Justice League Action is great at tying its episodes into current happenings elsewhere in DC. Like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the cartoon always seem to have a nod to the latest movie or comic event.
In “The Trouble with Truth”, we get another Wonder Woman focused episode. It’s obvious why, with the live action film breaking box office records left and right. If the show runners hoped to give Wonder Woman a boost by spotlighting Diana in the cartoon, well, it’s effective but probably unnecessary.
What’s interesting about this episode is the way it manages to tackle the central conflict of Wonder Woman’s beginnings without being an origin story.
Diana is a princess of the Amazons, literally descended from the gods. Her decision to become a hero in the mortal world isn’t exactly popular with her people, as we saw in “Luthor in Paradise”.
In “The Trouble with Truth”, we essentially get Wonder Woman’s grandma trying to talk her out of her life choices. Jessica Walter is the perfect voice actor to play the goddess Athena in this context. She’s not much of a warrior, but she’s very snarky and of course, very wise.
Athena also bugs the heck out of Batman, like any good “mother-in-law”. The scene where Bruce seriously considers popping her ejector seat is an amazing gag.
The other interesting thing with Athena here is her contrast to the villains. The antagonists of this episode are H.I.V.E., another callout to the live action DC universe. They’re a longtime foe on CW’s Arrow, but don’t appear much in other media.
H.I.V.E. is a very technological opponent. Looking at them in animation for what might be the first time, it’s easy to see that they were the inspiration for The Monarch of Venture Bros fame. That’s made explicit at the beginning with the H.I.V.E. soldier using his “poison tooth” (sleeping gas, since this is for kids).
Conceived as a rival to the Teen Titans, H.I.V.E. is really more of a foe for Blue Beetle, or even Batman. The action sequence at the end lets them show off their military training. Seeing them run around, taking positions and coordinating fire, is just plain cool. It’s easily the rival of large battle scenes in, say, Star Wars: Clone Wars.
Athena doesn’t belong in that kind of world. The moment when she first appears in the Watchtower, huge and robed and with a bolt of lightning, is a stark contrast to the holograms and computers that surround her.
She also doesn’t do very much in the episode. Athena is there to observe, and to deliver guidance with a side of scathing remarks. Even when she turns into her war goddess aspect (complete with Sailor Moon transformation sequence), she hardly fights at all.
Instead, she’s a running commentary, which is just fine. Jessica Walter dominates the script, and just about every memorable quote in the episode is on her. It makes for a great show.
If there’s any fault with “The Trouble with Truth”, it’s that Wonder Woman’s plot armor is a little too thick. Green Arrow is reduced to constant attempts to impress Athena (he wants to be a god, she thinks that’s cute). Batman’s uber-competence doesn’t serve him here, and Wonder Woman needs to bail him out of danger several times.
All in all, though, it’s another surprisingly well thought-out episode. There’s a real message about family responsibilities, and some amazing moments with Batman as the put-upon boyfriend (even though he’s not the boyfriend… yet). With just eleven minutes per episode, Justice League Action manages to pack in much of what made Justice League Unlimited great.
Fun Stuff and Great Quotes in “The Trouble with Truth”
- Superman mentions that he’s tied up on New Genesis. That’s where the New Gods like Orion and Highfather live. Supes is having his own adventure with the gods, offscreen.
- Green Arrow should know who Athena is. He’s not dumb.
- However, his attempts to talk Athena into letting him become various gods are amazing.
- Especially when she offers to let him be Cupid. Diaper and all.
- “I could be a bow and arrow god. Mmm!”
- Also Athena’s height in her true form. In Clash of the Titans, as in many depictions of Greek and Roman mythology, the gods are about 20 or 30 feet tall. They shrink down to interact with mortals, as Athena does here.
- Wonder Woman has had romantic involvements with both Batman and Superman in the comics. Justice League Action already established that she’s dating Superman, but who knows. Maybe Athena really will be his mother in law.
Voice actress Jessica Walter, the voice of Malory Archer from Archer. She’s also Lucille in Arrested Development. A good candidate for our list of voice actors who never change their voice but are amazing nonetheless.
Info & Trivia
- Gods in DC aren’t like the Norse gods in Marvel. Athena really is Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, Craft, and War.
- She helped Hipployta breathe life into the statue that became the infant Diana, who would grow up to be Wonder Woman.
- Athena is often represented in both mythology in comics by an owl, but this is the first time she’s appeared with Bubo. He’s a clear reference to Clash of the Titans.
- This is also the first time she’s appeared in a DC animated project at all.
- “in other words, sweetie, I got you a job!”
- “Not all of us gods can fly, just like not every superhero can fly. Right, Batman?”
- “That wasn’t a very dignified landing.”
- “I better get going. Traffic and all. See you later, grumpy!” (to Batman)
The H.I.V.E. Master
Voice actress Chris Diamantopoulous, the voice of Green Arrow.
Info & Trivia
- The Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination first showed up in the Teen Titans comic book in 1980.
- Since then, it’s gone through several iterations, led by different villains and with greater or lesser amounts of bee theming. The most famous version is associated with Deathstroke, though the second incarnation of the group is the one that included Damien Dahrk of Arrow
- This is most likely the original 1980 organization, though, as it was the only one led by the H.I.V.E. Master. He’s pretty much The Monarch from Venture Bros, and in the comics he was pretty quickly murdered by his wife, the H.I.V.E. Mistress.
- The Master is a typical James Bond style arch-villain, and Chris plays him up that way. You can practically hear the mustache twirl.
- “Correct, Bat Man. But you’ll never see it!”
- “Looking for me?”
- Wonder Woman: “It’s over!” Master: “Oh, it is! But it is you who have lost!”