It was only a matter of time before I’d succumb to the charms of the motion comic genre and now that I’ve finally purchased and watched a few, I can firmly attest to the fact that Astonishing X-Men Gifted is a success on all fronts.
To begin, do try to ignore all of the negative reviews that bash products like this one and the many other motion comics on the market (easily identifiable in Marvel’s thanks to the “Marvel Knights” branding right on the package) for poor or choppy animation. This is a motion comic after all, not an animated series. That’s like faulting a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese for not being spaghetti.
Anyway, if the idea of a motion comic means nothing to you, think the actual pages of the graphic novel on which the story is based scanned into a computer one panel at a time and Photoshop used to move limbs, turn heads, make mouth flaps match spoken dialog etc. Never does this claim to be nor replace traditional animation practices.
Instead (as the commentary on this particular DVD eloquently confesses), this is an entirely new entertainment medium altogether. One that bridges the gap between the static panels of a comic and the acting/ motion of a film or cartoon. As such, the experience of viewing is pretty unique and quite enjoyable. Truly it captures the tone, look and feel of the comic like no other medium I’m aware of but does so with just enough energy to keep it very separate from say, reading a comic book on the Marvel app.
I personally found myself noticing its uniqueness for the first few segments of the first episode (there are 6 contained on this disc in total/ based on issues # 1-6) but by the end, had forgotten entirely that this was in fact a motion comic and not simply a TV series. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to Joss Whedon’s engaging story-line, which, in the event that you haven’t read the graphic novels on which these Marvel Knights’ Astonishing X-Men motion comics are based, is quite impressive.
Without giving up too many spoilers, the plot introduces a "mutant cure" designed by Benetech scientist Dr. Kavita Rao, who was secretly sponsored by the gladiator alien Ord. The prospect of "real" humanity arouses the interest of a heavily mutated Beast, who visits Rao only to discover that the drug is the product of illegal human experimentation and all the while the lines drawn between society and mutant-kind are becoming venerable walls.
In short, now only is the plot intriguing and rich but the dialog is spot-on as well, with witty quips and awesome character exchanges aplenty. Pacing is entirely too quick though for my taste as the 6 roughly 10-minute episodes are over just as the action is heating up.
Which brings me to my only complaint, to get the story in its motion comic entirety, one must purchase separate DVDs for Volume 2 (Dangerous), Volume 3 (Torn) and Volume 4 (Unstoppable). At around $10 a pop, you’re looking at close to $50 to enjoy the tale in its entirety. Worse still is that Marvel Knights isn’t stopping with just Joss Whedon’s take on the X franchise either as already Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, Wolverine Vs. Sabretooth, Wolverine Origin, and Weapon X Tomorrow Dies Today have already been released. Building up a Marvel Knights motion comic collection can add up really quickly and it’s addicting enough to warrant doing so. It would really be nice if Shout! Factory, at the very least, would have bundled up all of the Joss Whedon arc of the franchise into a single DVD box-set rather than forcing buyers to pick up 4 separate releases to get the full story. Note that since the time of this review’s writing, that have done exactly this for the Blu-ray edition of the material calling it Marvel Knights: Astonishing X-Men BluRay Box.
That single complaint aside, it’s very easy to recommend picking up Astonishing X-Men Gifted to dedicated comic fans and neophytes alike. Truly the experience is entirely unique even from those as seemingly similar as the various animated incarnations of the franchise throughout the years (and certainly much more loyal to the source material than all of the live action films combined).
Gifted represents my first foray into the motion comic genre and will certainly not be my last. I’m already quite interested in picking up InHumans and Black Panther in my next binge. Exciting news for all, but perhaps most so to my credit card company.
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About the reviewer
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing. … more
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Dream-team creators Joss Whedon (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and John Cassaday (Planetary, Captain America) present the explosive, all-new flagship X-Men series - marking a return to classic greatness and the beginning of a brand-new era for the X-Men! Cyclops and Emma Frost re-form the X-Men with the express purpose of astonishing the world.
But when breaking news regarding the mutant gene unexpectedly hits the airwaves, will it derail their new plans before they even get started? As demand for the mutant cure reaches near-riot levels, the X-Men go head-to-head with the enigmatic Ord, with an unexpected ally - and some unexpected adversaries - tipping the scales!