DC Comics whets the appetites of fans preparing for June 17 release of the live-action “Green Lantern” movie with Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (Warner Home Video, rated PG-13, $29.99), a collection of animated stories highlighting some of the greatest protectors of the universe.
Yes, it’s another PG-13 cartoon co-produced by Bruce Timm but — and this is a big but — for the first time in my reviews of these direct-to-disc offerings, I really enjoyed the design decisions made by DC and Warner Bros. Animation.
This 84-minute anthology finds the Green Lantern Corps in a struggle against Krona and his shadow demons that threatens to destroy Green Lantern’s planetary headquarters on Oa.
That set-up offers a chance for Hal Jordan (Lantern of sector 2814) to teach the newest recruit, Arisi, some of the mighty corp’s history before the ultimate battle against an antimatter entity the size of Galactus begins.
Viewers are privy to four tales starring Avra (a scribe to the Guardians and one of the first Green Lanterns), Kilowog (recruit trainer of the Corps), Laira Omoto (a tragic and fierce warrior fated to be a Red and then Black Lantern) and Abin Sur (former 2814 ring bearer).
For the majority of the cartoon, the action is a near-constant assault on the senses with massive space battles, ground attacks, fist fights, weapons combat and a sci-fi film’s worth of sound effects. The grandiose moments even include an enemy crushed by a gigantic green lantern.
My favorite story places the behemoth Kilowag (voiced by rocker Henry Rollins) at odds with a very serious drill instructor during his time as a new recruit.
The award for most dramatic tale goes to the family struggles of Laira Omoto. As a Green Lantern, she returns to her home world not to battle invaders, but fight with her siblings.
It also features one of the best animated hand-to-hand and traditional-weapon combat scenes I have ever witnessed, between Laira and her father. The phenomenally orchestrated battle showing dad and daughter attacking each other while orbs containing holographic memories of the pair in better times will bring up a tear.
My love of animation was then reaffirmed by the story starring Bofungo the Relentless. The brute fights the mysterious Lantern Mogo and he gets way more than he bargained for.
The near-watercolor-styled backdrops set against traditional character designs and a Wagnerian conclusion to the challenge reminded me of the days when “Heavy Metal” ruled midnight movie showings.
An impressive voice-over cast led by Nathan Fillion (“Firefly’s” Capt. Malcolm Reynolds) as Hal Jordan and Jason Issacs (“Harry Potter’s” Lucius Malfoy) as Sinestro feels wasted as the fighting does much of the talking.
Delivered in the Blu-ray format, the presentation has a 3-D look without the glasses. Stunning backdrops with eye-burning color from a volcano planet to an eerie blue prison canyon make it nearly impossible to look away from the screen.
Best Extra: The extras on any DC cartoon release never disappoint and, once again, get ready for some exceptional bonus content.
A 31-minute, satisfying documentary on the Green Lantern Corps leads the way. DC co-publisher Dan Didio and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns along with professors and historians break down the motivations of a Green Lantern and it quickly turns into a discussion on bravery and courage as defined by the mythos of a hero.
Next, the influence of comics scribe Geoff Johns on the Green Lantern comes to light in an 18-minute featurette, highlighted by some awesome silver age Gil Kane art.
Bruce Timm, as he does in every release, taps into the DC animated series library and offers the episode “Revenge of the Reach” from the current hip kid cartoon “Batman: The Brave and The Bold.”
Read all about it: You can try reading the first 11 pages of Green Lantern, no. 1 (volume 4) on-screen as an included bonus to the Blu-ray.
However, I would suggest just buying the trade paperback, Green Lantern: Volume 1: No Fear ($24.99), which includes the first six issues of Mr. Johns’ reboot of the franchise.