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Joaquim Dos Santos
Zach Callison, James Garner, Josh Keaton, Danica McKellar, George Newbern, Jerry O'Connell
Writing Credits:
C.C. Beck (character: "Captain Marvel"), Michael Jelenic, Bill Parker (character: "Captain Marvel"), Joe Shuster (character: "Superman"), Jerry Siegel (character: "Superman")

Make your stand against evil with this exciting Collection of 4 DC Showcase Animated Shorts starring favorite DC Comics super heroes! Chosen the world’s protector against the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man - pride, envy, greed, hatred, selfishness, laziness and injustice - young Billy Batson accepts his destiny as Captain Marvel. Battling alongside Superman against nefarious Black Adam, Billy soon discovers the challenge super heroes ultimately face: is it revenge or justice? For bounty hunter Jonah Hex and hard-boiled cop turned vengeance ghost The Spectre, getting their hands dirty is part of the job - maybe even the fun part. But Superman, Green Arrow and Black Canary follow an internal moral code to guide their actions. They know it’s easy to get lost in the darkness of the fight, especially when villans like Merlyn the Magnificent and Count Vertigo place no value on human life.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 63 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 11/9/2010

• Audio Commentary on All Four Shorts
• Four Bonus Episodes
&bull: Preview Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Superman/Shazam!: The Return Of Black Adam [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 25, 2010)

Despite its title, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam doesn’t offer one feature-length animated superhero adventure. Instead, it compiles four different shorts, three of which appeared elsewhere, albeit in shorter versions.

The only exclusive, Return (24:32) features homeless orphan Billy Batson (voiced by Zach Callison). Though he lives a hardscrabble life, he tries to do the right thing – and he attracts the attention of reporter Clark Kent (George Newbern).

And a malevolent supervillain named Black Adam (Arnold Vosloo). For reasons unknown, Adam comes to Earth and tries to kill Billy. Clark sheds his disguise and protects Billy as Superman – for a little while, at least. Before long, Billy learns his true destiny as adult superhero Captain Marvel (Jerry O’Connell) and he does battle with Adam.

Essentially one big fight scene, Adam throws out the requisite “origin story” but not much more. The presence of Superman feels like an attempt to sell discs; the story would’ve worked fine without him, so he seems superfluous.

We do get lots of action, but not particularly good action. The short packs plenty of fights, but none of these offer much punch. Adam becomes a decent way to introduce the Shazam! character and that’s about it; the short’s overall impact remains modest.

Next comes The Spectre (12:52). After the murder of a Hollywood bigshot, the title character (Gary Cole) seeks to punish the guilty.

Spectre goes the Black Dynamite route: it’s set in the 1970s and features production values typical of the era. It even shows intentional source defects to degrade the presentation. That’s an interesting decision but not one that serves the short; it’s more of a distraction than anything else.

Nonetheless, the short works pretty well. The Spectre offers a creepy character, and despite the film’s brief time, it explores him fairly well. Short and sweet, the movie entertains.

Green Arrow (12:13) shows Oliver Queen (Neil McDonough) at the airport to pick up his girlfriend. While there, he notices Merlyn (Malcolm McDowell), a super-villain. Queen switches to his guise as Green Arrow to thwart the murder of young Princess Perdita (Ariel Winter).

Without much time for story, “Arrow” emphasizes action, and it does so splendidly. The short packs all sorts of good battle sequences into its abbreviated running time. It’s a winner that makes me want to see more Arrow adventures.

Finally, Jonah Hex (13:03) delivers some Western action. A prostitute named Madame Lorraine (Linda Hamilton) lures wealthy bar patrons to her parlor and offs them. When Jonah Hex (Thomas Jane) comes looking for one of her victims, she meets her match.

The big-screen Jonah Hex went down as maybe the biggest bomb of summer 2010, and this short probably won’t make anyone regret that they skipped it. Oh, it’s not a bad little piece, but it’s not especially exciting or memorable either. It certainly does nothing to make me curious to see more of the Hex character.

Note that although Arrow, Spectre and Hex extend the shorts found on earlier releases, they don’t add much. Each one runs about a minute longer than its predecessor, so the elongated shorts don’t give us much extra footage.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. All four shorts looked great.

Across the board, sharpness was strong. The shorts boasted consistently terrific delineation and never suffered from any obvious soft spots. Issues with jagged edges or moiré effects failed to materialize, and the image lacked edge haloes. In addition, no signs of source defects appeared.

The shorts boasted very solid colors. The different pieces used varying palettes, all of which exhibited excellent clarity and life. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows showed nice detail. I found nothing about which to complain across these shorts.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks of the Blu-ray opened up the comic book material well. Of course, the soundfields varied, but they always added pizzazz to the program. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended well.

The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during storms or bigger action scenes. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.

Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B+”.

In terms of extras, all four shorts include audio commentaries. The lineup varies from one to another:

Return of Black Adam: writer Michael Jelenic;

Spectre: writer Steve Niles;

Green Arrow: writer Greg Weisman;

Jonah Hex: writer Joe Lansdale.

Across these, we learn about a few aspects of the shorts. The commentaries look at story/character topics, influences and inspirations, cast and performances, and visual elements.

Without question, Jelenic’s chat works best of the bunch. I’m tempted to say this happens because he gets the most time, but I don’t think that’s the only factor, or even a major reason. Jelenic simply explains his work and approach better than the others, and he throws in a good number of details.

The other three writers offer decent discussions, but they tend toward praise. Of the three, Lansdale is the most interesting, especially when he goes over various influences. Weisman and Niles do fine but don’t deliver a great deal of compelling material. Still, the tracks are short, so they’re all worth a listen.

The set also includes four bonus episodes, each of which features characters from the disc's shorts. Here’s what we find:

“Showdown” (Batman: The Animated Series - 21:10): Batman chases Ra’s al-Ghul, which leads to a flashback tale about Jonah Hex and his 19th century interaction with Ra’s. Frankly, this is a silly Wild Wild West-style adventure that does little for me, and it doesn’t help that William McKinney‘s performance as Hex sounds heavily influenced by Sling Blade

“The Chill of the Night” (Batman: The Brave and the Bold - 22:45): The Phantom Stranger and the Spectre watch as Batman confronts the man who killed his parents; the Dark Knight’s soul rests in the balance. That’s an interesting concept, but it doesn’t work tremendously well due to the visual design. The show goes with a strangely bright, peppy palette, so it’s somewhat hard to invest in a dark tale within that realm. Still, it’s an interesting fantasy that has its moments, and some fans will be happy with the voice actor who plays Bruce Wayne’s father.

“Initiation” (Justice League Unlimited - 23:43): The Green Lantern attempts to recruit the Green Arrow to the JLA. The Arrow resists but still finds himself smack dab in the middle of a big battle. I do really like the Arrow character, as he’s something different than the usual true blue do-gooder. “Initiation” doesn’t show him off to terrific effect, but it still showcases him reasonably well and becomes a fun show.

“Clash” (Justice League Unlimited - 22:43): Captain Marvel joins the JLA, where his naivete rubs Superman the wrong way – or is Supes just jealous that the JLA now has another hero with almost identical powers? That factor makes “Clash” an enjoyable show. Superman is so often painted as Practically Perfect In Every Way that it becomes interesting to see him with a bug up his butt.

Finally, the disc ends with a trailer for Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This is merely a 32-second promo without much value.

A compilation of four shorts, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam provides a mixed bag. Two - The Spectre and Green Arrow - are quite good, while the other two - Jonah Hex and Adam - prove to be fairly mediocre. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, very good audio and a few fairly enjoyable supplements.

Overall, this is a decent release, but not one I can recommend, especially not for folks who own the releases on which three of the four shorts already appeared; $30 MSRP is a lot to pay for one new short and some bonus features. With a total running time of barely an hour, Adam needs more fresh material to merit that price.

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