Mentioned I’d take a look at this after the Death in the Family review the other day, so no need to waste time, let’s get to it!
Four reviews in a day! Have I mentioned it’s my week off?!
Superman/Shazam!: Return of Black Adam
This is the feature of this DVD, with the others having appeared alongside prior DC animated movies, and a little bit longer at 25 minutes. More like a mini-movie, the evil Black Adam returns like a meteor to Earth. He hunts down a boy, Billy Batson, who has the “mark of the wizard” upon him. Superman is around to stop him, and a strange homeless man seems to show up when he’s needed too.
Basic origin story for Captain Marvel. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing special about it like the other shorts collected here. It feels more like a Justice League episode they didn’t get round to making but took the chance to now with a bigger budget.
My favourite of all the shorts that have been produced, even more than Death. It’s produced to look like an old movie from the seventies, with grainy film at times and washed out colours. Detective Jim Corrigan investigates the murder of Hollywood producer Foster Brenner. Of course, he’s the Spectre, so he has ways of finding the truth and getting justice, even if it’s brutal.
As said, the work really went into the look of this short, as well as the sound of it, and the awesome Track Team really earn their keep. Writing is great too, as Spectre makes his way through a special effects guy and a stuntman before getting to who really planned the killing. Matching deaths too for each person, with the SFX guy becoming the victim of an attack from his models and creations, the stuntman getting run over by his own car, and the provocateur, who did it for money, becoming a victim of their own greed, courtesy of razor-sharp banknotes. The last will especially make you wince!
It’s movie reference-arama, too, with everything from The Exorcist to Christine to King Kong being homaged. Certainly a good companion piece for fans of Stranger Things. Could’ve seen another 25 minutes of this instead of the Superman/Shazam flop.
Neal (or Neil, as it’s misspelled in the opening credits) McDonough stars as Oliver Queen a few years before Stephen Amell took the role. He’s heading to the airport to pick up girlfriend Dinah Lance, when he spots evil archer Merlyn, who’s no doubt there to assassinate visiting Princess Perdita.
Good use of the airport setting for this. Ariel Winter is good as the young Princess, although lapses out of the accent at times. Malcolm McDowell is good as always as Merlyn. There’s an attempt at the end of the short to tack something on to make it a “special” moment, but I don’t think it would’ve lacked without it.
Ah, this is my second favourite, knocking Death to third place! Jonah Hex, played fantastically well by Thomas Jane, comes into town seeking a bounty for outlaw Red Doc (played by a pre-Walking Dead and GOTG Michael Rooker). Red is already dead, though, courtesy of the villainous prostitute Madame Lorraine and her gang. But, all Hex needs is the body, dead or alive, so he sticks around to bust her ongoing scheme.
Even when it’s bright in this short there’s a darkness to everything. The eyes also tell a lot, from Red’s after he’s been killed, or the nervous young gunslinger who tries his luck with Hex, or even the tired eyes of Hex, which with his missing cheek give him the resemblance of a skeleton. The red eye shadow of Lorraine, played by Linda Hamilton as sexy, dangerous and desperate, also suggests danger and lust.
Hex, as always, is looking out for number one, but still manages to maintain heroic qualities, notably when he sends a saloon girl on her way for having dispensed vital information. As in the attached episode, Showdown from Batman: The Animated Series, he shows that justice is important to him too. Always like a bit of Jonah Hex when done well, from character to setting. Takes you back to a world you can’t inhabit ever again.
The Bottom Line: Come for The Spectre and Jonah Hex, stick around for Green Arrow, don’t bother too much with Superman/Shazam!