture of him in J’onn’s Centre evidence and the news broadcast that the Flash interrupts to announce his retirement.
Also, Batman gets a more prominent role here. For the most part, his scenes are exactly from the source material (even though we don’t get a single Bat Cave scene from them). In the comics, Batman’s role in the story is done after he and Robin confront Superman. Here, he brings Ray Palmer in to help out (originally, it was Adam Strange who got Palmer to help out) and takes part in fending off the army of pterodactyls.
The reporting/snapshot duo of Lois and Jimmy also had a more significant role in the comics. While Lois shares a scene with Superman at the Daily Planet (something that wasn’t in the comics), she and Jimmy showcased themselves a lot more in the original story. They were there when Hal needed to be rescued following his Korean War trench incident, she was in Vegas to watch Ted Grant’s boxing match (and was a sky box witness to Captain Cold’s robbery) and they even interviewed a team that also got less time here than they got in the comics.
That’s right, the Challengers of the Unknown. I briefly mentioned this team earlier in the review, but this team had a lot more time in the comics than they got here. In fact, Hal wasn’t even on Flying Cloud’s mission to Mars. There were actually two other people on this mission with Flagg and it was the Challengers who did the rescue mission with its two men getting rescued by Superman. Lois and Jimmy even went to their HQ and did an interview with them. It’s through them that they arrived at Cape Canaveral. Here, Ace gets the majority of screen time, Walter Haley gets one scene, and the other two (Matthew “Red” Ryan and June Robbins) are basically background characters. There’s other differences like Hal actually being knocked out and Ace being the one to deploy his parachute, certain buildings getting different names, etc., but nothing else that completly major. In the end, this story is mainly about three certain heroes and that’s where I’m gonna focus on now:
The third important character is Barry Allen, because he starts out as a straight-up hero who comes to Iris’ rescue and is able to protect the people of Las Vegas from Captain Cold’s scheme and has to decide whether he wants to keep risking himself and his love life after the government tries to capture him for their own needs. This is downplayed just enough for him to try and balance his decisions and it helps that Iris’ scenes work in portraying her as a strong, supportive girlfriend. She knows deep down that the Flash is someone who needs to protect the public from evil and cares enough for Barry to get into gear.
For our second important character, it’s the Martian Manhunter himself. As an unintended visitor to our planet, he learns a lot about humanity’s strengths and weaknesses. Because of the situations going on in America (racism, hatred towards things they don’t understand, Cold War), he’s an outsider who tries to find a way to fit in. Even when the Flash gets shunned by society following his retirement announcement and J’onn decides to return to Mars, Faraday’s interference lends a key moment for the two of them to understand and respect each other. In the end, he realizes that humans (through flawed) are still a good lot.
In the end, the main driving force of this story belongs to Hal Jordan. He only kills if it means he survives in the end, meaning he doesn’t enjoy taking lives. His true mission in life is to reach outer space and he tries to constantly reach that goal, despite various obstacles and setbacks. It also helps out that he has Carol Ferris, who brings a tough-minded mentality to her position and shows enough compassion to help Hal get though his lows. In the end, he’s able to accomplish said goal after inadvertently becoming a member of the universe’s intergalactic police force as he feels a huge weight float right off him. A lot more of his trials and tribulations are explained in the comics, but what we get holds up.
For our other characters, they all do a fitting job. Superman has a boy scout mentality and is willing to help out America, yet even he questions some decisions that gets made. Wonder Woman doesn’t get too much screen time, but her opening scene shows her support for all of the world’s women and as we see later on, she will stand her ground when a conflict arises. Batman brings out his detective skills during his scenes with the Martian Manhunter. You feel the exchange of information helping to bring about everything there is about the Centre and we even see him wanting to connect more with the public after his unintentional child scaring via having a sidekick. As for the humans, Kyle “Ace” Morgan is the most awesome, since he sort of acts as a father figure to Hal during his troubled times in helping his friend persevere. King Faraday has himself a good story arc in going from a strict government official and practically a piece of the machine to seeing a better tomorrow within humanity and acquiring an unlikely friend. Lois continues her hot streak of being the kind of reporter who will see an assignment to the end. She makes the most of her scenes.
Overall, this is a solid story. Despite a couple of changes to Darwyn Cooke’s tale, the main feeling of the original tale is still there. The three important heroes to this tale (Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, & The Flash) each go through their own gauntlets defined by dream perseverance, building trust, and the need to fight through doubt & what others think. The animation really holds up. It looks like a combination of the DC Animated Universe style and Darwyn Cooke’s art and it flows really well. The intertwining story lines can feel a little tricky, but it’s never overwhelming. Other than that, a solid entry.
Next time: Let us take a brief vacation outside of the land of adaptations for our next entry. Ever wondered if Christopher Nolan’s Batman Universe got something of an anime shot to the arm? Well, it happened in a space between movies. Before we entered “The Dark Knight”, we make our way into “Batman: Gotham Knight”.
Justice League (created by Gardner Fox) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.