Hello, my friends. While the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line shares various tales involving the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight, the Amazon Princess, the Emerald Knight and the rest of the heroes that make up the world’s greatest super team, there was also a subsidiary series that allowed lesser known figures to claim some spotlight for themselves. With that, I welcome you to the mini-review series known as…
As such, we begin this set of animated shorts with a crime that’s investigated by the Spirit of Vengeance itself. First up, we have…
Originally released on February 23, 2010, this short was included in the two-DVD set for “Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths”. If you want to know what I thought of that film, click the link to catch my review. For those who are staying put, let’s dive in to the inaugural entry.
We open at the cliff-side home of Foster Brenner (voiced by Jeff Bennett). As he approaches his outdoor pool, he’s unaware of a time bomb planted on the underside of his diving board. Shortly after jumping in, the timer finishes its countdown and explodes, killing him in the process.
Sometime later, the L.A.P.D. arrives on the scene to investigate. Shortly afterwards, Det. Jim Corrigan (voiced by Gary Cole) shows up to join their inspection. Even though he wasn’t assigned to the case, he was called out there by a friend. Sure enough, that friend turned out to be Foster’s daughter, Aimee Brenner (voiced by Alyssa Milano). When Jim asks her if she knows who could have possibly been behind the vicious death, she only states that her father had many enemies as he did friends.
Afterwards, he asks the family butler Flemming (also voiced by Jeff Bennett) about the gruesome murder. Despite not seeing the vicious act, he does show what happened via the house’s security cameras. As they watch the tape, Corrigan learns about Foster not using some of his longtime colleagues in his latest film. After the poolside footage revealed that two guys wearing ski masks were the ones who planted the bomb on the diving board’s underside, the scene ends with Jim asking for the names of said collaborators.
We then cut to a special effects warehouse where Drew Flynn (voiced by Rob Paulsen) is working on the details of a monster mask. All of a sudden, a puppet comes to life and falls to the floor. Drew grabs a pipe for defense and looks around. Suddenly, he’s shocked to find Foster Brenner sitting in his chair despite killing him. He then morphs out of his disguise to reveal his true form. As such, the Spectre dissipates into various animatronic movie monsters.
With the mechanized beings under his control, he sends them after Drew. Despite Flynn scoring a hit on one of the mechanized monsters which knocks its head off, the Spectre is able make another one grow in its place. Drew is then forced to run for his life from the monstrous armada. He ultimately evades the numerous automatons, but his luck ultimately runs out when the Spectre takes control of a gigantic mechanical ape. After being picked up, Drew is killed off-screen by the massive machine.
The next day, the Police Captain (voiced by Jon Polito) summons Corrigan to his office. During the scene, we learn that our detective had a past relationship with Aimee. Ultimately, the Captain wants Jim to investigate Drew Flynn’s death.
That night, we have a stuntman named Peter McCoy (also voiced by Jeff Bennett) who places a suitcase in his car and races off on a mad dash towards the Mexican border. However, the Spectre catches up to him by smashing through the window and grabbing the felon. Peter tries shooting back, but the bullets go right through our hero. Afterwards, the Spectre takes control of the car and sends it speeding towards his own erected ramp. As the vehicle starts to plummet, he even makes the seat belt vanish as Peter is flung through the windshield upon its nosediving impact. He survives, but the Spectre manages to fix the car (a la Stephen King’s Christine) and send it after him. Peter climbs up a small cliff, but he ends up meeting his maker as the car is flung up the side and slams right down onto him. The scene ends with the Spectre taking notice of the emptying suitcase of money.
We then cut to the Brenner household where Aimee is initially glad to see Jim again. She wants him to run away with her, but he refuses since he figured out what happened in Foster’s murder. It turns out that it was an inside job since his own daughter gave Flynn and McCoy the house’s security code in order to gain access and plant the explosive. The final connection was the suitcase full of brand new dollar bills, which she used to pay off the felons.
Aimee then draws her handgun on him and fires away. Even after unloading the entire round and throwing the emptied weapon his way, it all goes right through Jim. Afterwards, Corrigan reveals his true identity to her. As Aimee tries to make a run for it, the Spectre sends the money after her. After he has the dollar bills encircle Aimee, he has her own cash viciously cut away at her and ultimately kills her.
Upon completing the case, Corrigan heads out while the police arrive. The cops never notice his presence due to him being in his astral form. As he drives off, the film closes out with him narrating about always being there to avenge those who are gravely wronged by the worst of humanity since he is the Spectre.
If there’s anything this short succeeds at, it’s revealing to the uninitiated the Spectre’s actual identity at the end. After seeing the security footage, the civilian guise of Jim Corrigan only appears once prior to the climactic scene. He pretends to act surprised in front of the police captain when he hears that one of Foster’s killers was killed. Also, when the Spectre first appears, it’s made to look like Foster Brenner came back from the dead to get murderous revenge on his killers. Until the climax, the combination of those two factors makes it initially look like they’re happening separately. It seems that after seeing the footage and getting the names, he instantly solves the case. From there, he axes off the murderous pair.
I wonder how he figured out it was Aimee who set up the murder. Sure, Drew and Peter were mad that Foster didn’t want their services for his latest film. However, she was only in one scene prior to the climax and that was pretending to be grief-stricken over the loss of her father. I never found out what was it that gave her the decision to knock off her old man. The closest idea I can think of is that she had a fling with Jim Corrigan and that her father didn’t want her to be with him ever again. Other than that, there’s no clear motive for the murder.
The presentation is a nice touch, resembling a ’70s exploitation-like flick with faint film scratches. The music goes really well in representing the time period alongside the clothes, the cars and the overall style of the decade. Gary Cole steals the show here, mainly because it’s either Corrigan or the Spectre (or both) that’s in practically ever scene. He does a stellar job in making his voice sound distinctly different between his earthly guise and the Spirit of Vengeance itself, which helps in the revelation of the two figures being one and the same working. The rest of the cast do their job well enough, with Jeff Bennett being a true Swiss Army Knife as he works three minor roles with ease.
Overall, this is a nice start to the series. It does what it set out to do by giving viewers a taste of the Spectre’s overall prowess. The mystery was tame overall for the Spirit of Vengeance (since he was completely un-imposed), but his god-like presence was felt. The animation was thoroughly fluent, the kills were pretty creative, and the story was mostly well-told despite a lack of motivation for the murder. Not the best entry, but still worth a watch.
Next Time: A bounty hunter from DC’s Old West period refuses to stop until he gets his man, but faces an adversary that’s well-worth the surprise. Prepare to mount up for the arrival of “Jonah Hex”.
Spectre (created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily) is owned by DC Comics.