Review by Phillip Donnelly
Up for review now is Shout! Factory's G.I. Joe Renegades The Complete First Season on Blu-Ray. Being that this is a Blu-Ray set, my computer fights me when I want to take screenshots, so I have to apologize for the less-than-ideal quality of the images here. Also, if you haven't seen the series, or at least its final episodes, keep in mind some of these images here may be considered spoilers!
My cable setup doesn't have the Hub in high definition, so being able to see this show in glorious 1080p is something of a treat. True, I could have gotten these episodes over iTunes, but having an actual set of physical discs with extras is important to me. In that regard, I was immensely pleased that Shout! Factory opted to give us the series in this manner. And yes, while it is called the "First Season," don't expect a second one any time soon or at all. This should probably be called "The Complete Series," but maybe that was too depressing a thought.
Storywise, if it had to end here, it ended on a high note. The biggest plot threads were wrapped up, with room for an ongoing story should the universe align and executives deign to resurrect the show. Stranger things have happened, though I wouldn't hold my breath. But if you interpret this show as something of an origin story for G.I. Joe, then it strangely works. While the minor details are different, the status quo we're left with after the last episode means that we have an established universe with a more traditional G.I. Joe versus Cobra conflict.
But let's move on from there and take a look at the set proper, hmm? Shout! Factory again delivers some wonderful graphics on the cover, again mimicking the 30th Anniversary toy line's aesthetic. We have the same stock character art as the Renegades Season 1 Volume 1 DVD set, sadly; I wish we could have gotten a different mix of characters for variety's sake, but that's quibbling of the worst kind. Besides, if you're getting the Blu-Ray set, what are the odds you'll be doubling the amount of money you spend to buy it on DVD as well? Sadly, that is a temptation for me, but I have issues - so let's move on to something else.
The three discs inside also sport some character models (though it looks like the alignment was slightly off on my Disc 1), so we get a bit of variety in the art there. The disc menus feature a pop-up menu over a looping animation track that takes bits of the opening and splices in scenes from the series. It's more dynamic than the static menus we usually get on the DVD sets, though if you wait too long to make a selection you'll find yourself with the theme song stuck in your head all day. Speaking from experience here! At least there aren't any lyrics; I'd probably be singing to myself.
We also have some bonus features this time around! Spread across the three discs are eight episode commentary tracks using an eclectic mix of actors, writers, and producers. On the third disc is what the disc cover refers to as "A Look Behind the Scenes at G.I. JOE Renegades" but the disc menu calls an "Original Featurette." From what I can tell, this is actually a promotional video produced before the show aired. It covers the basics with a broad brush, from the writing to the art style to the voice acting, so it serves its purpose as a behind the scenes video fairly well. It's just a little painful to see their optimism over where they see this show going in the coming years.
Speaking of the art style, there's also a tribute to Clément Sauvé, the lead character designer on Renegades. For those who don't know, Clément died of cancer before the show finished airing. The tribute video features various members of the show's production staff reminiscing about their time with him, intercut with footage of him speaking at the G.I. Joe Renegades panel from 2010's San Diego Comic Con. It's solemn and somber, as it should be, and a reminder of the unexpected events in life.
And now that I've thoroughly bummed out everyone reading this, it's time to awkwardly transition back to the show itself. I mentioned my thoughts on the show before in my review of the Volume 1 DVD set, but I'll touch upon it again here. While this show is a radical reimagining of the G.I. Joe versus Cobra conflict we've known over the past 30+ years, it's a fresh take that I enjoyed watching. I do feel that the series had a bit of a slow start, but once it got going I was hooked. I tuned in every week while this show aired, eager to see how the story would resolve itself. Would the Joes be cleared? Would Cobra be caught? Would a show we knew to be canceled end in a cliffhanger? We got these answers and so much more along the way. I only wish we had the chance to see where it could keep going.
This set will be released September 25, 2012 - six days from this writing. I can easily recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the series, anyone who is a fan of good animation, and anyone who isn't afraid of reinterpreting what it means to be G.I. Joe. After all, this is seventh iteration of G.I. Joe in animation. Most all of them were radically different from each other! And if you aren't exactly a Blu-Ray enthusiast, you can also finish the series on DVD when Season 1 Volume 2 comes out the same day.
G.I. Joe Renegades The Complete First Season
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Images from the collection of: Phillip Donnelly with Shout! Factory
DVD Set courtesy of Shout! Factory!