Monday, September 7, 2009

Spider Woman #1 (Motion Comic) Review

The much awaited and hyped Spider-Woman series, which has been years in the making, finally comes to everyone's computer and iPods. I was not able to purchase it on "opening day" because I live in Spain (as careful readers already know) and it was not available to anyone living outside of the United States and Canada.

Thankfully, Marvel was wise enough to make it available for free to everyone around the world on their website (limited time only, I'm not sure how long it is going to be there) and I was able to watch it. I have watched the motion comic twice already, and my general impression of it has been very mixed. Hit the jump for my review.

The Good

Alex Maleev delivers arguably what is the best job of his career. I am a big fan of his run on Daredevil, but this is miles ahead of that, not to mention the rush job he delivered with Secret Invasion - Dark Reign. The shadowy mood and setting of Spider-Woman are perfect for Maleev's style. What's also astonishing is that he did his own inking and coloring (at first I thought it was weird that the credits of the inker and colorist didn't appear in the credits, and I was about to reproach Marvel for it). The art is just perfect all around, and I can't give enough words of praise to it.

On the story side of things, Brian Michael Bendis is playing to his strengths: a single protagonist living in a seedy world, much like his work in Daredevil. This being a first issue and all, it's all about setting the character, her motivations and the world she inhabits. I found sections of it a bit repetitive, explaining stuff I already knew from all the other comics I read, but considering this is aimed more to casual readers, I understand the need for it.

There's not much new to this story, but what's there is good and provides an interesting conflict for Spider-Woman to face. I figure the second issue will provide more information and plot, considering all the introductions are out of the way with this first issue, and Jessica Drew joins S.W.O.R.D. and jumps into the heat of the battle at the end of the comic.

The Bad

There's no easy way to say it, but the sound was for the most part horrible. I don't know who chose the voice actors, but for some reason Spider-Woman has a faux-British accent that becomes noticeable at all the wrong times. Abigail Brand's voice sounds at times robot-y, I'm not sure if this was intentional or not but it becomes distracting too. Spider-Man's guest appearance boasts the best voice acting all around, but he's only in it for a minute or two.

The music does provide a good background and help set the general mood, but it's also sometimes played when the characters are talking to each other, and there's one specific part, when Spider-Woman attacks Spider-Man, that I can't hear what she says because of the music and sound effects.

To make matter's worse, Bendis uses some words that sound completely stupid when read aloud. Words that sound like they came out of a Jeff Foxworthy stand-up routine, such as "Doohickey", "thingamagig" and (my personal favorite) "bull-caca" all make a groan-worthy appearance. Also, this might have been just me, but every time someone said "skrulls", I kept hearing "squirrels".

The motion is very stiff and is mostly made up of flashing lights, zoom-outs and zoom-ins, backgrounds passing by, and the occasional body part moving. I understand that these are the failings of making a motion comic based out of an existing comic, as opposed to creating a completely original animation, but I just wasn't very impressed by it. There were also some amateurish mistakes, like when Brand and Spider-Woman get inside the (seemingly public) bus that goes at what looks like 100 kilometers per hour, and never stopping in the (what I assume are) the streets of London.

Verdict - Avoid It.
I can see how this might appeal to casual fans, to whom this is aimed for, but this is a very cheap substitute to an actual comic. I'm all for progress, but this feels like a waste of time, considering how long this has been delayed in order to animate it, and I don't see this format replacing comics any time soon. It's not all bad, but I think the actual comic will be much better. Ironically, for other circumstances that I noted in this article from last month, I won't be checking that out either.

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Klep said...

If you'll notice when watching, other than the driver, Brand, and Spider-Woman that bus is empty. It was clearly commandeered for the purposes of that meeting, so it not stopping for anyone else makes perfect sense.

Matt Ampersand said...

I did notice that it was empty (then again, it was the middle of the night, and I have gotten inside completely empty buses) and thought about that, and while it would account for the not stopping, it still did not explain for the speed it was going at in the middle of a city.

In any case, it could have been easily fixed with either making a few stops or mark it in some way so we would know that it was indeed from S.W.O.R.D. It had some stuff written in the back, but I did not notice anything too apparently SWORD-y. Another easy way would have been to show the driver as some alien, or something along those lines (although this should have come not from the animation department, but from the storytellers)

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Interesting review.
I am still mulling over how I feel about the episode. I found Maleev's art to be beautiful, but Bendis' dialogue sounds pretty stupid in parts when spoken. I could see it on the page, but coming out of an actor's mouth just didn't work. I'm pretty sure the Brit accent was on purpose, that's how Bendis hears Jessica Drew.
I thought the motion was good, but I wasn't expecting much, it is still aimed at being a comic first and only a motion comic. I liked what little they could integrate.
Overall, I wouldn't say avoid, especially not for free, but I would catious strongly and say watch it for free before slapping down hard earned money.

Matt Ampersand said...

Ryan, the "Avoid It" rating would have been the same if I had paid for it. I'm actually glad that Marvel put it up for free so people could make up their minds about it before buying the next episodes or the season pass.

I'm not going to be buying any motion comics in the future because of the reasons stated above, but if they put any future episodes for free, I'll watch them to see if the issues I have with them have been improved on. I'm not sold on this whole enterprise, but it doesn't mean my mind can't be changed.

Anonymous said...

Why is Spider Women hunting down all Skrulls and all aliens? What about Xavin and others that helped them out? What about gods and demi-gods? Do they count as aliens?

david Miller said...

"Wolverine is no longer the most messed up person in the universe!" That line was comedy gold and it stole any chance of this motion comic being taken seriously by me. I definitely skipped episode two. Bendis, your dialog sounds terrible spoken.

Judex Jones said...

They are like a slick movie previs to me. Storyboards animated to sound and voice overs to help the director make creative descision. Maybe that's the idea. Anyway I don't think that the potential audience for these will translate into comic book buyers or readers.The art work was stunning thats for sure and some of the dialogue was a bit how shall we say, on the nose but it's a ok watch for free.

Phil said...

sorry, i stumbled upon this after watching the spider-woman motion comic (which i only recently became aware of), and you did something that really bothered me. you complained about spider-woman having a british accent "for some reason". as if that happened by accident. but spider-woman was born in england. she IS british, so doesn't it make sense for her to have a british accent? i would have been irritated if her accent DIDN'T match her background. just sayin.

also i would agree that the first episode was the weakest. it was just kind of lame in general compared to the others, and is the one i rewatch the least often. it gets much better, though, at least in my opinion.

though, honestly, i preferred the methods that they used to animate astonishing x-men to the methods for spider-woman.

Phil said...

oh, also because i'm not quite tired of being annoyingly nit-picky. the bus they were riding in had altered (blurred, darkened, whathaveyou) video of an actual vehicle driving through city streets at normal speeds. what might have made it seem like it was flying super-fast was the rain effect...cuz it was raining. if i were going to be annoyed by anything there, it would be the fact that the video they used for the outside of the bus was both obviously repeating and taken during the day, when the scene took place at night.

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