After what’s been a mixed bag of titles in the DC Universe animation library, DC and Warner has suddenly decided to re-visit the classic Bruce Timm animation universe they retired so long ago. Not that I’m complaining, as it’s been a pretty awesome experience re-visiting the style that helped usher in much of what we know from DC Animation from the nineties in to pop culture. “Justice League vs. The Fatal Five” is thankfully a fun re-visit to this property that works as a semi-sequel to the “Justice League” animated series that also seems to be testing the platform for “The Legion of Superheroes,” again.
The Justice League faces a powerful new threat, the Fatal Five, a group of villains from the future that travel back in time to destroy the timeline. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and various other League members seek answers as the time-traveling trio of Mano, Persuader, and Tharok terrorize Metropolis in search of budding Green Lantern Jessica Cruz. This may drastically change the destiny of the universe, but their plans are met with obstacles as they’re followed by the super powered Star Boy, who knows how to thwart their plans once and for all.
One of the surprising elements of “Justice League vs. The Fatal Five” is the way it approaches adult themes, exploring the idea of mental illness. Shocking enough, the film centers heavily on characters Jessica Cruz and Starboy, both of whom are dealing with their own individual mental illnesses. With a harrowing flashback we learn about Cruz who has been called upon by the Green Lanterns to be a superhero, but is dealing with PTSD from nearly being murdered years prior. Facing agoraphobia and anxiety, she’s still trying to figure out how to conquer her disease, as the League pleads for her help in fighting evil. Meanwhile Starboy is forced to chase the Fatal Five in to the past and stop them, but at the cost of his mental health, as he learns the past doesn’t have his form of medication that can prevent him from declining in to an incoherent state.
Much of the film is a refreshing change of pace, exploring how these two heroes are held back not by any material form of villainy, but their own mental state, and how it’s a constant battle every single day. The themes are handled tastefully and thankfully don’t weigh down what is a considerably entertaining and action packed film. The writers kind of side step the typical line up in favor of a very unique line up including Mister Terrific, Miss Martian who has chosen an unlikely mentor in Batman, and of course, Jessica Cruz. Cruz is a character I admired the most, as she garners easily the most compelling storyline of the whole. And I say this in a movie where Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman grab their own fun moments. “Justice League vs. The Fatal Five” is a fun and inspired throwback to the classic Bruce Timm DCAU days with some stellar voice work, knock out action pieces, and great spotlight on lesser seen DC heroes.