Big changes were promised with Bruce Timm's latest project at Warner Bros. Animations, offering an alternate take on DC Comics' resident super-team in Justice League: Gods & Monsters. Re-imagining DC's Big Three as the son of a Kryptonian general, a vampire, and a new god, the animated feature proved too limiting to show just what was made possible in terms of storytelling - meaning the early release of a number of Chronicles; animated shorts introducing fans to these radical takes.
The first such episode sent a vampire Batman up against Harley Quinn (with predictable results), and the second installment, titled "Bomb," shows a darker side of Superman. Not darker in his motivations or character, per se - simply willing to do things that the typical Man of Steel is not.
If the goal of these shorts is to show fans that Gods & Monsters is up to snuff with the rest of Timm's work, we would say they are succeeding. Reinventing heroes simply to grab attention is nothing new, but we know Timm is interested in proving naysayers wrong - and "Bomb" shows that he and the writers aren't wasting any opportunity to subvert their audience's expectations.
Is this Superman - the son of General Zod - a cosmetically different version of the usual hero? Is he the polar opposite, embracing the villainy usually associated with his father? The episode above doesn't offer a clear answer. There are still fights that only Superman can win with millions of lives on the line... but this Man of Steel is willing to sacrifice an innocent - kill an innocent - if it's the only solution he sees.
People have proven to take exception to the idea of a Superman who kills, but Gods & Monsters manages to dodge those issues with its alternate timeline. In this version of the DC Universe, Amanda Waller has given up her role as the head of the Suicide Squad, residing instead in the White House (with the supervillain Dr. Sivana as a top advisor), with classic Superman villain Brainiac now an engineered Superman-deterrent.
If the second episode seems to perfect its message in a surprisingly short amount of time, it's no coincidence. We spoke with Timm about the challenges of Chronicles, requiring he and the other writers to condense entire episodes' worth of story into just a few minutes:
"Plotting out basically an entire season of mini episodes has been really fun, because on one hand, inevitably you are going to come up against some kind of story point where you go, “Oh, I wish we could actually do this, but we would need a 22-minute episode to do that.” So it’s like, “OK. We can’t really go that way, so we have to find what’s the equivalent of that or what’s something that’s as cool as that but works in a shorter timeframe?”
"So I mean, yeah, it’s a really different format. But to me it’s a lot of fun because it’s just… I always like to say, yeah, it’s like doing a 22-minute episode except you don’t have to do all the boring parts. You just do the fun parts."
Does this episode raise your hopes for Gods & Monsters as a whole? Do you wish writers were able to experiment with DC's heroes - without creating standalone, alternate versions of them first? Be sure to share your thoughts on this episode, and those still to come in the comments below.
From visionary producer and animator Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series), Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles turns the DC Universe upside-down. In this dark, alternate world, telling the good guys from the bad guys is never easy: Superman is not the son of Jor-El, he’s the son of General Zod; Wonder Woman is not from peaceful Themyscira, but rather the warring nation of Ares; and Batman is more vampire-bat than man…and he’s not Bruce Wayne. It is unclear if our greatest heroes are here to protect us...or to rule us. Machinima has already announced a second season, which will come out in 2016.
Justice League: Gods & Monsters Chronicles will be released in partnership with Machinima. The animated feature releases July 28, 2015.