Originally Published: December 18, 2010, on Collider.com

Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam is the latest animated short to be released by the folks in charge of the DC Animated Universe. The Man of Steel, in his Clark Kent guise, is doing a newspaper piece on Billy Bastion, a young orphan with a heart of gold who tries to always see the good in the world. It is this eternal optimism that has also piqued the interest of a mystical being known as the Wizard Shazam. Unbeknowst to Billy, he has been marked by the Wizard in order for him to keep an eye on him. This mystical mark though is also acting as a beacon for the Wizard’s greatest failure, Black Adam.

Black Adam was originally a champion of Shazam, but his dark heart quickly led him to using his powers for evil and so the Wizard banished him to the farthest star system he could think of. With the powers of a god though at his disposal, Black Adam has been traveling back to Earth for centuries and now wishes revenge on those who had wronged him.

Now, left with no other choice, the Wizard must prematurely bestow Billy with the same powers as Black Adam to help protect Earth from all manner of villainy as he will now become the new Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. Billy must quickly learn about his powers and how to be a hero from Superman who, as always, conveniently shows up and together they must stop Black Adam once and for all.

Origin stories can be very fun if done properly and this animated short’s quick pace, great voice acting, and shiny stylized looking animation all come together very well on the Blu-ray format as probably the best short yet by DC’s animation gurus. All the major voice actors, George Newburn as Superman, Arnold Vosloo as Black Adam, Jerry O’Connell as Captain Marvel, and Kevin Michael Richardson as Mister Tawky Tawny also gave great performances and really made you believe in their characters motivations.

And Newburn continues to rival Tim Daly’s classic 1990s Superman voiceover portrayal here in more recent times. Even the changes they made to Bastion’s upbringing in order to make him a character that the audience could immediately get behind was forgivable for diehards and didn’t take anything away from the piece or the theme of the character.

The only real weak point of this piece is the most obvious one in that it is less than 30 minutes long for what easily could have been a full-feature all on its own for one of comics’ oldest heroes (first appearing in February of 1940 even though he didn’t become a DC property until 1972).

And since this adventure is less than 30 minutes long, it has been bundled together with the other DC shorts that were featured on their more recent full-length animated films. Extended versions of the Green Arrow, The Spectre, and Jonah Hex shorts are included to help flesh out this Blu-Ray package into a more respectable length closer to 70 minutes.

Unfortunately, if you are a fan of the DC Universe and have been collecting the animated movies up to this point, then these added shorts, which were needlessly extended with a couple of minutes of filler animation each to try to extend the Blu-ray further, don’t add much to this disc overall really. Even with special episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman: The Animated Series, and Justice League Unlimited that highlight all the characters featured on this disc, there is only 30 minutes of non-documentary original content.

It is because of this lack of original animated content that I can’t recommend this to anyone who has bought Batman/Superman: Apocalypse, Batman: Under the Red Hood, or Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths already. Sorry Captain Marvel fans, but I’d just rent this or wait till it hit the bargain bin if you really want to purchase this solid, albeit very short, representation of your hero.

Rating: C

-Ray Carsillo