Judge Paul Pritchard dusts off his magic ring and prepares to defeat the plant menace that threatens to overthrow his domain. In other words he really needs to mow the lawn and do some weeding.
Our review of Eighties Cartoon Bundle, published February 5th, 2012, is also available.
"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!
Facts of the Case
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:
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
The Monster Minds
• Terror Tank
• Gun Grinner
• KO Cruiser
• Beast Walker
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.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
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.
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