Shout! Factory // 2012 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // April 30th, 2012
"The Danger Room is...angry."
Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous is the second major chapter from Joss Whedon's run writing for our merry band of mutants. Still reeling from the discovery of the Cure (X-Men: The Last Stand "borrowed" that plotline from this story), the prediction that an X-Man would one day destroy a populated planet, and most significantly, the discovery that Peter Rasputin -- Colossus -- is still alive, the team attempts to regroup back at the X-Mansion, only to find themselves under attack from an unexpected new enemy: the Danger Room, their computerized training facility.
From a pure story perspective, this is great stuff, complete with Whedon's slightly dark edge. I followed the X-Men in the Eighties and Nineties, so it was great to see the gang back in action. The Cure storyline has more complexity here than in the movie; Hank (Beast) finds himself torn between his desire for a normal life with his responsibility to the mutant community as a whole. Looking beyond the plot, Whedon's flair for dialogue translates well to the comic book medium; he's clearly a fan of the series, and really nails the interactions between the various characters. There are also a host of nods to the history of the team, including a nice artwork flashback as Kitty returns to the X-mansion. The only real weakness -- and it is a fairly serious one -- relates to the conclusion. Without any spoilers, the conclusion feels incomplete -- the issues raised by the revelation of Danger's origin are left hanging in favor of pushing to the next storyline. That's certainly a common enough practice in comics, but since this involves a rather serious betrayal of trust by no less than Charles Xavier himself, not having more of a resolution was something of a cheat.
Apart from that, the biggest problem has been mental whiplash from the realization that Scott Summers is banging Emma Frost. When I stopped reading the comic (shortly after Secret Wars 2, Emma was evil and Jean Grey was back from the dead...again. My, how times have changed.
As for this whole "motion comics" thing, color me unimpressed. At times it works, but at other times -- too many other times -- it doesn't. Comics are a static medium; they are designed to be interpreted statically. Changing the paradigm often diminishes the impact, much in the same way that Zach Snyder's slavish reproductions in Watchmen weren't nearly as effective. The problem is most easily seen with full- or double-page spreads; the camera starts on one section, then pans across as the action plays out. You never get the visceral impact of drinking in the massive image all at once, which really does a disservice to John Cassaday's artwork. All that said, just how sad is it that two-dimensional artwork given minimal animation comes off as less wooden than January Jones in X-Men: First Class?
Technically Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous is pretty good, but they've got complete control over everything, so that's unsurprising. There are three "episodes," each broken down into two parts; for some reason, it never occurred to them to do something sensible like say "one issue=one episode." Each of the six installments has a little over two minutes of credits. So the total time spent on virtually identical credits is just a little bit more than one of the chapters. This is, in a word, annoying. There are no extras; you'd think that including the source comics in a format suitable for browsing would have been a no-brainer.
This whole "motion comic" thing comes across like a high-tech version of Clutch Cargo. It's hardly a suitable replacement for the print version, but rather just a vaguely interesting curiosity, one that will find itself only on the most rabid X-fan's want list.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Marvel Motion Comics