"A Better World" is one of the better Justice League Episodes!
Justice League is touted as the best ensemble Superhero series, thanks to its character progression of each hero member, great animation, a memorable theme that was inspired from the 1971 Hammer film, Twins of Evil, and best of all, the brilliant stories courtesy of Stan Berkowitz, and the late great Dwayne McDuffie. In one of the best and thought provoking 2-parters from the phenomenal series, episode 11 & 12 titled "A Better World" which first aired in 2003, offers a " What If” scenario of the League establishing a supposedly utopian society in the near future, and to of what consequences? The story begins with a nihilist prologue where in an altered "present" Lex Luthor is now the President of the United States. And in his maniacal actions, he attempts to start a nuclear war, but not before Superman makes an uncomfortable decision, yet feels both justified and relieved. Best scene goes to Batman asking Diana Wonder Woman, "do you smell something?"
Several years into the future relative to Prime Earth, Earth 50 is home to the despotic Justice Lords, conquerors of their Earth after President Lex Luthor murdered the Flash, pushing this Earth's Superman over the edge into the role of a tyrant after murdering Luthor in retaliation. Feeling the loss of their friend, and questioning the judicial system, the Justice League now referred to as the “Justice Lords,” follows Superman’s lead, thus becoming self-interested fascist dictators who curbs free speech, withhold Presidential elections, and despite that is far less criminal activity, assuming most Supervillains have been imprisoned or worse, democracy and rebellion has been suppressed for the sake of "safety" and "order". However, only Batman labors in secret to overthrow his comrades and restore freedom to the Earth.
When Justice Lord Batman discovers the original Justice League via portal gateway, the Lords lure our heroes into a trap so that they can dispense their form of "justice" upon their world starting with an unexpected battle against Doomsday which doesn’t end well for our “guest villain.”
When faced against the Lords who have no qualms against killing, Superman makes a pact with the devil which may affect dangerous outcomes in the future episodes. This serves as a major subplot within the first season of Justice League Unlimited where Flash's murder by Luthor is more detailed. A Better world is arguably one of the more profound and foreshadowing episodes from Justice League Unlimited and what I love about this episode, is how it poses some interesting questions about justice and power by merely challenging the idea that by simply having superheroes with extraordinary abilities is enough to ensure that justice will be served, yet it reminds us that power corrupts, which is a sobering thought for those of us who admire superheroes. Especially regarding Superman, who is no longer the “Blue boy scout” we know him to be who is willing to resort to violence and intimidation to get what he wants which is the opposite of the iconic hero who always strives to do the right thing.
It’s remotely feasible how a shining symbol of hope and justice can turn against society in a heartbeat when he's pushed beyond limits as this 2-parter examined the possibilities. Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman and especially 2021's Justice League explored this scenario while, The Flashpoint Paradox, Crisis on Two Earths and especially the INJUSTICE videogame series further homed in on the subject matter. In conclusion, “A Better World” is an excellent example of great storytelling within the superhero context.
It’s a smart and thought-provoking episode that challenges our notions of power and justice While exploring darker parallel universes which is nothing new, since it was previously established in a 1961 issue of The Flash. Berkowitz 's groundbreaking story is a great example of how a good story can challenge our perceptions of reality and make us reflect on our own moral and ethical beliefs when it relates to authority and accountability.