- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 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.

‘The Tick vs. Season One’

(Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $34.99)

A pompous blue hero and his sidekick, a former accountant now the Moth, waged a war on crime in the City during a hilarious Saturday morning cartoon show back in the mid-1990s. A new two-disc DVD set compiles the lunacy of the first season.

Based on the comic-book series by Ben Edlund, the half-hour program did a fantastic job of bringing his wacky brand of humor and mockery of the superhero genre to life.

Heroes such as American Maid (a meld of Wonder Woman and Captain America), Die Fledermaus (Batman wannabe) and Big Shot (the Punisher with mother issues) combined might with the Tick and fought absurd villains such as Chairface Chippendale (yes, he had a chair for a head), the Guy With Ears Like Little Raisins and the Man-Eating Cow every episode. The clever banter and crazy action allowed children and adults to appreciate the colorful silliness.

Pop-culture fans will appreciate the fact that Monkees drummer Mickey Dolenz voiced the Moth character. However, lovers of the DVD format will be less than pleased by the shows’ mediocre digital transfer.

Best extras: Viewers get nothing extra. No optional commentary tracks (you gonna tell me Mr. Dolenz was too busy?), no history of the character and no mini comic book.

As a matter of fact, it is so devoid of extras, it even creates a big enough vacuum to suck away one of the episodes from the first season — No. 11, “The Tick vs. the Mole Men” — which is tragically missing from the set.

Read all about it: The home of the Tick, New England Comics, still offers a complete line of his adventures. Readers should go back to the beginnings of the character and purchase the first volume of the “Tick Omnibus” ($17.95), which compiles the first six issues of the original black-and-white series.

‘Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5’

(Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $49.99)

The 12 colonies’ survival against the half-human Cylons has been re-imagined since 2003 in an excellent TV series that continues on the Sci-Fi Channel in October. This three-disc DVD offers episodes 11 through 20 of the second season of the show.

The adventures of Admiral Adama, viper pilot Starbuck and Commander Apollo come to gritty life through the talented direction of Trek production alum Ronald D. Moore and his crew, who never disappoint as they deliver emotionally charged episodes, action-packed space battles and a cavalcade of angst-ridden subplots.

Highlights to the set of shows include the destruction of a massive Cylon incubator, the presidential elections (could it be the end of Laura Roslin’s political career?) and a season finale that finds much of the remaining human population stuck on a planet now run by their deadly cyborg enemies.

Best extras: Besides an extended version of the episode “Pegasus,” 98 percent of the bonus content on the discs has been culled from the Battlestar Galactica Web site (www.scifi.com/battlestar) and includes video blog segments from executive producer David Eick and a compilation of hilarious, end-title animated moments that run at the conclusion of every show.

However, the podcast commentaries are most special, as Mr. Moore and his cohorts overscrutinize every episode and are candid about each one’s failures and successes.

Fans also get a card for the Battlestar Galactica collectible-trading-card game from WizKids in every package.

Read all about it: Dynamite Entertainment offers sequential-art stories based on the latest version of Galactica. I suggest a jump aboard the monthly series ($2.99 each), written by Greg Planet Hulk) Pak or a new, four-part miniseries this November devoted to Zarek ($3.50 each), the character played by actor Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo from the old Galactica show).

The Batman: The Complete Second Season’

(Warner Home Video, $19.98)

Bob Kane’s vigilante returned to Saturday mornings in another cartoon ode on the KidsWB! in 2004. The sophomore season arrives on a two-disc DVD set and offers 13 episodes, 22 minutes each, of updated Dark Knight-themed adventure.

The latest incarnation of the Batman universe revisits the time when the Caped Crusader fought alone (at least through the second season) and updates the new looks and personalities for some of his archenemies. Unfortunately, an often bland animated style will forever keep the show from greatness.

Thankfully, the second season gives a darker edge to story lines. I loved the design of Catwoman, the gothic edge of the Riddler and some great voice-over work by such stars as Frank Gorshin, Tom (SpongeBob) Kenny, Gina Gershon, Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund and Adam West.

Standout episodes include the Penguin, the Joker and the Riddler battling for Gotham in “Night and the City,” the Halloween-themed “Grundy’s Night” (of course it stars legendary zombie Solomon Grundy), and a look at Batman’s angrier side in “Strange Minds.”

Overall, it is not close to Bruce Timm’s “Batman: The Animated Series,” but it has enough villain power and action to keep the kiddies entertained.

Best extras: A four-minute montage of major moments from Batman’s exploits on his show over the past two seasons is not much of a bonus. I guess the best extra is the cheap price and the fact that Warner Home Video included an entire season’s worth of shows in one set rather than pulling its typical trick of issuing separate DVD releases with multiple episodes on them.

Read all about it: DC Comics’ monthly title the Batman Strikes! ($2.25 each) mirrors the style of the cartoon and will appeal to younger readers in the family.

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