As DC Comics' string of PG-13 animated features go, "Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam" is more fun than any of its predecessors ... probably because it isn't a feature at all. This is a short film, which means action is as tight as the running time, keeping things ticking, clicking and kicking.
The piece serves as an origin story of sorts for Captain Marvel "? not, it should forever be noted, named Shazam, although that's the word he utters to transform "? aka hero-worshipping Billy Batson. He gets to aid his idol, Superman, when the nefarious, Vulcan-eared Black Adam comes to town to do harm.
Voice work is tops, the Asian influence on the animation is strongly evident, and the shorter length makes things work efficiently, much like a 28-page comic book would vs. a 200-page novel.
But that's not all! The new short is followed by three recent ones, now restored to a longer length. First, The Spectre investigates a wealthy man's murder by diving-board bomb in a funky noir story that cribs from 1970s blaxploitation flicks. Then Green Arrow saves a queen-in-waiting from assassination, with a little help from that beautiful Black Canary.
Finally, Jonah Hex, our favorite former Confederate solider turned bounty hunter with half a face, trades bullets with a bosomy babe who uses her wiles "? and there are plenty "? to rob horny men. Its 10-or-so minutes contain more bang the recent live-action bomb.
With bouncy original scores and crisp character design, each succeeds greatly. Rather than pick and choose, select the "Play All" option and take it in as an anthology hour.
Even more time awaits in the bonus features, with four individual and complete episodes from "Batman: The Animated Series," "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" and "Justice League Unlimited" that include an appearance by each of this disc's B-team stars. To say that's generous is an understatement. More, please! "?Rod Lott