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Case Number 22958

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Marvel Knights Collection

Astonishing X-Men
2009 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Black Panther
2009 // 132 Minutes // Not Rated
Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.
2009 // 54 Minutes // Not Rated
Iron Man: Extremis
2010 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers
2011 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Shout! Factory
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // December 17th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Victor Valdivia needs a gimmick to get people to read his reviews. His solution? 4-D!

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Astonishing X-Men Collection (Blu-ray) (published December 4th, 2012), Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous (published April 30th, 2012), Astonishing X-Men: Gifted (published September 26th, 2010), Black Panther (published January 16th, 2011), Iron Man: Extremis (published December 12th, 2010), Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.W.O.R.D. (published June 5th, 2011), and Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers (published September 4th, 2011) are also available.

The Charge

What are motion comics?

Opening Statement

After sitting through the five DVDs in this box set, you'll know the answer to that question. You will, however, have a more pressing one: what's the point?

Facts of the Case

Here are the five DVDs collected in this set:

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
The X-Men—Emma Frost (Erica Schroder), Beast (Mike Pollock), Cyclops (Gregory Abbey), Wolverine (Marc Thompson), and Kitty Pride (Eileen Stevens)—are stunned when famous scientist Dr. Kavita Rao (Eva Christensen) announces that she has developed a "cure" for the mutant gene. They wonder how such a discovery will affect the already tense relationship between humans and mutants. Story by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and art by John Cassaday.

Black Panther
T'Challa (Djimon Hounsou, The Island) is not only the king of the small African nation of Wakanda, but also serves as the Black Panther, the nation's premier costumed hero and defender. When a sinister cyborg assassin named Klaw (Stephen Stanton, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) launches a plan to assassinate him and take over his country, the Panther is forced to battle several enemies on multiple fronts. Story by Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang) and art by John Romita, Jr.

Iron Man: Extremis
When a violent anti-government zealot (Ted Lewis, Pokemon) gets a hold of an experimental military technology named Extremis, Tony Stark (Jason Griffith) knows he will have to use every weapon in his Iron Man arsenal to stop the bloodshed that ensues. Story by Warren Ellis and art by Adi Granov.

Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.
When disillusioned Jessica Drew (Nicolette Reed), a.k.a. Spider-Woman, is approached by S.W.O.R.D. agent Abigail Brand (Stephanie K. Thomas) to track down renegade Skrulls, she quickly agrees, but discovers that things and people are not what they appear to be. Story by Brian Michael Bendis and art by Alex Maleev.

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers
After Loki (David Blair) finally defeats Thor (Daniel Thorn) and seizes control of Asgard, his plans of domination become increasingly threatened as he learns more and more about just what his "victory" really means. Story by Robert Rodi and art by Esad Ribic.

The Evidence

Marvel Comics has been pushing motion comics pretty heavily over the last couple of years, culminating in this box set that compiles some previously released motion comic DVDs. It's hard to say, however, if they're really the wave of the future, as Marvel promises. The whole theory of "motion comics" is predicated on the idea that all you have to do is take existing comic panels and add voices and sound effects to them (along with some minor incidental animation and camera angles) and you have something that supersedes reading the comics themselves. Well, yes and no. Sometimes, as with Black Panther and Thor & Loki, the motion comic idea works beautifully in capturing all of the appeal of the original art while adding some dynamics. In other cases, especially Spider-Woman, what results is painfully static. Essentially, you're looking at comic panels and hearing dialogue read by actors and sound effects. That's not nearly such a forward-thinking idea, even if these adaptations do preserve the original art.

If you ignore the whole "motion comic" gimmick, are these DVDs still worth getting? Not really. Ironically enough, the one story here that's the least action-packed—Thor & Loki—is by far the best. It's not a slugfest between the two title characters at all; if anything, Thor barely appears except at the end. Nonetheless, as a character study of Loki and his struggle to come to terms with his true nature, it's entertaining and thoughtful, with only occasional lapses into pretension and predictability. Still, because it's so static and dialogue-heavy, it doesn't really make much use of the motion comic idea, which means that you'd probably do just as well to read the original comic book.

Similarly, Spider-Woman isn't really a sprawling, explosive epic. Mostly, it involves Jessica ruminating on her dilemma as a failed superhero who knows and sees too much to just be a bystander. That's an interesting idea, but once again it doesn't really make much use of the motion comic idea, especially since much of the story takes place in Jessica's head. It also suffers from the fatal flaw that it relies so heavily on viewers knowing a lot about the character's history that it will seem impenetrable to most, especially since Spider-Woman is hardly one of Marvel's better-known characters.

The remaining stories are even less notable. Black Panther has great visuals and an impressive voice cast but the story is ridiculously convoluted and poorly paced, making it a chore to sit through. Iron Man: Extremis is a good story but some of the visuals, especially in the climactic sequence, are badly staged and look rather silly. Astonishing X-Men is an interesting story with some good sequences but the motion comic gimmick is at its weakest-some of the "animation" is clumsy and detracts from the storytelling. Even the voice acting is uneven; the actors on Black Panther and Thor & Loki are impressive, but the ones on Astonishing X-Men and Spider-Woman are more like generic cartoon voice actors. Ultimately, all of the flaws make it hard to really embrace any of these motion comic adaptations, even when the stories and voice acting are first-rate.

Technically, these DVDs are typically solid Shout! Factory productions. All the anamorphic transfers are sharp and vivid, showing off the images flawlessly. Similarly, though the discs only come with stereo mixes, these are also impressive, so loud and balanced that they may as well be surround mixes. All the discs come with featurettes and galleries that attempt to sell the motion comic idea (consumers should note that the X-Men and Spider-Woman discs come with the same featurettes), as well as music videos, trailers, art galleries, and other promotional material related to these titles. None of these are earth-shattering, although the interviews with the artists who drew the original comic books do have some value.

Closing Statement

There's little reason to recommend this set. The stories range from good (Thor & Loki) to dreadful (Black Panther), making it wildly uneven. Furthermore, if you really want to get the best of these stories in the best possible medium, get the original comic books. These motion comic DVDs add little to the originals apart from some occasional flashes of good voice acting, but even then, they're not enough to spring for this set, especially considering the list price.

The Verdict

Guilty of being too uneven and unconvincing.

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Genres

• Action
• Adventure
• Animation
• Superheroes

Scales of Justice, Astonishing X-Men

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Astonishing X-Men

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Astonishing X-Men

• Featurettes
• Image Galleries

Scales of Justice, Black Panther

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 70
Acting: 80
Story: 50
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile, Black Panther

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Black Panther

• Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 75
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.

• Featurettes
• Music Video
• Image Gallery

Scales of Justice, Iron Man: Extremis

Video: 85
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 75
Story: 80
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Iron Man: Extremis

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Iron Man: Extremis

• Featurettes
• Image Gallery
• Music Video

Scales of Justice, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

• Featurettes
• Trailer








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