Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five premiered at WonderCon 2019 ahead of it’s digital release over the weekend. The latest installment of DC’s Animated Universe Original Movies and the 11th for the Justice League itself, Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five centers Jessica Cruz and Thomas Kallor, Green Lantern and Star Boy, in a surprising look at mental illness and what it means to be a hero.
The film opens up in the 31st century, where young superheroes are battling The Fatal Five, trying to keep them from taking a timeship. They are overpowered but in a last move, Star Boy tosses himself onto the ship and gets himself thrown back to the 21st century with them.
Unfortunately, in the process of going back in time he breaks the vial of medicine he needs to manage his unnamed mental condition that causes him to rapidly lose memories, medicine that does not exist in the 21st century. In an attempt to find more of it as his mental state degrades, he terrorizes a pharmacist and manages to get himself thrown in Arkham for being dangerous, paranoid, and delusional.
10 months later we see Jessica Cruz waking up from a nightmare of the night she saw her friends murdered, part of her origin story as a Green Lantern. We then follow her as she tries to use coping mechanisms to ground herself from the nightmare and into therapy. Her therapist suggests that her high stress security job might not be the best environment for managing her anxiety and PTSD but as she puts it, the job found her. In the midst of this, Wonder Woman comes calling and pushes Jessica to be more open to her role as a hero but gets shut down.
Meanwhile Batman, Miss Martian, of Young Justice fame, Superman and Mr. Terrific are tending to League business. With Batman evaluating Miss Martian for entrance into the Justice League, the others are working to figure out the mystery of a large sphere that fell to Earth. Low-and-behold, it’s the timeship containing three of the Fatal Five and a battle ensues leaving one of the them injured.
In Arkham, Thomas’s memories are triggered by seeing the battle on the television and he knows he has to get to “the key” before The Five and reveals just how strong is matter altering powers are by staging a break out. Unknown to the Justice League, the key is closer to them than they know.
The outset of the movie sets up clear duos with Batman and Miss Martian, Superman and Mr. Terrific and then loners Jessica Cruz and Thomas Kellor who end up being key to each others stories. Unfortunately, this pairing off means that Wonder Woman is fairly underutilized on a personal level and is mostly there for the battles.
On the other side, the Fatal Five are incredibly brutal villains. They are vicious and it makes the stakes and tension of the battle scenes very high. The animation brings viewers back to classic DCAU but there’s a lot of the film that’s very modern, especially in the dialogue. While the look is classic for those of us who grew up with Bruce Timm’s Justice League, the movie doesn’t feel dated.
Elyes Gabel portrays Star Boy, a young man struggling against his mind to be a hero so wonderfully. He’s earnest, a little innocent, and completely heartbreaking. Diane Guerrero as Jessica Cruz balances his eagerness with her reluctance and resentment perfectly.
While the whole team is present and the external threat is very real, ultimately Justice League vs. The Fatal Five centers around Jessica and Thomas vs. the realities of their mental health, something so many people can relate to and having super powers definitely doesn’t make things any easier. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the team dynamics and overall Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is a solid and surprisingly emotional addition to the DCAU lineup.
Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is available now on digital and will be released April 16th on BluRay and DC Universe.