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Batman Beyond
The Complete Series

What are they thankful for in Gotham City this year? That their protector, Batman, lives on into the future, even if his looks change. And we can be thankful that this week discerning fans of Batman Beyond get Christmas a little bit early.

Warner Home Video has re-released the series in one complete set in time for the holidays, and it's a beautiful package. Unlike the Justice League and Superman animated series sets, which came in tin boxes, Batman Beyond comes in an oversized slip-cased box, neatly designed in red and black, the better to hold an oversized 24-page booklet, filled with behind-the-scenes art.

That booklet also includes a brief reflection from series writer Stan Berkowitz, but it's really the concept paintings and character sheets that will have fans drooling. Berkowitz gets a little more voice in commentary and a documentary on the new ninth disc.

For if you already have the previous season by season releases, what would make this worthwhile? Perhaps that ninth disc would be the selling point, containing three featurettes and DC's new documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds, Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics .

That last provides interesting archive footage and interviews with original creators like Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (first time I'd ever actually heard their voices). You could buy it separately, and you might want to for a friend casually interested in comics history.

It makes a good look back while the rest of this set looks to the future - a future which DC has finally integrated into their own continuity with Adam Beechen's excellent mini-series. (That finished up today on a high note; it's a shame that DC won't have it collected in trade until March, because that, too, would make a great Christmas gift -- order it now for Easter!.)

But back to the TV series…

If you don't already have this, you owe it to yourself. Though begrudgingly spun off of Batman: The Animated Series by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, it morphed into a legitimate sci fi superhero series all on its own. Staking its own version of Gotham City's future, the series made some sly satirical commentary on our own society - look, folks, splicing is coming - while also taking a loving jab or two at other shows.

It holds up extremely well, with the only possible weak point in the series being "Zeta" in Season Two, which was a backdoor pilot for The Zeta Project that Warner wanted but the producers did not. Still, that episode is a lot better than the series that spun off, and if other producers haven't matched Timm and Dini in the years since, it's because those two worked so hard to keep the bar high.

This complete collection does have two holes in it, however. After the series, Warner approved a direct-to-video movie, Return of the Joker, controversial because it was a little too …intense… for a presumed kids' property. Since the collection is bound to be popular with kids (I vouch for a circle of primary grade fans in my town - possibly started by my 6-year-old), it makes sense to omit the far more adult full-length movie.

For the other missing piece, you simply have to turn to Justice League Unlimited, which both provided an epilogue of sorts and clearly inspired Beechen when he started working on his comics mini-series, subtitled "Hush Beyond."

So a big thank you to Warner for this set; it's almost all I could want for Christmas. Now if we could just get that complete Batman together…

Derek McCaw

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