Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Motion Comic Ep. 1: Review


Pay attention, this is a landmark moment in the history of comics.  Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. was announced at the NYCC 2009 as being produced as a motion comic and slated to be sold on iTunes.  This will act in cooperation with a hard copy release of the comic.  While Spider-Woman was sadly delayed earlier this spring due to the tardiness of the motion comic, she finally apprears to be making her debut.  We here at the Crawl Space have been paying attention to all the teases, premieres, and digital progression of the Spider-Woman comic (not to mention comics in general), and I for one, am very proud to present to you a review of the motion comic!

Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Episode 1

WRITTEN BY: Brian Michael Bendis

ART BY: Alex Maleev

MOTION BY: Motherboard

SOUND BY: Simplissimus

It started off well with a steady crescendo: the introductions were made with eerie music and images with a simple color pallet that vacillated between complex and simple forms.  The fractured artwork emphasizes Jessica Drew’s fractured spirit/mind due to all the stress the Secret Invasion put on her.  The first scene, a brick building with a "Hotel" marquee attached in the foreground and a ferris wheel spinning in the background is highlighted by the use of pink and blue, and shades of black.  It’s simplicity is powerful for me, and one of the images that stick with me for the remainder of the episode.  This is where the motion comic excels: it takes Maleev’s artwork, already stunning by its own right, and only subtly adds to it.  The art is not overwhelming and it seems like Motherboard understood that it would be unnecessary to add "fluff" in their motion.  A single tear escapes Jessica’s eye, tracing a path down her face, fading as it goes.  Her frustration shows in her clenched fist, bent at the elbow.  It is not until she finally describes herself as "the most screwed-up person in the universe" that her arm glows chartreuse, emphasizing her pain and exasperation at the situation.  In my opinion, the effects are spot on.  The motion is wonderful, highlighting the most important aspects of each scene.  Sometimes the characters stand out because they are the only things not moving, sometimes the opposite is true.  My brain was not overloaded with images of cars passing by in the bus scene.  No, only lines were deemed necessary, and it seems that the mantra "less is more" certainly rings true here.

The sound, as well, was very pleasing.  The music and the sound effects all added to the quality of the production and really enhanced the art.  45 seconds in, however, and I was already slightly depressed.  The voices are totally wrong!  This, nearly above all, needed to be right!  Nicolette Reed as Jessica Drew delivers a lack-luster performance.  Frankly, I’ve heard actors on audio-books deliver better performances than this woman.  I also did not think that her voice really fit the role.  I appreciate finding an English actress (or someone who does a good English accent), but I feel like there was someone better out there for this role.  Stephanie K. Thomas who plays Abagail Brand can act, but once again, her voice just does not work for the part.  Finally, Spider-Man…flippin’ Spider-Man (played by Geoff Boothby) sounded like he just hit puperty.  At one point there was such an awkward sustained pause that I thought he had forgotten his line…apparently it was a dramatic pause.

When the episode ended, I had no idea it was ending.  It seemed like it was over rather quickly; approximately 10 minutes with credits.  I was somewhat surprised by this running time, just because I had hypothesized that these motion comics would be around 15 minutes.  I’m not even sure how this comic equates with the hard copy; is one motion comic episode one issue, or is it broken down even more so Marvel can shake as many coins out as possible?  I have no idea until I read the issue.

The sad thing about this motion comic is that, despite the wonderful sound and artwork, I could never really get into it.  I kept paying attention to everything: voice, sound, art, story, but there seemed to be this serious disconnect between the words and the art.  I felt myself wanting to read the comic, rather than listen.  Perhaps it was the voice acting, but something did not seem right.  I just do not think that this is the way to go for comic readership.  I DIDN’T READ ANYTHING! (sans the titles, of course), and I could hardly compare it to TV.  It is in a league of its own, but I’m not so sure that’s the place to be.  I almost felt like I had ADD and an inability to pay attention.  Something gets lost when the word balloons go away, at least for me.  I enjoy doing close reading, evaluating what is being said line by line.  I did not have that option here, and the actors certainly did not make up for that.

Is this the future?  Will digital comics replace paper comics just to in turn be replaced by motion comics?  Is this just a cheap trick to get us to pay more?  Will the motion comic continue to be a hindrance to the paper comic?  Will people who do not buy the motion comic be punished by missing pieces of the story?  I do not really have any answers for these questions right now.  When I receive my Spider-Woman #1 in hand, perhaps I will be able to add to my insight into the debate or paper vs. digital, and ask one important question: if Maleev’s art is the same, and Bendis still writes an awesome story, is there really a need to animate it?

Art: 4.5 – Grade A, classic Maleev.  Subtle yet powerful.

Motion: 4

Sound: 4

Voice: 1.5 – Recast…please?

Story: TBC

Ex Animo, Spider-Girl!