Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1, also known as Justice League x RWBY, RWBY x Justice League, or JLxRWBY for short, is an anime-inspired science fantasy action-adventure film, bringing together characters from the Justice League and those from the young adult animated series, RWBY. The latter is the flagship series of Rooster Teeth and began airing in 2013. It recently concluded its ninth season. This film was written by Meghan Fitzmartin and directed by Kerry Shawcross.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the thirty-second article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on April 30, 2023.
This 83-minute film begins with Superman’s unexpected arrival on Remnant, since he has no idea how he ended up there. In classic crossover fashion, seven of the classic Justice League characters, find themselves in Remnant as teenagers. Soon enough the huntresses of Remnant, specifically Ruby Rose, Blake Belladonna, Weiss Schnee, and Yang Xiao Long, and their friends, work with them to learn why their planet has changed and stop a Grimm monster from destroying all that exists. Ruby, Blake, Weiss, and Yang all have superpowers of sorts, known as semblances, each unique to themselves.
I was intrigued by this film as an avid fan of RWBY and occasional watcher of superhero series like DC Super Hero Girls, Young Justice, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Birdgirl, Harley Quinn, Hamster & Gretel, Gotham Girls, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, and She-Ra: Princess of Power. My interest in the classic superheroish magical girl anime Sailor Moon and the superheroish action series such as Sym-Bionic Titan, My Life as a Teenage Robot, and OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, further made me want to watch this film. My excitement remained even after learning that the film takes place in the first half of RWBY‘s Volume 7.
There are differences from RWBY. For instance, Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1, Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang wear the outfits they donned in Vale, while Weiss can master her summoning of Glyphs, Nora wears the same outfit she wore in Beacon Academy, and the CCT tower at Beacon isn’t destroyed, but is active. This is all because this film takes place in an alternate universe of sorts. That makes sense as it is a crossover film which has the same voice actors as the original RWBY series. One difference is Tiana Camacho, who voices Glynda in the RWBY original anime spinoff, RWBY: Ice Queendom.
It was nice to see Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang, Juane Arc, Pyrrha Nikos, and Lie Ren, the latter three part of team JNR, interacting with members of the Justice League such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman/Diana, Green Lantern/Jessica, Vixen, Cyborg, and The Flash. In the RWBY show proper Ozpin has been reincarnated as Oscar, other characters have either died, like Jacques Schnee (presumably in Volume 8), or haven’t appeared in the show recently, like Glynda or Kali Belladonna. They return in this film.
Two other characters also appear: Adam Taurus and Sienna Khan. Adam Taurus was Blake’s abusive boyfriend. Sienna Khan was killed by Adam to take control of the White Fang, a peaceful organization originally aimed at improving conditions for the Faunus, a group of people with animal traits. Taurus aimed to change the latter organization into a violent terrorist organization which would overthrow human society and replace it with a Faunus-led one. In Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1, the latter two characters are only shown in a flashback when Blake remembers back to what actually happened during the series.
Apart from the voice actors for the RWBY characters, like Arryn Zech, Blake Dunkelman, Lindsay Jones, Kara Eberle, Miles Luna, Samantha Ireland, and Neath Oum, those who voice the members of the Justice League (Chandler Riggs, Nat Wolff, Natalie Alyn Lind, David Errigo Jr., Jeannie Tirado, Tru Valentino, and Ozioma Akagha) are just as talented. Riggs (who voices Superman) is known for his role as Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead. Wolff, the voice of Batman, has been recognized for his music, and roles in films like Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, and Ashby. Lind, the voice of Wonder Woman in this film, is known for various television appearances including as Danielle Sullivan in Big Sky.
Errigo Jr., voice of The Flash, has previously done voice work in Ridley Jones, The Casagrandes, Milo Murphy’s Law, and Dota: Dragon’s Blood. Tirado, voicing Green Lantern, has lent her voice to characters in dubs of Fairy Tail Zero, KanColle: Kantai Collection, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Tru Valentino, who voices Cyborg, is known for his voice work in Madagascar: A Little Wild, Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight, and Spidey and His Amazing Friends.
I personally remember Valentino best for his role as Cuphead in the short-lived animated slapstick comedy, The Cuphead Show. Finally, Arkagha, who voices Vixen, is best known for her acting as Harper Omereoha in Delilah, and her voice acting as Shuri in What If…? and Bumblebee in Teen Titans Go!, to name a few roles.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure about Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1 at first. Surely, the fight scenes and the character designs were good, but was uneasy about the plot, even when Superman got on the scene at the film’s beginning. However, the film drew me in, beginning with Grimm glitching out of control when killed, all while they still retain their goal, as soulless creatures, to destroy humanity, which as Nora puts it at one point in the film.
The humor of the characters, especially of Yang, lightened the mood. For example, Yang scoffs at the idea she will call Superman by his name, causing him to admit they can call him “Clark” (as in Clark Kent) instead. It was also funny that when Batman/Bruce Wayne fights people in the Schnee mansion, a person is playing the piano during his fight.
The fracturing and scrambling of memory, causing the characters to be confused about what actually happened, is at the crux of the Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1. It causes people, such as Ozpin, to appear, glitch into Oscar, and disappear, or others like Blake’s mom, Kali, to say strange things. Some try and figure out the reality of their present predicament. Batman/Bruce Wayne, attempts this, but gets imprisoned. Others realize something is wrong, but are unsure what to do about it.
There is even a sub-theme about the power of privilege. Weiss criticizes her father, Jacques, of the ever-powerful Schnee family, for having a party rather than not repairing the CCT Tower. This bonds Weiss and Batman/Bruce Wayne together, as he says that the wealthy don’t care about the plights of other people in any universe.
As would be expected, there are disagreements between heroes, with Blake and Yang annoyed that the Justice League is trying to tell them what to do, and vice versa. In fact, in a harsh scene which resonates with those who saw Volume 9, Cyborg asks Ruby who she is and she doesn’t know. Although Superman says it is difficult to be a leader, he later questions her as team leader, which does not help her confidence! Even so, when Kilgore declares that Ruby is a child who is trying to be a leader, Superman reassures her, saying leadership isn’t about age, but about your heart. He adds that although people will inevitably freeze and fail, that’s what makes you human. The latter is a hint at the theme of self-acceptance enshrined throughout RWBY‘s Volume 9.
In the end, Team RWBY, Team JNR, and Justice League all work together, either by examining at holographic maps or tapping into their superpowers/semblances to fight the Grimm and save the day. Their fight is complicated by the fact that these Grimm are not ordinary, but can reboot, until they are electrocuted. This means that Ruby can’t use her silver eyes, her ultimate “weapon”.
This road to victory is not necessarily a simple one. One theme of Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1 is that people lose something which is a part of them. For Vixen, her necklace is missing, and for Jessica, she lost her all-powerful Green Lantern ring. In the case of the latter, it seems she is having issues tapping into her powers at first.
What stole the show in this film was Juane offering to help her, showing care, patience, and understanding in the process. Ger power is trapped, and she can’t access it. Jessica says the ring grounds her, stating it is a symbol of power, belonging, and control. Hence, without it, she feels unmoored and listless, like a ship drifting across the open sea. This reminds me of how Adora felt in the final season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, when she felt completely lost after the Sword of Protection was shattered, and even questioned whether she could help her friends. Coming back to this film, Juane tells her that her ring gets the truth of things and the truth of her, again trying to help her center herself.
At the same time, the film provides subtle hints to the trauma the characters have experienced in the past. Cyborg says at one point “what, you haven’t learned to adapt thanks to childhood trauma?”. Canonically, in the Marvel universe, Jessica experienced trauma herself as a kid. As such, the film’s writers were not above retraumatizing the characters. For example, a person who looks like Pyrrha tricks Juane, and traps him, with Jessica, in a box, while warning them to not warn the Justice League about the reality. Juane is further affected when the Seer causes him to see Pyrrha’s death, paralyzing him.
After Juane had already experienced the death of Pyrrha second-hand (Ruby saw it first-hand), seeing her in front of him caused him to lose all reason, and trust her. This isn’t a surprise after all he has been through, so no one can hold it against him. It was good writing to have Juane tell Jessica about Pyrrha and still be able to help Jessica be more than her fear. In a powerful statement which is often not stated in fiction, he tells her it is fine to have anxiety flare-ups and implies she shouldn’t be ashamed of them. All of this helps encourage Jessica to use her green lantern power to help them escape.
Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1 hints at the ship-of-sorts between Jessica and Juane, which could be called “Greenknight”, overriding any interest Juane had in Vixen, who he seemed taken in by, at first. The film also implies there is a ship between Batman and Weiss. In fact, Weiss states various times that Batman should stay. This could very well mean that she has romantic feelings for him. Their collaboration is an important part of the film, as both work together at an Atlas’ computer lab to learn the reality of the world and why everything is glitching.
Funny enough, Diana is jealous of how close Weiss and Batman are getting. It could be part of the reason she wants to pull him back to “his” world. The writing of Diana, Weiss, and Batman in the film is good. It better than what some would claim, as it is clear that a Batman and Weiss ship, at least in the forms shown in the film, is possible. Otherwise, Weiss and Batman can fight well together, even when faced with impossible odds.
While it is not directly stated, there is queer subtext between Blake and Yang. In the show proper, both are in a relationship, mutually confessing their romantic feelings in the Volume 9 episode “Confessions Within Cumulonimbus Clouds”. The ship between both, known as Bumbleby, had been semi-canon before that point, but was not canonized until that episode. In the film itself, Yang hugs Blake happily, Blake gives Yang the side-eye when she describes Diana “very strong”, and Blake agrees to go along with Diana to Atlas because she is jealous. Still, Blake puts this aside and fight alongside her against the Grimm while flying through the air.
At other points in Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1, Blake and Yang look at one another, with Blake explaining how she and Yang got to know each other. Furthermore, Yang worries about Blake after she talks about losing people. In a very touching scene in the film, Blake and Yang touch each other’s hands through the cockpit window, with Yang saying she trusts Blake, while she pilots the aircraft. In the meantime, Blake puts aside her jealousy so she can fight alongside Diana against the Grimm even as she flies through the air.
Toward the end of the film, after Diana says she knows it is hard to fight under fire, Blake says that it is nice to kiss ass and bumps her ass with Yang. As Yang’s voice actor stated in watch party for the series, “how did anyone ever think Yang was straight”. Although it has not be directly confirmed, fans have stated that Yang is a lesbian. Blake was previously confirmed as bisexual. As Shawcross put it, Bumbleby moments were added because it was something the crew liked and said the moments. He also stated that “Blake and Yang had a lot that they could talk [about] with and relate to with Diana, Wonder Woman”. The latter may have been a reference to past comments by those who say that Wonder Woman is a bisexual icon, later confirmed by writer Greg Rucka.
The last battle of Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1, which involves riding on bikes, and tag-team fighting (like Yang and Blake), is one of the film’s strongest. In a hint at what may happen in the second part of the film crossover series, it is clear that a villain named Kilgore, who created a virtual reality by mind-controlling The Flash, is also stuck there. As such, it is implied that someone else is controlling him, although it isn’t clear who.
His plan to make the Justice League into teens, when they are “vulnerable”, have the world rip them apart, and cause them to deal with emotions they ignore or regress as adults seems like a weak plan. He could have, just as easily, imprisoned them on their own world, instead of Remnant. The hubris of Kilgore is what takes him down. Jessica uses the equivalent of Ruby’s silver eyes on the Grimm dragon, which has Kilgore inside, causing him to almost fade from existence.
Although everyone says their goodbyes and they all go back to their respective worlds, it is clear this isn’t the end. All of the main cast, which are not part of the Justice League, wake up from what was supposed to be a training mission. Ruby’s concern that someone created the virtual reality/simulation, a person from their world, setting the stage for the next film.
All in all, animation of Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1 is well-done, and the designs are very colorful. There are even features that make it seem like a comic book, such as talk bubbles when characters are annoyed, and other expressions. All of the flowing animation which goes easily with the storytelling, voice acting, and the like, is no surprise as over 210 people, if not more, worked on this film. That makes it an even bigger effort than a volume of RWBY!
Unfortunately, Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1 was effectively spoiled on social media before its release, in part because it accidentally aired early on Redbox on April 20, five days before its general release. This made animators ask fans to not post spoilers until the film came out, or say they feel “pretty hurt” by people posting clips from the entire film before its release on April 25th. On the positive side, this interest will undoubtedly help support Volume 10 for RWBY, so that the show’s characters can have their stories continued, even if reported review bombing on IMDB continues.
The film was available on Google Play, but was later taken down for unexplained reasons. Although the stock of Rooster Teeth’s parent company (Warner Bros. Discovery) has been falling, thanks to the rebranding of HBO streaming platform, and debt continues to accumulate, the film survived the cuts. That is for the best.
Adding onto what I’ve said so far about the film, I personally liked the design of characters like Jessica, whether you consider her gender non-conforming or not, the White Rose scenes of sorts, Weiss summoning powerful glyphs, and it is a lot of fun. Perhaps, there will be future RWBY features in the future which are not crossovers.
In certain ways, this film made me think of Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, which I reviewed earlier this year, as it is also set in a virtual reality. In this film, the characters are forced into a virtual reality, while in Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night, I believe they chose to be in that reality.
Hopefully, in the second part of film crossover series, Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part Two, which may come out in the summer, there is more character exploration of Superman, Batman, Diana, and Vixen. This film focused on the internal struggles of Jessica more than the other Justice League members. It would be great to see a focus on the mental struggles of the other Justice League members as well. I would not be surprised if there are additional scenes with ships such as Bumbleby, Greenknight, and Weiss/Batman, since this film set the groundwork for the next one.
As a final note, although David Levy, who has long worked on RWBY, and on series such as Red vs. Blue, Camp Camp, various bands, and independent films, does a decent job with the film’s music, it isn’t that memorable. Maybe, Casey Lee Williams could either compose the music score of the next film, or at least a few tracks. That would ensure that the film packed an extra punch.
Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes and Huntsmen, Part 1 can be purchased or rented on Prime Video, MoviesAnywhere, iTunes/Apple TV+, Redbox, and Vudu, or have the DVD and Blu-ray ordered from other online marketplaces.
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