Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. #1: Marvel Motion Comic
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Released: August 19, 2009
Price: $.99 (on iTunes)
Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have been trying to get this Spider-Woman series off the ground for what seems like a decade, and they’ve finally managed to do it. However, Marvel has decided to make this series the first in their big push of Motion Comics, similar to what DC has done with Watchmen, and is currently doing with Superman: Red Son. I’m not sure who decided these motion comics are the next big thing, but somebody’s putting a lot of money behind it, so we’re going to keep getting them for a while. The interesting thing with this series is that we will see a print version of this story in a few months, but we’re getting the motion version of it first. The one thing this really has going for it is the price point of 99 cents on iTunes (available for the first two weeks, then the price jumps to $1.99). It’s much easier for me to make an impulse buy on this when the price is so low, and if they maintain that price, I could see picking this series up.
The story in this one follows Spider-Woman, or Jessica Drew to her friends, as she is recruited to become an agent of S.W.O.R.D. (as it says right there in the title). S.W.O.R.D. is in charge of protecting the Earth from alien invaders, and Spider-Woman is tasked with tracking down one of the Skrulls who recently attacked. She travels to the seedy Asian port of Madripoor where she ends up confronting him.
The best thing this Motion Comic has going for it is the story by Bendis. Fortunately for Marvel, his script works very well when spoken. The voice actors do a very good job (although I never imagined Jessica Drew as having a British accent), and there’s really only 3 characters in the whole issue, so it’s easy to keep them straight. And honestly, the story has some intrigue, and some action, and it got me interested enough to look forward to the next episode.
I’ve read enough of Bendis’ take on Spider-Woman in New Avengers to care about what happens to her now, so at least in terms of the story, this is aimed squarely at me, the long-time Marvel reader. Unfortunately for Marvel, this story is right up the continuity poop-shoot, and I don’t see how anyone who hasn’t read all of Secret Invasion, and most of Bendis’ New Avengers run would have any way of knowing what the heck was going on. Spider-Woman spends no time in her costume; she’s never even referred to AS Spider-Woman, only as Jessica Drew. Most of the episode is spent explaining S.W.O.R.D. to a certain extent and getting the adventure going, but no time is spent on recapping who Jessica is. Maybe free zero episode explaining all that would be a good idea. Spider-Woman is a weird choice in the first place for Marvel to make this their first Motion Comics series, mostly because outside of Brian Bendis (who has an admitted love for the character) not many comics fans really care about her, and even less non-comics fans are likely to care. I would have thought they would launch with one of their more popular properties, but then again, I’m not in the decision making process, so maybe they know something I don’t.
As for the actual Motion part of this Motion comic? Well, I’ve seen several of DC’s Motion comic offerings, and this is the least animated one I’ve seen. It may not help that most of the episode is taken up with one of Bendis’ patented long talking scenes, which usually read great, and in this case sounds pretty good, but are not usually a visual tour-de-force. The art by Alex Maleev looks good, especially if you’re a fan of his art.
I’m very curious to see his actual pages for this story, and to compare them against the motion comic. Art aside, it doesn’t stop the biggest problem I had with this is, which is that nothing moves; it’s just someone with a computer moving the art around some and throwing in some voices and sound effect. I understand that you don’t necessarily have to animate the lips to match the voices, but would it kill you to have someone move their arms or heads? It looks really weak, like they spent about twenty minutes on the “animation”. It’s not that the ones DC has put out have a ton of movement in them either, but it’s certainly more than what’s on display here. This is my biggest personal problem with the concept of these Motion Comics, which is where I’m forced to ask “If the animation is so limited to save money, what do these do better than the actual comic?” Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with a good answer for that. It may just be a case where I’m not the target audience for these. It’s entirely possible that there are a ton of people out there who’ve seen them and think they’re the bee’s knees, and if there are, more power to Marvel and DC for making these.
As a radio drama with some small visual aids, this worked well, at least for me. Some parts of this were very well done, and give me hope that this first episode was them just getting used to the technology and that the next ones will be better. As I said at the top, the price point is also a big help. I paid 99 cents for it (on iTunes), and at 10 minutes long, I’m getting about the same amount of time it would take me to read the actual issue, but at about a third of the price. That’s the kind of smart marketing that will put butts in the seats. I can see this appealing to Marvel fans, and particularly Bendis fans, but I don’t know how this will play to new readers, or viewers such as it is. My personal score is going to be 3 out of 5.