DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation continue to roll out direct-to-Blu-ray cartoons, adapting memorable comic books from the famed DC Comics’ superhero universe.
The latest, Superman vs. The Elite (Warner Home Video, rated: PG-13, $24.98), taps into Action Comics no. 775 starring the Joe Kelly story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?”
Thanks to a beautifully constructed — and often amusing — adaptation from Mr. Kelly, the 76-minute Man of Steel adventure is pure joy and almost made me forget about the mediocre animation.
Viewers first appreciate one of the hipper opening credits since Cartoon Network’s “Teen Titans” ruled the ‘toon airwaves by mixing pop art and alternative pop music.
The story finds Superman first teaming up with, and ultimately fighting against, a vigilante team of superheroes called The Elite.
The fringe group is composed of the telekinetic Manchester Black, a Brit with major anger issues; Coldcast, a large guy able to manipulate magnetism; Menagerie, a winged female infused with an alien weapon tech causing cybernetic serpents to attack her enemies; and Hat, an alcoholic punk with the power to conjure almost anything he can think of such as a massive serpent and stone samurai soldiers.
The motley, super powered crew declares itself the new heroes and will stop violence with more violence, no matter who or what dies.
The cartoon questions the relevancy of a morally-bound Superman within a 21st century world of terrorists, biowarfare and civilian slaughters where citizens often want their heroes to cross the line and stop the brutality at any cost.
By the way, this Superman has an unsettling edge. Early on, the very grumpy hero decimates the Atomic Skull using a telephone pole. He is so angry his hand is shaking but does not kill him.
That almost proves a fatal mistake but foreshadows a rousing final battle that delivers closure to a tale about the importance of dreams, dignity, honor and justice.
Actor George Newbern (often the voice of the animated Superman) plays the perfect foil and also stretches the character’s darker side beautifully.
What does not stand out is the animated design. It’s another no-risk effort and just too comfortable — my common problem with most of the DC-based cartoons. It will certainly grate on the nerves of fans that read the original, visually intense, source material.View Entire Story
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A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 17 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.
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