Episode Title: “Duel of the Double Crossers!”
Original Air Date: June 12, 2009
A time traveling cowboy walks into a galactic saloon. That’s not the setup to a corny joke, that’s the setup to the adventure we have this episode. Throw in a gladiatorial arena, sibling rivalry and a slew of new gods and what do you get? Read on to find out.
The teaser begins with Batman’s rebellious heroes in the making, the Outsiders, battling Despero in the center of the city. The teens struggle to combat Despero at first, but tap into their abilities to eventually defeat the super villain. Rather than congratulate them, Batman admonishes them for all of the collateral damage they caused in the process. Bats then proceeds to push a button on a controller revealing that it was all a holographic training simulation and tells the teens they will keep doing it until they get it right, as the scenario begins anew.
The story proper opens with Old West antihero Jonah hex walking into to a sci-fi saloon filled with rough looking alien “Cowboys” playing cards. Hex approaches a red cyclops telling him the he’s “on his list”. A melee ensues, that eventually spills into the dusty road in front of the saloon where Jonah’s robot horse intervenes and helps subdue the cyclops. With the target in hand, Hex requests a teleport from a device that sends all involved parties to Mongul’s War World. It is revealed that Mongul has abducted Hex from his natural place and time to use him as a bounty hunter that obtains gladiators for Mongul to pit in fights in the arena against representatives of his sister Mongal. Hex is given the promise of a return to his home if he will capture one more fighter, The Dark Knight. Hex is sent to Gotham where, after an intense skirmish, he is successful in bringing Bats back to War World. Mongul reneges on his promise to free Hex from servitude, leaving the cowboy understandably perturbed with Mongul. Batman is pitted against the extremely powerful new god, Steppenwolf, and with a little help from Hex, manages to defeat the powerful foe and escape the arena. Hex and Batman free all the captured gladiators who turn their ire against Mongul and his sister, forcing the siblings to flee. As Batman prepares to return to Gotham, Hex decides to stay and explore War World and rides of into the sunset (with a new girlfriend).
I was initially annoyed when Jonah Hex appeared to be portrayed as a “space cowboy” rather than beingg faithful to his western comic roots, but I quickly became more accepting of the depiction when it was revealed that he had been displaced by Mongul, and the creators weren’t attempting to bastardize the source material. Jonah Hex is one of the classic antiheroes from DC comics, and probably the most recognizable western character in all of comics, and naturally his grittiness had to be diluted by a few degrees to make him acceptable for the sensibilities of this series. I felt the character design did an acceptable job of communicating the core of the character, and the voice actor (Phil Morris) seemed a good fit. Hex’s dialogue was a little uninspired with liberal use of cowboy cliches, which made hime seem to be less like a cowboy and more like someone pretending to be a cowboy (which is essentially what was happening I suppose). The combination of Mongul and the new gods seemed like a natural fit, as Mongul is essentially a second degree imitation of Darkseid, and Darkseid is a little too dark to fit in this series. Steppenwolf was featured prominently, but no discussion of who or what he is was offered, and I suspect the phrase “New Gods” was purposely avoided by the creators. Mongal’s enforcers, the Furies, are also denizens of Jack Kirby’s fourth world (the corner of the comic book universe that gave rise to the new gods) but I think the idea that they were similar in power and history to Steppenwolf was adequately implied without any overt exposition. The story was a fairly simple tale with plenty of action packed in from beginning to end, but likely want lead to lasting fond memories of the episode. Overall, this was another middle of the road episode that used extensive artistic license with the source material and could lead to a bit of confusion to some viewers.
Featured Characters: Despero (Fox & Sekowsky, 1960), Jonah Hex (Albano & DeZuniga, 1972), Mongul (Wein & Starlin, 1980), Steppenwolf (Jack Kirby, 1972), Mongal (Johns & Ferreira, 2006)