Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Justice League - Comfort and Joy

Okay, the first Christmas review was pretty negative. Let’s see if I can turn things around.

Snow falls. A telepathic voice rings out across the desolate landscape. It’s the Martian Manhunter, actually a dazzling green hero of Earth, assuring the population of a far off planet that all will be well. For those of you who might not read comics, Martian Manhunter is an alien superhero like, well, Superman with immeasurable strength, speed, and a plethora of superhuman vision powers. But besides all the powers they gave Superman, they gave him most of the powers Superman didn’t have, too. Like telepathy. Potent enough to talk to everyone on an entire planet if necessary.

The problem MM and several other heroes are trying to prevent is another planet crashing into this one. They put together the pieces of a gigantic machine that repels the runaway planet just in time, and all the squid-thingies rejoiced.

Flash, the team goofus/skirt-chaser whose other power is being the fastest man alive, notes it’s a good way to kick off the Christmas season. MM, or to stave off developing Carpal Tunnel a little longer, J’onn, is unmoved. You see, despite being a lot like Superman in that he’s an alien hero with an array of mind-boggling powers, he didn’t grow up here, and instead came to Earth as an adult. As a result he has yet to learn the True Meaning of Christmas. “We’ll have to do something about that,” the Man of Steel remarks with a smile.

After the theme song, we cut back to the recently-saved planet where John Stewart, who’s a member of a group of interplanetary cops and wears a ring that can create anything he imagines, is using his phenomenal cosmic powers to go snow-boarding before heading home. Hawkgirl, a winged, mace-wielding woman and yet another alien in the team’s line-up (plus the only one with whom John shares underlying romantic tension), asks what’s so great about sliding down a hill when he flies through space all the time. Grammy Stewart took him sledding all the time as a kid and it was his favorite part of Christmas. She still doesn’t get it, even when John uses his ring to build a snowman, or when he makes a snow angel without it. He finally gets her attention by starting a snowball fight.

Back on Earth a lady at the Central City Orphanage promises some kids a visit by “that jolly man in the red suit.” The Flash, that is. They show him a commercial for the hot toy of the holiday season, DJ Rubba Ducky that dances and makes fart noises, that he promises to bring them for Christmas. And I don’t know if that’s the correct spelling, but it’s the kind of spelling a bunch of toy manufacturers trying to sound “hip” would use. So there.

Cut to Smallville, where Supes has brought J’onn down to the Kent homestead. He’s too much of a pal to let J’onn spend Christmas by himself, you see. Ma and Pa Kent immediately start acting like, well, parents to Earth’s greatest hero, not in the least bit intimidated by him. Which is awesome. Almost as awesome as when they meet J’onn.

J’onn:  “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Kent. I hope I’m not intruding. Super…Clark was most insistent I join you for the holiday. My name is J’onn. I’m a Martian.”
Kents: (basically) “Oh, hi. Come on in. So you’re a friend of Clark’s?”

When Clark takes J’onn upstairs to get him settled in Supergirl’s room (she’s away skiing with Batgirl), J’onn remarks on how non-Super he’s acting. That’s what Clark likes about coming home; he can just be Clark, and not the most powerful man in the world.

J’onn actually starts to untense a little as he looks over Supergirl’s collection of in-jokes, which getting him to do really is a job for Superman, until he learns cats hate him as much as they hate Sakaki.

Back on the other side of the universe John and Hawkgirl’s snowball fight has escalated to the point where they’re using their powers. Not unexpectedly, the guy who fights Sinestro wins.

Hawkgirl still doesn’t get the big deal about Christmas, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to party. She gives John directions to this place she and her buddies would go to celebrate after successful battles. The only bad part thing in this episode (and it’s a fairly little one) appears here where she mentions she might never get back to her home planet. If they’re jetting around space without a care like this, why not?

Flash is running around looking for that he toy he promised, but even though he hits every toy store in town in under five minutes, DJ Rubba Ducky’s completely sold out. But don’t worry, this show has way too much class to turn into Jingle All the Way. A window display of Santa’s workshop gives him a brilliant idea and he runs to the factory in Japan where they make the toys. Because he’s the Flash and he can do that. Because he’s the Flash, they give him the last unshipped Rubba Ducky gratis. Because he’s the Flash, he has to make a little stop before dropping it off at the orphanage…

By the way, the guy from the toy company was named Mr. Hama. Was that a Johnny Bravo joke or something?

J’onn and the Kents are sitting around the kitchen table sipping hot cocoa and telling Christmas stories. Pa says Clark got so into Christmas they have to wrap his presents in lead foil so he can’t cheat with x-ray vision. He corrects them that SANTA wraps his presents in lead foil so he can’t cheat with x-ray vision. That’s…awesome, actually. See? Make the characters likable and don’t try too hard with the jokes, and it goes down a lot easier.

Ma made J’onn a sweater, and even though she didn’t know his size, it’s okay because one of the other powers Superman didn’t have was being a shape shifter. A little cheesy, but still kind of endearing.

"It says 'Joike'."
John and Hawkgirl get to a bar that makes the Mos Eisley cantina look tame. And Hawkgirl’s the Norm of space because everybody cheers her name as she comes in. She gets John to try some alien hooch, and it’s kind of like tequila except the worms in it are still alive. “Just one more thing would make this evening perfect,” she beams, then intentionally starts a bar fight. Everyone else looks at each other like they were too polite to start it themselves before jumping in.

Remember Flash? He hears an explosion as he gets back to town and finds the Ultra Humanite, a super-intelligent white gorilla, attacking an art museum because he’s offended by the shoddy artistic sensibilities on display. As any fight with the a guy who's super-fast logically would be, it’s pretty one-sided until Humanite lands on the Rubba Ducky doll.

They argue back and forth a little about what a hollow spectacle Christmas has become and trying to spread some good cheer to kids who can grow up knowing it’s the right thing to do for others. Flash really does sell this; I’m not surprised the VA’s played both the Flash and Lex Luthor. Flash gives Humanite permission to shoot him because he feels so rotten about letting the kids down, and gets pistol-whipped.

Flash wakes up to find out his words touched something in Humanite’s simian heart, and he’s going to fix up Rubba Ducky good as new. Better, in fact.

J’onn, tired of looking at Supergirl’s boy band posters, turns ghostly and floats through the house seeing Ma and Pa doing the dishes and Clark learning Santa’s still onto him. He turns into a regular guy and sees people meeting in a diner on Christmas eve. He super-hears a little girl thinking Santa is too real and her stupid brother will have egg on his face when the cookies she left out are gone in the morning. He stretches a hand down her chimney and finds out he shares his comic counterpart’s fondness for Oreos. He stands outside a church (something I’m kind of surprised they got away with including) as people sing inside and starts to realize just how much he’s been missing.

John and Hawkgirl are still fighting alien barflies. John treating it like he’s in a fight for his life and Hawkgirl just having a grand old time.

Flash finally gets back to the orphanage to make the drop with his special helper, Freaky the Snowman. Humanite turns on the toy and instead of just making fart noises it tells the kids the story of Clara and Herr Drosselmeyer. And wouldn’t you know it, they get into it.

Humanite gets dropped off at his regular cell, and Flash is there to give him a cheesy, fake Christmas tree. And as soon as he’s gone, Humanite turns on the lights and he gets into it.

It can be hard to tell with supervillains, but that's a smile.

Everybody’s finally too tired to keep fighting at the space bar, and Hawkgirl wakes up just long enough to give John a kiss on the cheek he’ll never know about.

The Kents wake up to hear J’onn singing Christmas carols in Martian. “And he said he didn’t bring a gift.”

Merry Christmas, Warner Bros. team. And thanks.

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