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Astonishing X-Men: Gifted (DVD Review)

17 Sep, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 9/28/10
Shout! Factory/Vivendi
$14.97 DVD
Not rated

In terms of production value, the “Marvel Knights” brand might be the best use of the motion comic technique I’ve seen yet.

Gifted comes from a story arc written by Joss Whedon and drawn by John Cassaday for Marvel’s “Astonishing X-Men” in 2004. The plot involves the core members of the X-Men dealing with a mutant cure, which later became the basic story for the movie X-Men: The Last Stand. The critically acclaimed storyline won the prestigious Will Eisner Award for presenting a fully realized X-Men story with flashes of Whedon’s unmistakable dialogue style, which certainly elevates the proceedings.

Judging by the interviews included with the bonus material for Gifted, converting a comic book involves a decent amount of work but still probably not as intensive as full animation. The key trait is preserving the original artwork and dialogue of the piece, while full animation would represent a reinterpretation. Dialogue bubbles have been removed and backgrounds have been extended to create a full image, and computer effects have been added to provide more visual interest. The end result is a hyper-stylized animation form. (Not all motion comics have to be based on source material — several are original stories).

As an added treat, the Gifted DVD includes three episodes from the Marvel.com “Marvel Superheroes: What The--?!” video series, which uses action figures to parody the Marvel universe, akin to “Robot Chicken.” The stop-motion animation is well rendered and the shorts are hilarious, though at least a casual acquaintance with the Marvel Universe is probably required.   

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