Eclipsed (season 2, episodes 13-14; originally aired 11/8/2003)
“Let’s get this cosmic treadmill rolling,” Flash says as he runs on a strip of green energy propelling him toward the sun, speeding to create a wormhole that will prevent the star from being extinguished. It’s the moment that the Flash-centric “Eclipsed” is building to, putting a new spin on Flash’s Silver Age cosmic treadmill in the same way that this episode updates Eclipso’s origin. Eclipso is one of DC’s biblical characters, representing God’s wrath in a similar way to how the Spectre is God’s vengeance. Eclipso’s power is held inside a black diamond that possesses whoever touches it, and it has claimed many hosts over the years, from scientist Bruce Gordon to Jean Loring, the psychotic ex-wife of Ray “The Atom” Palmer. “Eclipsed” writer Joseph Kuhr wisely chooses to revise Eclipso’s origin, cutting out all the religion and making the black diamond a weapon used in a primordial war between early humans and a serpentine race of warriors. On the verge of defeat, the reptilian Ophidians sacrificed their lives to give power to the diamond, which instills whoever touches it with incredible power and an unwavering desire to see mankind destroyed.
The black diamond’s resurfacing couldn’t come at a worse time for the Justice League, which has come under attack by TV pundit Gordon Godfrey. Flash’s commercials for Lightspeed Energy Bars have Godfrey criticizing the hero’s use of superpowers for profit, and when Wally zooms on to the TV set to have a few words with Godfrey, his cockiness continues to hurt his public image. The first half of this episode spotlights Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, a fitting combination considering the half-hour is primarily focused on the idea that superheroes view themselves as gods. Both Flash and Green Lantern are humans who were given their superpowers while Wonder Woman is godlike by nature, and Diana doesn’t quite understand how to handle Godfrey’s type of nonphysical attack.
Most of the Eclipso material is in the background during the first part of “Eclipsed,” with Kuhr and director Dan Riba building tension through some standard horror techniques. The four-minute cold open has no Justice League at all, following a group of soldiers in a desert who venture into a cave with the Latin word for “beware” carved on the wall. The pacing is excellent in the opening, building tension as the soldiers step on skulls before discovering a mountain of bones, seemingly belonging to the tiny man that immediately attacks them. When one of the soldiers touches the black diamond, he causes a cave-in and abandons his comrades, driving away so he can find the most powerful weapon in existence.
As the black diamond works its influence up the military ladder, the Justice League is dealing with Godfrey’s bogus claims that the League is responsible for a 3 percent increase in white-collar crime, as well as the 50 percent of marriages that end in divorce (and the other 50 percent that end in death). Godfrey’s attacks are depicted as absurd, which makes it even funnier that the public agrees with everything he says. Godfrey is currently playing a similar role in Young Justice: Invasion (returning September 29!), although it’s likely that he’ll have a New Gods connection in that series. Godfrey’s ludicrous attacks call to mind J. Michael Straczynski’s “Grounded” Superman arc, which, among other things, had a woman blame Superman for her husband’s death from cancer. Superheroes have unrealistic expectations placed upon them, and when they fail to satisfy these impossible demands, the public turns against them. It’s only when the heroes band together to prevent an ancient evil from extinguishing the sun that everyone shuts up and appreciates the gift that they have.
Eclipso is never referred to by name, although the character’s costume does make an appearance when a possessed General McCormick is told that the best way to get the Justice League’s attention is to put on a gaudy costume and threaten to hurt a bunch of people. It’s a smart way to set up the goofy-looking character in a way that doesn’t diminish his threat level, and results in a strong fight sequence as Green Lantern, Flash, and Wonder Woman take him out. Unfortunately, the battle ends with Wonder Woman under the black diamond’s control, beginning the darkening of the Justice League that will continue in the next half of “Eclipsed.”
The second part of the episode deals primarily with the origin of the black diamond and an extended action sequence pitting Flash against his possessed Justice League allies. After Green Lantern falls under the diamond’s influence, Hawkgirl destroys the rock and sends evil shards flying at her teammates. It’s a really dumb move because now everyone is evil, and with the addition of Hawkgirl, J’onn and Superman, that means Flash has his work cut out for him. The stakes are incredibly high, with the Anti-Fusion Device hurtling toward the sun as Flash is eventually cornered by his Justice League allies. The creepy humming that the diamond inspires from its host works to ramp up the suspense, and depicting the evil Leaguers almost entirely in shadow makes them even more menacing. Flash is ultimately saved by a big burst of light from the Watchtower’s generator, and while the solutions to this episode’s problems don’t really make much sense, this is a cartoon about superpowers, so logic isn’t necessarily a priority.
What many superhero stories teach us is that a lot of problems can be solved by throwing one thing into another thing. If there’s some kind of crazy energy explosion, throw a power disruptor inside and it will magically disappear. If an Anti-Fusion Device is going to blot out the sun, throw a wormhole generator at it so that the effect of the device is sucked away. It’s like the superhero equivalent of making the winning shot at a basketball game, but the entire universe is at stake. After Flash throws the thing at the thing, the episode ends with the Justice League back in the public’s good graces, and the Flash quitting his life as a salesperson. In his place, Flash’s agent hires Mophir, the defender of the black diamond, because if Gollum can become a public darling, anyone can.
- Speaking of characters with a connection to the Bible, did anyone read last week’s hilarious Phantom Stranger #0, which revealed that the title character is actually Judas wearing Jesus’ robe? That was a rough one.
- How awesome is the brief sequence of Flash versus the Rogues? I love that Lightspeed Energy Bars also make a reappearance in “Task Force X,” along with Captain Boomerang and Mirror Master.
- What are we to make of Flash coming on to Green Lantern when he shows him the Flash-mobile?
- “With a big boost of flavor in every bite!”
- “I’ve seen showgirls with more modesty than this so-called ‘Wonder Woman.’”
- “And what’s wrong with the way I dress?!”
- Flash: “What’s the second way?” Mophir: “Separate host’s head from body.” Flash: “Bummer.”
- “Make a wormhole to suck away the bad stuff.”