Ask any comic book fan and they'll tell you DC and Warner Brothers succeed with their straight to DVD releases EVERY TIME. This new release is a bit peculiar, when you think about those successes. We die hard fans wait patiently for each new release and snap them up the day they hit. That said, a collection of the short DC Showcase films seen on the beginnings of the last three releases probably isn't going to draw in the fan that already owns them. The packaging states that these are extended versions of the shorts never seen before, but I'm watching them all again for this review and I haven't spotted any footage so excellent it would cause me to notice it apart from what I already remember. The pack also includes commentary on all four shorts with high points including writer Steve Niles relishing every grind house moment in The Spectre and Joe R. Lansdale bringing his Texan charm and wit to the Jonah Hex track. Mind you, I'm not selling any of the shorts..well..short! These are excellent cartoons, especially for those of us growing tired of WB's Batman-Superman-Batman-Superman rinse repeat method. The animation is stellar, the writing top notch and the fun factor of seeing new heroes in action complete with blood and violence, in a cartoon format, can't be beat. It's just..you probably already own them all!!! So what's left to tempt you?
SUPERMAN / SHAZAM!!! My initial reaction is to say this is the BEST animated short we've seen to date. In most ways, this is the truth, if only because it is the first time we get a big scale battle with comic book heavy weights going toe to toe in the middle of a city...something usually reserved for the feature presentation. This is the origin story of Captain Marvel AKA Billy Batson, a tough orphan left to his own devices on the streets of an unforgiving city and still, he somehow retains his honor. Of course it doesn't hurt when you have a friend like Clark Kent looking after you. When Black Adam returns to Earth after being in exile for countless years he quickly finds Billy is the one chosen for the mantle of power he would claim for himself. Now Billy gets a crash course in tooling around town in a body packing strength, speed and flight all rivaling those gifts of Superman himself as the two team up for a battle you'll never forget. As always, the animation is top notch, with choreography of fight scenes like nothing I've seen since Avatar: The Last Airbender's finale. High praise, indeed!! The film hits all the right points with perfect doses of humor alongside pulse pounding action on an epic scale.
Also packed into the set are Bruce Timm's cartoon picks including a Batman the Animated Series episode called Showdown (starring Jonah Hex), a Batman: Brave and the Bold episode called The Chill of the Night (starring The Spectre) which is particularly DARK for a kid's show, the first Justice League Unlimited episode titled Initiation (with Green Arrow) and another JLU episode called Clash which puts Superman head to head with Captain Marvel in his only Justice League appearance. So now the real question is, are the extras and new cartoon enough for you to spend 20 dollars on a DVD or 30 on a Blu-ray? Probably not. The sad fact is, with pirating still going strong and with no end in sight, most people will just find a download of the new cartoon and call it a day. For re-released shorts with some new bits and a new short, this would have been an excellent opportunity for WB to create a "gateway drug" package. For 10 dollars on a DVD or 15 for Blu, you'd get set up with the action you crave, and for those dipping into the DC Universe for the first time, it would be a challenge not to get hooked! Never the less, if you've got the cash for the DVD, grab it on release day November 9th (when it will most surely be on sale), as we all know...the better the DVDs do, the more we'll see in the future!