Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous Review
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To be fair, Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous is a very good motion comic. The problem is that motion comics themselves are a curious and highly problematic format to begin with, existing between comic books and animation in a way that weakens the appeal of each. While this second volume in the series adapts an excellent story by two of the best creators in the business, those limitations prevent much widespread appeal beyond the hardcore fans.

Based on issues 7-12 of Joss Whedon and John Cassadayís run on the title, Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous picks up after the team has finished investigating a cure for mutants developed by a hostile alien race to depower the X-Men. One of their students whose power had been removed turns up dead, bringing up a secret thatís buried deep in the teamís past.

Motion comics basically show the individual panels of a comic book in sequence, adding voices, sound effects, and music, as well as animating various elements and transitions. Adapting printed work this way preserves nearly the complete script and art, so the quality of the story depends on the original material. Whedon tells an excellent X-Men story, infusing his trademark banter to this cast and connecting many disparate threads of X-Men lore together. If youíre an X-Men fan and youíve never read these issues, theyíre well worth hunting down. Unfortunately, though, newcomers or casual fans risk getting lost quickly.

Not only is this the second arc from his run, picking up subplots established in the first arc that wouldnít be resolved for another 12 issues, but itís also a series from 2005, inherently tied into what was happening in the various X-Men and Marvel comic books being published at that time. Itís not that you canít follow whatís happening, and Whedon deserves credit for that as well, but it can be easily confusing. It doesnít help matters that the voice dubbing is unremarkable at best, and occasionally lapses into laughability.

One of the biggest selling points for Astonishing X-Men when it debuted was the pairing of Whedon with artist John Cassaday. Cassadayís work is crisp and precise, and he brings a level of realism to his art that sets off the fundamental insanity of superheroes nicely. That work continues here, and itís to Marvelís credit that they brought him on board to help with the motion comicís animation effects. Theyíve developed a number of impressive techniques to add movement to the still panels, but it never achieves the fluidity of traditional animation. Thereís also the problem of blowing up a panel that can be as small as a couple of inches onto increasingly large home TV screens, which can result in some strange-looking characters.

Itís not that Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous is a failed project. Itís based on a strong arc from an excellent comic book series, and it boasts a story thatís arguably better than many animated features. However, given how rooted that story is in long-term X-Men comics continuityóand the relative roughness of the motion comics techniqueóitís hard to recommend this adaptation to any but the most ardent fans.

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