Justice League (Season 1, Ep 4): In Blackest Night Part 1

Hi! Welcome to my episode-by-episode recap of, and reaction to Justice League. There will be no spoilers beyond the current episode. As is my custom with recaps, I will give you a short summary recap followed by a long and unnecessarily helpfully detailed version. My reaction will follow at the end if you just want to scroll past all of the recap.

If you want to see my prior Justice League episode reviews, click HERE:

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

A tribunal is being held and it names John Stewart, the Green Lantern, as the perpetrator of a heinous crime. The tribunal sends a team of robotic Manhunters to bring him to the tribunal to stand trial. The Manhunters run into a confrontation with the Justice League, on earth, before John turns himself in.

Against John’s wishes, the Justice League follows and watches the trial. There they learn that while John was working to stop a robbery, his ring blast – which was directed at pirates – was accidentally deflected by the pirate ship’s shield toward a planet where it hit a volcanic fault line and accidentally caused the planet to explode – killing three billion people. As the episode ends, John tells his friends in the Justice League that he is guilty.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

The episode begins on another planet. A large crowd of aliens are gathered for a tribunal. Three faces appear on a viewing screen – and they appear to be the tribunal leaders. One of the leaders states that never before have so many come together, putting aside differences, for a single purpose. Another of the leaders states that never before has a crime been so heinous as to bring people together in this way. The group says that they are gathered to seek justice. One leader asks where the accused is and is told that the accused is still at large.

A group called the Manhunters is told to step forward. They march forward robotically. The leader tells them that this is no ordinary criminal and he says that finding this criminal will involve great peril. He asks the group if they are prepared for that. One of the Manhunters replies, saying “no man escapes the manhunters.” The manhunters ask for an image of the accused. The leader tells them the accused is a native of the planet earth. They show an image of The Green Lantern, known as John Stewart.

On earth, John Stewart is walking down a sidewalk in regular clothes. The people in the neighborhood – like Stewart – are black. As he is walking, he observes a robbery in progress. As the robber is in his car, getting away, Stewart uses his ring to pick the car off the ground. He then bangs the car onto the street until the robbery falls out through the driver’s door. Stewart then picks the robber up and holds him upside down in the air until the money he stole falls into the arms of the store owner who has run outside to see about the noise. As the robber is lying on the sidewalk badly beaten, with the owner of the store back in possession of his money, Stewart – still in street clothes – walks on down the street.

A little farther up the street, a basketball rolls to Stewart’s feet. He picks it up. As the kid yells for the ball, John Stewart shoots and misses. And older man walks up and says that there was a time John Stewart could have made that shot with his eyes closed.

John: Mr. McGee?
Mr. McGee: You’re not in my history class anymore, John.

John says that his game is a little rusty. McGee says that Chris, his grandson, can give him some pointers. John is surprised that McGee has a grandson and the older man points out that he has been away for a long time. John says that maybe he has been away a little too long.

On the Watchtower, in space, Flash is asking Hawkgirl about her time as a cop on Thanagar. She corrects him to say that she was a detective. He asks her what life there is like and she replies that it is the same as anywhere, she supposes.

Hawkgirl: There are criminals and we catch them.
Flash: And what about when you’re not catching criminals? When you’re not at work?
Hawkgirl: What about it?
Flash: Well, is there a Hawkboy?

She smiles but does not answer. She flies to where J’onn J’onzz is walking and informs him that she will be doing maintenance. Then she leaves. Flash zips over to J’onn.

Flash: What, don’t you ever get lonely?
J’onn: More than you could ever imagine.
Flash: Sorry, I didn’t mean to…

The Watchtower alarm sounds. J’onn says that it’s an incursion. Flash replies more like an invasion. As J’onn, Hawkgirl, and Flash board a jet, J’onn reports that Wonder Woman is on another case, Superman is busy dealing with an earthquake, and Batman would only say that he is busy. Flash asks about “GL” and J’onn says he could not reach him.

On earth, Mr. McGee’s grandson is getting a haircut. He asks for a cut that looks like the one on John Stewart but his barber replies that he will get his usual haircut instead. John tells McGee that it seems like he has his hands full.

Mr. McGee: Impatient, head strong… sort of reminds me of you.
John: I hope not.

The older man reminds John that he still has friends, real friends, and asks what is bothering him.

Outside, the Manhunters march down a street in John Stewart’s neighborhood. J’onn flies down and calls out for them to stop. They do. He asks what they want and they reply that they want John Stewart, the Green Lantern. When Flash asks why, they tell him that is not his concern. Hawkgirl asks them if they want to bet and swings her mace at one of them. He catches her and tosses her aside easily. Flash speeds to catch her.

Flash: Aren’t you gonna thank me?
Hawkgirl: Down, boy.

Meanwhile, one of the Manhunters has used a weapon to shock J’onn and knock him to the ground. When J’onn stands again, it blasts him again, knocking him through the air for a block and into an upper story apartment building window. Hawkgirl attacks another Manhunter and this time she knocks him down. However, it stands and blasts her into a diner’s window about a block away. Flash attacks at super speed but he is knocked down with ease. As the Manhunters begin to pummel Hawkgirl some more, Superman arrives, crushing one of the Manhunters into the side of a building. Another of the Manhunters blasts him but he withstands it well, pushing forward against the blast until he can reach the blaster and break it with his hands.

Flash runs up and says that they thought he was busy with an earthquake. Superman replies that it was just a 4.0 and asks what is going on. Just as Flash is about to tell him, Superman is hit with another of the Manhunter’s blasts. One of the Manhunters is about to throw a car at a down-on-the-ground Superman and Flash when J’onn blocks the car.

Inside the barbershop, John Stewart notices the sound of the explosion outside. He tells everyone to stay where they are. He puts on his costume in view of everyone inside and goes outside. The young boy asks Mr. McGee if John could do that in high school.

Just as the team of heroes is about to have another fight with a regrouped team of Manhunters, John puts a green wall between them and commands everyone to stop. He approaches the Manhunters, identifies himself, surrenders his ring, is cuffed, and goes with them per their command. John Stewart and the Manhunters beam away toward the sky as the other present members of the Justice League stare at each other in confusion.

Back at the planet, and in front of the gathered group where the episode began, the Manhunters arrive with John Stewart. One of them tells him to not expect his stay to be pleasant.

In another location, a group of old seeming men, with large heads and shirt-cropped white hair, look on as John is brought before the Tribunal. Each of the men wear the same outfit – a red and black shirt with a Green Lantern emblem on a circle of white at its center. One of the men in this group says that their group has gained much from its diversity but states that sometimes sacrifices are required. John Stewart and the Manhunters are greeted by a group of several other Green Lanterns. One of them states that John was the best of them. He then says “but now” and leaves the rest of his thoughts open-ended.

John greets them by saying it is good to see them. One of them says he wishes he could say the same. Another calls him a disgrace to the Corps. It appears that one of the Manhunters is poised to attack the group of Green Lanters when another of the Manhunters tells him no. Then he adds, “not yet.”

One of the Manhunters tells John Stewart that his trial will begin soon. He says that if he had been programmed with emotions he might almost feel sorry for him.

On earth, J’onn says that he senses turmoil and a heavy heart. He also says that John Stewart is looking at stars. Superman asks which star as he pulls up a three dimensional map of the galaxy. J’onn walks up to the map and points to where John is.

Superman, Hawkgirl, Flash, and J’onn J’onzz are on a jet flying toward John Stewart’s tribunal. Hawkgirl comments on how strange it was that he handed over his ring. Superman replies that John is a strange one. As the heroes begin their landing procedure, jets from the planet begin firing on them. Superman and J’onn exit the plane. Hawkgirl follows. Flash is put in charge of flying it. The three heroes who can fly without a jet disarm their attackers. They succeed.

However, Flash – on the jet – is muttering.

Flash: “Flash take the controls.” Does anyone ask if I know how?

Flash lands the jet, roughly, and exits the plane.

Flash: Well, they say any landing you walk away from is a… [people from the planet fire at him]

The other Justice Leaguers arrive to help out and disarm his attackers. Flash says that he had everything under control. J’onn reads the minds of the attackers and tells them that Green Lantern is close by. He points in the direction of where he is held. A few moments later, the Justice League intrudes upon the Tribunal. John Stewart groans “no” to himself upon seeing them. The leader of the Tribunal demands order. After Superman throws someone sent to get him, he speaks aloud that he apologizes for disrupting proceeding. He also announces that John Stewart is their friend. The three leaders overseeing the tribunal tells the Justice League that they may take seats in the gallery.

The prosecution calls Kanjar-Ro. After being called, the witness admits to being a pirate. He agrees to let the prosecution probe his mind and display his memories publicly. Kanjar-Ros explains that he found blasters and was planning to sell them to rebels when John Stewart showed up. He explains events as the crowd watches along. He says that he fired on John Stewart first, under the assumption the Green Lantern was going to attempt to stop him. After Stewart took apart his engine, he says that John wanted to ask him if he was working for anyone. Kanjar-Ro says he told John Stewart to turn around. Green Lantern fired on the pirate’s bosses, however, their deflector shields redirected the Green Lantern ring blast toward the adjacent planet. The ring blast hit a volcanic fault line on the planet, causing a chain reaction that destroyed the planet and three billion people living on it.

The Tribunal leaders say that the account is most disturbing so they are therefore calling for a recess. The Justice League approaches John Stewart. They say that the pirate must be lying. John Stewart corrects them and says that nobody is lying.

John Stewart: I did it. I’m guilty.

to be continued

REACTION:

  1. Does this mean that John Stewart was helping to save earth from the White Martian invasion *after* he believes he destroyed a planet or does it mean that a long while has passed in the interim? That’s some pretty potent compartmentalization.
  2. How did the Justice League get to that location so fast? Or are Batman and Wonder Woman holding down the fort by themselves for a LONG while?
  3. If John Stewart believes he is guilty, why did he return to earth? Was he hiding out? That’s… not heroic.

The first fight with the Manhunters really demonstrates the dilemma presented by Superman in DC story-telling. He clearly could have defeated all of them by himself while his fellow Leaguers were pretty over-matched as a group. It’s hard to tell a story where the threat is big enough for Superman without also making the threat way too big for everyone else. The end result tends to be inconsistency with the power-levels of the individual members of the Justice League. Plot needs a weak Superman? Weak Superman. Plot needs Batman to go well beyond the reach of human potential and/or human technology? Done… because he’s Batman. And so on.

I do not feel good about the fact that John Stewart’s predominantly black neighborhood features a robbery scene, basketball in a rundown outdoor park, and a trip to the barber shop in about 5 minutes of viewing time.

The Flash has thus far aggressively hit on both Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl. To whom do they file complaints?

Obviously GL did not massacre an entire planet by accident. I’m looking forward to seeing the explanation in Part 2. However, if a simple deflection of his ring could cause that to happen, well, maybe everyone should re-think the whole Lantern ring in the first place. Is “volcano fault-line planetary chain reaction” something you learn on your first day of GL training school?

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