The debut season Justice League Action has been a real delight. Until now. “Plastic Man Saves the World” is a weak attempt at slapstick, Looney Tunes style humor in a superhero setting.
What this episode gets wrong is its utter lack of any underpinning themes. There’s nothing here but a bunch of gags.
And most of the gags aren’t even very good.
There’s absolutely a place for comedy and absurdism in superhero stories. Take a look at any Booster Gold or Blue Beetle story for examples. Even better, look at Plastic Man in Justice League Unlimited. His three-line conversation with Mr. Fantastic (“Does the Justice League even need two stretchy guys?”) is funny without sacrificing the storytelling.
At least JLA episodes are only ten minutes long.
The show begins with Brainiac attacking Metropolis, a favorite pastime of his. This is our first look at Brainiac in Justice League Action. He’s a lot less “Killer Android” and a lot more “Evil Martian” than usual, with a bulging head and sinister demeanor thanks to voice acting by John de Lancie.
On defense today is Batman, Superman, Cyborg, and Vixen. They’re having a tough time, thanks to Brainiac’s ability to adapt his drones to the individual strengths of each hero.
Like the Borg.
Brainiac and his drones pose an insurmountable problem for the heroes, one by one. The kicker is when Superman arrives and is taken down in about 5 seconds flat by what appears to be a Kryptonite-powered laser.
The team regroups and plans their next move. Batman and Superman decide someone needs to sneak aboard Brainiac’s ship and sabotage it from the inside.
Then Plastic Man makes his entrance.
Here’s the thing with Plastic Man. He’s a goofball. That’s normal. But he doesn’t need to be Jim Carrey’s The Mask.
Anyway, he bounces up and volunteers to sneak into the ship. The heroes turn him down, and he decides to try anyway.
The rest of the episode is a series of Looney Tunes gags, like Plastic Man disguising himself as a duck or putting on a golf outfit and beaning Cyborg with a drone.
It’s mostly chuckle worthy. When he disguises himself as one of Brainiac’s robots, Shaun of the Dead style, it’s even pretty funny.
But that’s all there is here; a series of shots of Plastic Man doing wacky stuff. In the end, he sacrifices himself to stop the ship from shrinking Metropolis. Of course, he miraculously survives and floats down to Earth in an admittedly hilarious image.
Plastic Man saved the world, and all of the cities from other worlds Brainiac stowed in his ship. Brainiac upgrades him to “Threat Status 87” (up from 4.6), and that’s it.
Let’s hope the next episode’s look at the Red Lanterns is back to the usual high standards.
Plastic Man’s Antics
Plastic Man goes all-out with his powers in this episode. It is canonical that he can turn into different things, and even change his size and weight, so this isn’t a stretch for him (ohhh!). Here’s everything he pulls off during the show.
- Bounces like Tigger
- Leaps high into the air by winding himself up like a spring
- Turns into a superpowered golfer
- Forms a pair of binoculars out of his body
- Slingshots himself up to Brainiac’s ship
- Turns into a duck
- Oozes through a vent
- Disguises himself as a robot
- Forms a mirror out of his body
- Destroys Brainiac’s ship by tangling himself around the power core and then expanding
- Floats down to Earth with a giant balloon head
Voice actor John de Lancie, best known as Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s an accomplished voice actor as well, most notably as Discord on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Alarak in Starcraft II.
Info & Trivia
- Brainiac is one of Superman’s greatest villains. He’s a super-intelligent computer or android from Krypton who is obsessed with “saving” civilizations by collecting all their knowledge and then destroying them. He also likes to shrink cities down into bottles. See: Bottle City of Kandor.
- In previous DCAU shows like Justice League Unlimited, they dropped the shrinking idea and made Brainiac much more sinister. This version of the character is a bit more lighthearted with his giant head and mustache-twirling villainy.
- He’s extremely dangerous, having (temporarily) defeated Superman and the Justice League on more than one occasion.
- “I, Brainiac, claim Metropolis for my collection. Congratulate me. You are my 10,000th city.”
- “This world will be recorded and eradicated.”
- “Next time you will be destroyed first, Plastic Man.”
Voice actress Jasika Nicole, Astrid from Fringe. She’s also a frequent guest on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and played Frieda in an episode of Adventure Time.
Info & Trivia
- Vixen is able to take on the abilities of any animal using her magic amulet.
- Generally, she doesn’t actually change shape. Instead, she gains the strength of a bear, the swimming abilities of a fish, and so on.
- Voiced by Gina Torres, Vixen was a regular on Justice League Unlimited. The character also appeared in Teen Titans Go, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and DC Superhero Girls. This is her first Justice League Action
- Given that Vixen only has a single line in this episode, it’s likely the show is building up to a feature episode of her own.
- “Bring it!”
Voice actor Dana Snyder, best known as Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Info & Trivia
- The credits mistakenly list the voice actor as “Dana Synder”.
- Eel O’Brian is a reformed criminal who became a hero after his gang betrayed him. During that incident, he was exposed to a mysterious chemical that gave him his powers.
- Plastic Man is shockingly powerful. He’s immortal and invulnerable, with super strength and agility. His powers let him transform into just about anything. Like a stupid Green Lantern.
- “Moi can be serious!”
- “Yeeks! My bad, tin man!”
- “Hold the pickle!”
- “Duck, duck… Hey, where’s the goose? Know what I mean?’
Voice actor Fred Tatiascore, one of those voice actors who’s a genius at distinctive characters. He plays five roles in the Voltron reboot.
Info & Trivia
- Brainiac doesn’t usually need a crew on his ship. He’s a massively intelligent computer, and generally he’s able to control multiple bodies, machines, and vehicles himself.
- The robots are a good addition, though, if a little reminiscent of battle droids from the Star Wars
- “New data subsumed.”
- “This unit is prepared to collect city designated at Metropolis.”
“Name: Plastic Man. Classification: Hero. Threat status: 4.6.”