Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Bruce Timm's new "Green Lantern" animated series premiered Friday night on Cartoon Network, and exceeded all my expectations.

I was pretty worried about the decision to computer animate this series. Previous attempts like MTV's "Spider-Man" & Nicktoons' "Iron Man" have had good action sequences but really stiff characters the rest of the time. But no worries: the CGI and Bruce Timm's signature animation style work together almost perfectly. The characters' movements are smooth, and Timm's stylized designs allow the faces to show a wide range of emotions with a minimum of movement. (There's a bit where test pilot Hal sees the Guardians' experimental super-spacecraft for the first time and his facial expression is priceless.) The lack of black lines also makes the ring energy effects look spectacular.

I'm a little bit in awe of Josh Keaton, who did a great job as teenage Peter Parker in "Spectacular Spider-Man" and yet somehow does a completely different, but equally great voice as adult Hal Jordan. (Hilariously, he also gets to do Hal imitating Ganthet for a few seconds.) Kevin Michael Richardson, who's also currently playing Martian Manhunter on "Young Justice", does a great Kilowog ("I make hammers.") and Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants (!) is terrific as Red Lantern Zilius Zox. Apparently it costs a lot of money to render new characters in CGI, so expect to see a smaller cast here than in "Young Justice" or "Justice League Unlimited".

The story setup cleverly turns Hal & Kilowog into underdogs, far away from their 3598 fellow officers and their all-powerful masters. At first, the show seems like a light action-adventure, but slowly turns up the heat into something as deep and serious as anything "Batman: The Animated Series" or "Justice League" ever did. This show might not be at that level yet, but it's astonishingly close. When it returns with new episodes early next year I'll bet it will reach the same height or greater than Timm's other classic series.

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