Shout! Factory // 2009 // 54 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // June 5th, 2011
"Congratulations, Wolverine; you are no longer the most screwed over human in the history of the entire world."
Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. is Marvel's first original motion comic, having been released in motion comic form before the printed version. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with Alex Maleev providing the artwork, Spider-Woman is the latest in Marvel's motion comic series to come to DVD.
Having been replaced by Skrull Queen Veranke, Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, is contemplating her lot in life when Abigail Brand approaches her. Abigail seeks out Jessica with a view to having her join S.W.O.R.D. to help in tackling a new Skrull invasion. With Jessica desperate for a chance to have her revenge against the Skrull, she quickly takes up the offer. Her mission is far from easy, however, with old allies not always being who they appear to be, and the likes of Norman Osborne's Thunderbolts ramping up the threat level.
With Brian Michael Bendis on writing duties, you can be assured that Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. will feature a whole host of Marvel favorites, in a series blessed with dark overtones. Unfortunately it also suffers from the same problems that plague most of Bendis' recent work, that being the annoying tendency for every character to sound exactly the same, due to repetitive dialogue. Even more critical is the total lack of emotion present. Don't get me wrong, Bendis is a fine writer, but he seems to sap the excitement out of being a superhero. As is the case here, he rarely seems interested in having Jessica Drew don her spandex, instead preferring to have her in her private eye guise. Sure, the brooding vigilante characters are the coolest, but not everyone can fit into that mold. Bendis seems to think they can, and before you know it, everyone is spouting the same miserable lines about how much their life sucks.
The pacing of the series is all over the place, with the exposition heavy opening episode in particular struggling to get going. Admittedly the first episode has a lot to do, establishing as it does Jessica's current predicament. The problem is that, unless you have a good knowledge of Spider-Woman, you're still likely to be completely none the wiser at to why Jessica is so screwed up. When the chance comes to really up the action ante, such as a scene where Spider-Woman is confronted by Norman Osborn's super-team, The Thunderbolts, he instead opts to have our heroine hide out in a dumpster. Rarely does Bendis seem comfortable to have his superheroes do anything heroic or super. Apart from giving a weakened Skrull a good pasting, Bendis' interpretation of Spider-Woman is annoyingly grounded, and rarely exhibits the self-belief that anyone donning a costume and possessing superpowers should.
Maleev's artwork is exemplary, and -- on the printed page at least -- is award-worthy. Still, I cannot fathom the decision to do so little with it when translated to the motion comic format. Beyond a few panning shots or the odd zoom in to get a closer look, there's little movement, with characters remaining completely stiff throughout. Another plus point is the voice talent. Whatever your opinion on Bendis' dialogue, it cannot be denied that the cast has clearly brought his words to life with a good deal of conviction.
The DVD transfer is solid, with Maleev's artwork looking great. The stereo soundtrack also impresses. The main extra on the disc is a behind-the-scenes featurette, which sees the likes of Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, discussing the thinking behind going down the motion comic route. This short featurette isn't interested exclusively with Spider-Woman, but instead is a general look at the medium, revealing the differing styles, which include the far more dynamic Astonishing X-Men: Gifted and Iron Man: Extremis. Compared to these two works Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. is, visually at least, a far less attractive proposition. Also to be found on the disc is a "Visual History of Spider-Woman," which is really nothing more than a few comic book panels, and an artist gallery. Rounding out the set are a selection of trailers, and a music video produced to accompany the series.
Review content copyright © 2011 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Video
* Image Gallery