"What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, & the American Way?" was the title of the story published in Action Comics #775, released in March 2001. It was the question writer Joe Kelly posed in regards to the values prescribed by Superman, the forefather of the costumed superhero. The Man of Steel has been around since 1938 and there are many who would consider him to be corny and old-fashioned. His red and blue costume is sometimes the subject of derision. Tim Burton attempted to replace Superman's iconic outfit for a suit of black leather in his aborted "Superman" film. The Last Kryptonian's ethical code may even be out of tune with modern society.
In 1999, Wildstorm Productions, which had just been purchased by DC Comics, was burning up the sales charts and winning critical acclaim with a new series called The Authority. It was originally written by Warren Ellis (Red) and later by Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Wanted). The comic book featured a team of super-powered beings that battled totalitarian governments, genocidal terrorists, and corrupt corporations. The Authority was politically charged and tinged with cynicism and violence on an epic scale. These heroes weren't out to arrest villains, but to mutilate and dismember them. So it was that Kelly and artist Doug Mahnke rebuked the Authority's philosophy by pitting Kal-El against a group of knockoffs known as The Elite. Ironic since two of the Authority's members, Apollo and The Midnighter, were loosely based on Supes and Batman.
The Elite are led by Manchester Black, a foul-mouthed Brit with telepathic powers. Clad in a trenchcoat and Union Jack t-shirt, he's more Johnny Rotten than he is Johnny Law. His teammates are Coldcast, a burly bruiser with the ability to absorb and channel energy; Menagerie, a winged woman bonded to a variety of alien beasts; and The Hat, who possesses a magical fedora that allows him to summon almost anything imaginable. The Elite make a splashy debut by intervening in the civil war between the countries of Bialya and Pokolistan. At first, they are in awe of meeting the Man of Steel. In turn, Superman is eager to act as the mentor for these new meta-humans. It quickly becomes clear that their differing methods will never mesh. The Elite have no qualms in causing widespread property damage or brutally executing their enemies. What's the point of throwing bad guys in jail when they will inevitably escape to cause more mayhem? The people of the world adore the Elite for their take-no-prisoners approach. Yes, the only foe more dangerous than the Legion of Doom proves to be the court of public opinion.
"Superman vs. The Elite" touches upon many socially relevant issues, but it is certainly not a preachy message movie. The animated film is most definitely a slam-bang action affair. The biggest criticism towards "Superman Returns" was that Bryan Singer made the Man of Steel too weak and that he didn't have villains were a physical match. The Elite are more than enough to provide a challenge for the Big Blue Boy Scout. If they weren't enough, there's also the Atomic Skull and some giant robotic spiders. Although, the running time is less than eighty minutes, "Elite" doesn't feel shortchanged or incomplete.
The voice cast isn't as chock full of big names as previous releases, but the actors give solid performances. Long-time fans will recognize the voice of George Newbern, who previously provided the voice of Kal-El on "Justice League" and "Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam." Joining Newbern is Pauley Perrette, best known for playing the gothic Abby Sciuto on "NCIS," as ace reporter Lois Lane. Perrette has the strong and spunky attitude to embody Lois. It's too bad the character doesn't get enough screen time. Other voiceover veterans making appearances are Robin Atkin Downes, Grey DeLisle, Dee Bradley Baker, Jennifer Hale, Fred Tatasciore, and Tara Strong.
"Superman vs. The Elite" is grittier than you'd expect and is rated PG-13. Characters are killed and some harsh language is used. Despite this, the art style of the animation is slightly cartoonish which works against the film's mature themes. Superman himself is drawn with an exaggerated jaw and looks more like Popeye the Sailor Man.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is beautiful with bold and bright colors. Backgrounds, like Metropolis and the Fortress of Solitude, are richly detailed.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is robust and full of shattering sound effects like explosions, gunfire, crackling energy, and thunderous fisticuffs.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with Joe Kelly and DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza. The participants discuss the comic books and weigh in on the adaptation.
The Elite Unbound: No Rules, No Mercy (14:30) is a closer look at the source material and the antagonists of the movie.
Superman and the Moral Debate (17:24) further delves into how the Man of Steel's values fit into a post-9/11 world. Comic book creators, scholars, and military veterans are interviewed.
What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way Digital Comic allows you to read the original comic.
The Dark Knight Rises Theatrical Release Photo Gallery are a series of previously released publicity stills for the upcoming Christopher Nolan production.
A Sneak Peek at Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Part I (12:36) is a preview of the next animated movie based on the seminal mini-series by Frank Miller. Peter Weller will provide the voice of an older Batman, who is forced to return to action. Ariel Winter from "Modern Family" co-stars as a new female Robin.
The Blu-ray also comes with two episodes of "Superman: The Animated Series" ("Brave New Metropolis," "Warrior Queen"), trailers for other DC/Warner releases, a DVD version of the film, and an Ultraviolet download code.
While Batman has always used fear in his crime-fighting crusade, Superman has always been a hero meant to instill hope with his selfless attitude. But, have his ways become passé? That is one of the intriguing questions raised by "Superman vs. The Elite." Although the look of the animation could have been more realistic, the film is more than satisfying thanks to an action-packed story.