Directed by Jesse Cote
Starring Mark Hildreth, Laura Harris, and Brian Drummond
Created by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
The fourth arc in Joss Whedon’s landmark run with Marvel’s merry mutants is now adapted into a motion comic for your viewing pleasure, but is it pleasing?
The X-Men can’t catch a break. After facing an alien bent on wiping out mutant-kind and their own training room turning homicidal (see the first two arcs “Gifted” and “Dangerous”), Cyclops and friends have some family issues to work out as one member betrays and cripples the team.
The “Torn” arc picks up the pace after the drop off in the previous “Dangerous” arc. It doesn’t have the blockbuster action feel that Whedon starts and ends his run on the title, instead focusing more on the X-Men themselves. This is where Whedon’s talent for ensemble casts comes into play, with everyone feeling like they get a good share of time and development.
If Whedon should get any credit for anything, it’s for relegating Wolverine to supporting comic relief and making it work. Most of the laughs come from Wolverine doing his thing, being the best there at what he does, even when what he does isn’t what you usually expect. He plays off well with student Hisako Ichiki/Armor,
There’s some mind play that may take a second watch to get, thanks to the myriad of mutant psychics in the book. It also takes some time before it gets to the action, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this part of the run will be your down time. The more I come back to the story though, the more I appreciate this arc in particular for Whedon’s excellent character building in the break of action. One particular story line has even now yet to see resolution, but for what it is at the cliffhanger, it’s all a fulfilling story.
But the important thing is that this is a motion comic, not the original comic book, and it’s this presentation that really hurts the story. The voice acting is average at best, and obnoxiously accented at worst with Colossus. More annoying is the part divisions. The arc is divided into six 10-min parts, oddly 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, and 3B. For one, why not just one through six? For two, each part comes with a bland intro and end credits, even in “Play All.” Every 10 minutes, your viewing experience is interrupted by the same credits and intro, and it gets old fast.
The “Torn” arc is still a good part of a great run, and I recommend Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men to anyone with a modicum of interest in comics, but not in this format. Stick with paper.
The art drops quality from paper to motion video, not appearing as sharp and crisp as Cassaday and his team originated. The animation itself is pretty jerky, laughably so at times. It’s in stark contrast against unmoving backgrounds and other elements in the shot. All together, it’s almost distracting, especially if you have previously read the printed comic first.
The sound is very basic, but it comes through clearly enough. The motion comic gives sound to the comic’s dialog and sound effects. There’s no trouble hearing or understanding anything, but nothing remarkable either. The additional music is likewise forgettable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
No bonuses, and not much of a case either. The disc comes in a cardboard folder covered with art from the comics (which looks better than in the motion version). Such a bare bones release, what’s the point?
Overall (Not an Average)
Personally, I never see the point of a motion comic. I always thought it was a lazy step when a company didn’t feel like doing a full animated adaptation. That said, I’ve seen some good examples, with Marvel’s own Black Panther coming to mind when I saw it a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, Astonishing X-Men: “Torn” proves my worries. The story is good, but if you have the option, read it instead.
Heck, with the run time of the film at about 80 minutes, you might actually finish faster reading.
The Film 4/10
The Video 3/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 2/10
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10