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Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam Blu-ray Review and Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics DVD Review


“Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics” is a well-made documentary, but it doesn’t offer anything new.

“Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam” proves that the DC animation department should stick to the shorts.

The ‘Secret Origins’ documentary, which is narrated by Ryan Reynolds, covers all the basics. It touches upon iconic characters (and some of their creators) from the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern age comics such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, JSA, The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and the work of Alex Ross. Interviews with DC writers, publishers, historians, editors, artists, and former employees such as Neil Gaiman, Jim Lee, Paul Levitz, Mark Waid, Neal Adams, Dan DiDio, Joe Kubert, Marv Wolfman, Grant Morrison, Julius Schwartz, Len Wein, Dennis O’Neil, and Geoff Johns are included. DC imprints, radio dramas, cartoons, merchandise, TV shows, films, and video games are also touched upon. There are also short segments on politics and the bogus comics code.

For those expecting “Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics” to be a revealing, deep documentary, I’m sad to report that you will be disappointed. ‘Origin’ is very much a fast paced 90 minute documentary whose purpose is to educate and inform casual comic fans or those who know nothing about comics. If you are a comic geek, I’m afraid there’s nothing new here at all. This is essentially DC Comics 101. All of this information is common knowledge to those who follow DC.

The widescreen picture quality looks solid. I especially liked all the motion comic panels.

I didn’t notice any issues with the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The interviews and stock footage clips all sounded clear to this reviewer.

Sadly, this is a bare bones release. No extras are included.

“Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam” is a new DC animated set that contains 4 animated shorts. 3 of the shorts (“Green Arrow,” “Jonah Hex,” and “The Spectre”) have been previously released on past DC animated discs, but there’s a brand spanking new short here (as evidenced by the title of the disc). In “Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam,” the villainous Black Adam arrives on Earth to find a young orphan boy (Billy Batson) who is destined to become Captain Marvel. Basically, the bulk of the short involves Superman and Captain Marvel teaming up to kick Adam’s butt. It’s like watching one long 22 minute epic fight which is fine with me as the stories of the feature length DC animated films tend to drag. Awesome aerial and ground battles aside, the short does have a few minor flaws that bugged me such as Jerry O’Connell’s awkward voice acting for Captain Marvel and Superman being vulnerable to magic. Really though, they don’t detract from the fun.

Moving on to the other shorts (which have new extended cuts on this disc), I have to say that “The Spectre” is far and away the best of the lot. The story itself, which sees a dead police officer/supernatural spirit taking down criminals, is engaging, but it’s the snazzy direction, Grindhouse/horror/noir style that make this one a winner. It’s just a flat-out great homage to several genres which made me a happy geek.

If you were severely disappointed by the unwatchable live-action “Jonah Hex” movie, you should be happy to know that the character is done right here. In this short tale, bounty hunter Jonah Hex is looking for a wanted dead man named Red which leads him to another criminal. If you love the comics and the western genre, this is simply a must see.

Lastly, there is the “Green Arrow” short which is sadly the only weak one of the bunch. The plot finds Green Arrow facing off against the villain Merlyn in order to protect a young princess. Unlike the other shorts, the plot here doesn’t do the Green Arrow character justice. It’s just a dull story and Neal McDonough is miscast as the title character. 

Summary: This is easily the best recent DC animated release. Hopefully, we will see more short collections in the near future.

As per usual, these animated shorts shine on Blu-ray. As far as I’m concerned, Blu is the only way to go for animation. The shorts are presented in 1.78:1 1080p.

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track packs a punch. From Superman/Captain Marvel’s forceful punches and the groovy score of “The Spectre,” to the arrows being shot by green arrow and the gunshots in the “Jonah Hex” story, the audio track is firing on all cylinders here.

* A trailer for “Batman: Brave And The Bold.”
* A Jonah Hex centric episode from “Batman: The Animated Series” titled “Showdown.” A Spectre episode from “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” titled “The Chill Of The Night.” Two episodes from “Justice League Unlimited” titled “Initiation” and “Clash” that revolve around Green Arrow and Shazam. “Initiation” is the best of the lot here as it is a much better Green Arrow story than the short on this set.
* Commentary on “Superman/Shazam! The Return Of Black Adam” by writer Michael Jelenic. Commentary on “The Spectre” by writer Steve Niles. Commentary on “Green Arrow” by Greg Weisman. Commentary by Joe Lansdale on “Jonah Hex.” Lansdale and Niles provide the most interesting commentaries as they talk about style, story, and scripts.

November 9, 2010 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review, DVD review | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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