Shout! Factory // 1985 // 720 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // April 9th, 2008
"In ages past there was a small band of heroes, who guided us to victory in desperate times. They were called the Lightning League..."
Thundering across the stars to save the universe from the Monster Minds, Jayce searches for his father to unite the Magic Root and lead his Lightning League to victory over the changing form of Saw Boss. Wheeled Warriors explode into battle...Lightning Strikes!
Created to support a line of toys, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors tells the story of Jayce, a young man who has destiny thrust upon him when his father, the scientist Audric, accidentally creates a race of evil mutant plants. Nice going, Dad!
With the help of his friends, Herc Stormsailor, Gillian, Oon, Flora, and Brock, Jayce forms the Lightning League, a once legendary band of heroes who fought for good in years gone by. Together they search the galaxy for Audric, hoping to unite the magic root, which Jayce and Audric each have a piece of, and finally defeat the Monster Minds.
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors collects the first 33 of the shows total 65-episode run:
1. "Escape from the Garden of Evil"
2. "The Vase of Xiang"
3. "Steel Against Shadow"
4. "Silver Crusaders"
6. "Flora, Fauna and the Monster Minds"
7. "Fire and Ice"
8. "Space Outlaws"
9. "Future of the Future"
12. "Critical Mess"
13. "The Purple Tome"
14. "Hook, Line and Silver"
16. "The Slaves of Adelbaren"
17. "The Hunt"
18. "Blockade Runners"
19. "The Sleeping Princess"
20. "Deadly Reunion"
21. "Sky Kingdom"
22. "Quest into Shadow"
23. "Unexpected Trouble"
24. "Bounty Hunters"
25. "Double Deception"
26. "Gate World"
27. "Space Thief"
28. "Moon Magic"
29. "Affair of Honor"
30. "Doomed Flower"
31. "The Stallions of Sandeen"
32. "Brain Trust"
33. "Lightning Strikes Twice"
Talk about making you feel old. When I realized how long it had been since Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors had first aired, I was a little shocked. Could it really have been twenty-four years?
Looking back, as a man is prone to do when confronted by the realization his youth is diminishing, the mid-to-late eighties seem like some sort of Golden Age for action cartoons. Since looking back often means looking through rose-tinted spectacles, all too often revisiting past favorites results in crushing disappointment. What hasn't helped a lot of these childhood favorites age well has been the marked improvement in the quality of animated shows put out in recent years, chief amongst them being the all-conquering Batman: The Animated Series. Still, some of these golden oldies have survived the test of time rather well and proven themselves to be worthy of adding to the collection of any discerning DVD collector; Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is one of those shows.
For those who have vague memories of the show, or anyone remotely interested, let's have a quick rundown of the main players in this epic saga, starting with our heroes:
The Lightning League
Leader of the Lightning League and the son of the scientist Audric; Jayce is the show's hero and current holder of the powerful Ring of Light. Sometimes seen to be a little impetuous, Jayce is quick to learn from his mistakes and accepts the responsibility of taking the fight to the Monster Minds, while searching for his father. Destined for greatness, while currently learning to harness his new powers, he's a little reminiscent of Luke Skywalker.
Initially only joining the group to get paid, Herc Stormsailor is the dude of the Lightning League. Acting as the transporter for the group, he has also been a trader, smuggler, and commando. A sarcastic wit and itchy trigger finger get Herc through most scrapes. Just don't mention Han Solo around him.
Wizard, technological genius and former confident to Audric, Gillian is the go to guy when things get tight for the Lightning League; he's also the wearer of the finest piece of headwear in cartoon history. Acting as mentor to Jayce, Gillian will often try to avert violence and is not above a little trickery, as seen when he conned Herc into helping the group. Did anyone say Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Loyalty is Oon's middle name; at least it would be if he had more than one name. Once the squire of Audric, Oon, a mini robo-knight, was passed the magic root by Audric and ordered to take it to Jayce when the Monster Minds took control of Audric's lab. Often crippled by his fear, Oon will always come good to help his friends and wields a mean lance to boot!
Created by Gillian and Audric, not in an act of love but in the science lab, Flora is a plant/human hybrid. Possessing telepathic abilities, Flora is able to communicate with both people and plants and can sense the presence of others. Flora is often seen with Brock, an oversized flying fish who can breathe air as well as underwater.
The Monster Minds
* Saw Boss
Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you your villain and, considering the lack of intelligence shown by his underlings, the guy deserves some credit for any success he manages. He's the result of an accident in Audric's lab when a solar flare caused plants to mutate into intelligent beings that, immediately and for no real reason, Audric named the Monster Minds. Able to see what his fellow Monster Minds see at anytime and able to mutate into a large armored vehicle, complete with buzz saw, Saw Boss has universe-wide domination on his mind and only the Lightning League stands in his way.
* Terror Tank
Oversees the Terror Troops and resembles a tank.
* Gun Grinner
Oversees the Gun Troopers and is armed to the teeth.
* KO Cruiser
Leads the KO Troopers and resembles a pickup truck. Starting to see a pattern form yet?
* Beast Walker
Resembling a big robotic gorilla and leader of the Beast Walker Troops, Beast Walker, like the rest of Saw Boss's Generals, is never given much to do other than battle the Lightning League.
By having a series-long story arc, with episode-long mini-adventures to keep things moving, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors never suffers from the repetition that plagues so many cartoons. Sure, each episode has its own battle with the Monster Minds and episodes never deviate too far from the show's simple formula, but by having the characters on a quest, each episode taking them a little bit further towards their goal, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors remains fresh throughout.
With writers including J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) onboard, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is blessed with well-crafted storylines that are full of action and adventure, but still manage to have moral lessons thrown in that don't feel too forced. Indeed, though characters such as Herc and Gillian owe obvious debts to Star Wars, the show possesses far more imagination and quality than a series based on a line of toys has any right to. In Saw Boss, the show also offers a real threat. Firstly, the guy can send his minions across space to attack the Lightning League anywhere and can also teleport his base; meaning they are never really safe. Secondly, whenever Saw Boss is called into action, or even when he is merely in the vicinity, we are made fully aware of the threat he poses; our heroes are more likely to seek safety than get into direct confrontation with him.
Hopefully this review should make it abundantly clear that I loved revisiting this series and hope it sells well enough for the remaining episodes to be released in a second volume. However, I honestly believe that to get the most out of this set, a prior knowledge of Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors would be advantageous. For as good as it is, compared to a series like Justice League: Unlimited, it pales a little. No, the people who get the most enjoyment from this set are likely to be those who feel a twang of nostalgia as the rockin' theme tune kicks in to open the show.
The word serviceable comes to mind when viewing the 1.33:1 transfer. Taking into account the age of the source material it's actually pretty good. Colors are often a little dull, the image on the soft side, but all in all I was pleasantly surprised by how good it all looked.
Extras are sadly limited; a couple of screenplays (available as a DVD-ROM feature) and some concept artwork are all you get. I'm a little split on this. On one hand it hardly represents added value; on the other, I'm aware that Shout! Factory has a limited budget to put into these DVD releases and, with Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors: Volume One not a guaranteed bestseller, I can understand the lack of investment in this area.
As is probably quite clear from the character summaries above, apart from Saw Boss the rest of the Monster Minds are dealt a poor hand. Unlike, say, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, where you had a number of great villains, from Beast Man to Trapjaw, KO Cruiser, Terror Tank, and Co. feel like they're making up the numbers and just lackeys doing Saw Boss's bidding. It's a minor point, one that can be aimed at numerous TV shows, but one that bugged me as a kid and still bugs me now.
Growing up, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors was more of a second-tier show for me. As much as I enjoyed it, the likes of Transformers and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe ranked higher on my personal pecking order. Imagine my surprise then, to find Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors actually holds up even better than the aforementioned shows. Fans of the show and eighties cartoons in general should definitely make space on their shelves for Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors: Volume One; its success will determine whether the rest of this epic saga gets a DVD release.
My Ring of Light is glowing...I think it's giving me a not guilty verdict.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 720 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Rare Original Concept Art
* "Escape From The Garden" Pilot Script Written by Haskell Barkin
* "Steel Against Shadow" Script Written by J. Michael Straczynski
* Official Site