REVIEW: Freedom Fighters: The Ray
The CW Seed has been the ancillary stomping grounds for animated versions of DC Comics’ Arrowverse characters, a chance to extend the brand with lesser-known heroes. For their third outing (after Vixen and Constantine), they smartly offered up Freedom Fighters: The Ray for two six-episode seasons, which have been edited together into a feature, on disc today from Warner Home Entertainment.
Although the two seasons arrived in December and July, they act as a prequel story to last fall’s “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover extravaganza. Here, we have the birth of the Freedom Fighters with appearances by not only the Ray but also Black Condor (Jason Mitchell), Phantom Lady (Dilshad Vadsaria), Dollman (Matthew Mercer) and Red Tornado (Iddo Goldberg). According to some behind the scenes shenanigans, the animated story was written first and when the four-parter was written for live-action, things weren’t lining up right, so the keen viewer will notice there are inconsistencies between the two.
The biggest headscratcher may be the Ray fighting alongside Green Arrow (Matthew Mercer), the Flash (Scott Whyte) if they didn’t meet until the crossover.
That said, this is a very entertaining short film with pleasant limited animation aided by strong vocal talent. It’s interesting to note that this version of The Ray, originally created by Will Eisner for quality Comics back in the Golden Age, was a 1990s revival from Jack C. Harris, Christopher Priest, and Joe Quesada. As voiced by Russell Torey (a veteran BBC genre star), he is a likeable kid, coming to grips with his powers at a time when things look fairly dark for Earth-X’s population.
Interestingly, Ray Terrill being gay wasn’t overt in the comics but became a main selling point for the transition to mass media. The third episode focuses on Ray as a closeted adult, living with his conservative parents. Seeing him struggle is good, since it establishes his personality and gives people in similar situations a role model. Things go wibbly-wobbly when we realize this has been Earth-1 and the Earth-X Ray, a hero, arrives mortally wounded and passes on his powers to his doppelganger, sending him to a world where the Nazis won World War II and people like him are sent to the camps.
When the Ray fully comes into his powers and responsibilities as a hero, we can thrill to his battle with the New Reichsmen’s Overgirl (Melissa Benoist). She’s aided by Black Arrow and Black Flash so there are a lot of costumes and duplicates in this event. He gets plenty of support from Arrow and Flash in addition to Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum)
I have no idea why it took Emilio Ortega Aldrich, Lauren Certo, Marc Guggenheim, Sarah Hernandez, Elizabeth Kim, and Sarah Tarkoff to write this, but it also may explain the slightly shifting tone from episode to episode, which is less obvious when spliced together. What IU can’t figure out is why the various uniforms worn by the heroes come from differing seasons of the Arrowverse so you can’t quite tell how far ahead of the crossover was this set.
The edited feature looks terrific on Blu-ray and sounds just fine, letting you appreciate Blake Neely’s score. The movie has been released as a combo pack so you can have Blu-ray, DVD, and a Digital HD code. The sole special feature is a way too short interview with Tovey.