DC’s newest animated feature is one I wish I’d read in graphic novel form. However, the only time I’ve encountered the Elite, as they refer to themselves, were as members of the Justice League Elite. Manchester Black is leader of the Elite, but the JLE was headed by his sister Vera Black. Both of whom appear in this animated film. Black is one of the most enigmatic and interesting characters from the DCU, and I felt it an excellent move to use him to challenge the code of Superman. Black desires to help people, but his lack of experience with the good side of humanity makes him far closer to The Comedian than Superman. Black believes the “bad guys” deserve to die. More importantly, he thinks that life is about survival of the fittest, and that the people with the most power (specifically people with superpowers) make the rules. Black and his team go against everything that Superman believes in, especially in their methods for solving problems. This is the setting and story idea that drives this film. Warning, SPOILERS from this point forward.
Superman’s opening encounter is with Atomic Skull. He defeats him, but at great cost to Metropolis, literally. The property damage numbers in the millions and Superman answers to the United Nations to explain his code of justice to them. One very important question is asked: Are you the Superman that’s needed for the 21st Century? It’s a question Superman struggles with throughout the story. Even Lois asks him at one point, if he’s ever wondered if terrorists should get what they deserve. Of course, Clark has not. Even a terrorist’s life is precious. All life is precious. In truth, perhaps only our Kryptonian guardian could teach humanity this. The Elite step in during his attempt to prevent two countries under an armistice from causing more destruction upon each other. He flies overseas and directly intervenes in the name of peace. The Elite nearly kill a few soldiers and Superman is not happy. He’s wary of them from that point on.
After saving a few hundred people in England, Superman is slightly more approving of them, as they used ingenuity in helping to rescue a train of people buried under concrete. However, they soon hijack communications of the planet and announce themselves as a team that will not answer to any governing body, nor give quarter to anyone who is considered a “bad guy,” and that anyone who disagrees with them will also be met with a violent answer. Superman is the only one who sees this as a bad thing. Yet, the public and the media love the Elite’s stance towards terrorists and super villains. At one point, Manchester appears to murder Atomic Skull. Not sure if Atomic Skull could potentially survive such a thing since I don’t know much about him, but it’s fair to say that in this animated film, he’s dead as disco. Superman finally openly challenges Manchester, who is immediately backed up by his team. His team consists of: the Hat, resident sorcerer and magic wielder; Menagerie, who appears to have batwings and strange demon like powers of her own, you’ll just have to see to find out; and Coldcast, who can absorb and generate energy and seems to be rather resilient and have a degree of super strength. Manchester has psychic abilities, mainly control over the mind in general as well as incredibly strong telekinetic abilities.
Anyway, Superman disapproves of Black’s use of lethal force and punches him on live television. Black calls him out, knowing he has public support, and tells him to meet him the next day for a showdown. Supes agrees, only because he wants to end the madness of Black’s methods, once and for all. They meet up, and teleport themselves to the moon, using the Elite’s Tran dimensional ship to create an artificial atmosphere as they are not Kryptonian and thus incapable of surviving in space without oxygen. They throw down. Coldcast hits Clark with a devastating electromagnetic pulse, and by all appearances the Man of Steel is dead. Or so they think. Out of nowhere, Supes hits them with a series of equally devastating attacks and this time he’s not holding back. He’s finally cracked. The boy scout has lost it and he’s out for blood. Finally, it gets down to him and Black, one on one. Now what Clark does next is brilliant.
I’m told he does this in the comics, as well. He hits Black with heat vision. Using his irises in his eyes to focus his blast, he targets an abnormality in Black’s brain, where his powers derive from. Instant lobotomy. Here’s where it really gets good though. Supes appears to about to deliver a killing blow to Black when Manchester points out that he’s no better than him now. And then Clark drops a bombshell: He’s pulled a Batman on the entire world. Secretly, he’s had Superman robots back him up, protecting all civilians that appeared to have been killed by collateral damage. They also apprehended each unconscious member of the Elite, minus Black, and whisked them off to the Fortress of Solitude to take their powers away and prep them each for a super maximum security prison. Black is perplexed. Lois is thrilled, as she was convinced her husband just legitimately lost his mind and his morals. So, happy ending, after all this is a Big Blue story.
Additionally, there’s an excellent short featurette about the upcoming The Dark Knight Returns as an animated film from DC. They’re splitting it into two parts and part one is due out this fall.
Superman vs. The Elite:
Reviewed by Chris Gering