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Blu-ray Review: Superman / Shazam! – The Return of Black Adam

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Because it’s not viable for every DC Comics character to be featured in their own DC Universe Animated Original Movie like the company’s biggest stars Superman and Batman, DC Showcase casts a spotlight on lower-tier characters by having them star in animated short films. This new release contains four DC Showcase shorts, three of which have previously been paired with other DCUAOM releases as extras. They claim the three have been extended, but at a minute it’s negligible.

“Superman / Shazam! – The Return of Black Adam” (HD, 25 min) sees Black Adam (Arnold Vosloo) arrive in Fawcett City from space after being banished across the universe 5,000 years ago by the wizard Shazam (James Garner), and he is angry. Reporter Clark Kent (George Newbern) is in town interviewing a young orphan named Billy Batson (Zach Callison), and Black Adam seeks the boy out. Adam and Superman battle while Billy stumbles across Shazam who bestows upon him great powers, which turn him into Captain Marvel (Jerry O’Connell).

While Captain Marvel is an enjoyable character because his light-hearted, good nature is a refreshing contrast to so many heroes, this story made no sense. How is it that in 5,000 years Billy is the first person worthy of the Captain Marvel powers? And why does Shazam let Adam destroy Fawcett City rather than send him away for another 5,000 years?

Previously released on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, “The Spectre” (HD, 13 min) is a hybrid of styles combining ’50s cop-drama dialogue with a ’70s vibe as The Spectre (Gary Cole) administers his own brand of supernatural justice as he solves the murder of a Hollywood producer who is the father of an old flame. It has been made to look like old, damaged film as digital effects create overexposed lighting, scratches and dirt throughout. – Only roughly a minute longer

Previously released on Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, “Green Arrow” (HD, 12 min) finds the emerald archer (Neal McDonough) at an airport when the security team of a visiting dignitary, who happens to be 10-year-old princess, is taken out, and naturally he steps in to keep her safe from assassins. This had potential but it was disappointing when rather than our hero saving the day, the victory comes from out of the blue. – Only roughly a minute longer

Previously released on Batman: Under the Red Hood, “Jonah Hex” (HD, 13 min.) finds the titular bounty hunter (Thomas Jane) riding into town looking for a wanted man (Michael Rooker) but someone (Linda Hamilton) got to him first, which doesn’t make Hex happy. The very stylized look contains a lot of soft focus to create depth.

The video has been given a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer. Colors are bright as intended, and blacks are typically inky. All have well-define line work in the drawings. There are some minor banding issues throughout as is unfortunately common in the DCUAOM releases. The audio is a dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue is clear and the action is intense as it fills the surrounds and subwoofer to immerse the viewer.

Special Features includes commentary on all four shorts by the writers: Michael Jelenic, Steve Niles, Greg Weisman, and Joe R Lansdale respectively. Bruce Timm presents four episodes (SD) that feature the four characters. Jonah Hex in “Showdown” from Batman: The Animated Series was also written by Lansdale. The Spectre in “The Chill of the Night” from Batman: The Brave and the Bold includes appearances by Zantanna and Phantom Stranger. Captain Marvel and Green Arrow find their places within the Justice League Unlimited, episodes “Clash” and “Initiation” respectively.

Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam is an enjoyable collection for comic book fans. It reminds me of grabbing a handful of different comics and sitting down to read them. However, may fans that would buy this disc may already own some of these shorts on other releases so I am not sure who Warner Brothers sees as the audience. If you already own half of the material on here, I am not sure it’s worth a double dip.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS