The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 50: The Call Part I

Plot summary: Superman invites Terry to join the Justice League Unlimited, asking him to investigate a potential traitor in their ranks.

After completing the original run of Batman The Animated Series, Matt Waters looks to the future each Saturday and Sunday with recaps of every episode of Batman Beyond, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘The Call: Part I’

Original Air Date: November 11th, 2000

Directed: Butch Lukic (14)

Written: Paul Dini (4) & Alan Burnett (9) (story), and Rich Fogel (11) (story) & Hilary J. Bader (13)

Butch Lukic won an Annie award for his direction in this episode.

Bruce Timm wanted Superman to be shown caring for an octogenarian Lois Lane, but Dini & Burnett hated the idea. The JLB comics later confirmed that Lois had passed away.

Superman’s eyes usually glow blue when he uses X-Ray vision in the DCAU. Here they glow red, hinting that he’s the one causing the explosions before Bruce confirms it at the end of the episode.

Bruce mentions Superman has gone rogue before, referencing the Superman: The Animated Series finale ‘Legacy’, in which Darkseid brainwashes him into thinking he is his son.

Recap

In Metropolis, the size-changing hero Micron of the Justice League Unlimited, stops a runaway monorail but is seriously injured in the process.

Back in Gotham, Batman chases down Inque after she steals a military prototype while a mysterious bystander looks on. Terry brings her down but she gets the best of him on the ground.

Inque grabs the bystander as a hostage, but it turns out he is freakin’ Superman! Clark spins at superhuman speed, effectively putting Inque into a blender, defeating her in seconds.

Terry brings Supes back to the Batcave for an awkward reunion with Bruce. Superman extends an invitation for Terry to join the JLU, claiming to have been watching him for some time.

Bruce leaves the decision to Terry, so he jumps at the opportunity, returning to the Watchtower with Clark. The other members are displeased they weren’t consulted before adding a member, but Supes overrules them.

They check on Micron, with Superman revealing he believes the monorail incident was an inside job, and that he recruited Terry to flush out the traitor in their ranks.

Reviewing their files and watching them on CCTV, Terry complains to Bruce about it feeling weird to spy on heroes. No time for that though, as Aquagirl gets locked into her training tank.

Terry can’t get her out so steals Big Barda’s Mega Rod to smash it open and rescue her. Barda and Warhawk scold him for acting alone instead of simply asking for help.

The League get called to help with a series of bombings across Metropolis that bring down entire buildings. Terry tries to help Warhawk, who labels him an amateur.

He’s called away to deal with an incoming missile that only he was alerted to, which seemingly claims his life. Barda is reluctant to believe Terry’s claims, but Superman again sticks up for him.

Bruce uses the Batcave to extensively analyse the missile explosion, eventually determining it was Superman himself that caused it.

Terry prepares to confront Clark, with Bruce providing him with a hidden piece of Kryptonite and instructing him to do whatever it takes to stop him.

To be continued…

Best Performance

Christopher McDonald steps into the role of Superman after voicing his father, Jor-El, in Superman: The Animated Series. Tim Daly was available; it was a conscious choice to portray an older Superman. Not to be unkind to McDonald, but he also takes better to being a tad unlikeable, which makes sense given he’s revealed as the traitor. It’s not so obviously evil to give the game away, with plenty of warmth in his banter with Bruce and recruitment of Terry. Instead, he is believably world-weary after being at the superhero game for decades, stepping in to decisively settle disputes.

Jodi Benson plays Aquagirl following on from her most famous role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and probably gives the second best performance of the Leaguers. Farrah Forke (Barda) and Peter Onorati (Warhawk) do a good job of being abrasive towards Terry, particularly Onorati. Wayne Brady (Micron) and Lauren Tom (Kai-Ro) don’t get to talk enough to make an impression.

Kevin Conroy rules. His needlessly prickly demeanour when reunited with theoretical life-long friend Superman is delightful, made all the better by the enormous ‘I Told You So’ of proving Superman has turned, pointing out it’s happened before and breaking out his secret Kryptonite.

Will Friedle managing to not seem like an afterthought is impressive given the wealth of talent.

Ranking

Once again, I rank two-parters separately, which arguably hurts their overall standing. Blah blah blah.

The entire pull of this episode is seeing a reimagined Justice League, incorporating new versions of classic heroes, or in Superman’s case, simply ageing him up and giving him a new costume. In that regard they absolutely nailed the brief, presenting a line-up that absolutely justified the spin-off comic they later got, and was arguably strong enough to justify a full cartoon, or at the very least heavily featuring them in a hypothetical fourth season of Batman Beyond.

We have Micron, a size-changer akin to The Atom, Mareena aka Aquagirl, the daughter of Aquaman and Mera, Kai-Ro, a Tibetan monk Green Lantern, Warhawk (later revealed as the son of Hawkgirl and John Stewart), and Big Barda, who appears instead of Wonder Woman due to weird licensing issues. Every one of these designs rules, and their diverse mix of powers and abilities make for some bombastic spectacle that makes Terry and his advanced Batsuit seem almost redundant by comparison. Normally that would be a complaint, but we’re talking about entire buildings falling over left and right, which is a legitimately exciting sequence that acts as a proof of concept for the then-upcoming Justice League cartoons.

It’s not all about powers and designs though, with the writers doing a good job of quickly establishing Terry’s dynamic with their different personalities. Barda and Warhawk are openly distrustful of him, while Kai-Ro and Mareena are a little more polite, with the latter the first to befriend our hero. The delicate art of juggling multiple superheroes and giving them a conflict every episode led to every episode of Justice League being a two-parter, which likely had its origins here. Fingers crossed that part two lets us get to know the individual members a little better as people.

The JLU aside, this was a huge shot in the arm for Batman Beyond in the winter of its life at this point. It does this by massively expanding the world and providing exciting new avenues for future stories… which wouldn’t really be taken, but still. Terry jumping at the chance to join the team directly contrasts with Bruce’s reluctance to collaborate, while his decision to steal Barda’s Mega Rod instead of just asking for help shows the negative influence Bruce has had on him. He’s simultaneously infantilised as a bright-eyed kid – almost starstruck by his superhero peers – and given more agency than ever by getting to choose for himself whether or not he will join the team, and entrusted with finding the traitor in their midst. It’s a nice dichotomy that only their top writers were capable of executing.

It’s not just the writing that makes it such a good episode though, with the art team crushing it with the above mentioned excellent character designs and the exciting (and legitimately tense) rescue sequence. There’s also the elegant simplicity of contrasting the Metropolis and Gotham skylines.

All of that said, it’s hard for it to compete with the top tier episodes that centred around compelling villains and told tight twenty minute stories. Much like ‘Rebirth Part I’, we get a lot of really cool concepts, but hit the end credits too soon to be truly blown away.

  1. Meltdown
  2. Inqueling
  3. Out of the Past
  4. Eyewitness
  5. Babel
  6. Final Cut
  7. Disappearing Inque
  8. Spellbound
  9. King’s Ransom
  10. A Touch of Curaré
  11. Shriek
  12. Rebirth Part I
  13. Bloodsport
  14. The Call Part I (NEW ENTRY)
  15. Splicers
  16. Unmasked
  17. Zeta
  18. Armory
  19. Hidden Agenda
  20. Lost Soul
  21. Earth Mover
  22. Black Out
  23. Dead Man’s Hand
  24. Where’s Terry?
  25. Sneak Peek
  26. Rebirth Part II
  27. Once Burned
  28. Curse of the Kobra Part I
  29. Big Time
  30. Revenant
  31. Untouchable
  32. Sentries of the Last Cosmos
  33. April Moon
  34. Heroes
  35. The Eggbaby
  36. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  37. Mind Games
  38. Hooked Up
  39. The Winning Edge
  40. Ascension
  41. Joyride
  42. Golem
  43. Ace in the Hole
  44. The Last Resort
  45. Plague
  46. Payback
  47. Rats
  48. Speak No Evil
  49. Curse of the Kobra Part II
  50. Betrayal

Villain Watch

Inque (Shannon Kenney) (fourth appearance)

Discounting The Jokerz, Kobra and Derek Powers’ non-Blight appearances, Inque becomes the most frequently occurring villain on the show with this brief appearance. She deserves that distinction as she is far and away the show’s best original creation. There is no explanation as to how she survived the events of ‘Inqueling’, but hey, being functionally indestructible is part of her gimmick.

Anyway, I like that she snuck in one last beatdown on Terry, who goes the entire run of the show without ever defeating her one on one. Instead, Superman eviscerates her in ten seconds. Sucks. But hey, he’s Superman!

  1. Inque
  2. Curaré
  3. Shriek
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Spellbinder
  6. Derek Powers/Blight
  7. The Royal Flush Gang
  8. The Jokerz
  9. Stalker
  10. Talia/Ra’s al Ghul
  11. Armory
  12. Ian Peek
  13. Repeller
  14. Earthmover
  15. Willie Watt
  16. Dr. Cuvier (and pals!)
  17. Mad Stan
  18. Robert Vance
  19. The Terrific Trio
  20. Deanna Clay
  21. Kobra
  22. Karros
  23. Bullwhip’s Gang
  24. Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
  25. The Mayhem Family
  26. Payback
  27. Agent Bennet
  28. The Brain Trust
  29. Paxton Powers
  30. Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
  31. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  32. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  33. Jackson Chappell
  34. Cynthia
  35. Falseface
  36. James Van Dyle
  37. Mr. Fixx
  38. Winchell
  39. The T’s
  40. Ronny Boxer
  41. Ratboy
  42. Major
  43. Dr. Wheeler

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie including Return of the Joker.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, is on hiatus until Moon Knight begins.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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