The following show critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Ben Belcher.
I’m often asked what the best superhero show ever made was, and I have the same answer every single time: Justice League Unlimited. That series concluded over two decades of DC animated series sharing a single universe before anybody even dared to consider it on the big screen. JLU was the culmination of over 20 years of storytelling that made most people my age interested in comics and superheroes to begin with.
Picking up where its predecessor, Justice League, left off we see that the original League has expanded to include tens of heroes from across the globe. What was once only seven has become a force of over 100! The governments of the world are a bit… uneasy with a giant laser cannon orbiting Earth, but they’re making the best of the situation at first. The villains of the Earth, and beyond, have had to change tack and have become even more cunning, and there are strings being pulled every which way from the beginning of the first episode to final moments of the finale.
We see what it feels like to be invited to join the League, and what it means to be a part of this incredible group. We meet an amazing and diverse cast of characters and we really get to know their struggles. There are government conspiracies, the return of the Legion of Doom, Brainiac, Darkseid, and even Booster Gold (the greatest hero you’ve never heard of)!
Justice League Unlimited introduced me, and many others, to countless heroes we’d have never encountered on my own otherwise and made them immediately interesting. From Booster Gold to Rocket Red, from the Crimson Avenger to B’wana Beast, there are so many interesting and unique characters explored here that it defies explanation. I can only imagine the herculean task that was establishing new characters in almost every episode of the series and making them all unique and interesting.
Every character has real weight to them, and the stories they’re a part of all feel like they add and inform that much more about them. I’d have never known Batman could sing, or that the plastic tips on shoelaces are called “aglets. Their purpose is sinister.” Seeing Captain Atom have to struggle with his being a soldier in the US Army and a member of the Justice League was powerful. Seeing Shayera slowly be welcomed back into the fold after the Thanagarian invasion and the conclusion to Terry McGinnis’ arc from Batman Beyond both felt earned and added to the layers of storytelling the creators had been crafting for years.
George Newbern and Kevin Conroy give some of their best performances as the World’s Finest superheroes in Justice League Unlimited. They give every line their all, and you can tell. Kin Shriner as Green Arrow is something I didn’t know I needed until it happened, and now I don’t want it any other way (Sorry Stephen). Clancy Brown continues to be the best Lex Luthor that has ever been, and Michael Ironside’s Darkseid will always be ominous and foreboding. CCH Pounder gives quite possibly the best performance of the entire series as Amanda Waller. She. Is. Perfect. Absolutely Perfect. Why she isn’t the live action version of the character I will never know.
Needless to say, Justice League Unlimited is a fantastic series. It manages to do the nearly impossible and conclude a saga of superhero storytelling never before attempted on television in a fabulously satisfying way. Our heroes shine at their brightest, and every single episode is worthy of praise. If you haven’t seen it, I cannot recommend it enough. If you have, you know what I’m talking about, and you should have another watch through just for fun.
Justice League Unlimited comes to Blu-Ray via the Warner Archive with a really nice looking 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Warner Archive gives each season one disc for a three-disc collection. If you have only seen the show during its original broadcast or the DVD versions, prepare for a major jump in quality. While we admit that the show looks really good when streamed, these Blu-Ray discs tighten things up by eliminating digital nuisances such as compression artifacts. There are points where you will still notice a jagged line or some light background banding, but overall you will not find much fault with this transfer. Do not expect any visible damage or dirt while viewing these episodes. Colors really deliver with vibrant and bold hues throughout the 39-episode run. The animation style presents clean character outlines animated with thin lines, not to mention some very detailed backgrounds that look wonderful in high definition. Black levels go very deep with no major instances of crush detected. Fans will want to own this on high definition as it allows the series to look the best that it can.
The Blu-Ray comes with a mighty DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track for the three seasons which serves the show well. The show employs a good use of environmental effects that are precisely placed within the mix. Sound effects from action scenes and other kinetic moments provide some nice texture in the low end which is appreciated. Dialogue is the star of the track with a clear presentation in the center speaker which maintains a pleasing fidelity even in relation to different environmental noises. Music is incredibly effective as it establishes the tone of the series. This is a grand audio presentation that brings this show to life in a notable way in your living room. This release comes with optional English SDH subtitles for those who desire them.
- Audio Commentaries
- This Little Piggy: Producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker, and Dwayne McDuffie, and Writer Paul Dini.
- The Return: Producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker, and Dwayne McDuffie, and Director Joaquim Dos Santos.
- …And Justice For All: A nine-minute featurette which delves into the transition between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and what that meant for the storytelling, the characters they utilized and more. There are some fun interviews with a few of the creative figures here.
- Cadmus Exposed: A nearly 24-minute piece hosted by Mark Hamill in which he interviews Producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker, and Dwayne McDuffie about the epic multi-episode arc that took up over half of a season. This is a terrific piece in which you get a lot of information about how the creatives approach such an ambitious piece of storytelling.
- Justice League Chronicles: Another 34-minute featurette in which the previous three producers are joined by Story Editor Matt Wayne in which they discuss constructing the Legion of Doom arc following the season featuring Cadmus.
Justice League Unlimited is one of the highlights of DC animated television with the care it takes with storytelling and respect it pays to its characters. There are so many moments that comic book fans never would have expected to see brought to the screen, especially in the time in which it was created. Even as we near 20 years since its debut, it remains every bit as captivating. While you may be able to stream this one (for now), this is a show you never want to lose access to and want to view in the best quality possible. The Blu-Ray set of the complete series from Warner Archive delivers a terrific A/V presentation along with some fun legacy extras. If you do not already have this in your collection, you should fix that immediately. Highly Recommended
Justice League Unlimited can be purchased directly through the Warner Archive Amazon Store or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.