Animation Sidebar : “Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.”

Posted: June 28, 2013 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Try as I might, I just can’t seem to quit crack. I know, I know — I’m trapped in a dead-end spiral, chasing after that first initial rush of euphoric coolness over and over again, but these days it almost never equals the highs of that introductory experience, and even if it does the feeling fades pretty quickly and I’m just left wanting more than it seems capable of delivering. Plus, if I’m honest, the first time wasn’t even that great. It just seemed like it would be, and I’m stuck forever pursuing a promise of bliss that was never delivered upon, hoping against hope that each next “score” will be The One. The Ultimate. The Best.

Whoops, did I say crack? I meant “motion comics.”  But hey — the same sentiments apply.

Still, I think I’ve finally found the one that will help me kick the habit for good, and for that I’m grateful. It’s not that 2009’s Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D (so titled in official parlance even though it appears to be exactly the reverse on the DVD cover packaging)., part of Shout! Factory’s “Marvel Knights Animation” line.  left me feeling so awesomely elated that I know it can never be equaled, much less topped. Quite the reverse. It was such a complete waste of time that it may — at least should — be enough to sour me on the whole notion of “motion comics” for good.


Which is kind of a shame, really, since this does have some things going for it. First off, it’s the first original  “motion comic,” with the DVD (again, no Blu-Ray exists for this that I’m aware of, not that it particularly matters) coming out in advance of its printed-copy counterpart. Secondly, unlike with many of these things, Shout! Factory has included a pretty generous sampling of extra features with this one, including as 30-minute “making-of ” featurette that looks at the whole “motion comic” concept in general rather than this specific title per se, some reasonably cool promo material for other releases in this series, a brief visual history of the Spider-Woman character throughout the years, and a tangentially-related-to-the-proceedings music video. Granted, a cynic might say that’s the least they can do since the main “feature” runs a paltry 54 minutes, but still — I appreciated it. On the technical front, the widescreen picture and 5.1 sound are both fairly well flawless, and the musical score accompanying the —errmmm — “movie” proper is probably the best I’ve ever heard for one of these releases.

Unfortunately, everything else sucks. It’s not that Alex Maleev’s art is “bad” — in fact it’s pretty good by any standard — but it makes for a lousy “motion comic” because, while it’s quite expressionistic and noir-ish, it’s pretty static and suggest very little actual, ya know, motion. Also, Shout! Factory has done next to nothing to add any of said element to the mix via their process of what passes for animation, just rotating angles every so often and giving us the occasional panning shot of the scenery here and there. Apart from that, the whole thing plays out more or less like a slide show you could easily title “What I Did During The Alien Invasion.”


Which brings us to Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.‘s biggest problem, and it’s a real doozy — fan-favorite writer Brian Michael Bendis’ script is just a fucking mess. Apparently, Spider-Woman’s civilian identity of private eye Jessica Drew was compromised/impersonated by the shape-changing Skrull Queen during said evil moarch’s last attempt to take over Earth, so our heroine’s got a big beef with these ugly green dopplegangers. Unfortunately, we’re just spoon-fed this knowledge via clumsy “info-dump” dialogue, so unless you’re intimately familiar with the Spider-Woman character’s backstory circa the early-to-mid-2000s, you’re not gonna really identify with the pain, anguish, and rage that Bendis is trying (and largely failing) to imbue her with. Still, given her bad personal history with the space invaders in question, it only makes sense that S.W.O.R.D., apparently a S.H.I.E.L.D.-type organization tasked specifically with fighting off menaces from other worlds, would bring her in (mostly in the capacity of  her aforementioned civilian identity — we actually get to see very little of Ms. Drew in her skin-tight leotard, which is kind of a bummer) when they get word that the Skrulls are giving the whole infiltration of our planet idea another go.


What makes a little less sense is why the hell Norman Osborn’s privately-funded super-team, the Thunderbolts, show up later (until a fairly limp “explanation” is provided), why the supposed “tension” between the various Skrull-hunting factions seems so forced yet still ends up falling flat, and why Bendis does , by and large, nothing to give any of the various characters much of an individual personality or perspective. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that different actors and actresses (a collection of no-names who generally do the best they can with such weak material) were delivering the lines, I’d be hard-pressed to tell exactly who in tarnation was talking.

The amazingly uneven length of the various “chapters” doesn’t help matters much (some run 15 minutes, some run five), and all in all you’re left with a story that feels like it was written as a “rush job” in one afternoon and (barely) animated later that night. There’s just no disguising it — Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.  feels like a mess from top to bottom because it is a mess from top to bottom.

Yup, I think I can safely rid myself of this whole “motion comics” habit cold turkey.

At least until tomorrow.

  1. Guess this is a skipper. Shout Factory is all over the place with releases. Their Scream Factory label is way over priced. Psycho II & III go for 28.99!!!!

    I hope this is better priced lol

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      A lot of these Marvel Knights Animation releases are avialable in a pretty reasonably-priced box set now, if I remember correctly.

  2. Smash says:

    That’s disappointing, it looked like it could have been good! Info-dumping dialogue is just loathsome when it’s clumsy. And you known I would even say that it’s loathsome when it’s mediocre too.

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      It’s always lazy — even when it seems “necessary,” there are usually are creative ways around it or, at the very least, creative ways to disguise it.

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