What happens when a hero like Superman crosses that line and decides to kill the super villain? What happens when a hero who has all the power in the world decides governments and the military just aren’t cutting it anymore? What happens when heroes decide “Might makes Right” is more sensible than “Truth, Justice and the American Way”?
Such questions are nothing new in the world of comic books. Several stories have already been written about the issue such as The Authority, Watchmen, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and anime like Death Note. But no character has had a harder time dealing with this issue than Superman himself.
The newest release in the DCAU DVD adaptations, “Superman vs. The Elite” gives Superman his best story material yet and achieves in making him relatable and relevant to the current time, a feat some have said to be impossible.
An adaption of “What’s So Funny About Truth Justice and the American Way?” written by Joe Kelly (who also penned the script for this adaptation), “Superman vs. The Elite” deals with heavy issues, mainly, does Superman’s unwillingness to kill make him weak and out-dated? I won’t spoil the big guy’s answer but what he does in response is very shocking and shows exactly why we DON’T want Superman to match the “darker and edgier” trend going around.
The Elite, led by the lethal psychic, Manchester Black are a new group of superheroes of various origins who come together under one idea: criminals should pay the ultimate price for their crimes. No jail, no quarter, no mercy. Their methods extend to not just supervillains like Atomic Skull, but dictators and world leaders who get innocents caught up in the wars they start.
The film does a good job of not making the Elite into mindless psychos just killing for the kicks, but giving them valid arguments relevant to a post 9/11 America. During a super-villain breakout, the collateral damage results in several civilian deaths to which Black points out what Superman’s method leads to, more breakouts and more pain for everyone. A Metropolis woman says she has always felt safe in the city because Superman was always around, but then again so were the criminals he kept “putting away.” It’s these kinds of situations that make Superman doubt his path and his purpose, especially when everyone in Metropolis seems to agree with the Elite’s brutal methods.
The story is solid, and while some might complain that the Elite’s decent into full-on villainy makes it easier for Superman to philosophically “win” I believe the film was showcasing the natural decent into madness and ruthlessness such thinking leads to. Look at what happened to Light Yagami. That aside, the story is everything a Superman tale nowadays should be, relevant, insightful, and just damn entertaining.
The art style and rather limited animation in the film takes some getting used to, especially when coming from the other Superman DVDs like Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. (Superman’s chin in “Elite” was just distracting at times) But George Newbern‘s solid performance as the Man of Steel more than makes up for it. The Elite get just as good voice work, but Newbern reprisal of his role as Superman just knocks it out of the park. For some, the original DCAU voice actor, Tim Daly, will forever be the voice of Superman, but Newbern is a very close second.
The Blu-Ray version includes the original story in digital comic form along several features such as “Superman and the Moral Debate” which shows the argument presented in the film is the same argument America and other countries must have when dealing with uncompromising terrorists. There is also a commentary track with writer Joe Kelly and Eddie Berganza along with two episodes from the original Superman animated series. These extra features makes the Blu-Ray the definite version to buy.
All in all, Superman vs. the Elite is the story every fan of comics, even if they aren’t fond of Superman, should see. It presents the Big Blue Boy Scout in a brand new light and shows that being Superman is not as easy or as clear cut as anti-heroes make it out to be. Save for some animation hiccups and an art style I wasn’t too found of, it’s a near perfect Superman release.