- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2015

DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation once again tap into the creative might of pop-culture innovator Bruce Timm to offer Justice League: Gods and Monsters (Warner Home Video, rated: PG-13, $24.98), a direct-to-Blu-ray cartoon starring alternate versions of some famed superheroes.

The creator of the groundbreaking “Batman: The Animated Series” crafts a 76-minute story about a reimagined Justice League starring the famed DC Comic’s trio of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

In his skewered universe, Superman is now the biological offspring of General Zod and raised by Hispanic migrant workers.

Batman is now Kirk Langstrom (the famed Man-Bat in regular DC Comics’ continuity), a genetically corrupted, blood-sucking hybrid with super strength.

And, Wonder Woman is the biggest but most original, stretch. She is Princess Bekka, the self-exiled granddaughter of the New Gods’ Highfather (that’s right, from Jack Kirby’s “The Fourth World” universe.).

Though not well-liked, these heroes are tolerated by the government for their heavy-handed approach to stopping crime and terrorism around the world.Life gets ugly for the team when several scientists start dying, and the Justice League member become the prime suspects.

Comic fans will appreciate the clever character origins here as well as the new look at the Metal Men, now nanite-infused and still led by Dr. Will Magnus, as well as Lex Luthor, a wheelchair-bound genius but just as grumpy as ever.

Less geekified viewers will still enjoy this mystery saga loaded with super-powered action and plenty of plot twists.

It’s worth noting that the production team took full advantage of the PG-13 rating, adding profanity and an unnecessary amount of gore. Incidents include bloody impalings, immolation, electrocutions, neck snapping, brutal beatings and a body torn apart. The excellent story could have easily played out without that much gore.

The digital presentation fills the screen with a 1:78:1 aspect ratio while exposing the functional visuals as well as uninspired animation style that from my point of view, often plagues DC Entertainment’s cartoons.

A selection of well-rounded extras makes the Blu-ray a tempting purchase for those who are building their DC Entertainment animation library.

First, viewers get a 23-minute overview of the creation of the animated movie, with plenty of talk from Bruce Timm, mentioning upfront the risk involved with releasing a radically different version of the Justice League. Topics touch on the writing, the heroes’ costumes, visuals and the justification of its violence. I wish they had offered an equally radical animation style.

Next, a 20-minute look at the many alternate realities of DC Comic’s complex universe features interviews with many of the folks involved in the current crop of cartoons led by Creative Director of Animation for DC Entertainment Mike Carlin and Co-Publisher of DC Entertainment Dan DiDio.

Viewers get a healthy dose of art and quick overviews on such sequential-art series as “Superman: Red Sun,” “Gotham by Gaslight,” “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” “Kingdom Come” and “Watchmen.”

My favorite of the featurettes is the reissue of the 2010 “The New Gods,” which takes a 22-minute look at Jack Kirby’s creative output during his DC Comics years in the 1970s.

Specifically, the featurette looks at the near-simultaneous releases of the comic book series “New Gods,” “The Forever People,” “Mister Miracle” and “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.” It was nice to hear comic book writing legend Walter Simonson talk fondly about Mr. Kirby and what he accomplished.

Finally, as is tradition, Warner Home Video dives back into its animated superhero television archives for a pair of classic cartoon; “Phantoms” from “Legion of Super Heroes” in 2006 and “Brave New Metropolis” from “Superman: The Animated Series” from 1997, both touching on alternate dimension and realities.

And to top it all off, the package contains a 4.5-inch-tall, plastic statue of the new Wonder Woman in full costume. Although, I’m not sure what age demographic this will appeal to since “Justice League: Gods and Monsters” is far too violent for tweens and younger.


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