Justice League Unlimited was the final installment of the DC Animated Universe and brought many concepts back from the previous shows while also showing the audience new material. JLU directly followed Justice League and expanded the team’s roster to include just about every notable hero in the DC Universe (with the exception of the Batfamily and Teen Titans). The series brought the DCAU to a close by providing some of the most mature storytelling the universe had seen.
The voice cast for this show was massive. The entire cast of the original Justice League returned to reprise their roles. Newcomers to the series included Kin Shriner as Green Arrow, Morena Baccarin as Black Canary, Jeffrey Combs as the Question, and Amy Acker as Huntress.
Unlike most of the previous entries into the DCAU, JLU had season(s) long story arcs. The first two seasons focused on the Justice League’s conflict with CADMUS, headed by Amanda Waller (voiced by CCH Pounder). The third season is about the League’s battle with the Secret Society (with villains such as Gorilla Grodd, Lex Luthor, and more) who are attempting to bring back Brainiac, a villain the League fought near the end of season 2.
The series was celebrated for its large cast and its ability to focus on character development, despite having to work with so many superheroes and villains. Touching character moments along with heart pounding action created a series that people of all ages could enjoy. In that way, it not only maintained the soul of what had come before it, but elevated it.
Justice League Unlimited delivered intellectual stories that asked hard questions about our heroes. Are superheroes in the right, even when they have the power to destroy the world? Should the government have a say in their activities? How much power is too much power?
(Fun Fact: They did this a bit before Marvel’s Civil War event in the comics.)
There were several notable episodes that fans ended up liking. “For the Man who has Everything” was an adaptation of a story by Alan Moore and David Gibbons. “Ultimatum” used characters from the Super Friends cartoon in a new, interesting way. “The Once and Future Thing” was a two-part episode that saw Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman team up with Jonah Hex, Batman Beyond, and the future Justice League. “Task Force X” marked the animated debut of the Suicide Squad (with the name not mentioned for obvious reasons). “Clash” was the first and only appearance of Captain Marvel (Shazam) in the DCAU.
The episode “Epilogue” was a nice conclusion to the Batman Beyond story. (No spoilers for this episode because you need to watch it.) It includes one of the most heartbreaking Batman scenes in any medium, one which even made filmmaker Kevin Smith weep.
The series finale “Destroyer” was a perfect bookend to the DCAU. It provided plenty of surprises, great character moments, and a satisfying ending. The end of the episode symbolizes the hope and optimism that these characters have stood for and should always stand for.
Justice League Unlimited was a children’s show that worked for everybody. The entire creative staff was firing on all cylinders and produced the definitive version of the Justice League outside of comics. The show encapsulated the feelings that these heroes should invoke in the audience. The stories were serious, but did not talk down to the audience. The tone could be heavy at times, but there was always a levity to the series.
The creators of the DC Animated Universe designed a universe that blended the noir elements of Batman: The Animated Series with the science fiction of Superman: The Animated Series. Static Shock wasn’t overshadowed by the Justice League in their crossovers. Every show brought something different to the table.
Tonally and story-wise, this universe worked on every level. The characters were relatable and true to their comic book counterpart. Each character was well defined and treated with respect. Batman acted like Batman. Superman acted like Superman. The stories were smarter than the average Saturday morning affair and challenged the audiences to think about themselves and society, even in the slightest. Every series was accessible to the people of every interest level. People weren’t afraid to jump right in and enjoy themselves.
The success of this entire universe can be traced back to creators, artists, and actors who didn’t think that they were better than the source material. These men and women worked countless hours to honor the legacy of these characters and stories by building the world from the ground up based on that legacy. The DC Animated Universe didn’t ignore the past, but embraced it and used it to create stories that were true to the characters and more so true to the creators and fans who loved them.
Where to Buy
You can buy all three season of Justice League Unlimited on DVD and digital.