- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2016

Legendary superhero teams learn to work together while trying to save Earth from a world-consuming demon in Justice League vs Teen Titans: Limited Edition Gift Set (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $24.98, 78 minutes).

DC Entertainment’s latest addition to its ever-accumulating collection of direct-to-Blu-ray, full-length PG-13 cartoons moves away from its normally more oppressive, adult-themed storylines and actually offers some fun hijinks co-starring younger heroes.

The story, loosely based on multiple story arcs from the “Teen Titans” comic book series including writer Marv Wolfman’s and artist George Perez’s work in the 1980s, opens with a Justice League battle against the Legion of Doom, in which Robin violently intervenes, and Batman realizes he can’t control his comrade and tween-aged son Damien Wayne.

With help from Nightwing, they decide to have the arrogant, pint-sized hero get some lessons in humility and teamwork by staying with the youthful group the Teen Titans consisting of Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle.

Overshadowing all is the reemergence of Raven’s father, the Pandora’s box of interdimensional demons, Trigon. He wants his daughter back by his side and will stop at nothing to hurt her friends and destroy her life to accomplish his goal including the possession of Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash.

You can bet that leads to enormous swaths of battles between heroes (did you ever wonder who would win a fight between Superman and the Flash?) and a concluding donnybrook with Trigon while Raven’s origin is revealed.

SEE ALSO: Blu-ray review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

The animation remains impressive throughout, consistent with the recent toons featuring Damien Wayne (“Batman vs. Robin” and “Batman: Bad Blood”) and, at points, is now really eye-popping on Blu-ray, especially when admiring the design of the gorgeous Starfire in action.

In fact, director Sam Liu’s focus on action and animation often outshine the overreaching story that packs many subplots and character introductions into the 78 minutes.

And, although the Teen Titans add plenty of levity, it’s a bit too corny at points while taking away from the serious struggle of Raven and her team.

For example, Robin challenging Beast Boy to a dance-off in a popular music rhythm-based game at a local carnival seemed way too farfetched for the young Mr. Wayne’s sober and curmudgeonly personality.

As almost always with DC Entertainment’s direct to Blu-ray releases, the extras on the disc make for a tempting purchase of the package.

Start with an excellent but breezy 23-minute overview of the history of the teen sidekick in DC Comics, with help from Mike Carlin (creative director of Animation DC Entertainment), Dan Didio (co-publisher of DC Comics), Mr. Wolfman and some classic comic art from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The segment covers DC Comics creating heroes such as Wonder Girl, Robin, Aqualad, Speedy and Kid Flash and adapting to the cultural changes of each decade to empower a younger demographic of reader.

That initiative naturally evolved with the building of a superhero team called the Teen Titans who would feature a line-up ever loaded with more complex, flawed heroes growing up together and finding their way in the world.

Fans will love the detail focused on Mr. Wolfman’s and Mr. Perez’ work, especially on the Judas Contract story arc, for the “New Teen Titans” series.

Next, a pair of short biographical featurettes on the daughter hero Raven and her monstrous father Trigon both shine thanks to more beautiful comic-book art and explanations from Mr. Wolfman, who co-created both characters.

Also, I normally do not gush about previews, but it’s worth watching a 10-minute look of one of the more anticipated cartoon adaptations of the decade.

Yes, coming this summer is an R-rated, animated version of writer Alan Moore’s 1988, one-shot comic book masterpiece “Batman: The Killing Joke” that featured an origin of the Joker and mature confrontation with the Dark Knight and his friends.

The segment focuses on the reuniting of the famed “Batman: The Animated Adventures” voiceover cast with Mark Hamill reprising the role of the Joker, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tara Strong as Batgirl. We also get interviews with each as well as producer Bruce Timm and director Sam Liu along with plenty of amazing Brian Bolland art and a hint of the animation style.

By the way, I loved that the creative team is already making excuses for the animation style that will never be able to mimic Mr. Bolland’s impactful panels.

Finally, Warner Bros. Animation pulls from its archive a pair of 23-minute-long episodes from previous superhero cartoon series relevant to the main event.

First, “Sidekicks Assemble!” from the 2010 ” Batman: The Brave and the Bold” stars Robin, Speedy, and Aqualad, along with Batman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow in a quest to stop Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia al Ghul from destroying Coast City.

It, and the series, featured an animation style adapted from the 1960s live-action “Batman” show if the opening credits were turned into an animated series (yeah, it is that cool kiddies).

The clever episode also offers cameo by many Justice League members and holograms of villains such as the Joker, Solomon Grundy, Gorilla Grodd and Black Manta.

Second, a fiery and grim episode called “The Prophecy” from the Cartoon Networks series “Teen Titans” looks at the complex life of Raven and her ultimate confrontation with mortal enemy Slade and a revelation about Trigon.

Worth noting, the series (run between 2003 and 2006) was one of the best superhero cartoons of the time offering a style tapped into the exaggerated traditions of Japanese anime and an infectious theme song by “Puffy AmiUmi.”

And finally, I mean it, for the collectors, the package includes a detailed, impeccably painted, 3.5-inch-tall plastic statue of Damien Wayne, dressed in his Robin costume, standing on a patch of rocks.

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