Your Obedient Serpent (athelind) wrote,
Your Obedient Serpent

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LJ on JL

I like the Justice League cartoon -- most of the time. Some of the episodes fall flat, but others just make me sit back and say "Wow." Even the best of the best, though, don't quite hit every note perfectly.

The latest episode, "Metamorpho", provides a splendid example. I loved it, over all. The central characters, Rex Mason and Simon Stagg, looked exactly like Ramona Fradon's artwork in those original '60s adventures. (More about Metamorpho!)

(Sapphire Stagg, Our Hero's love interest, wound up looking like Generic Bruce Timm Female #2 (Blonde), but that's another rant entirely.)

The complete change in the character's origin wasn't unexpected, and made for a very solid piece of storytelling.

They handled Rex's powers wonderfully. He took full advantage of his abilities, used them in an elegant combination of his classic bits and new, interesting and unexpected applications. Silver-Age characters like Metamorpho thrived on coming up with creative new ways of using their powers.

(I found it a bit annoying that they never quite explained the powers -- the ability to turn himself into any element or compound found in the human body. An old Silver Age fan like Your Obedient Serpent always liked the exposition about the nature of Metamorpho's abilities and what element he used to create what effect, and why. I suspect that those comic-book factoids influenced my lifelong ambition to go into the sciences... but I digress. As usual.)

In short, they treated Rex as a fully-capable, highly-adaptable, competent individual capable of making full use of flexible, adaptable abilities.

Exactly how they fail to treat the regular cast.

JL's version of J'onn J'onnz, for instance, seems to be the love child of Worf and Deanna Troi. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf spent a lot of time getting beaten up any time the writers wanted to show how tough the Alien Of The Week was. In fact, he spent more time getting beaten up than he did beating other people up. On Justice League, J'onn only gets to show off his telepathy when the writers want to show what utterly impressive mental abilities the Guest Villain of the Week has. The erstwhile Martian Manhunter spends much of his time dropping to his knees clutching his temples, much like Commander Troi.

This week, we finally see J'onn do some real shapeshifting. Until now, he's just assumed other humanoid shapes. Of course, he only manages to get his ass handed to him again just to show that This Week's Guest Star Is Tougher.

J'onn isn't the only one who forgets his powers except in situations where they'd be worse than useless. Big Blue himself gets short shrift most of the time -- and this from people who wrote an entire show around him, and have shown a keen understanding of just how to use Powers And Abilities Far Beyond Those Of Mortal Men. Hey, Supes! While you're standing there just staring at Giant Monster Of The Week marching down the streets of Metropolis, maybe you could stare at it with some of that heat vision?

Meanwhile, this incarnation of John Stewart has to be the least-imaginative person ever to sling a ring. Fly, Zap, Bubble. Fly, Zap, Bubble. Fly, Zap, Bubble. I never thought anything could make me miss Happy Hal and his silly green boxing gloves. Look! Sapphire's plummeting to her doom! I could just make a glowing green grabber or a glowing green net or a glowing green Carmine Infantino hand, but nooooo, I'll fly down and grab her!

And what about teamwork? You know, those barely-pubescent versions of the X-Men over on Evolution could probably whip this JL, simply because they make a token effort at coordinating their powers.

"Hey, GL! Maybe your Wonder Ring can help your non-flying buddy get up to where the action is?" "Nah, I'll just stand here on the roof looking grim."

"Hey! Maybe we could, like, try to hit the thing all at once, or one of us could distract it while the others hit it at different angles!" "Nah, let's just hit it one at a time, like the throw-away thugs in a bad Hong Kong kick flick, so we can get tossed aside just as handily."

I hear the writers are afraid of the sheer power of the characters becomind Deus Ex Machinas. Well, you know, if you've established the ground rules and the powers from the start, they aren't a Deus Ex Machina. If you don't make use of the powers that have been established, the viewer feels cheated and wonders why the character didn't use his or her full abilities. Even the best episodes of Justice League leave the impression that Our Heroes are a bunch of barely-competent dilletantes who can't even keep track of their own abilities, much less work effectively in a group.

The thing that really underscored the candy-ass treatment of Our Heroes this time was that they wrote Rex so well. He made masterful use of his powers, fresh out of the test tube. Hell, he came very close to kicking all their asses soundly from Gotham to Metropolis and back by way of Central City.

I signed on for the World's Greatest Superheros, not for the Inferior Five Plus Two.
Tags: cartoon, fandom, hoard potato, superhero, television, tropes, tv

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