Home > Reviews > GREEN LANTERN and Cartoon Network’s Friday block

GREEN LANTERN and Cartoon Network’s Friday block

Last night was the premiere of Cartoon Network’s Green Lantern: The Animated Series, the first 3D computer-animated series produced by animation legend Bruce Timm.  I was wary about the 3D animation approach, and it was a bit off-putting at first, but I pretty quickly got used to it. For one thing, even though it looks a little too slick and plasticky, the character animation and storyboarding have a lot of vitality and artistry to them, feeling more fluid and in the vein of WB’s 2D animation, rather than the stiffer animation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (Although Bruce Timm’s excessively wasp-waisted female character designs look even more ridiculous in 3D — however, that’s only briefly a problem since, unfortunately, the show is rather lacking in recurring female characters, except for one of the Guardians and a ship’s computer.)

For another thing, the writing was fantastic, with lots of rich character work. It’s easy to look past the plasticky look of the characters if you can really connect with them as people. It was cool how even the guest characters — the local Green Lantern and his family — were given a lot of substance and contributed meaningfully to the story. And Hal Jordan was nicely drawn (figuratively drawn, I mean, in the writing sense). He’s impulsive and a bit of a renegade, but he’s deeply, sincerely dedicated to helping people and seeing the best in them. The most awesome part was when he got the ship’s navcomputer Aya to override her safeguards, not by hacking her or playing some logic game, but by appealing to her on a moral level, convincing her to help them do the right thing and take the chance to save lives. The fact that he defaulted to that as his first response says a lot about what kind of person he is.

Good voice work too. Josh Keaton did a great job as Peter Parker on The Spectacular Spider-Man for two seasons, and he’s just as good as Hal Jordan. The always-impressive Kevin Michael Richardson is in rare form as Kilowog. But then, they’ve got great material to work with.

I also have good things to say about the shows they aired earlier in the evening.  Generator Rex has always been a mixed bag for me, sometimes overdoing the irreverent teen-oriented attitude, but with a lot of interesting concepts, worldbuilding, and characterization.  And the past two episodes have introduced a major change in the series’ status quo that’s apparently permanent, as well as introducing a new antagonist, Black Knight, who’s a really neat character — initially seeming quite kind and reasonable, a much nicer boss than the stern, judgmental White Knight, but turning out to have an oppressive agenda beneath all the seeming good intentions (and it seems like the kind of oppression that comes from genuine good intentions getting out of hand, particularly given that Rex’s more-or-less nice-guy brother is a full and willing participant in it).  And this is right after introducing another permanent change of status quo in Rex’s partner Agent Six, who lost several years of memory and went from ultracool veteran to the novice of the group (though it remains to be seen how much that’s been retained in the six-month jump Rex just experienced).  It’s nice that the show is willing to make real changes in its storyline, though maybe it’s piling them on a bit too quickly for their consequences to be explored.

And Young Justice was excellent last night.  I’m not a big fan of Jack Kirby’s stuff, and the Forever People have got to be one of his most obscure and offbeat ideas — the sort of characters who’d fit better in Batman: The Brave and the Bold (and I’m surprised they haven’t shown up there already) — but scripter Andrew Robinson did a fairly good job of making them feel not entirely out of place in the serious, relatively realistic YJ universe.  Still, the real strength of this episode was in its scenes following up on last week’s episode, whose events inflicted serious emotional trauma on the team.  Now they’re having therapy sessions with Black Canary (who isn’t a psychological professional in the comics as far as I know), and those scenes were just superb, particularly due to Vanessa Marshall’s magnificent performance as Black Canary.   I never knew she could be that good.  She totally knocked it out of the park.  At this point I’d be happy to see a whole series of Black Canary, Superhero Therapist.

I wasn’t at all fond of the brief comedy shorts that were shown during breaks in Green Lantern.  Apparently these will be a regular part of the “DC Nation” programming block that’s about to premiere, minute-long segments using caricatures of DC heroes.  One of them was a clay-animated short produced by Aardman Animations (makers of Wallace and Gromit), which I was really looking forward to when I read that, but it turned out to be awful.  It was in the vein of their Creature Comforts short, with animation set to soundtracks of ordinary people talking, except in this case it was apparently small children rambling in character (theoretically) as Superman, Batman, Catwoman, and the Joker.  It was rather ghastly.  The other was something of a Teen Titans revival, except exclusively using the chibi-styled versions of their character designs and being only a “comedy” vignette about competitive belching.  Not great.

I’m not enjoying the current Star Wars: The Clone Wars story arc much either.  Too much combat focus for me, and the antagonist in the story arc, the Jedi general who’s consistently reckless and unreasonable in his decisions for no reason other than to place him in conflict with the clone soldier characters, is unbelievable and caricatured.  At least there’s only one week left in the 4-parter.

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