Justice League (Season 1, Ep 13): War World Part 2

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:

Superman survives Mongul’s command that he be killed because the crowd – led by J’onn – chants for Superman to live. Mongul decides he does not want to upset the crowds. Mongul thus arranges for Superman to die in combat against himself. He tells Superman that if he does not lose on purpose, that he will use a death ray to destroy Draaga’s planet. Superman learns that this threat is also why Draaga has always been compliant to Mongul. J’onn was listening in on this conversation as it took place. Later, Superman declines an escape plan crafted by his fellow fighters and instead offers Draaga up – who is still unconscious from their fight – to be smuggled out in the trash ship instead.

Lantern and Hawkgirl arrive on a planetary trash heap. They meet Draaga there. He leads them back to War World. After arriving, the two Justice Leaguers join J’onn in an effort to destroy Mongul’s death ray gun. They succeed. Draaga intervenes in Superman’s fight with Mongul. Initially he wants to kill Superman to regain his honor but he quickly learns that Superman is losing on purpose as part of a deal to keep Mongul from destroying Draaga’s planet. After the weapon is destroyed, the Justice League arrives at the fight and informs Superman. He is pleased that he can stop losing on purpose but Draaga jumps in to fight Mongul instead. Draaga wins. The episode ends with a defeated Mongul on the ground and Draaga holding the warlord’s crown in his hands.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

In the crowd, as Mongul is having Superman killed for defiance, Martian Manhunter stirs the crowd up to keep him alive. After a long blast from his robots’ laser blasts, Mongul is shocked that Superman is still alive after.

Mongul: You’re tougher than I thought, Kyrptonian. But I doubt you’ll survive another blast.
Superman: Take your best shot.

Led by Martian Manhunter, the crowd starts chanting Superman’s name. Mongul asks if the crowd is crazy and one of his advisors points out that executing him now might not go over too well. Mongul announces that the people have spoken and he allows Superman to live.

Back in the holding facilities for the gladiat…err, slave fighters, the others cheer Superman’s arrival. He asks them why and one of them says that he stood up to Mongul and that it was great. Superman asks if anyone has ever stood up to him before and we learn that Draaga tried once but then decided he prefers living. As a reward, the other slave fighters tell Superman that they have arranged for his escape. He tells them no and that he cannot leave without his friend J’onn. He tells them that he has dealt with others like Mongul in the past and that he will take his chances here. One of them wonders aloud if Superman is brave or just plain crazy. We see Draaga’s still unconscious body in the cells with the fighters. Superman sees two of them dragging the body to “the pit” and tells them no. They warn him that Draaga will never rest until he has evened the score. Superman asks if Draaga can be smuggled out as they had planned to do for him.

Elsewhere, Lantern and Hawkgirl are riding in a small space craft toward War World. They are bickering with each other as they go. The ship’s captain uses the distraction of their bickering to seal them into the back and gas them to unconsciousness.

Draaga’s body is smuggled off the planet in a garbage ship. As the garbage – with Draaga inside – is dumped, Draaga wakes up. On the planet, in the midst of the garbage, he takes a metal rod, bends it into the shape of an S, puts it in a fire until it is red hot, and then brands his own chest with Superman’s S symbol.

Draaga: I won’t forget you Superman. Or the shame of my defeat.

Mongul’s people are defying him by spray painting Superman’s symbol in their local buildings.

Later, as a crowd has gathered for more fights, Mongul asks why the people are flocking to Superman. His advisor says that the Kryptonian is so powerful that he fears no one – not even Mongul himself. Mongul then says that they must in that case teach him fear.

Lantern and Hawkgirl wake up on the surface of a planet with no idea of where they are. Lantern says that his ring could get them off the planet but without knowing where they are, the run the risk that it might run out of power before they find a habitable world.

Hawkgirl: So we’re stuck here… is that what you’re saying?
Lantern: Maybe forever.
Hawkgirl: Just the two of us?

As Lantern is beginning an apology for being too hard on Hawkgirl, she sees light on the horizon. They fly toward it and find a large fire. The fire is at a trash dump and the dump is occupied by a few people who immediately attack the two of them. After Lantern and Hawkgirl fight them off, Lantern asks one of them how to find War World. Draaga appears.

Draaga: You want to find War World? Talk to me.

Lantern flies himself, Hawkgirl, and Draaga to War World under Draaga’s direction. Hawkgirl asks Draaga about the S shaped scar on his chest, noting that their friend wears something similar, but we do not hear him answer her. They arrive to the planet and note how large it is. Lantern asks aloud how they will find Superman.

Draaga: That’s your problem.

He punches Lantern, knocking him out. The protection of the green power ring turns off and he begins to fall. Hawkgirl asks if Draaga is nuts before flying down to help Lantern.

Mongul is with Superman. He tells Superman that the people want fights.

Superman: You’re just giving them a cheap substitute for what they really need – like food, housing, and medicine.

Mongul slaps a handcuffed Superman across the face.

Mongul: No one talks to me that way.
Superman: No? That wasn’t your name they were chanting out there. It was mine.
Mongul: Someone else once said that to me. It was Draaga. The mob loved him.

Mongul convinced Draaga not to fight by showing him a planet-decimating weapon. Mongul tells Superman that he can do the same to his world. When Superman tells him he’s too late and that Krypton is gone, Mongul says any planet will do, even Draaga’s planet.

Mongul tells Superman that if he wants Draaga’s planet spared, he will have one last fight against Mongul himself. Mongul tells him that he will lose that fight badly. We see that an invisible Martian Manhunter has been listening in on this conversation.

IN the next scene, Superman’s fight with Mongul begins. He lands several blows to the warlord, getting in response a question asking what he is doing. Superman quietly replies that he is making the fight convincing.

As the fight is on-going, J’onn goes to the location of the planet destroying weapon. Inside, we see Mongul’s soldiers saying that the weapon may need to be used at any minute. J’onn shapeshifts into the form of Mongul and orders the soldiers to decommission the weapon. The strain of the shapeshift on this planet overwhelms J’onn, though, and he reverts to his own form. The soldiers realize he is a fake and they attack him.

Superman and Mongul’s fight continues with Mongul now having the upper-hand. Mongul is surprised, suddenly, and is attacked by someone unseen. When Superman looks up again, he sees Draaga with a metal bar telling him that it is time for the two of them to settle their score.

Draaga: If I let Mongul finish you, how will I ever regain my honor?

Superman fights Draaga’s hands away from around his own neck. He tells Draaga that he has to stay out of the fight, or else, Mongul will destroy Draaga’s planet.

Superman: You see, I promised to lose.
Draaga: You’d sacrifice your own life for my planet? That doesn’t make sense.

Just then, Mongul returns to the fight and crushes Draaga with a boulder.

Elsewhere, Martian Manhunter is fighting but is outnumbered. Suddenly Lantern and Hawkgirl arrive to help him. At the sight of move even numbers, one of Mongul’s soldiers presses a button to start the world-destroying cannon. Hawkgirl hits the firing end of the cannon with her mace, causing the power to move back inward. The cannon explodes without outwardly firing. Lantern shields his Justice League friends with a dome crated by his ring and all three flee.

Mongul is still fighting Superman and the Man of Steel is still losing on purpose. Mongul picks up an ax and declares game over. His killing ax blow is blocked by a wall of green energy.

Lantern: Not yet, we’re going into overtime.

J’onn tells Superman that they destroyed Mongul’s death ray.

Superman: Then all bets are off. You’re mine.
Draaga: No, he’s mine!

The War World crowd watching on a video screen cheers on Draaga as he fights Mongul. Mongul gets the upper hand initially before Draaga hears the crowd chanting his name. The sound powers him to get the better of Mongul. The crowd chants for Draaga to finish off Mongul by killing him but Draaga tells them no and that Mongul does not deserve the honor.

Draaga offers Mongul’s crown to Superman. He declines it and tells Draaga to keep it.

Draaga: What is life without honor? I’m not worthy.
Supeman: Draaga, the real test of honor is not how you die, it’s how you live.

Superman and the Justice League leave War World as Draaga stares wonderingly at Mongul’s crown.

REACTION:

Though War World existed in DC Comics long before the movie Gladiator, this two-part episode felt like a direct knock-off of the movie which came out a year before these episodes aired. In truth, it is likely that the War World notion was probably inspired by Rome and gladiator fights in the Colosseum.

I wonder how many people died when the Justice League destroyed Mongul’s death ray. Certainly some. Perhaps many. I think we might agree that removing a planet-killing weapon from Mongul made the high price worth paying… but the characters here do not acknowledge paying any price at all.

Was Superman really willing to die at Mongul’s hands? Or was he assuming that he would survive Mongul’s attempts to kill him? It seems clear that he was willing to die. I guess that’s noble but it ultimately serves no purpose with respect to solving the problem at hand. I guess he hoped that J’onn was out there somewhere solving the death ray problem while he was distracting Mongul’s attention. I might have preferred giving the audience a greater sense that he had a larger plan. Maybe he could have been super-listening in on his friends or something. the most realistic portrayal of Superman here would have been him absolutely wrecking Mongul and then super-speeding/hearing around to find and also destroy the cannon. I suspect he could have done that by himself.

Superman ends the story 20 seconds into Part 1…

“Uh, no, I’m not.”

I like the open-ended nature of the end of the story. Draaga probably pus the crown on eventually. What then? He’s a fighter but does he have a jobs and infrastructure plan?

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