The rousing Golden Age-themed adventure is now available on 4K UHD and Blu-ray
Like some other recent DC Animation movies, JSA: WWII is a refreshing take on the superhero format, exploring a multiverse construct but in a way that’s genuine and loving with the material.
The wraparound story, set in a modern contemporary universe, shows an early meeting between the Barry Allen Flash and Superman, teaming up for the first time. (Based on the stylization, I surmise this might be set in the universe of Superman: Man of Tomorrow). When Flash breaks the “speed barrier” in the heat of battle, it accidentally transports him to World War II where he encounters and joins up with vintage cadre of DC heroes, the Justice Society. Led by Wonder Woman, the team includes Black Canary, Hawkman, Hourman, and the classic Jay Garrick Flash, assisted by pilot Steve Trevor and their PR man, “Shakespeare” — alias Clark Kent.
In some ways it’s reminiscent of arguably the best of the early DC animated films, Justice League: New Frontier. The classic DC characters in a 1940s setting are a wonderful change-up from the perpetually modernized reimaginings of comic book heroes, and even though I’m no expert on golden age comics, I love the vintage appeal.
There’s some neat character pairings here that develop interesting subplots: the two Flashes can combine their powers in interesting ways, and teach each other new utilizations for their powers. Diana and Steve Trevor have a beautiful romantic arc that is at least as good as the live action Wonder Woman. Hawkman and Black Canary also share an interesting rapport, and a pre-Superman Clark Kent is intriguing as a bit of a wild card.
While World War II is the primary conflict, the team gets drawn into a secondary war with Atlantis — under Nazi mind control, a bewitched Aquaman invades the US, unleashing his most Lovecraftian horrors, and putting the team to their hardest test yet.
Thematically, the idea here is for heroes to come together and combine their strengths for the common good, and it does this far more gracefully than either Batman V Superman or the abysmal animated Universe launching point, Justice League: War. There’s a lot of genuine weight to the storytelling and it feels more emotionally complex and affecting than other animated comic book films I’ve seen.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about this. It’s one of the best DC animated films and goes for broke with the concept. The animation uses a “clean line” style that’s suitably comic booky and looks superb in motion. The characterizations are fun and it’s great to see some lesser-known heroes featured, not to mention it’s one of the most affecting stories from the DC animation factory, which sports a surprisingly high batting average lately.
Justice League: World War II releases to home video formats on May 11. The 4K UHD Combo pack had a movie-only 4K disc, a Blu-ray disc which includes bonus features, and a digital Movies Anywhere code. The Blu-ray edition is packaged with a DVD and MA code.
My copy of the 4K edition included a metallic foil slipcover. This spine (both on the slipcover and case) has an interconnective design which will form a larger mural when placed next to other recent and upcoming DC Animation films.
The film has a clean art style, and the 4K image accentuates this even further with a completely pristine image.
Special Features and Extras
Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth (18:03)
This DC Showcase Short features the story of Kamandi, a boy who survived the apocalypse in bunker “Command D” from which he took his name, and exited to find a new world of monsters and mutants. Based on the comics series that began in 1972, it’s reminiscent of the Planet of the Apes films (1968–1973). In a nod to the comic books, it’s presented in a style that clearly evokes the artwork of Jack Kirby, and the ending offers a surprise twist that reveals more about this strange world. It’s a fun, pulpy short and I love seeing DC continue to dig into their weirder, lesser known stuff and present it anew.
Justice League episodes: “Legends” Part I and II (21:57, 21:45)
The JLA finds themselves transported to an old-timey world populated by vintage fictional comic book superheroes in this two-parter.
Sneak Peek: Batman: The Long Halloween Part One (10:29)
Behind the scenes of the upcoming adaptation of the fan-favorite Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale story arc.
Additional “Sneak Peeks”
“Sneak peeks” for already-released DC Animation films Justice League vs Teen Titans (11:29) and Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (9:59)
Promo Trailers —
The disc also includes trailers for Wonder Woman 1984 (2:33) and Superman: Man of Tomorrow (1:41)
All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.