Batman learns the hard way that keeping secret files on all your teammates’ weaknesses is a bad idea in Justice League: Doom, an adaptation of Mark Waid’s “Tower Of Babel” storyline written by the late Dwayne McDuffie. Taking advantage of a PG-13 rating, Doom is the League’s most mature animated venture yet, revealing the best ways to kill the world’s greatest superheroes as devised by the smartest among them.
Immortal tyrant Vandal Savage and his new Legion of Doom use Batman’s information to exploit the League’s greatest weaknesses: Superman gets shot with a Kryptonite bullet, Martian Manhunter burns to death as he sweats magnesium, and Bruce Wayne is buried alive with the skeleton of his dead father, forced to punch his way out of a casket using the keys in his pocket. This is a brutal, bloody Justice League, and one that matches the current New 52 interpretation of the team in the comics.
As dark as the story gets, at its core Justice League: Doom is a standard superhero action-adventure, but high production values and a voice cast featuring veterans of the DC Animated Universe make this a fitting tribute to a prolific writer. McDuffie spent his career working to bring black superheroes to prominence, and Cyborg plays a major supporting role as the sole member of the Justice League that isn’t compromised when Batman’s files are stolen. Director Lauren Montgomery’s anime-inspired design sense is most prominent in Cyborg’s high-tech armor, revealing the meticulous detail the animators have put into the film.
McDuffie’s script for the All-Star Superman film was missing one of the comic’s best scenes, featuring Superman talking a suicidal girl off a ledge by telling her, “You’re stronger than you think.” It’s been repurposed for Justice League: Doom with the girl being replaced by a disgruntled Daily Planet employee, and while the dialogue plays well, McDuffie ruins the moment by making it part of Vandal Savage’s evil plan. It turns one of the best examples of Superman’s ability to inspire hope into just another display of how his beliefs have become increasingly outdated.
Justice League: Doom isn’t the most accessible DC animated film, aimed instead for an audience already familiar with these characters. This is the closest thing to a revival of Justice League that fans of the series are likely going to get, however, and McDuffie creates an appropriately epic story about trust and power for the team’s sendoff.
Key features: A 40-minute featurette on the career of Dwayne McDuffie and his impact on both comics and animation, an in-depth look at Cyborg’s history, and a preview of the upcoming Superman Versus The Elite, adapting Joe Kelly’s modern classic “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, & The American Way?”