Sunday, October 30, 2011

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Motion Comic Review

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
Marvel Comics
Motion Comic
60 mins. - 1 disc - 6 episodes
$14.93 (2010) DVD
ISBN 826663121339
Directors - Joss Whedon, John Cassaday
Studio - Marvel Knights Animation

Synopsis: The X-Men are always a team in flux and the current iteration is led by Cyclops and Emma Frost.  They hold a press conference and unveil a new team to the world - a team to address crisis situations around the globe and not just police mutantkind. 

Stealing their thunder is news of a "cure" for mutants.  Civil unrest follows along with internal struggle for some members of the team - particularly the Beast, who has mutated into a progressively more feline form.  The team goes head-to-head with Ord, a powerful new adversary of extraterrestrial origin.  All this and the astonishing return of a former teammate!

Pros: Story/dialogue/art are exactly the same as original comic material, visual art remains highly detailed (vs. simplified animation style - used as a necessity to cut down on costs and production time)

Cons: Animation looks stiff because it's essentially the comic with motion added (some figure motion, mostly moving mouths)

Mike Tells It Straight: I'm a huge fan of Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men run. This motion comic translation of the first story arc (Gifted) is a decent evolution essentially taking the printed page and adding motion/screen movement.  It still feels clunky because of the hybrid nature of a motion comic - it's not a comic anymore and it falls short of traditional animation.  Part of me likes the added motion to the already cool comic story with zero changes to plot/scenes/dialogue, but another part is disappointed because the animation is so much less than a regular 'cartoon'.   

Straight from the printed page the X-Men shamble onward
The motion comic genre is still very new and finding its legs.  Technological improvements have made it easier to translate printed comics into motion hybrids, but the question of audience and acceptance still remains.  Price to the consumer doesn't appear to be an issue since buying this DVD is equivalent to buying the trade paperback version - so it's just preference. 

How do you like to experience your comics?  Traditionally we only had one option - read a pamphlet-style comic book or the book-style collected edition.  A comic book page is read from the upper left corner diagonally down to the lower right corner.  The reader focuses on one panel at a time, first looking at the art then reading the dialogue then looking at the art for longer, and moving on to the next panel to start the process over again.  Rinse, repeat for each page.  This reading process is unique to the medium and drives the creative presentation of the material.  You are literally putting yourself through this process to read a comic.  Do you consciously enjoy or like the process?  If you're an avid comic reader you've trained yourself to perform this process in expert fashion.  Animation (or movie storyboarding) is very different and throws the comic book reading process out the window (it's not necessary due to the medium and animation/movies have their own familiar process). 

Let's talk about media devices.  The onset of the tablet reader allows greater options for reading books/watching movies on the go or just anywhere you can read a book comfortably (couch, bed, car, airplane).  The motion comic is kind of like listening to an audio book, but looking at pictures with lip movement to the words (well, it's a little more sophisticated than that as evidenced by the animation in this particular motion comic) and some sound effects. 
That's right, Kitty.  My lips move
It's going to come down to whether a majority of people like the added movement/audio with their regular comic book reading experience and/or whether the motion comic is more readily available at a good price point.  I subscribe to Netflix streaming and this motion comic is available, but I would have to pay extra for the print or digital versions.

Either way, the jury is still out, but this motion comic adds a little extra to the original work.  We'll see if these continue, but I would prefer a fully animated feature.  The format is definitely not for everyone and I recommend checking out a preview trailer to see if it's for you (unless you have Netflix or it's available on some other network, then go for it).  It feels like the evolution of printed comics to digital format is slowly progressing and the motion comic may be a new alternative.  Stay tuned.   

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