- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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

Green Lantern: First Flight (Warner Home Video, rated PG-13, $29.99) - The latest animated effort to explore the sequential art superstars of the DC Comics’ universe illuminates Hal Jordan’s indoctrination as a member of an intergalactic police force.

Older comic book fans already know Mr. Jordan became the Green Lantern during a fateful run-in with dying alien Abin Sur.

This 77-minute story wastes little time with the details and whisks the hero off for an outer space adventure and his first encounter with the Lantern Corps, the Guardians and super-villain-in-the-making Sinestro.

The action liberally flows and includes a great collection of Corps favorites such as Kilowog, Ch’p and Tomar Re, but takes some radical departures from the Green Lantern canon. Fans will be disappointed.

Also, parents should be forewarned: The PG-13 rating gives creators license to painfully suck a character through a hole in a ship into space, impale a female warrior and show plenty of broken bones.

My bigger problem is with the antiquated animation style that, once again, offers only a slight upgrade to the tired Cartoon Network’s “Justice League” benchmarks.

Somebody needs to start taking risks here, much like producer Bruce Timm did back in his Batman days, and we need another evolution of the visuals. I would have preferred a Robot Chicken or Grantray-Lawrence version of the Green Lantern to this effort.

The voice-over cast, including Michael Madsen as Kilowog, does just enough justice to the action, although bringing “Battlestar Galactica’s” Tricia Helfer onboard as turncoat Boodikka seems pointless. Hearing a gorgeous woman doesn’t deliver quite the same impact as seeing her on-screen.

Best extras: A single Blu-ray disc houses the feature along with hours of extras that eclipse the main event. I’ll pass on writer Geoff Johns’ promotional ramblings for the Blackest Knight story line and his resurrection of Hal Jordan. I will mention the 22-minute look at the symbolism of the ring and the talisman touching on other heroes such as Frodo, Aladdin and King Arthur.

What I needed was an extended and definitive Green Lantern historical documentary that explores a comic book character existing since the golden age of comics in the 1940s.

I’ll take the now-expected bonus cartoons culled from Mr. Timm’s favorites, including five episodes from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. A surprise treat is the wonderful Duck Dodgers ode to the Lantern Corps, The Green Loontern, starring Daffy Duck.

Read all about it: New fans should try Mr. Johns’ six-issue reintroduction of the hero in Green Lantern: Secret Origin ($19.99, trade paperback) to learn of Hal Jordan’s ascension to protector of Space Sector 2814. Purists will appreciate the trade paperback Green Lantern Chronicles: Vol. 1 ($14.99) for its six classic silver-age stories loaded with Gil Kane art.

Dragonball Evolution: Z-Edition (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.98) - A live-action movie based on Akira Toriyama’s famed manga and anime franchise arrives on Blu-ray to completely frustrate fans devoted to Goku and his Saiyan brethren.

I spent way too much time with my child appreciating the soap operatic Z” Dragon Ball Z cartoons on Cartoon Network to have wasted 85 minutes of my life with this insult.

This movie rips away most of what made that series fun (over-the-top fight scenes balanced with completely insane heroes and villains) and leaves viewers with a barely there coming-of-age plot mixed with pointless stereotypes and the threads of the Dragon Ball Z saga.

The actor playing Goku, Justin Chatwin, has the quirky charm to pull off the lead role, but director James Wong never lets him explore it.

And Piccolo never should have been the main villain. Does anybody at 20th Century Fox remember Raditz? While I’ve got your attention, Goku’s transformation into the great ape Ozaru, a beast the size of a high rise, has been reduced to a 7-foot-tall werewolf. Are you kidding me?

Best extras: Nothing short of a second disc loaded with the original Dragon Ball Z cartoons (Funimation Productions offers tons of reasonably priced, 30-episode sets) and an apology from the director would have satisfied this fan.

Instead, let’s peek at the time-wasting stuff found on the expensive disc.

The Goku’s Quest game requires a player watch the entire movie again and press a button when a Dragonball icon pops up on the screen. Yeah, right. I have an idea: Just buy any of Atari’s third-person fighters based on Dragon Ball Z for a much more satisfying experience.

Also, a pair of fight choreographers from the film demonstrates some of the warrior stances and how to pull off a Kamehameha (a massive power wave). Since you can’t really create a massive power wave, what could have been a turned into a great set of exercises for youngsters is just two guys amusing themselves.

Read all about it: Viz Media has translated about half of the Dragon Ball Z sequential-art books for American audiences. Fans can dive into 26 black-and-white volumes, averaging 190 pages ($7.95 each).

Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).

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