The most shocking thing about DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family is not its interactive storytelling, but rather the fact that DC did not think of the format sooner. Considering the robust canon of animated films DC has fostered, and the wealth of comic book stories to pull from, a truly interactive experience feels like the logical next step in home entertainment for the company.
Inspired by five iconic tales from the Batman catalogue, including 1988 landmark DC event “Batman: Death in the Family”, the short films in the showcase centre around the death of Jason Todd’s Robin. Playing like a live action comic book, by way of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, the fate of Jason Todd is completely left up to the hand of the viewer. Depending on which path one decides to travel, you will encounter up to seven different possible endings.
While a novel concept that will provide Batman fans plenty of options to choose from, not all the shorts will feel satisfying. Despite being filled with various nods and easter eggs that will surely delight, there are a few arcs that feel stunted. Just as with books that allow you to select your next step, some options led to immediate dead ends or wrapped up storylines in unsatisfying ways. This is most obvious when traveling down paths that go against Batman’s moral code.
As tempting as it is to give the Joker his comeuppance, the film struggles with how dark it really wants to get. Furthermore, some arcs come across as a tad preachy as they bend over backwards to try and justify seemingly indefensible actions. Fortunately, the threads that do work prove that the interactive format is well worth investing in for other DC characters and stories.
Those looking for a more traditional format, or want to explore lesser known superheroes, will enjoy additional short films on the disc. The best of which being the futuristic tale “Adam Strange”, which blends entertaining science fiction action with an engaging narrative. The short is ripe for a feature length adaptation. Another strong entry is the thought-provoking tale “Death” featuring characters created by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg.
Although not every option is satisfying, there is enough in DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family that fans of the cape crusader will enjoy.
Bonus Features: Additional Shorts: Sgt. Rock; Adam Strange; The Phantom Stranger; Death.