Is there anything more satisfying than the sight of superheroes punching Nazis? If the thought of it sends waves of sweet serotonin through your body, then you’re going to love Justice Society: World War II. In DC’s latest animated film, the Flash accidentally uses the Speed Force to warp back to World War II, where he fights alongside the Justice Society. There are lots of Nazi punches, cool superhero moments and a surprise reveal that I won’t spoil here.
In between all of the action, however, there was an interesting scene that hasn’t left my brain since I first watched it. Black Canary is disturbed that the Flash has no idea who the Justice Society are, despite being from the future. The implications of this weigh on her, causing her to confide in Hawkman. “What’s the point of all this if we aren’t even remembered? We fight. We die,” Dinah asks. Hearing the doubt in his teammate’s voice, Hawkman replies, “One day this will all be over, and we’ll all need to live again.”
I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see a superhero acting so vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong, the heroes of the DC Universe are often written with deep pathos, but this felt different. Maybe it was because it was Black Canary, maybe it was the heartfelt way Elysia Rotaru delivered the lines, or maybe it was because this was happening in the midst of World War II. Either way, Dinah Lance’s emotions felt real, and I couldn’t help but feel for her. Isn’t it human nature to be plagued with self-doubt, even when we’re succeeding? The movie plays with these questions as it explores these themes through the lens of its storied heroes.
After Wonder Woman 1984, I thought I was done crying my eyes out over Diana Prince’s relationship with Steve Trevor, but this movie beautifully gave us a new angle on their romance. Early on in the movie, Steve proposes to Diana, but the Amazonian warrior doesn’t think the timing is right. Her mind is on the mission and she doesn’t want to open herself up emotionally while there is a war raging on. “War is a place for warriors, not a place for wishes,” she tells Steve.
Diana doesn’t fully consider Steve’s point of view until her beloved dies in her arms during the final act. “Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Only today. Right now. That’s why we fight, right? But honestly, being with you, I wouldn’t trade it for all the tomorrows in the world,” Steve tells Diana. While Wonder Woman was hoping for a better tomorrow, Steve was trying to make the present the best it could be, since he knew that it could all end at any moment. Sadly for Steve, that’s what wound up happening.
After the shock of the scene, I found myself wondering if Steve’s advice contradicted the words of comfort that Hawkman had given Black Canary. While Hawkman told Dinah that she could look forward to a day where they could leave the horrors of war behind, Steve knew that the future wasn’t guaranteed. In fairness to Hawkman, when his character dies, he reincarnates, which doesn’t make him the most objective person. However, that doesn’t mean we should discount his advice. It does put another spin on his conversation with Dinah, though. Despite having the maturity of an ancient soul, Hawkman wasn’t sure how to comfort Canary. There are no easy answers in war, even if you’re lucky enough to live for hundreds of years.
Steve didn’t have all the answers either, he just accepted that the whole situation was bigger than him. In a world where superpowered gods walk among us, Steve knows that he’s only human. With that in mind, I decided to rewatch his death scene. The second time around, I heard something in Chris Diamantopoulos’s performance. Steve Trevor seemed to be at peace when he died. He didn’t take anything for granted and he lived every day like it was his last.
War is a heavy burden for anyone, whether they’re an ordinary mortal or a superpowered being. I began this article by talking about the joys of punching Nazis, but with that joy comes a heavy price. It fills us with doubt like Black Canary, has us hoping for a better future like Hawkman, and teaches us how to appreciate our present like Steve Trevor. World War II might be over, but the lessons it taught us will remain in our public consciousness for years to come. Justice Society: World War II beautifully tackles these lessons.
Plus, lots of Nazis get punched.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.