When superhero comics get translated into animated cartoons, they lose what makes the original panels so compelling. The character design gets simplified. The details of their face and body vanish in order to make things easy for the cell painters in South Korea. The backgrounds also lose texture and shading in order to speed up production. The artwork suffers to bring motion to characters. It just the nature of the beast until the arrival of Astonishing X-Men – Gifted.
Joss Whedon (Dollhouse and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) joined forces with the Marvel Mutants back in 2004 to write the stories for 25 issues. He teamed up with artist John Cassady to bring his TV vision to the ink covered page. The first six issues gave the story of “Gifted.” It won numerous awards including the Will Eisner. Instead of animating these books like the old TV series, Marvel went with the Motion Comic process. They digitally scanned in the original artwork and used a computer program to bring motion to the panels. This is John Cassady’s artwork with Wolverine’s hairy arms flexing across the screen. All of Whedon’s words from the comic books are spoken on the screen. It’s like reading the comic book after taking a mild hallucinogen.
Kitty Pride returns to Professor X’s school. The place is now run by Cyclops and former-baddie Emma Frost. Things get weird when an Indian scientist announces her new drug can cure mutations. While the X-Men don’t feel the need to become normal, but thousands of other mutants are eager to take the cure. At the same time a new foe has arrived on Earth. Ord is a rather nasty alien that wants to take out the X-Men. Are these two events a coincidence? The Beast finds himself tempted at the idea of losing his hair so he can be respected as a genius instead of viewed as a furry freak. There’s a serious power struggle between Cyclops and Wolverine for control over the X-Men. Claws and laser eyes come out fast. Nick Fury pops up between the cure and evil E.T. Whose side is the one-eyed warrior watching out for? There’s enough intrigue and action to keep you flipping to the next chapter of the motion comic.
The mutant cure element might seem lifted from X-Men: The Last Stand, but the movie came out in 2006. Astonishing X-Men – Gifted easily connects to the non-rabid fanboy. The story doesn’t get too confusing to people that know the characters from the various feature films. Once you get into the action, Whedon’s script doesn’t alienate everyone that hasn’t read the comic book since their mom threw them out accidentally.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The images look good as they let static images breathe. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. They really don’t overdo the mix or music which works well with the story. The bombast comes from the images.
A Conversation With Joe Quesada And Neal Adams (17:09) explains why Marvel tapped into this technology to bring motion to their universe.
Behind-The-Scenes Look At Marvel Knights Animation (5:12) gives a more nuts and bolts of how they make the magic happen.
The Best Of Marvel Super Heroes: What The —? X-Men Edition are Robot Chicken-esque spoofs of making the film. This is really geared to fanboys. There’s spoofs of voice auditions with the other characters. The include episodes 1, 2 and 11. These were originally on Marvel’s website.
Visual History Of The Characters is a text and graphic background on the X-Men. This is a good primer for those who don’t follow the comicbooks that closely.
Artist’s Gallery – John Cassady has artwork from the original comics.
“Rise Up” Music Video (2:35) is a hip hop song using clips from Gifted instead of band footage.
Astonishing X-Men – Gifted does the perfect job of bringing the comic series to life. It’s like reading a comic book without having read those word bubbles. This is the perfect way to bring the best comics to video without having to make them lower the art standards for animation.
Shout! Factory presents Astonishing X-Men – Gifted. Starring: Cyclops, Kitty Pride, the Beast, Wolverine and The Beast. Boxset Contents: 6 Episodes on 1 DVDs. Released on DVD: September 28, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.