Greetings comic fans! In one of my previous lists (SEE IT HERE!) I talked about how awesome the Justice League animated show was. While it wasn’t #1, it was pretty darn close. I love this show so much that I have it on my Netflix watch list and still watch episodes, despite me having seen them all multiple times in the last 15 years. So since I already established how amazing this show was, I think it’s time I delve into more detail.
Since pretty much every single story is two parts or three parts, all parts are put together and are considered one episode for the sake of the list. Be forewarned, this is just a list of the original Justice League show only. No Justice League Unlimited episodes will be named on this list, as I plan on saving those episodes for another list in the future. I also plan on keeping each synopsis very, very brief in case some of you degenerates haven’t watched this show yet. Now let’s jump in!
The series finale, and it did not disappoint. Epic fights, crazy plot devices, all while constantly being at the edge of your seat thinking: “what is going to happen next?” This is the ultimate story of betrayal, so much so that William Shakespeare himself would blush. We discover that everything we know about Hawkgirl is a lie, and that she’s really a… Well… I’ll just call her a dirty rotten snake (I’m trying to keep this PG). Man, I still feel bad for my man GL. The events that happen here get the ball rolling for the equally epic Justice League Unlimited.
9. The Terror Beyond
Solomon Grundy has always been a mysterious character. Sometimes he’s nothing more than pure, unadulterated evil; and other times he’s simply a misunderstood, lost soul. This happens to be the latter. Grundy team’s up with a few JLA members (and the awesome Dr. Fate) to take on what is basically a God. You really get character development for Grundy in this, and by the end of the episodes you truly feel bad for him. There is a lot of action, and it gets overshadowed by “the feels.” If that doesn’t appeal to you, maybe the art style will. Which is very H.P. Lovecraft-like. Probably the best visual episode of the whole series.
8. Injustice For All
I love this story because it reminds me of the old Super Friends cartoon show that I watched as a child. More villain character development, this time from Superman’s arch-nemesis: Lex Luthor. You also get a bunch of villains introduced all at once, including the above mentioned Grundy. Not to mention… THE JOKER! With Mark Hamill reprising the role! Batman does his Batman things, and it’s hilarious to watch him outsmart everyone all while basically being indisposed. If you’re looking for an all-out villain vs hero brawl, this episode is for you. Bat-fans will especially enjoy this one.
Who doesn’t like a good Superman-Darkseid story? In those stories you actually get to see Superman pushed to his physical, mental, and emotional limit. You actually see Superman vulnerable and about to cross a line he never crosses. To the point where Batman of all characters needs to be the voice of reason and save Superman, from himself. It’s usually the opposite! After the climax happens, everyone including Batman thinks Darkseid is gone for good. Then you hear Superman say the single greatest line in the entire series: “You know something Bruce, you’re not always right.”
6. Secret Origins
The three part pilot episode was put together as a movie when it first aired. I remember watching this the very night it premiered all the way back in 2001, and man was it epic. This was the perfect launching point for the series. A seemingly insurmountable enemy forces a bunch of individuals to band together for the greater good. This is a similar way the Justice League originally got together to take down Starro the Conqueror in Brave and the Bold #28 all the way back in 1960. This gave you a taste of what to expect from here on out. Action, drama, suspense, plot twists and so much more.
This episode is one of my all-time favorites, and one I always constantly go back too. It might not have the best story, it might not have the best action, but there is just something so charming about this episode. The JLA get thrown into an alternate dimension and meet comic book characters they read! The Justice Guild of America. They’re loosely based on the Golden Age Justice Society of America comics of the 1940’s, in honor of Gardner Fox, who co-created the both the JSA and JLA. It’s the first time you actually get a hero (John Stewart) be in awe of heroes he knows. Something we could certainly relate to if our comic characters were real.
4. War World
Another excellent Superman-centric story, based on the Superman: Exile story line. This is also where we meet Draaga for the very first time in DC animation. A character I really wish we got to see a lot more of in the comics. He’s just the quintessential bad ass. Then there’s Mongul, one of the greatest DC villains ever. This story is packed to the brim with action. Who doesn’t like super powered beings go at it in gladiatorial combat? You Marvel fans know what I’m talking about with Planet Hulk! But, unfortunately, DC beat you to the punch back in the 80s, and again when this episode aired back in 2002.
Yet another Superman-centric story! I don’t know why, but the Superman stories were just fantastic in this show. This again, is based off a Superman story- The Death of Superman arc, albeit VERY loosely based. But, I gotta be honest. I liked this story much better, and it’s much better done (Sorry Dan Jurgens, you’re still my favorite writer though). In this you didn’t get some anti-climatic nonsense, nor did you get silly plot devices (I’m looking at you “healing coma”). You get to see a de-powered Superman thrown in the distant future team up with one of DC’s all-time villains as they try to prevent that very future from happening.
2. The Savage Time
Man… I really wanted to put this #1. I had an internal struggle making it #2. The season one finale was an epic one, probably the best season finale for any superhero animation ever. Time travel done right is a difficult thing to accomplish, but they nailed it. Vandal Savage in this is basically Red Skull in the first Captain America movie, as he’s trying to take Hitler’s place in the Third Reich. You get cameos from lesser known characters in DC’s WWII era comics, like Sargent Rock, who is awesome. You also get to see Steve Trevor-Wonder Woman pairing, which is always a classic. DC should go back to that ASAP (sorry Superman).
1. A Better World
Totally cliche I know. But, it’s just… So good! When I think Justice League, this is the episode I immediately think of. Another episode based very loosely off of a legendary DC story. This time it’s Grant Morrison’s epic JLA: Earth-2. But this time, instead of different characters completely (like Ultraman, Power Ring, Owlman, ect). It’s actually them! This is actually more closely comparable to Injustice (which clearly didn’t exist when this aired) than Earth 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if Injustice used this as reference material. These episodes are just, so flipping fantastic. It’s epic, suspenseful, and it makes you realize how tight of a line these characters really walk, and how easy it is to fall into the abyss.
Honorable Mention. Comfort and Joy
I just had to throw this in with Christmas being less 2 weeks away! This is the only episode in the series that isn’t multiple parts. Flash teaming up with a known bad guy trying to spread holiday cheer to those less fortunate? It’s fun, lighthearted, and charming. Everything you want in a good Christmas Special. Sorry Charlie Brown and the Simpsons, but this is my Christmas Special of choice.
There you have it, MY list. This show was so perfect that you could argue ANY episode being on the list. It was just that good. So, if by some chance I left out your favorite, comment below. What do you think are the best Justice League episodes? Heck, what are some of your least favorite? And if you haven’t seen this show yet, get out from under your rock and go watch!