Venture into the minds of Joss Whedon and John Cassady through Marvel Knights Animation based on their Eisner Award winning take on Marvel’s infamous mutant heroes. This must-have 2-disc Blu-ray collection contains:
ASTONISHING X-MEN: GIFTED - Can the X-Men protect the world’s mutants against a powerful new alien menace and the “cure” that threatens to rid them of their unique abilities forever? This DVD features the first story arc of the ASTONISHING X-MEN 3-part series. Extensive bonus content includes: a conversation with Joe Quesada and Neal Adams, ASTONISHING X-MEN “Rise Up” music video, ASTONISHING X-MEN – GIFTED trailer, visual history of the characters, behind-the-scenes, Marvel Super Heroes™: What The — ?, artists gallery – John Cassaday, and additional trailers.
ASTONISHING X-MEN: DANGEROUS - In the second installment of the Astonishing X-Men arc, the tragic death of a student at the Xavier Institute reveals that a powerful enemy is working from inside the mansion to destroy the X-Men. It’s an enemy who knows all their weaknesses and can predict their every move. This new foe doesn’t want wealth, power or world domination – it only wants them dead. As the X-Men fight for their lives, they learn they’ve been deceived by one of their own. Even if they survive, the team will never be the same.
ASTONISHING X-MEN: TORN - This third installment of the Astonishing X-Men story arc brings more action and adventure as Emma Frost’s erratic behavior has the X-Men spinning in a nonstop downward spiral. Will an unlikely union be the final straw? After secretly lying in wait for months, the new Hellfire Club makes its move!
ASTONISHING X-MEN: UNSTOPPABLE -Strap yourselves in, folks! The final arc on Astonishing X-Men! After the shocking and brain-smashing events of recent issues, the X-Men are off to protect the Earth from its destruction at the hands of the Breakworld. And when it's all over, nothing will ever be the same! No, really, we mean it! Whedon and Cassaday prove they are more than Astonishing: They are unstoppable!
I understand there are a lot of people out there that enjoy watching motion comics. I don't really think they do it for me. The novelty soon wears off and I find myself wishing I was watching a fully animated show instead of slightly moving still images. This isn't a referendum on motion comics or their fans. I'm just not particularly fond of the medium.
Joss Whedon is an infinitely busy man. The box proudly proclaims that the king of geekdom is the preeminent writer of this X-Men themed series. It's easy to see Whedon's influence in the writing. The jokes are punchy and the story is rather detailed. So detailed in fact, casual X-Men fans will find themselves lost in a sea of X-Men history and backstories. The foundation of the show assumes that the people watching it have more than just a passing knowledge of the super squad of mutants. Whedon's screenplay assumes that you already have complex knowledge of the people involved, their relationships with each other, and their history together.
This isn't a bad thing really. It's great to get a more in-depth storytelling of the X-Men universe instead of trying to cover all the origin bases again and again. The 'Astonishing X-Men' motion comic is simply meant for a more informed audience.
The motion comic effect takes the famed artwork of illustrator John Cassaday and adds nuanced movement to them. His artistry is detailed and immensely colorful. While I still would've loved to see a fully animated version of the stories, it doesn't take away from the fact that Cassaday's artwork is gorgeous and one of a kind.
The series is split up into four episodes: "Gifted," "Dangerous," "Torn," and "Unstoppable."
In "Gifted" it's made abundantly clear that these X-Men stories are taking place in a world filled with other superheroes. References are made about The Avengers and the Fantastic Four. We find out that while those two groups of heroes are widely accepted by the public, the mutant X-Men are still shunned. The turmoil with the general public has always been the centerpiece of any X-Men story.
The complicated storylines continue in the next three episodes. This release really is meant for the discerning comic book aficionado. People who fancy themselves 'X-Men' fans, but have only watched the live-action movies, will find themselves wondering what's going on.
Whedon weaves a dense superhero tale that involves the likes of the Fantastic Four, Colossus, Emma Frost, Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, the Hellfire Club and Breakworld. For those diehard fans this is probably a release that you won't be able to do without. Fans of Cassaday will immensely enjoy the stunning visuals. Geeks will revel in Whedon's skilled knowledge of the series. All others need not bother.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Shout! Factory release comes in a two-disc set. Both discs are 25GB Blu-rays. They're packaged in a standard keepcase that comes with a slipcover. The case indicates a Region A coding.
The animation is stunningly gorgeous, but the presentation does exhibit its share of flaws and compression issues. The 1080p picture is often clear and wonderfully detailed, however, there are frequent flaws that need to be addressed. Especially in the first episode.
"Gifted" seems to have the most visual hiccups of the entire group. Jaggies are a common occurrence. The detail that is seen in the later episodes isn't as crisp or well-defined in this episode. For some reason "Gifted" didn't manage to get the treatment that the rest got.
After the first episode one can settle down and enjoy a colorful, detail-rich animated presentation. The caveat being a love for motion comics is a must. No matter how beautiful the animation looks on screen it is sure to put some people off simply because of the still nature of the medium. Blacks all seem as inky as they could be. Lines are definite in the later episodes. Color fills are solid and never waver. Noise is non-existent. If you can get past the flubs of the first episode, then the next three will please you.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is neither terrible nor great. It falls somewhere in between the two. It's one of those tracks that performs admirably given its constraints, but doesn't reach the heights that it could given a few more channels.
Dialogue is cleanly delivered through the front speakers. Sound effects are a bit too loud, as they draw attention away from the dialogue. They've been mixed with louder volume, at times it can be overly distracting. There are times where the louder sound effects drown out dialogue. There's a good amount of low end involvement in the track even though the sub is silent.
Again, this track isn't going to wow anyone. It gives you a semi-decent dialogue-heavy presentation and not much else.
'Marvel Knights: Astonishing X-Men Collection' is meant for people well-versed in the world of X-Men comics. It isn't meant or intended to be a product for casual fan consumption. If you're a fan of the motion comic approach and you love X-Men then this release is for you. This is definitely a "for fans only" release.