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On DVD: Batman: Gotham Knight

How much Batman movie goodness can you take this summer?< ?p>

If The Dark Knight isn't enough for you -- or you need something to tide you over while you're waiting for the lines at the theater to stop winding so many times around the block -- take a chance on Batman: Gotham Knight, now available from Warner Brothers on both single and two-disc DVD editions, as well as on Blu-Ray.

This impressive, fan-appealing, made-for-DVD anthology film -- the third in WB's DC Universe Original Animated Movies line -- is made up of six interconnected animated shorts that tell the story of Batman between the live-action films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Each segment has its own writing and artistic style, and all star Kevin Conroy, reprising his role as Batman from the DC Animated Universe. The action and stories are sharp, intense and visceral. Note to fans of Batman: The Animated Series: remember the first time you saw blood drawn within the series? Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, Batman: Gotham Knight goes well beyond that in a stirring and brutal manner. The not-so-subtle theme of the new anthology is "Work through your pain."

Tired of spoilers by reviewers? Fear not. This is a fully spoiler-free review. The question of the day is: Is this DVD worth your hard-earned cash? The answer is, thankfully, unquestionably, yes! Yes, because of the stories; yes, because of the animation; yes, because of the adult circus nature of the production; and yes, because of this DVD's extra features.

The episodic movie's six segments cohere slowly and subtlely toward a whole. That's largely thanks to the writers being all solid in their own right: Brian Azzarello, Alan Burnett, Jordan Goldberg, David Goyer, Josh Olson, and Greg Rucka. The fact that Warner Brothers has given established comic-book authors the opportunity to move into the world of moving pictures is a great sign -- and one I look forward to seeing more of in the near future.

The animation is absolutely top-notch. If you're a fan of the animation in Kill Bill or The Animatrix, the work within this project will feel very familiar. Otherwise, expect animation well beyond what you could imagine from most standard U.S. productions. I'm talking about animation on such an extreme trajectory that it'll leave you with a nosebleed.

The special features on the single-disc edition contain an audio commentary of the film by Conroy, comic book writer and editor Dennis O'Neil, and Gregory Noveck, Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs. Plus we get a sneak peek at something I'm looking forward to, the next movie of the DC Universe Original Animated Movies line -- Wonder Woman. The Target edition also includes the first two episodes of Batman Beyond.

The two-disc and Blu-ray editions contain those extra features as well as a documentary titled Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story, a featurette A Mirror for the Bat (exploring Batman and the Gotham villains he faces), and four episodes of Batman: The Animated Series presented by Bruce Timm. All of these segments are well worth watching. From a novice to a longtime fan of the franchise, the segments will carry any type of viewer further into the mythos and deeper into the series in a very enjoyable manner.

Within the DVD commentary and throughout the second disc, we get a load of information about Batman the franchise. Credit must go to O'Neil and Noveck for making sure that Gotham Knight's action and story move at the strong, geeky (in the best way) pace that it does. Noveck, in particular, speaks professionally of the production and is knowledgeable of the anime aspects of the series. Noveck's commentary sounds the bell that someone behinds the scenes is aware of the playing field of American comics and animation, as well as Japanese comics (manga) and animation (anime). I'm thrilled and surprised that there is a man within WB that has his knowledge. Often it feels like the decision-makers behind this production did what Einstein thought God would never do: throw dice. I say thank you, thank you to Noveck.

None of this would matter, however, if Batman: Gotham Knight weren't good. Thankfully, it is. The stories and animation styles kept me on my toes and thrilled me with their brilliant scenes and money shots. The series of shorts deliver a solid knockout punch. Separately, the shorts each deliver countless WOW moments. The end result is little to pick at and a lot to re-watch. This isn't a rent; it's a buy. I put the disc in as a fan and I walked away wanting more. This is a thrilling stand-out of a coveted franchise -- something, again, I hope to see more of in the future.