The arrival of a heroic Lex Luthor--yes, you read that correctly--leads Superman, Batman, and the rest of the Justice League to confront their evil, alternate-universe identities in Crisis on Two Earths
, a terrific addition to the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) line of direct-to-DVD animated features. Based on Grant Morrison's JLA: Earth 2
graphic novel, the action brings the core Leaguers (Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter, though not the Dark Knight, who stays behind to ruminate on the evils of his own world) to a second Earth where their villainous counterparts rule the roost as part of the Crime Syndicate. What ensues is a solid mix of drama and action that, surprisingly, doesn't end with a wall-to-wall brawl between Justice Leagues. Instead, the story takes intelligent forays into the reality of a world ruled by super-villains, and the consequences of intruding on that reality. Though the story is a reworking from the failed Justice League: Worlds Collide
feature (which was designed to serve as a link between the Justice League
and Justice League Unlimited
series), Crisis on Two Earths
never feels like a patchwork effort; rather, it's well conceived and stands solidly next to some of the best DCAU efforts. The scripting is supported by a solid cast that includes Mark Harmon as Superman, James Woods as Owlman (the alternate-world Batman), Chris Noth as the "good" Lex Luthor, and William Baldwin, who acquits himself well as Batman, but can't replace Kevin Conroy.
Extras are plentiful and include the gritty, Steve Niles-penned DC Showcase for The Spectre, which also turned up on the Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam DVD; the live action pilots for the '70s-era Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter and the unaired, threadbare Aquaman; two bonus episodes of Justice League, both dealing with alternate Earths; and a 30-minute look at the powers that be at DC Comics and the changes that have been wrought at the company. A handful of sneak peeks at upcoming and previously released DCAU DVD releases, including Batman: Under the Red Hood, round out the set. --Paul Gaita