Based on the work of oddball cartoonist and Johnny The Homicidal Maniac comic book creator Johnen Vasquez, Nickelodeon's Invader Zim was a short lived animated series that aired from March 2001 through December 2002 for a total of twenty-seven episodes over too brief seasons. The complete series was released on DVD in a nifty collectible 'house style' limited edition and in a 'Complete Invasion' set (both now out of print and quite expensive) and in a few other incarnations over the years and now Paramount goes back to the well with Invader Zim: Operation Doom. The irony here? It brings nothing new to the table at all, it's simply a collection of thirteen episodes presented in fairly random order. Keeping in mind that those episodes have all been released before it's hard to figure out what the reasoning behind this is, unless it's simply to get the series back out onto store shelves, as rumors persist that the powers that be could be persuaded to bring it back to the air if sales warranted it.
At any rate, the series itself revolves around an alien named Zim (voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz), a member of the Irkin race, who has been kicked off his planet for attacking his own kind and sent to the most remote part of the galaxy, Foodcourtia, by those in charge - some stuffed shirt types known as The Almighty Tallest (Wally Wingert and Kevin McDonald). Since class is dictated on Irkin by height, and sinze Zim is very short, he more or less has to do what they say. While on Foodcourtia he's trained to be an invader and manages to succeed in convincing The Almighty Tallest to let him head out and conquer a distant planet, Earth.
Travelling all alone except for a defective robot companion named GIR (Rosarik Rikki), Zim winds up quietly landing on Earth intent on infiltrating the human race by pretending to be a school boy. Why? So he can take over and/or destroy the planet, of course. What Zim doesn't count on is the presence of a weird kid named Dib (Andy Berman) who is obsessed with the more arcane side of life and who may or may not be onto him. What is certain is that Dib's little sister, a goth chick named Gaz, (Melissa Fahn), quickly realizes that Zim, while certainly an alien in the truest form, isn't really very bright and not worth taking all that seriously. The episodes more or less revolve around these core characters and Zim's ongoing attempts to complete his mission.
The thirteen episodes included on this disc are presented as follows (which, you may note, is not chronological order):
The Fry Cook What Came From All That Space / Career Day / Battle Dib / The Nightmare Begins / Gaz, Taster of Pork / Vindicated! / The Voting of the Doom / Hobo 13 / Walk For Your Lives / Mysterious Mysteries / Future Dib / Plague of Babies / Bloaty's Pizza Hog
As far as the show itself goes, it's still a pretty bizarre show, especially when you consider it was meant for a younger audience but Vasquez's sense of humor shines through and as quirky and odd looking as it is (if you're familiar with his earlier JTHM comic, this looks like that only not nearly as dark) , the series is a whole lot of fun. The storylines are more or less self contained and short and to the point, making the content akin to a bit of a rush - you get what you want quickly and without any fuss. The odd character design and off the wall humor won't be for all tastes (which explains why it was cancelled and which explains why it has a strong cult audience to this day) but there's a really great mix of humor, action, comedy and music here that sets the show apart and, thanks to Vasquez's unique style, makes it stand out. The sarcasm and random comedic bits are actually funny, the show is great to look at and well paced, and the series as a whole is just a really creative and fun endeavor through and through.
Invader Zim: Operation Doom is presented in its original fullframe aspect ratio and generally it looks quite good. Colors are nice and bright and bold and black levels are generally pretty strong as well. There are some mild compression artifacts in a few of the darker spots and there is some line shimmering here and there but overall the image is clean, strong and stable.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix sounds pretty good. There's nothing to note in regards to hiss or audible defects. The directional effects are minor at best but the lefts and rights are distinguishable in the mix, and there aren't any problems following the dialogue and the background music is mixed and balanced to fit in with the dialogue and effects quite nicely.
Extras? Outside of menus and episode selection, there aren't any on this DVD.
If you've already got the previous Invader Zim set with these episodes in it, this single disc release offers absolutely no incentive to want to own this own. With that said, the complete series release is out of print and pretty expensive and if you're looking for a good way to get your feet wet with the series, this isn't a bad way to do it. The quality of the disc is solid and the episodes themselves are a lot of quirky fun. For that reason, Invader Zim: Operation Doom comes recommended to those who know they'll be content with a random assortment of episodes.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.