The 10 Best Justice League and JLU Episodes

By Kevin Guhl in Cartoons, Comics, Daily Lists
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 8:00 am
When Justice League Unlimited aired its last episode in May 2006, it was a sad moment for those of us who enjoy quality American animation that doesn't pander to the wee ones. It was kind of a miracle that for 14 years, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and others gave us a take on the adventures of DC Comics' heroes that wasn't afraid to delve into darkness, present adult characters acting like adults (and progressing), and tell engaging stories with writing that was as good as if not better than most live action shows. It started with Batman: The Animated Series, continued in Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, and culminated in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. In the latter two series, we got to see adventures that spanned the entire DC Universe and featured its rich cast of characters. There were many great stories and these 10 episodes, we feel, epitomize why the Justice League cartoons were pure, unadulterated awesome.

10) The Great Brain Robbery
After being completely absent from early episodes of Justice League Unlimited, Flash got the well-deserved spotlight many times before the series concluded. This episode, in which he and Lex Luthor switched bodies, was a highlight. In Flash's body, Luthor comes up with all kinds of evil new ways of using Flash's power that the Speedster himself had never tried and wouldn't, like holding his fingers out like a gun and threatening to vibrate them through someone's head. He also takes off Flash's mask to learn his identity, and then realizes comically that he has no idea who the person he's seeing in the mirror is. Flash, meanwhile, has all kinds of fun in Luthor's body. He talks to a bewildered Legion of Doom in stereotypical villain-speak, then tells one of his minions that he didn't wash his hands after using the bathroom because he's evil! And he takes full advantage of Lex's relationship with Tala, becoming the caring lover that Lex is not; Tala is perfectly happy with the development. After switching back, Flash is of little help to the Justice League in locating the Legion of Doom HQ. Asked where it is, the best he can come up with is "in a swamp."

9) Kid Stuff
On paper, an episode about the Justice League turning into pre-teen versions of themselves sounds terrible. Episodes where the characters turn into children is a sci-fi staple, and there's so much that can go wrong. The writers of Justice League Unlimited, however, pulled it off. The reason that the sorceress Morgaine turns Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman into eight-year olds is so that they can battle her power-hungry son Mordred, who has made all the world's adults disappear. But more important than the clever plot is the interaction between the youthful Justice League members. Green Lantern is enthusiastic about his powers, and gives himself a "cool" new mask that resembles Kyle Rayner's from the comics. Superman is more of a naïve farmboy than ever. Wonder Woman turns into the bossy older sister type and doesn't do a good job of hiding her crush on Batman, who replies with "Whatever!" to most of her attempts to get his attention. Batman hasn't changed too much; he's just got more grumpiness contained in a smaller body. And best of all, we get to see the cute-as-a-devil baby Etrigan! Changing his diapers is a "job for Superman!"

8) The Once and Future Thing
This two-part episode is a hectic, random journey through different times and places, but there's a ton of awesome moments that place it among the best. Henpecked husband David Clinton, a.k.a. Chronos, uses the time machine he invented to escape from his wife and his pursue his love of collecting historical artifacts, which totally screws up the timeline. After Chronos tries to steal Batman's utility belt, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern chase him through a time portal and end up in the Old West. There, nefarious outlaw Tobias Manning has stolen the time machine and set his gang up with all kinds of futuristic weaponry. The three members of the Justice League team up with a bunch of DC's western heroes, including the infamous Jonah Hex, to take the gang down. After Chronos steals back his time machine, the Justice League follows him to the future of Batman Beyond (a welcome return!) where we get awesomeness such as old Bruce Wayne meeting younger Bruce and Warhawk revealing himself to be Hawkgirl and Green Lantern's son (although the joke that he was born from an egg is cringeworthy). Chronos has become a mad despot in the future and punishes disloyalty among his henchmen severely. One of his minions, an evil clown named Chucko, gets to learn first-hand what killed the dinosaurs. Time spins further out of control, even causing John Stewart to turn briefly into Green Lantern Hal Jordan. After a harrowing race toward the beginning of time to stop the universe from collapsing (in which Batman and Green Lantern witness the hand of "God," which resembles the Anti-Monitor's hand in Crisis on Infinite Earths), Batman wickedly places Chronos into a timeloop where he will be nagged by his wife forever. Jesus, Batman, that was harsh.

7) Double Date
One of Justice League Unlimited's most inspired moves was taking its two most unstable and obsessive characters and putting them together. After Huntress gets kicked out of the JLU for trying once again to kill gangster Steven Mandragora, the Question agrees to help her find him in return for information on Lex Luthor and his connection to Project Cadmus, the shadowy government organization that is looking for a way to destroy the Justice League if need be. This puts the duo at odds with Green Arrow and Black Canary, the JL's resident power couple, who are helping to protect Mandragora so he can testify in court. It's an excellent tag team bout as Huntress and Question rush after Mandragora as Green Arrow and Black Canary race after them. It turns out that Huntress wants to kill the gangster because he killed her parents, and she relents when she discovers that he's a father. And when she learns that Question knew she was lying about having any information and actually helped her because he likes her, she promptly jumps his bones. Black Canary and Green Arrow are clearly disgusted at such an odd coupling, but it's certainly an entertaining and well-matched love connection.

6) The Greatest Story Never Told
Booster Gold just gets no respect. The League always puts him on crowd control duty and everyone in the public seems to think he's Green Lantern (despite not having a spot of green on his costume). Even worse, he was a loser in the far future and came back to the 21st Century with his robot buddy Skeets (voiced by Billy West) in the hopes of being somebody and making a fortune, but he isn't doing any better. This episode chronicles his hilarious mishaps and, finally, his success in saving the entire planet (and the girl) from a miniature black hole all on his own. The only disappointment is that, most likely due to rights issues, Booster's buddy from the comics, Blue Beetle, couldn't appear with him. But we did get to see Elongated Man, who was upset that he was also on crowd control because Plastic Man was in the vicinity of a crisis and they didn't need "two stretchy guys."
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