Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. All four shorts looked great.
Across the board, sharpness was strong. The shorts boasted consistently terrific delineation and never suffered from any obvious soft spots. Issues with jagged edges or moiré effects failed to materialize, and the image lacked edge haloes. In addition, no signs of source defects appeared.
The shorts boasted very solid colors. The different pieces used varying palettes, all of which exhibited excellent clarity and life. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows showed nice detail. I found nothing about which to complain across these shorts.
I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks of the Blu-ray opened up the comic book material well. Of course, the soundfields varied, but they always added pizzazz to the program. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended well.
The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during storms or bigger action scenes. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.
Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B+”.
In terms of extras, all four shorts include audio commentaries. The lineup varies from one to another:
Return of Black Adam: writer Michael Jelenic;
Spectre: writer Steve Niles;
Green Arrow: writer Greg Weisman;
Jonah Hex: writer Joe Lansdale.
Across these, we learn about a few aspects of the shorts. The commentaries look at story/character topics, influences and inspirations, cast and performances, and visual elements.
Without question, Jelenic’s chat works best of the bunch. I’m tempted to say this happens because he gets the most time, but I don’t think that’s the only factor, or even a major reason. Jelenic simply explains his work and approach better than the others, and he throws in a good number of details.
The other three writers offer decent discussions, but they tend toward praise. Of the three, Lansdale is the most interesting, especially when he goes over various influences. Weisman and Niles do fine but don’t deliver a great deal of compelling material. Still, the tracks are short, so they’re all worth a listen.
The set also includes four bonus episodes, each of which features characters from the disc's shorts. Here’s what we find:
“Showdown” (Batman: The Animated Series - 21:10): Batman chases Ra’s al-Ghul, which leads to a flashback tale about Jonah Hex and his 19th century interaction with Ra’s. Frankly, this is a silly Wild Wild West-style adventure that does little for me, and it doesn’t help that William McKinney‘s performance as Hex sounds heavily influenced by Sling Blade
“The Chill of the Night” (Batman: The Brave and the Bold - 22:45): The Phantom Stranger and the Spectre watch as Batman confronts the man who killed his parents; the Dark Knight’s soul rests in the balance. That’s an interesting concept, but it doesn’t work tremendously well due to the visual design. The show goes with a strangely bright, peppy palette, so it’s somewhat hard to invest in a dark tale within that realm. Still, it’s an interesting fantasy that has its moments, and some fans will be happy with the voice actor who plays Bruce Wayne’s father.
“Initiation” (Justice League Unlimited - 23:43): The Green Lantern attempts to recruit the Green Arrow to the JLA. The Arrow resists but still finds himself smack dab in the middle of a big battle. I do really like the Arrow character, as he’s something different than the usual true blue do-gooder. “Initiation” doesn’t show him off to terrific effect, but it still showcases him reasonably well and becomes a fun show.
“Clash” (Justice League Unlimited - 22:43): Captain Marvel joins the JLA, where his naivete rubs Superman the wrong way – or is Supes just jealous that the JLA now has another hero with almost identical powers? That factor makes “Clash” an enjoyable show. Superman is so often painted as Practically Perfect In Every Way that it becomes interesting to see him with a bug up his butt.
Finally, the disc ends with a trailer for Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This is merely a 32-second promo without much value.
A compilation of four shorts, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam provides a mixed bag. Two - The Spectre and Green Arrow - are quite good, while the other two - Jonah Hex and Adam - prove to be fairly mediocre. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, very good audio and a few fairly enjoyable supplements.
Overall, this is a decent release, but not one I can recommend, especially not for folks who own the releases on which three of the four shorts already appeared; $30 MSRP is a lot to pay for one new short and some bonus features. With a total running time of barely an hour, Adam needs more fresh material to merit that price.