"Ultimatum" is the ninth episode of the first season of Justice League Unlimited, and the ninth of the overall series. It originally aired on December 4, 2004. It depicts the appearance of a rival superhero team, the Ultimen. The Justice League is unsure what to make of them, then has to intervene when the members become unstable and violent.
A Justice League team intervenes on an offshore oil rig, when sentient magma creatures arise from the sea and attack the workers. Aquaman, accompanying them, had warned that such would be the result of drilling too deep. However, the League are joined by another team of superheroes, the Ultimen. In short order, the day is saved, and the spokesman, Wind Dragon, gives a corny speech. Aquaman is openly disgusted, and even Superman is a little put off by the Ultimen's "goody-goody" attitude.
The Ultimen differ from the Justice League in many ways; under the auspices of their sponsor, Maxwell Lord, they have a much higher public and more commercial profile than the League; and for all their professed admiration of the League and commitment to justice, they seem to have little interest in joining forces with them. However, Wonder Woman takes a liking to one of them, Long Shadow, who frankly says his greatest wish is to join the League, but the others are holding back – Wind Dragon says they're not ready for the privilege yet.
Things start to go awry when Wind Dragon, in the middle of battle, suddenly develops a new and alarming "freeze wind" power that surprises even himself. Lord encourages the team to take a break and stay the night at their lab for observation. While they're waiting, Long Shadow suddenly develops a new power of his own; super-hearing, which allows him to eavesdrop on Lord's conversation with Amanda Waller, and learn that not everything is as it seems. Following Lord, the Ultimen sneak into a secret laboratory and find clones of themselves in suspended animation.
The Ultimen are all horrified to learn that they are artificial beings, cloned to serve as living weapons for the U.S. government. Their memories of childhood were falsely implanted and those persons who they thought were their family and friends were actors used to maintain the illusion. Moreover, they have heard Professor Hamilton telling Waller that their genetic structures are becoming unstable and they all have less than a year to live.
Wind Dragon's mind breaks, and he goes on a violent rampage. Juice, Shifter, and Downpour join him, but Long Shadow tries to stop them. The League is forced to intervene, and the Ultimen are subdued after a tense battle. As the offending Ultimen are being taken away by authorities, Lord arrives along with Waller and a squad of soldiers. Lord appeals to the Ultimen and pledges to see to it that their last days are comfortable and promises they will be taken care of. The prisoners decide to go with Lord peacefully, but as soldiers escort members of the Ultimen away, and more move in to take Long Shadow, Wonder Woman steps in between the soldiers and Long Shadow to block their way.
Waller demands he come along too, but is quickly confronted by Batman refusing to let it happen, saying Long Shadow is with the Justice League now. Waller calls on her soldiers, who take aim at Long Shadow. Superman and Aquaman move in front of him, blocking their line of fire. Waller relents and calls off her soldiers, saying Long Shadow is free to go with them for however long he has left, but when Batman pushes for information about her and her organization, she sternly warns him he shouldn't probe the situation too closely, calling him "rich boy", much to Batman's surprise.
Arriving at the Watchtower, Wonder Woman welcomes Long Shadow into the Justice League, to live out his dream and be a true hero for as much time as he has left.
- Giganta and Bizarro make a failed attempt to break Grodd out of prison, whose last DCAU appearance was in the Justice League episode, "Secret Society". It's unclear, however, if he has been incarcerated ever since.
- The original Ultimen, including Long Shadow, do not appear again; Subsequently, they appear only as semi-sentient clones. This indicates that the League was unable to save Long Shadow from dying prematurely.
- Waller makes reference to "the Squad" which she threatens to send after the Ultimen, a possible reference to Task Force X, which will appear in the episode of the same name.
- As the subsequent episode, "The Doomsday Sanction" reveals, Professor Hugo Strange is working for Waller as one of the department heads of Cadmus. He previously appeared in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne", where he ascertained Batman's secret identity (though his confidence in his discovery was shaken by the end the episode). Nevertheless, this likely accounts for how Waller knew Batman's secret identity. Waller addressed Batman as "rich boy" during their confrontation.
Home video releases
- Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League Unlimited - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
- The last time Bizarro was seen in Superman: The Animated Series episode "Little Big Head Man" he was returned to a distant, deserted planet, and left to supervise Mr. Mxyzptlk, who was working off his sentence. No explanation for Bizarro's return is given.
- Bizarro refers to Giganta as "woman me loves." Bizarro's "backwards-speak" gimmick is supposed to use the opposite word instead of the one he really means. So if Bizarro truly does love Giganta, he actually should have said "woman me hates." For example, later in "Dead Reckoning", Bizarro pledges his loyalty to Lex Luthor, his "worst enemy."
- First DCAU appearances of Amanda Waller, Maxwell Lord, and the Ultimen.
- In this episode, Giganta sports a yellow version of the outfit she wore in "Secret Society". In her subsequent appearances, she goes back to her trademark pink dress.
- The Ultimen bear strong resemblances to the original characters created for the Super Friends series in the 1970s and 80s.
|Wind Dragon||Samurai||Air manipulation|
|Juice||Black Vulcan||Electricity manipulation|
|Long Shadow||Apache Chief||Self-magnification|
|Downpour and Shifter||Zan and Jayna (The Wonder Twins)||Assume and control any form of water (Zan/Downpour)|
Assume any animal form (Jayna/Shifter)
- The League members appearing in this episode were the same four characters that comprised the original Super Friends team: Batman, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
- The Lava Men are similar to the creatures from the Super Friends episode of the same name.
- The Ultimen's headquarters resembles the Hall of Justice, headquarters of the Super Friends.
- Dwayne McDuffie claims that "the beast that threw itself against the bars" is a nod to the Wonder Dog.. It appears to be the same model as the Cerestone dog monsters in the Batman Beyond episode "Ace in the Hole".
- The extent of Aquaman's involvement with the League is uncertain; in Justice League "The Terror Beyond" and the subsequent episode of Justice League Unlimited, "Wake the Dead", it is arm's-length at best, but in this episode he is shown sitting at the main conference table with the other founding members, and referring to the League as "us". It's also possible Aquaman simply took a special interest in this case seeing as how the magma creatures were rustled from the ocean floor, which is part of his kingdom.
- Aquaman's presence at the main conference table is a possible reference to Aquaman being one of the founding Justice Leaguers in mainstream comics, especially considering the seventh chair Hawkgirl (who was brought in Aquaman's stead in the original seven) used is still there.
- Long Shadow and Wind Dragon manifesting new powers is probably also a nod to Super Friends, the writers of which having been accused of constantly making up convenient new powers for the characters.
- Bizarro's declaration before attacking Wonder Woman at the prison is a likely reference to Mighty Mouse (a superhero mouse) who was known for singing "Here I come to save the day!" when flying into action.
- On the DVD commentary for "The Return", the creators lamented how much work they put into designing this episode's "Whirly-Bat" which Batman used to fly into battle with the Ultimen. They pointed out that even though the Whirly-Bat only appeared for an only a few seconds, fans still "hated it".
|Susan Eisenberg||Wonder Woman|
|George Newbern|| Superman|
|James Sie||Wind Dragon|
|Gregg Rainwater|| Long Shadow|
|Tim Matheson||Maxwell Lord|
|Grey DeLisle|| Downpour|
|CCH Pounder|| Amanda Waller|
|Robert Foxworth||Professor Emil Hamilton|
Bizarro: (singing) Bizarro here to save the day!
Aquaman: (after Downpour fails to take him down with a tidal wave) King of the Seas, remember?
Batman: Who are you people?
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|Cadmus Story Arc|| Next episode:|