The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 51: The Call Part II

Plot summary: Superman is revealed as the Justice League Unlimited’s traitor, but the conspiracy ends up being far bigger than anticipated…

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 II’

Original Air Date: November 18th, 2000

Directed: Butch Lukic (15)

Written: Paul Dini (5) & Alan Burnett (10) (story), and Stan Berkowitz (16)

This is another episode to potentially revisit after The Big Thing is revealed next weekend!

Big Barda states Bruce was a part-timer in the original league, which ended up holding true in the two cartoons, with Bruce at first noncommittal, and later DC making the producers limit his appearances.

Superman battled Preserver and came to adopt the wacky cavalcade of alien creatures in the Superman: The Animated Series episode ‘The Main Man’.

While never explicitly named in the episode, the starfish creatures are Starro, the Justice League’s very first enemy. Its appearance in the background of ‘The Main Man’ was only written as a cameo.

The exploits of the JLU continued in Justice League Unlimited two-part episode ‘The Once and Future Thing’, as well as ‘Epilogue’. They’re also mentioned in an episode of Static Shock (set in the same era as Beyond). Finally, there were two attempts at a comic book in the 2010s, but both ended quickly.

Recap

Terry shows the rest of the JLU the video footage of Superman’s act of betrayal, but Barda doesn’t believe it’s legit. Warhawk himself strolls in unharmed and confirms Superman’s guilt.

The group confront Supes just as he’s fiddling with Micron’s healing tank. He accuses all of them of being traitors, and they witness a weird eyeball creature moving around below his suit.

It takes the team’s combined might – including a temporarily revived Micron – to drive him off. They agree he likely retreated to the Fortress of Solitude, and while none of them know its location, Bruce does.

Travelling there via Boom Tube, they discover there is a missing exhibit from Superman’s private collection of alien creatures.

Superman arrives to fight them again, but Terry uses the Kryptonite to knock him out. They remove his costume to reveal a starfish-like creature attached to his chest and agree it has been controlling him.

Aquagirl uses her powers to read its mind, learning it was kidnapped from its planet by Preserver and later freed and adopted by Superman. It bided its time and then attached itself in order to control him.

Not content with merely controlling Superman, the creature forced him to help care for hundreds if not thousands of offspring, planning to assimilate the whole planet.

The creatures enslave the League, with only Terry able to resist thanks to his Batsuit’s defences. Barda smashes his Kryptonite, forcing him to flee the Fortress.

Superman gives chase and brings the Batmobile out of the sky, but Terry is able to hit him directly in the chest with an electrical charge that allows Supes to break free.

They team up to free The League and return the creatures to their home planet. The JLU offer Terry full-time membership, but he opts to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps and remain a part-timer.

Best Performance

There’s a weird trend where the voice cast tend to be worse in the second instalment of a two-parter that continues here. I guess that’s because the first tends to be quieter, with more time for talk, while the second has to be all plot/action, which gives the actors less to work with.

For lack of an alternative, I would give it to Jodi Benson as Aquagirl. It’s a cute casting given her most famous role was Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and she’s entrusted with delivering all of the exposition in this second part, as well as continuing her blossoming friendship with Terry. It’s nothing too memorable, but she stands out the most here.

I’m glad they let Lauren Tom speak more, given her incredibly under-utilised series regular role as Dana. Kai-Ro is a fun Green Lantern, very different to the others, and even if he is the least prominent of the JLU members, Tom is a good actor.

Ranking

One last time: I rank two-parters separately, which often lowers their overall standing. You get it by now.

I actually think this was one of the best Part II’s they’ve done, as they’re able to hit the ground running, keep building on what was established in Part I, and provide a big finish. Moving from Evil Superman in the first act, to the reveal of Starro in the second, culminating in a big fight at the end worked pretty well structurally, and the expected permanent invite to the JLU is the cherry on the top.

Unfortunately, there was some messiness, which Bruce Timm conceded. Firstly, undoing Warhawk’s shocking death in Part I without offering anything close to a satisfying explanation is weak. He claims he was remotely piloting his suit, even though we saw him take off and how little time he had to make a switch, which you’d think Superman would have immediately noticed. Secondly, Micron waking up to mutely fight Superman for a minute and then got put back in his tank because the episode doesn’t have enough room for him. Thirdly, a lot of time had to be devoted to Starro exposition, which hurt the pacing a little.

It’s also entirely unclear to what degree Starro is a hive-mind; as that seems to be the case at times when they attack, but then surely they’d recognise Superman had been freed, and wouldn’t need to use the JLU’s bodies to speak out lout? Finally, it seems uncharacteristic of Superman to have so little regard for Terry’s safety near the end, with even Barda, his staunchest critic, seeming more concerned.

That brings it down below Part I, but it is still a lot of fun, with three rounds of the classic hero vs hero trope, and the terrifying numbers advantage Starro enjoys. The art design on its home world is solid, and setting most of the episode in the snowy environment of the Fortress of Solitude made for a nice change.

I hoped for more character moments from the JLU, and mostly got them. Superman and Aquagirl stay about the same, while Kai-Ro enjoys an expanded presence to demonstrate his thoughtfulness. Barda and Warhawk come to accept Terry after being so prickly to him, with Warhawk’s turn in particular being a highlight, as he respects Terry disobeying orders to do the right thing. I wish the show had continued to delve into all of their relationships some more.

  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
  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. The Call Part II (NEW ENTRY)
  25. Where’s Terry?
  26. Sneak Peek
  27. Rebirth Part II
  28. Once Burned
  29. Curse of the Kobra Part I
  30. Big Time
  31. Revenant
  32. Untouchable
  33. Sentries of the Last Cosmos
  34. April Moon
  35. Heroes
  36. The Eggbaby
  37. Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
  38. Mind Games
  39. Hooked Up
  40. The Winning Edge
  41. Ascension
  42. Joyride
  43. Golem
  44. Ace in the Hole
  45. The Last Resort
  46. Plague
  47. Payback
  48. Rats
  49. Speak No Evil
  50. Curse of the Kobra Part II
  51. Betrayal

Villain Watch

Starro (first appearance)

I guess you could quibble that Starro is acting through Superman in Part I, but whatever. It was a cute touch to use the original Justice League’s first adversary as the villain of the first DCAU incarnation of the team here, particularly the hive-mind version.

By the nature of the creature, it’s almost entirely telling not showing, with Aquagirl communicating its backstory and imparting motivations on its behalf. She is reading everything direct from Starro’s mind, but still.

They’re mute, face-hugging starfish that take control of the JLU. That’s sort of cool, but nothing to get too excited over. It facilitates some creepy little moments like Terry getting absolutely covered in them, but they end up being pretty easy to deal with once Superman is freed.

  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. Starro (NEW ENTRY)
  25. Simon Harper (and the Sentries!)
  26. The Mayhem Family
  27. Payback
  28. Agent Bennet
  29. The Brain Trust
  30. Paxton Powers
  31. Charlie ‘Big Time’ Bigelow
  32. Dr. Stephanie Lake
  33. Howard Hodges & General Norman
  34. Jackson Chappell
  35. Cynthia
  36. Falseface
  37. James Van Dyle
  38. Mr. Fixx
  39. Winchell
  40. The T’s
  41. Ronny Boxer
  42. Ratboy
  43. Major
  44. Dr. Wheeler

Plugs

Following on from our site-wide listicle about The Batman, Mike Thomas and I will be back with a new episode of The Tape Crusaders, which has reviewed every Batman movie including Return of the Joker.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, is on hiatus until Moon Knight begins at the end of this month.

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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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