For the Man Who Has Everything | Episode 2 (54)
Aired: August 7, 2004
Heroes: Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman
Supporting: Brainiac, Loana, Van-El, Krypto, Jor-El, Thomas and Martha Wayne, and Joe Chill
objects: Invisible Jet, Lasso of Truth, Utility Belt (Flashlight, Mini-Laser, and Ultrasonic Imager), Neural Impactor, Nth Metal, and Scream Machine
Places: Fortress of Solitude, Krypton, and Crime Alley
Beasts: Black Mercy, Krypto, and The Preserver's Zoo
Written By: J.M. Dematteis
Directed By: Dan Riba
Adapted from a story by: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
For The Man Who Has Everything ties into a theme that has occurred constantly within the DCAU: heroes are all about loss. This episode makes the third time that such a theme has been explored via seemingly restoring everything the hero has been robbed of before; Batman had his turn with Perchance to Dream, and J'onn J'onzz with A Knight of Shadows. But for those who would take such a comparison and use it as a criticism of the episode, I do not believe that it is warranted, because the structure is what makes each of these versions of the same essential plot unique. For Perchance to Dream, the truth is kept as a surprise, confusing and misleading us from beginning to end. A Knight of Shadows abandons its complete illusory strength after the first try, instead becoming simple seduction for J'onn. And For The Man Who Has Everything presents us with its situation outright, becoming less about the mystery of the affair and more about the ability of Superman to break away from it - and what would happen if he did not.
Because the episode features the famed "Big Three" (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman), heroism of the highest order is at work here, but obviously nobody represents it more than Superman himself. But what if he just stopped? It's not a new question, to be sure; famed stories like Kingdom Come have delved into it significantly. In this case, Superman's end is imposed upon him by Mongul, but the Black Mercy telepathic plant clearly doesn't loosen its grip until its captive wants to go. With Batman and Wonder Woman as the witnesses, we see the immediate responses from both of them. Wonder Woman's instinct is to fight, to take up the cause that Superman always championed. Batman's, on the other hand, is to snap Clark out of it, to bring him back to service. Is this because Batman would rather have a Superman around to fight the enemies that his mortal self never could? Perhaps, but I like to think it's because Bruce knows that Clark would never willingly put down the sword, and bringing Earth's mightiest do-gooder back is its own form of do-gooding for the Batman, methinks.
For this viewer, I found Clark's dreamworld to be most curious, being a sort of morphed version of both Krypton and Earth. It supposedly takes place on Krypton, and it has the technology, fashion, and naming habits to boast it. But Kal-El's wife is doubtlessly Lois-like with a few shades of Lana Lang in there (be sure to note her referenced job as "covering" something), and Kal-El has abandoned typical Kryptonian life to live on in a Kansas-esque farm atmosphere. Perhaps that is why it is easier for Superman to break away from his fantasy than Batman or J'onn in their respective episodes, because what he wants is a melded world that really could not possibly exist. The only truly painful loss from the fantasy is Van-El, his imagined son, and because Superman becomes aware more quickly than his forebears, he has the chance to give Van-El a proper goodbye (some good tearful stuff there; should Superman ever have a son, it's a safe bet on what his name will be). When Superman finally breaks loose on Mongul, you get the sense that his fury is less inspired by the second loss of Krypton, but the Indian gift of a son that he thought he raised for years. Unlike his compatriots Bruce and J'onn, Clark got over his homeworld's loss a long time ago, but a family man like Clark Kent does not take kindly to falsifying a wife and child.
In those aforementioned episodes, the Mad Hatter's aim was to find a way to mollify the Bat, and Morgaine Le Fay hoped to exploit the rekindled passions of J'onn J'onzz into squelching his sense of duty. Here, Mongul's aim is cruelty (although a little of both those previous ones find their way into the goals of the bastard). And what a sense of cruelty it is. War World stands as the least of Justice League's achievements in the past two seasons, and there's been a reimagining of the approach to the character that is not entirely out of line with his previous appearance, but is far more palatable. Gone is the Vince McMahon feel of the character, and instead his pure, seething arrogance comes to the forefront. His sexism, his seeming invulnerability, and his constant cynical commentary (now I'm really starting to enjoy Eric Roberts in the role) make for a villain that can be built up just enough for the ultimate fall in the end. And may I say, Superman's fight with Mongul is one of the best fist fights the DCAU has ever seen - once again, seeming to make up for the lack of proper climax in War World.
After last week's stare into the sun of Justice League Unlimited's massive scope, it is highly well-conceived to follow up with a thoughtful episode that stars very few heroes (and is still quite thrilling). Has the beautiful dreamworld plot now been as played out as it can be? I don't know. For three times now, they've found a new way to do it that reveals different aspects of different characters. I personally can't picture a fourth way, but if there is at least one more structure to this plot that can reveal new and intriguing things about these characters, then bring it on.