This review is brought to you by Judge Ike Oden with additional funding from Hot Topic.
"I'm gonna sing the Doom Song now. Doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom…"
Incompetent invader Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz, The Informant!), of the imperialistic Irkin alien race, is banished to the far-out reaches of the universe by his masters, The Tallest (Wally Wingert, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Kevin McDonald, The Kids in the Hall). Accompanied by his malfunctioning robot, GIR (Rosarik Rikki Simons, NieA Under 7), Zim clandestinely lands on Earth with plans to dominate and destroy (though not necessarily in that order) humanity guise of school boy. The monkey wrench in his plan is Dib (Andy Berman, Shadows and Fog), a paranoid classmate with an oversized head and an obsession with all things supernatural. They both annoy Gaz, (Melissa Fahn, Cowboy Bebop), Dib's goth-y little sister who knows Zim is too stupid to serve any substantial threat.
The thirteen episodes contained on this compendium of doom are:
• "The Fry Cook What Came From All That Space"
Invader Zim, created by delightfully twisted cartoonist Jhonen Vasquez (of the underground comic Johnny The Homicidal Maniac), ran from 2001 to 2002 before being canceled due to a lack of interest. As incredibly surreal children's cartoons are wont to do, Zim gained a rather large cult following on the internet, sparking a wave of toys, apparel, and DVDs that overtook shelves of Hot Topics around the world.
The response would be so great that Nick would re-run the show in 2006 on their sister NickToons network. Ratings have been strong for the show since and, in the past year, there has been discussion of a Zim revival, culled in part from a Facebook campaign dubbed Operation Head Pigeons. The campaign stated that Nickelodeon would re-release a mix of Zim episodes on DVD and, if the sales were strong enough, the show would be renewed. Keep in mind, this is according to information culled from such sources as Wikipedia, Facebook, and Amazon User reviews.
I for one am more than happy to review this double dip and, though I'm not entirely sold on the claim that Nick will renew the show if the DVD sells well, I hold out hope that both Operation Head Pigeons is as powerful a movement as they claim. Invader Zim is just too wonderfully weird, macabre, and funny to settle with a mere two seasons. After all, if Futurama and Family Guy can experience full-fledged revivals, why not Invader Zim?
There are plenty of strange cartoons produced by Nick every year. Since the early '90s, when Rocko's Modern Life and The Ren and Stimpy Show introduced scatological surrealism into the viewing diets of children everywhere, Nick has gained a reputation for taking chances on animated television with far-out premises and edgy adult innuendo. Invader Zim takes this bar and hikes it farther than any other show to precede it. Not only that, but it does it in a way that isn't gimmicky or forced, but in a naturally absurd way that makes the Zim universe a testament to sarcasm, satire, and immaturity.
It's the sort of cartoon world that's so imaginatively bizarre it is hard to describe with words here. Zim is set in a dystopian future where society seems to have enslaved itself on television and fast food (the Irkin alien race feels about the same, though its leaders also extol the virtues of hand puppets and dominance as well). While Zim and Dib are the focal point of the show, the character arcs are always secondary to a main goal of mocking consumerist culture in the grossest and most appalling ways Nickelodeon censors will allow. This often results in such sophisticated material as alien babies that combine to become a giant tumorous baby monster, chest bursting fast food prison escapes, green alien acne that molts in an exploding fashion, and explosions that become trapped in slow motion.
This isn't to say that Zim's cast of manic, overdramatic characters isn't as compelling the show's world and set pieces. Quite the opposite—Zim is a wonderfully gonzo protagonist, an incompetent war monger so enamored with himself he annoyingly crescendos every other sentence to emphasize the grandness of himself and all things Irkin. He's constantly thwarted and upstaged by GIR, whose paperclip brain creates a manic schizophrenia that bounces back and forth between near murderous violence and idiot distraction. Dib is Zim's foil, equally enamored with himself and slightly more competent, but constantly thwarted by the community around him (which shares a disposition almost as flippant as GIR's). Of all the characters, my favorite remains Gaz, whose no-nonsense grumpiness and knack for violence makes her the most successful in gaining her goals—playing video games, eating pizza, and seeking revenge on Dib for standing in the way of said goals.
Every episode on this set explores a different aspect of Zim and the world around him. Word is they were chosen by Nick based on gaining the highest ratings (though with my sources I'd take it with a grain of salt). Only "Fry Cook What Came From All That Space" and "Career Day" skirt dangerously close to each other thematically, though how Zim deals with working with interstellar fast food and Earth fast food makes for very different narratives. That the episodes are presented back to back is bewildering, but this isn't the only instance of a lack of order. The show's pilot, "The Nightmare Begins," is placed smack dab in the middle of the set, which doesn't make a lick of sense. Given the importance of easing the viewer into the world of Zim, the pilot's placement is evidence that Nick slapped the episodes on the disc randomly and without care.
This lack of interest carries over into the DVD itself, which is underwhelming. The audio and video are perfectly fine. Zim's combination of computer and 2-D animation lends itself for a very sharp fullscreen transfer, while the stereo mix sounds is very full and clear. There are no extras to speak of. This means that, unless you believe the hype about DVD sales sparking a show renewal, you don't need to purchase this set if you already own the series.
To those curious about testing the Zim's waters but unwilling to fork over the cashola for the whole set, Operation Doom is a fine starter. If you're easily annoyed by the stranger, more anarchic aspects of Nick shows or resent goth-influenced, counter cultural excursions in animation, Zim isn't for you.
Zim reins such a red hot fury of not guilty that it he is proclaimed…NOT GUILTY!
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