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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Joe Quesada

Nicholette Reed
Stephanie K. Thomas
Geoff Boothby
Andy MacKenzie

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What's it about

Picking up in the aftermath of the shape shifting Skrulls Secret Invasion, Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman has been struggling to find herself after having been replaced by the Skrull Queen Veranke. Jessica is contacted by S.W.O.R.D. representative Abigail Brand. S.W.O.R.D. is a secret agency that deals with the current 32 alien races living on earth. Abigail seeks out Jessica with a view to having her join S.W.O.R.D. to help in tackling a new Skrull invasion. With Jessica desperate for a chance to have her revenge against the Skrull, she quickly takes up the offer. As the story continues, Jessica encounters the criminal organization HYDRA, as well as other Skrulls who are currently tracking Jessica herself. All of this leads up to her final encounter with Jessica's assigned Skrull target.

Is it good movie?

I think that I've had my fill of motion comics. Yes, they're a unique way to present a story, and yes, it allows for development of characters that would be impossible on the printed page through the proper voice actor. So what? To me, the animation style of some motion comic films is a mish-mash of creepy After Effects morphing that's just too bizarre for some people to take seriously. Then you get into the problem of voice actors who don't really fit with the character and so on. Anyways, another of Marvel Comics' forays into the motion comic arena comes in the form of one of their Marvel Knights properties in Spider-Woman. Armed with a great artist in Alex Maleev and writer Brian Michael Bendis, the film sure looks nice, but has a couple of underlying issues.

First off, it's nice to see Marvel putting the focus on a character that hasn't been given a lot of attention over the years. Spider-Woman has been around for a long time in one incarnation or another, yet kind of fell out of favour. But like Luke Cage aka Powerman, Jessica Drew's been given a second lease on life in the Marvel universe, which is great to see. I mean, you can only see so much of the mainstays before things get kind of blah.

I have to give credit to Maleev and his gorgeous art style. Wonderfully detailed and matching the grittiness of the Marvel Knights line of comics, Marvel probably did the right thing in not having as much 'motion' in this motion comic as you'd expect. It's kind of nice, though unfortunately the gorgeous art can't distract from the film's main problem: words.

The problems with the film boil down to the fact that it's wordy. Very wordy. Like, my early reviews wordy. Bendis' writing for this film involves a lot of them. As such, it get very boring to watch characters talk ad nauseum, compounded by the static shots of them sitting together or a single person staring at something. It would be different if there was more 'motion' to this motion comic, but unfortunately that's not the case. Also, if you're not a fan of the comics or had followed the previous storyline leading up to the film, you'll be lost as to what's going on. Both of these problems come to a head when you realize that the narration for the film is pretty much scatterbrained. The first part of the film serves as establishing what's been going on, but even then it takes its sweet time going, and if you're not a fan of Spider-Woman, you'll still be partly in the dark as to what's going on.

So, does SPIDER-WOMAN: AGENT OF S.W.O.R.D. deserve your attention? Well, if you're a fan of the comic and are a regular follower of the Marvel universe, you'll probably get more out of this film than the rest of us. This motion comic, while beautifully detailed by Alex Maleev, is bogged down by chunky writing that threatens to bog things down on one hand, and leaves newcomers scrambling to figure out just what's happening on the other.

Video / Audio

Video: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen keeps Alex Maleev's beautiful artwork from the comic looking good, with few instances of compression. There's not a heck of a lot you can do to screw up a motion comic's transfer, really. Colors are nice and saturated, and the art is sharp. There's a little noise in the picture throughout, but it's not distracting in the least.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track does its job, providing distortion-free voicework with good support for the score and sound effects.

The Extras

The main extra is the behind-the-scenes featurette Behind the Scenes of Marvel Knights. At 5 minutes in length, you're not going to get much more than a glancing insight into how Marvel puts together its motion comics. Joe Quesada haters, beware. The editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics is here to offer his two cents about the process.

Following that is Visual History of Spider-Woman, which amounts to nine pages of comic book panels with captions. You'll probably want to watch this one on your laptop, since the text is so damn small.

Also included is an Alex Maleev artist gallery with eight screens of pinups that all kind of looked the same.

Rounding things out are a couple of trailers and a music video. Why? Why not?

Last Call

Beautiful art that unfortunately has to contend with mountains of dialogue, AGENT OF S.W.O.R.D. is best reserved for those who've already been following the comic book and previous story lines than the casual or new fans. The extras are a bit on the pithy side, but do offer a bit of insight into how Marvel does things with these motion comics.

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