Judge Kent Dixon is gifted. He took the short bus to school.
Our reviews of Astonishing X-Men Collection (Blu-ray) (published December 4th, 2012), Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous (published April 30th, 2012), and Marvel Knights Collection (published December 17th, 2011) are also available.
That's right Bub, this comic's movin'!
Marvel Exec #1: "I have a great, new idea. Seriously, it's cutting edge; it will be the future of our industry!"
Marvel Exec #2: "Okay, shoot. We're still feeling the pinch of that whole bankruptcy thing, so we could use some new ideas."
Marvel Exec #1: "So we take comics, but we make them move. We give our fans moving comics!"
Marvel Exec #2: "Ummm…that's not new, it's called animation."
Maybe that's not how it actually went down, but at some point the decision was made to take the art from a traditional comic format and use technology to bring it to life. I'm not sure who decided motion comics were a good idea or when, but I really don't see the need to cram a new medium into the relatively narrow space between comics and animation. For me at least, I'm in a totally different mood and head space when I choose to read a comic than when I sit down to watch an animated series or feature and I see a need for both mediums. Motion comics on the other hand, seem to lie in a strange wasteland that mixes a budget too limited for full animation with a desire to tart up a traditional paneled hard-copy format.
Allow me to set the stage by saying that Astonishing X-Men: Gifted is one of Marvel's first motion comic projects and that Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada and industry legend Neal Adams were intimately involved in the project, so we know it was in skilled and caring hands. Let's not forget the source material either: Gifted is the first arc in one of the strongest entries the X-Men comic series has ever seen. Written by none other than Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly…shall I continue?) and illustrated by John Cassaday (Captain America, Uncanny X-Men); Gifted follows Emma Frost (Erica Schroder), Beast (Mike Pollock), Cyclops (Gregory Abbey), Wolverine (Marc Thompson), and Kitty Pride (Eileen Stevens) as they reform the team in a climate of renewed distrust for mutants. Little do the X-Men know that renowned scientist Dr. Kavita Rao (Eva Christensen) has joined forces with a mysterious alien called Ord (Michael Alston Baley) to develop a "cure" to the mutant gene that tears a ragged division between mutants who would give anything to be normal and those who feel their powers are a gift.
I confess that I had never gotten around to reading The Watchmen until the film was released and I felt more of a sense of urgency to read the graphic novel first. Needless to say, as a fan of comic books from the time I could grip paper, I devoured that book as millions had before me. Around the time the film was released, we were also treated to Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. With that release setting my expectations fairly high, I was looking forward to seeing the same process used to bring my beloved X-Men to life. While the motion process used on Gifted creates some very cool moments and brings legendary characters to life, there were many moments throughout the six-episode series that were either too awkward, hyper real (The Polar Express anyone?) or clunky, throwing me out of the story. The voice acting is strong for the most part and while some of the actors are better than others, the casting works. The image and colors are sharp throughout all the episodes, remaining faithful to the source material and while the audio mix isn't out of the park, it delivers a feature-grade soundtrack, effects and dialog with equal clarity.
Surprisingly, Marvel Knights Animation, a new dedicated motion comics arm of the parent company, and Shout! Factory have delivered a better-than-average assortment of extras on this release that should keep even rabid X-Fans happy. A short interview with Joe Quesada and Neal Adams is the strongest feature, as we hear from the two legends how the project came to be and what it may mean for the future of Marvel and the comic medium in general. Additional extras include a Gifted music video and trailer; a text-only history of the X-Men; "Behind the Scenes: Marvel Knights Animation" that digs a bit more deeply into the creation of a motion comic; a still gallery of some of artist John Cassaday's work; three episodes of the goofy Robot Chicken wannabe "Marvel Superheroes: What the—?!"; and trailers for other Marvel Knights Animation motion comic projects.
Gifted is a neat experience, especially for fans of Wolverine and the gang, but the motion comic process is still a bit rough and its purpose too vague for me to get very excited about, at least for now. Marvel is remanded to their underground research labs to keep working on the process and purpose behind this new medium. We're looking forward to future projects.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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