- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2010

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with DVD-ROM and Blu-ray enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

Road to Perdition (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated R, $29.99)  Director Sam Mendes’ Academy Award-winning adaptation of writer Max Allen Collins and artist Richard Piers Rayner’s 1998 graphic novel returns to home entertainment centers on the Blu-ray format.

The 2002 movie (and original sequential art) is a grim and expertly crafted period piece that explores the 1930s Prohibition era, set in and around Al Capone’s Chicago.

The action follows Michael Sullivan, a father forced to go on the lam to protect his son from a crime family of which he was an intricate m’s latest release in high-definition clearly gives a breathtaking visual path to what made the film so special.

One might think the powerful performances of Tom Hanks as Sullivan, Paul Newman as the mob boss and Jude Law as a deranged assassin would dazzle. They do, but cinematographer Conrad L. Hall is really the star of the show as his techniques with lighting, film stock exposure, angle and rack focus bring a film-noir sensibility to every color frame of the film.

Also, his obvious reverence for and expansion upon the source material presents a blueprint of how to eloquently adapt the sequential-art format to the film medium.

Almost every frame could be hanging in an art gallery and certainly found in the very best of comic book artistry.

Best extras: The optional commentary track by Mr. Mendes is essential, as is the interactive scrapbook that delves into the film’s background and source material.

Called the Library, it comes loaded with research and insight as the viewer clicks on postcards (choices highlighted with bullet holes) that cover everything from historical influences to crime scene photography to the film’s graphic-novel roots.

As the scrapbook transforms to sections, it often displays art from the comic and film while combining still images with text and creator interviews  all compartmentalized on-screen like a living encyclopedia.

Most insightful are the interviews with Mr. Collins and Mr. Rayner as they discuss an illustrated project that took four years to complete.

Also worth appreciating is a look at some of the great Illinois gangsters of the era, as well as the economic and political climate of America that includes original news stories to read from the Chicago Daily Tribune.

Overall, the Library is a great idea that takes advantage of the Blu-ray format. It will fascinate not only the “Road to Perdition” fan, but also the history buff in the family.

Read all about it: Hunt down the original graphic novel “Road to Perdition” ($14.99 and up) from Paradox Press and expect to spend many an hour marveling at Mr. Rayner’s incredibly detailed black-and-white illustrations.

Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set, (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated R, $59.99)  Cinema’s famed weapon of mass destruction gets a fitting high-definition tribute covering his quartet of cinematic exploits.

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