The Avengers is almost here, and I’m psyched. This weekend, I picked up two single-pack Heroclix game figures based on the movie (Loki and Captain America), Iron Man Mini-Muggs and Pop! figures, and a few hardcover trades at the always-affordable Collectorfest in Newburgh, NY. I’m currently brushing up on years worth of Hulk comics I’ve missed, and I’m ready for everything Marvel’s bringing on.
Marvel, for their part, have been extending their cinematic explorations of their most popular characters way beyond the big screen and have recently released three DVDs of animated, Marvel-based material : Astonishing X-Men – Dangerous, and Marvel Anime : X-Men and Iron Man.
Released by Shout! Factory, Dangerous follows, rather precisely, an Astonishing X-Men story arc by fan-favorite Joss Whedon, with art by the amazing John Cassaday. It’s a creative team which redefined the X-Men, who themselves are a heroic team prone to redefinition after redefinition, confusing time-travel paradoxes and a lot of inconvenient dying and coming back to life. It makes the whole title occasionally inaccessible to new readers, and every so often, someone comes along to tie up dangling plot lines or clarify when they heck has been happening to Professor Xavier’s team of angry mutants. It takes a lot of clarification.
I mention this proclivity towards convolution because this DVD animates the events between issues 7 to 12 of Whedon’s tenure on the title, omitting all of the introductory material of the first story arc. The characters and situations are all familiar to X-Men fans, but it’s still an introduction by way of total immersion.
Don’t expect a fully animated series of episodes, though; this is a “motion comic”, a style which makes a kind of collage of the original comic page and animates certain aspects of it, but lacks the smoothness of actual full-fledged animation. It’s a still Wolverine with claws popping out, and perhaps a moving background, not a Wolverine contorting in awesome battle. It would be a truly innovative style were it not so limiting, and did not try to “improve” upon the already beautifully-drawn comic. You really can’t improve upon Cassaday’s art… especially not by drawing floppy mouths on top of his faces to make them talk.
It’s a real curiosity for completists, but the comic itself is already excellent enough to stand by itself. If you’re not into reading, this is still a really excellent, unusual story, and a fair introduction to the X-Men.
The Marvel Anime titles, however, take a different approach to the Marvel Universe. Instead of sticking to established stories and art, Madhouse was given full creative license by Marvel to ‘anime-ify’ the X-Men and Iron Man, based on stories written by comic mastermind Warren Ellis.
The result is not unexpected, if you’ve ever seen any of the more dramatic, fight-centric anime shows, with over-muscled (but somehow effete) men and super-buxom women. While I generally don’t have much anime experience beyond Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vampire Hunter D and Trigun, the attraction of the aesthetic is not lost on me, and seeing a team of familiar characters given a new appearance and attitude, in a non-canonical sense, is generally pretty interesting. It’s the same reason I collect the Batman Black and White statue series : seeing iconic characters as seen by unique artists is exciting, and even more so when these things don’t mess with the long and excellent narrative history they already enjoy.
These sets, both X-Men and Iron Man, include 2 discs each, which span the whole collection of episodes for each series (originally aired on G4), and include both English and Japanese audio tracks, as well as a smattering of bonus features. And Japan’s handling of Iron Man’s giant robot battles is nothing short of spectacular, and builds upon a truly rich history of mecha works.
Marvel animation continues to release interesting titles, from their Ultimates cartoons to their Thor work, and the animated Avengers, all of which lend a different flavor to the richness of everything that Marvel has created. These titles, all new to DVD, add a quirky diversity to the exciting world of Marvel.