- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

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-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

‘Justice League: Season One’

(Warner Home Video, $27.99)

Artist-creator-producer Bruce Timm brilliantly defines the animated universe of DC Comics’ superheroes. This is yet another example, and it arrives on DVD in a four-disc set that compiles the 2001 season of the Cartoon Network show.

The comic book’s core teammates Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern and J’onn J’onzz — join Hawkgirl as they battle such legendary sequential-art foes as Lex Luthor, Mongul—cqelix Faust, Joker, Vandal Savage and Gorilla Grodd in 26 animated episodes that will appeal to old readers as well as youngsters.

A sparse but informative selection of extras includes a nine-minute round-table discussion with the creators (director Dan Riba along with producers Timm, James Tucker and Rich Fogel), three optional audio commentaries from the same team (which adds producer Glen Murikami), Mr. Timm’s five-minute deconstruction of the character designs and a never-before-seen in-house promotion for the series featuring Robin and the Flash’s sidekick Impulse.

Read all about it: DC Comics continues to publish a monthly title based on the current version of the Cartoon Network show, Justice League Unlimited ($2.25 each), which mimics the animated style and variety of heroes highlighted in the television program.

‘King Kong: Special Edition’

(Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $30.99)

Director Peter Jackson’s three-hour tribute to Merian C. Cooper’s famous movie monster arrives in a two-disc DVD set that includes just a pinch of extras.

I have come to expect much more when Mr. Jackson’s films enter the digital medium, and the absence of material such as a director’s commentary track leads me to conclude a much more substantial release will arrive during the holiday season, much like his “Lord of the Rings” DVD movie sets.

For those who cannot wait, the first disc provides an incredible movie loaded with special effects and heartbreak that traces renegade filmmaker Carl Denham’s quest to capture and exploit nature, assisted by a leading lady and a savage beast.

Viewers get a second disc that offers a faux documentary on Skull Island (which would have worked much better if the film’s production staff had not been interviewed as the authorities), a 33-part post-production diary (still available on Mr. Jackson’s Kong Web site, www.kongisking.net) and a 30-minute educational look at the movie’s re-creation of 1933 New York with historians reflecting on the actual times.

Read all about it: Hunting down creator Don Simpson’s six-part sequential-art adaptation of the King Kong story, published by Fantagraphics in 1991, might be difficult ($1.50 each). I suggest either Dark Horse Comics’ three-part adaptation of Mr. Jackson’s Kong movie ($2.99 each) or the 8½-by-11-inch novel (also by Dark Horse, $19.95) “Kong: King of Skull Island,” which includes gorgeous color illustrations from legendary fantasy artist Joe Devito and a story about Carl Denham’s son returning to the home of the hairy beast.

‘Star Trek: Borg Fan Collective’

(Paramount Home Entertainment, $38.99)

Humans are no longer actively assimilated into the Star Trek club known as Trekkies since the demise of its last television series. However, that has not stopped Paramount from continuing to reissue DVD sets — even though it already has released every episode and movie from every Trek series ever created on the digital medium.

This fan-selected set offers 14 episodes that focus on the Federation’s most dangerous foe. Placed on four discs in Stardate order, as opposed to televised history, the programs are some of the very best from the “Next Generation” and “Voyager” series, with one thrown in from the second season of “Enterprise.”

Despite the mediocre, uneven visual quality of the episodes (Paramount needs to digitally remaster these programs if it wants folks to keep dumping money into the franchise), casual sci-fi viewers will really appreciate such moments as the “Next Generation” crew’s first encounter with the cyborgs, Captain Jean Luc Picard being turned into the Borg Locutus, and Captain Janeway and her team battling Species 8472 alongside Borg babe Seven of Nine.

Bonuses include an optional commentary track from the wincing writers of the “Enterprise” episode “Regeneration,” who meticulously explain how the show clearly fit into the continuity of the Star Trek universe and the “First Contact” movie . Also, text tracks on three episodes from Trek encyclopedia’s Michael and Denise Okuda will saturate viewers with production trivia as well as plenty of Federation facts.

Of course, glaringly missing from the DVD spectacle is the film “Star Trek: First Contact,” which would have completed the true Borg Fan Collective.

Read all about it: Marvel Comics presented a sequential-art adaptation of “First Contact” ($6) back in 1996 and a one-shot team-up book titled Star Trek/X-Men: 2nd Contact ($4.99) that had the “Next Generation” crew and Marvel’s mutants battle the Borg. Also, DC Comics’ Star Trek: The Next Generation series provided a four-part story in 1993 (issues Nos. 47 through 50, $3 each) that featured the crew’s battles with Locutus and his Borg minions.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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