February 7, 2010 - For a show that realistically should have ended seasons ago, Smallville continues to surprise the hell out of me. "Absolute Justice" brings various members of the Justice Society of America to life on the small screen and it does it brilliantly. Accomplished writer Geoff Johns outdoes himself with a story that pays homage to the early days of some of DC's finest and successfully manages to merge that with a show which has finally hit its stride nine seasons in. There was always the danger of this story's reach exceeding its grasp but credit needs to be given to the entire production staff for pulling off a convincing story on those cheap exterior sets (yes, they really are terrible) and a tight budget.

Going into "Absolute Justice" most of us had already seen the costume design work done for the Justice Society. These costumes remained faithful to their comic book counterparts but some fans remained skeptical about how they would look in motion. I was among the skeptics. Once I saw Doctor Fate's (Brent Stait) transformation however, my fears were alleviated. The gold helmet contrasted by the dark blue of the costume looked fantastic in HD. Doctor Fate was brought to life on the small screen and looked brilliant. The glow emanating from his eyes was a nice added touch and his voice demanded respect. If they pitched a Doctor Fate series – I'd be all for it.

Hawkman (Michael Shanks) brought to life was not quite as impressive but still a great achievement. His wings remained a little too lifeless at times. Michael Shanks' voice work while in Hawkman mode was grating as well. I would have preferred if they stuck with his Carter Hall voice throughout the episode instead of feeling that they needed to change it for his Hawkman persona. Stargirl's (Britt Irvin) costume was equally as impressive albeit the least difficult to recreate for the small screen.

Geoff Johns managed to pack a lot of Justice Society lore into this two-hour story. A great deal of time is spent in the first hour unravelling the truth behind the Star-Spangled Kid and Sandman's murders. This gives Johns an opportunity to really delve unabashed into the history of the Justice Society and its members. Al Pratt (Atom), Jay Garrick (The Flash), Ted Grant (Wildcat), Alan Scott (Green Lantern), Terry Sloane (Mister Terrific), Shiera Sanders (Hawkgirl) and even Abigail Hunkel all get a mention here. In the second hour we see former Justice Society members weapons and uniforms on display and a beautiful painting of the JSA together that is sure to become a collector's item at some point.

The JSA history lesson doesn't end there either. A lot of dialogue is dedicated to the back story of the various characters we are introduced to. Hawkman revealing his true relationship with Shiara and explaining how he has lived several lifetimes wasn't necessary to the plot of the episode but it needed to be there to lend authenticity to this universe Johns was trying to build. Fans of DC Comics will absolutely love all of this attention to detail. So if you're a DC fan who has avoided Smallville like the plague, fear not, this does the JSA justice.

The murder mystery serves as a way to introduce Clark, Chloe, Ollie and the audience to the world of the Justice Society. Beyond that, Icicle (Wesley MacInnes) was a decent nemesis but I had a really hard time believing that this faux-hawk sporting rookie villain could single-handedly take down members of the Justice Society. Doctor Fate deserved a better fate (pardon the pun) then to die at the hands of what I consider a b-grade villain.

"Absolute Justice" not only introduces us to the world of the Justice Society but also sets up what appears to be a new story arc with the clandestine group – Checkmate. Amanda Waller (Pam Grier) serves as the groups mysterious leader whose agenda is not entirely clear at this point but it is suggested that she enlisted Icicle to kill members of the Justice Society in order to bring costumed heroes out of retirement to help stop an oncoming apocalypse. Or is it Apokalips!?

I love the look of this organization, they feel like something ripped out of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or other sixties classic spy fare. Waller also mentions the Suicide Squad, which would make for another interesting group for Smallville to tackle. I wouldn't want anyone else but Johns to write the script however.

There are some great bits of dialogue throughout "Absolute Justice". I especially loved the banter between Green Arrow and Hawkman. The animosity between them made for some great moments and I appreciate that their mutual dislike for one another eventually developed into mutual respect. A lot of parallels were drawn between the JSA and Clark's current group. There was a great scene with Stargirl pointing out the lack of a family feel to the Watchtower and Clark's team. This actually highlights a really big issue I've been having with Smallville lately. Despite the leap in the show's quality this season I've grown a little tired of the lack of comradery these characters have. There is always a subtle amount of infighting amongst Clark, Chloe and Ollie. There's no doubt they care for each other deeply but they're dysfunctional. I hope Stargirl's words of wisdom continue to influence Chloe to make their "Work in Progress" feel a little more like a team of super friends.

Adding J'onn J'onzz (Phil Morris), the Martian Manhunter, to the mix and returning his powers to him was the icing on the cake. Too bad Doctor Fate had to die in the same scene but more Manhunter on Smallville would be a good addition. I think you need another, more tenured super hero, to mentor Clark and Oliver who often find themselves wallowing in self doubt. His crossed-red suspenders over a "martian" green shirt was a hilarious fashion choice but it looked great when we glimpsed his true form.

For a show that remained so fearful to fly its geek flag high and admit that it was a tale about costumed heroes this is a great achievement. Yes, we've seen costumed heroes before but they've mostly fit the Smallville mold of being guest stars or very rarely assuming their alter ego. Green Arrow still remains the one standout but he's still struggling to be the hero he wants to be. "Absolute Justice" felt a lot more like a Smallville episode stretched and manipulated to fit the DC mold. In that respect, it didn't quite succeed but it found a comfortable place in the middle where the two formulas could coexist. "Absolute Justice" is a great achievement and more importantly it's a lot of fun to watch for both long time DC Comics fans and Smallville fans.

IGN's Ratings for Absolute Justice
Rating Description  
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9.7 OVERALL
(out of 10 / not an average)
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