DC Animation’s slate has been really hitting it. After their blast of a feature that used physical media for a choose-your-own-adventure style story with Batman: A Death in the Family, and their upcoming Batman: The Long Halloween Part One, the slate has been stacked with exciting stuff for DC fans. Their most recent animated feature, Justice Society: World War II throws the JSA at the Nazis, but then kind of forgets about it to focus on some romance and a Kaiju.
Barry Allen leads this Wonder Woman leading story. It’s exactly how that sounds. What is, at its core, a story of Wonder Woman as an Indiana Jones adjacent Nazi hunter is a bit diluted by a universe hopping story of Allen. Justice League: Apokolips War tried to reconcile and end previous continuity created by the lauded Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and this story appears to be taking us into the next batch of story lines since the reset button was hit with Superman: Man of Tomorrow. Nicely enough, Barry Allen universe-hopping is likely a good primer for the upcoming live action The Flash in the DCEU which we assume will be taking on the multiverse as Allen can rip through it.
The story starts in America in the thick of the second world war. President Roosevelt it being briefed on a new initiative to hunt Nazis and their antiquities grubbing officers. They are putting together a special team, a team including Hourman (Matthew Mercer), Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), Jay Garrick’s The Flash (Armen Taylor), and Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru) and will be led by none other than Wonder Woman (Stana Katic). Before they arrive in Nazi controlled Paris, we flash to Barry Allen (Matt Bomer) on a casual picnic date with his girlfriend, Iris West (Ashleigh LaThrop).
After a battle with an electrified monster, Allen finds himself with the Justice Society, wondering how he’d never heard of their WWII work in the future. He teams up with the powered troupe, not wanting to share too much information of the future to avoid creating a time paradox. But a paradox shows up anyway when a youthful Clark Kent arrives in France, and Allen realizes that he might not be in the past, but on a different version of earth altogether.
The animated feature is at its best when focusing on the characters. It’s difficult to let an ensemble cast breathe, especially one made up of unfamiliar versions of characters, and Justice Society: World War II spends enough time with most of them to make the audience care, give them arcs, and let them be memorable. Unfortunately, this also means not a lot of time is spent with the core story, especially when some twists and turns veer farther away from a WWII adventure and into a monster war with a generic villain and some tired mind control. It’s not a killer for the film, but it could have done better to balance the twists and turns to allow us to enjoy seeing Clark and Diana punch Nazis. Instead, one of our favourites salutes Hitler before a monster war distracts from the main story.
The animation looks great, and the voice cast brings it. Katic has adopted a Gadot style accent which works fine. The cast’s voices flow like velvet and, although word is that they recorded in separate studios, the chemistry they have makes it feel like they’re all really together.
This take on the Justice Society has a lot of fun with its fresh ensemble and new setting. Though it abandons its WWII era drama for other storylines, it still creates a character driven story that feels well paced and exciting the whole way through. It’s much more of a classic adventure flick than a comic adaptation and that’s its merit. It certainly inspires hope for the future and hope for the future of DC animated features.
Though this story got a digital release, the Blu-ray comes packed with bonuses that make it worthwhile for the physical media collectors amongst us. It is available in both a Blu-ray combo pack and a 4K combo pack, both loaded with special features. Following in the footsteps of Batman: Death in the Family, there is another DC Showcase short, Jack Kirby’s Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! Also included are two shorts from the DC vault, featurettes looking at the characters as well as one reflecting on the making of Justice Society: World War II, and the buried lead, a sneak preview at the upcoming Batman: The Long Halloween Part One. In this featurette, the voice cast and creators give sneak peaks at the animation and storytelling audiences can expect. It is promised to be a direct comic adaptation that could have it ranking beside The Dark Knight Returns.
So, DC animated fans can rest easily knowing that things are looking great for their beloved characters. Or they might stay up all night eagerly anticipating what’s next.