Superman The Animated Series: Volume 3
-Warner Brothers (1996)
It’s Superman. What more do you need?
Finally, fans of the Superman Animated Series can complete their collection with the best episodes of its run. I'm going to jump right into this one, since any other comments I had to make are in the DVD reviews for the previous volumes.
Volume Three begins with the episode “Warrior Queen”, which isn’t the greatest indication that this set is going to be any good. The tale follows Queen Maxima and her quest to land a husband. It features some straight from the 50s ideals about women, although it’s still light hearted enough to be entertaining if you don’t take it too seriously.
After starting the next episode, it becomes obvious that there’s a reason for the Queen’s more humorous adventure before the two part episode “Apokolips…Now!”, where Darkseid finally makes his move against Earth. Because of its more serious nature and darker tone, it’s a foreshadows what the Justice League series that was to come. “Apololips…Now!” is also notable for the unexpected death of a supporting character and the appearance of Maggie Sawyer’s lesbian lover. For the record, it’s never fully stated that’s they’re lesbians, but it certainly is implied. (Super uppity religious types can just pretend that their sisters or really good friends.) The end credits also give Jack Kirby a well deserved tribute, so all in all this is one of the best episodes in the three volume series. Even better, the events in “Apokolips…Now!” lead directly to the last pairing of episodes, “Legacy”, which are again some of the finest in the series. The only drawback is that they end the awesome Superman run on a downer tone.
The next set of notable episodes are entitled “Little Girl Lost”, which serve as the introduction of Supergirl to the shared universe of the Superman/Batman/Justice League Animated Series. Having Supergirl show up in this series meant a little more than it does now, because DC had written the real Supergirl (Superman’s cousin) right out of the comics. Not before killing her though! Because that wouldn’t have been fair to just let her go or anything.* So DC when this episode was created they had this big deal that Superman was the only survivor of Krypton. Superman the Animated Series gets around this by having Supergirl not really coming from Krypton. She also only says she’s his cousin as his cover, but we all know she’s Supergirl, damn it. The episodes are a lot more upbeat than the previous Apokolips ones, which serves the character fine while at the same time missing out on some of the inherent drama of what it would be like to find out that your whole family died and your planet was destroyed.
By far one of the best reasons to purchase this set are the crossover episodes. While Batman the Animated Series was a great show, it didn’t have too many cameos by other DC superheros. This is where Superman the Animated Series really shines. One of my favorites in this set is “Knight Time”, which features Superman filling in for Batman who is missing in action. There’s some hilarious moments when Superman literally fills the Dark Knight’s shoes. Its great seeing Superman doing his best to be scary. “Knight Time” needs to be seen by anyone who likes either the Batman or Superman series. Other heroic cameos include the Legion of Super Heroes, Green Lantern (a Kyle Rayner version no less), and a more old school version of Aquaman, there’s also one more crossover with Batman that shouldn’t be missed.
There are a few standard episodes that feature the likes of Bizarro and Toyman to fill in the rest of the DVD's space. None of them are really all that bad. Even “Superman’s Pal”, said to be the worst episode of the series, isn’t all that terrible. It’s a nice little adventure that pays tribute the truly stupid comic series: Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen. It would have been better if Jimmy had been turned into Turtleboy or dressed up as a woman, but we can’t have everything we want.
The video quality is about the same as the first two releases if not a little better. However, there was a visible line in the print running down the right side of the episode, “Little Bighead Man” that drove me crazy. Thanks for not really trying Warner Brothers! The sound is about the same as the first two sets as well.
Despite the rather mediocre DVD treatment, this is a great set if you want the rest of the episodes and have given up hope that they’ll come out in a better DVD set. If you have the other two editions then there isn’t any reason not to pick this one up. If you’re only looking for what the best of the series had to offer this is also the winner.
This set matches the other two releases almost perfectly, except there aren’t any motion menus to speak of. Sucky. On the first disc you’ll find “Superman Behind the Cape”, an interview with the producers of the series discussing the final 18 episodes. Again, I can’t get enough of these guys talking about the series. Speaking of that, there’s commentary on a few of the episodes and like the previous two releases, it’s some really great stuff in some places, rather ho-hum in others.
“Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman” isn’t a great documentary, it’s an advertisement for a great documentary disguised as an extra. Nice hey?
The trailers section contains the standard advertisements for other Superman related merchandise. Blah.
This edition was another release that, depending on where you got it on release day, came with something a little extra. My version is the Best Buy edition that contains a mini comic book that really blows. I’m not sure what else was available on release, but this comic really isn’t worth collecting. It just retells part of the revamped Superman origin garbage from the 80s. Ugh. At least it wasn’t an issue where Superman had a mullet.
Episode Average: 8.5
*For those interested in Supergirl history, you might wonder who Supergirl was in the 90s. Well, she was basically a shapeshifting pile of goo for awhile and then an angel. Yeah, AN ANGEL. That makes a lot more sense than being from Krypton.