Remember “Challenge of the Superfriends” from Saturday mornings in the 1970s? You had the Justice League of America in pitched battle with the Legion of Doom on a weekly basis, and good always triumphed over evil? Now, so far available only at Target, we can return to those days of old as DC Animation brings the Superfriends and the Legion of Doom into the present day with JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time. Check out my review after the jump.
Usually when an animated movie, especially when it’s a single store exclusive and direct to DVD, gets little to no promotion – it’s a bad sign. JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time is available only through Target, and oddly the online comic book community only found out about it days before. It’s got a lot going against it, besides being kid-friendly, New 52-ish, and a bizarre revamp of the 1970s “Challenge of the Superfriends” cartoon, so this could’ve been pretty bad. Surprisingly, it’s just the opposite.
It’s not the best animation, but it’s decades better than the Hanna-Barbera of the 1970s, and granted, this is for kids, but it’s pretty cool to see a present day version of this Justice League/Legion of Doom dynamic. The story has reputedly the final battle against the Legion of Doom, where Lex Luthor is lost, only to be frozen and found in the future, the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes, to be exact. This is where Legion applicants Dawnstar and Karate Kid find and accidentally release him.
The newly freed Luthor then frees and enslaves Legion foe, the Time Trapper. With his help and knowledge of the future, Luthor decides to prevent the Justice League from ever existing, starting with Superman, by preventing the Kents from finding baby Kal-El. Of course, Dawnstar and Karate Kid follow Luthor into the past and help the JLA fight Luthor and the Legion of Doom to set things right. It’s a lot of Silver Age Superfriendly fun.
There’s a lot to like here, from the Warner Bros cartoon antics of saving Superbaby from the Legion of Doom to the cameo by Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog, but some of the best bits come from the revamped Toyman. This is a downright creepy version of the second version of Toyman, the one from “Challenge of the Superfriends,” but here, he is a toy, and a rather spooky puppet-like monster of a toy. I want to see more of this guy. And nothing beats the conversation between Bizarro and Solomon Grundy – priceless and hilarious.
There were a few glitches. The Legionaires featured were quite different from their comics counterparts. Karate Kid (Val Armorr) was a cross between Zuko from “Avatar The Last Airbender” and Samurai from “Super Friends.” Dawnstar exhibited some weird new powers (as did Karate Kid) and talks like a stiff but caring Raven.
Someone in the writing and casting departments seem to think Captain Cold is actually Mister Freeze. Robin is pretty useless, a running joke almost, and is obviously Jason Todd or Damian Wayne because Batman neither trusts nor even likes him. There were also a few illogical time travel paradoxes. If Superman doesn’t exist any more – shouldn’t Bizarro also cease to exist, and shouldn’t Luthor be a nice guy? Just saying.
All in all, this is a great revamp of a fondly remembered cartoon from the 1970s. They even included a couple old Super Friends episodes on the DVD just for old times sake. I was not expecting to like this, but I ended up digging it quite a bit. Be warned, it does end on a cliffhanger, but on the good side, perhaps that means we will get more of this great alternate animated universe. JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time is currently available at Target, and will be out everywhere else shortly.