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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Superman & Batman: Apocalypse


Following the comic book's storyline, Superman & Batman: Apocalypse picks up right where Superman/Batman: Public Enemies left off, with some dialogue about President Lex Luthor's impeachment before a mysterious spacecraft crash lands in Gotham City harbor. The spacecraft brings Kara Zor-El to Earth, re-introducing Supergirl to the DC Universe (and the DC Animated Universe). What follows is a largely enjoyable adventure of epic scope involving Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda of The New Gods waging war, at first with each other and then against Darkseid of Apokolips, for the soul of the innocent but immensely powerful Girl of Steel.  Apocalypse has its share of retarded plotting stemming right from the story penned originally by Jeph Loeb; the worst of which involves an army of Doomsdays invading Paradise Island before being wiped out by Superman's heat vision (why didn't he think of that instead of getting killed in 1992 when facing only one Doomsday?) Knowledge of obscure DC comics characters is required to understand who Harbinger, Big Barda, or even the Female Furies and Granny Goodness are, as Apocalypse has little interest in filling in blanks.  The characterizations are also suspect, especially when Wonder Woman and the Amazons attack Superman in order to bring (i.e. kidnap) Supergirl to Paradise Island "for her own protection". The shoddiness of the plot is more than compensated for by the action, however. The battle between Wonder Woman, Big Barda, and the Female Furies on Apokolips is terrific, but it's topped by the fantastic superbrawl between Darkseid, Superman and Supergirl in Smallville. The two Kryptonians and the dark New God unleash their full fighting prowess. Apocalypse does absolute justice to their awesome powers - this conflagration was tailor-made for animation and would be prohibitively expensive in live action. Especially thrilling was Superman's Superspeed tornado punches on Darkseid and Supergirl's acrobatic prowess and aerial fighting style. Despite the clunky, on-the-nose dialogue they're given, the voice cast is top notch, with Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy returning as Superman and Batman, while Summer Glau lends her voice to a troubled but loveable Supergirl. Andre Braugher's voice as Darkseid feels too Earthbound for the Despot of Apokolips, especially for anyone with fond memories of Darkseid's gravelly voice in the 1980's Super Powers cartoon. The animation attempts to replicate the late Michael Turner's uber-sexy art style, especially with the female characters, with questionable results. By and large, Superman & Batman: Apocalypse is an epic and satisfying DC Universe superhero geek out.