At long last, DC Comics’ Justice Society of America star in their own animated film.
The first super-team of all time debuted in “All-Star Comics” No. 3 in 1940.
The comic was a hit, and for the next decade, DC’s greatest heroes banded together to fight villains on this world and across the cosmos.
Superhero comics dropped out of popularity in the early 1950s, and “All-Star Comics” went western and then went kaput.
In the 1960s, DC relaunched the Justice Society concept as the Justice League, and then in one of the most ground-breaking comics ever, established the existence of a parallel earth in which the original Golden Age heroes still battled evildoers in “The Flash” No. 123 (September 1961).
While “Justice League” instantly became a flagship title, the fortunes of the Justice Society have waxed and waned over the years. (Publishing history: Really complicated.)
Right now, they’re a team without a comic of their own, but they are back in continuity, which is a victory for fans, if nothing else.
Sightings in TV and film have been rare. Most recently, CW’s “Stargirl” has been absolutely thrilling in its story of a new generation looking to carry on the legend of the team.
“Justice Society: World War II” (now streaming and available on DVD and Blu-ray) attempts to right a creative injustice, by giving the Golden Age greats the spotlight they deserve.
But it opens with Barry Allen (Matt Bomer) visiting Metropolis with his girlfriend Iris and racing to Superman’s (Darren Criss) aid as the Flash when Brainiac attacks.
After being hit by an energy blast, the Flash awakens in what he thinks is the past.
Here, Wonder Woman (Stana Katic) leads a team of heroes, including Hawkman, Hourman, the Golden Age Flash, and Black Canary, who are trying to stop Hitler from gathering mystical artifacts to conquer the world.
At first suspicious of the new speedster in their midst, they hilariously dub him “Future Boy” and rely on him to help as their quest takes them to the ocean depths and then to the eastern seaboard.
Director Jeff Wamester and writers Meghan Fitzmartin and Jeremy Adams lean heavily into the big-screen blockbusters “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” for their tale and toss in a little “Flashpoint”-style rivalry for the climax.
The Wonder Woman-Steve Trevor dynamic is right out of the 1950s run of “Wonder Woman” by Bob Kanigher, and that’s not a compliment.
“Let me make an honest Amazon out of you,” Steve says, proposing yet again.
The 84-minute film sags in the middle, and the intriguing premise – a race to stop Hitler from leveraging magic to enslave the world – is forgotten. The animation is subdued and shockingly flat.
Most bewildering, the writers chose to give Black Canary and Wonder Woman similar emotional arcs in the film, tears and all.
The lackluster ending suggests there’s nothing more to the Justice Society’s role in comics – or spectacle – than serving as inspiration for the Justice League.
That’s just wrong.