The animation departments of DC and Warner brothers has been on quite a hot streak since last year’s release of Justice League: New Frontier. Their releases of both Wonder Woman and Green Lantern films over the last year were both critically well reviewed and did well in the stores. Since New Frontier, this project is the first story that was taken almost directly from a published storyline, originally written by Jeph Loeb.
The great part about Jeph Loeb’s Public Enemies is he teamed up with artist Ed McGuinness, who is best known for his animated art style. This made the announcement of the direct-to-DVD feature all the more exciting. Not only was the source material well done, but casting director Andrea Romano was also able to bring back the dream team of DC voice actors to return to characters they helped make immortal.
Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, and Clancy Brown all returned to the roles of Superman, Batman, and Lex Luthor, respectively, for the first time since the Animated Adventures of Superman and Batman nearly 9 years ago. Aside from the “dream team”, some other great names were added to the project, making this an epic animated feature.
Allison Mack, who Smallville fans know as the quirky sidekick, Chloe, lent her voice as Power Girl, while Scrubs’ John C. McGinley as Braniac, LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as Black Lightning and Black Manta, while other names like Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) and Xander Berkely (24) made brief cameos as Hawkman and Captain Atom.
The original story is where Batman and Superman team up when they find out that a radioactive meteor from Krypton is hurling towards Earth. President Lex Luthor states that this is Superman’s doing, being that he’s from that planet, and order a bounty on both he and Batman’s heads. He enlists a few militant superheroes to take down the World’s Finest, but they eventually prevail, with the use of a 14 year old super genius.
Though the crux of the story was kept, there were some key elements missing from Loeb’s original story arc. One key part that was left out was the use of duel narration by both Batman and Superman. While this could prove to be difficult, given that the actors have similar, deep voices, it is what made the original story so deep and allowed us to understand the relationship between the two characters. Without it, a few moments felt out of place and incongruous to the characters that have been developed in other stories.
The animation was slightly different than McGuinness’ original work, but still used visual cues to reference it. There were a few characters that looked ridiculous, such as Captain Atom and Major Force, who had gigantic torsos and arms that looked like they could never even cross. McGuinness’ work used that same style, but made it work in the comic, while here: it only looked impractical.
There were a few other elements that had to go due to the 66 minute time constraint, such as the time travel play, and the use of Metron. Also, there was an element where John Corben aka Metallo was discovered to be the murderer of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The story still allowed time for the Captain Marvel/Hawkman cameos, which was a great element, and also the use of the super villains at one point. For that, the adaptation may have redeemed itself.
Overall, this can go up with Justice League: New Frontier and Green Lantern: First Flight as an incredibly well done direct-to-DVD feature. The fact that the original voice cast was able to make it back, AND for possibly one of the best Superman/Batman stories of the past five years it all seems poetic.
Superman/Batman Public Enemies hits DVD stores today. You can see all our coverage, complete with cast and crew interviews here. Enjoy!