I just can’t get enough of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. When his 25-issue run on the series with artist John Cassaday came to an end, I swear a part of me went with it. And so I greeted the prospect of the series’ revitalization as a motion comic by Marvel Knights Animation with open arms. While I admittedly noted a dip in the quality of the animation between the first and second installments of the series in my previous review of Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous, I’ve since come to terms with any problems I once had with these motion comics in no small part thanks to my affections for Astonishing X-Men: Torn.
The episodes in this third installment of the Astonishing X-Men motion comics bring to life issues 13 through 18 of Whedon and Cassaday’s spectacular run on the series in the way that only Marvel Knights Animation can. And of the four story arcs penned by Whedon, Torn may very well be my favorite. Whedon approaches character development here in some truly spectacular ways and delivers one game-changing narrative blow after another. He cleverly employs the powers of psychic mutants throughout the arc to dig deep into the psyches of the X-Men and logically present readers with an incredible wealth of “what ifs” while remaining in canon. It’s wonderful stuff, and some of the more spoiler-free highlights here include Wolverine reverting into a 19th century school boy and the already devolved Beast going completely feral and stalking the School for the Gifted’s campus in search of prey.
I’ve admittedly struggled a bit with motion comics since their introduction, as I know many have. But I’ve always had trouble putting my finger on precisely why up until now. No, the animation doesn’t bother me. Sure, it takes some getting used to, but that’s not it at all. While watching Torn, however, I realized my problem is with the pacing. I like to take my time with a comic book, really let the story play out before me. And every comic panel has its own pace. Some panels you dwell over for extended periods. Others you flip past at breakneck speeds. I probably spend an average of about 15 minutes with any given issue, maybe more. And yet, each episode of Astonishing X-Men clocks in at right around 10 minutes. As such, the episodes feel all-too-brief to me every time.
But then again, I recall feeling the same way about the individual issues of Astonishing X-Men when I would pick them up during their initial run. So my taking issue with the pacing here may actually be little more than a testament to Whedon’s master storytelling abilities. It’s hard to say. I’ll be very interested to sit down and rewatch the series straight through from beginning to end, though, once all 25 issues have been reworked by Marvel Knights and see how I feel about the pacing then. And I suspect the experience will be somewhat more rewarding than the fleeting joy these mere 80-minute collections offer.
Torn arrives on DVD August 14, 2012 and, like the previous installments, is distributed by Shout! Factory, a distributor I find myself growing more and more fond of with each passing release as they consistently appeal to the raging geek inside me. Unfortunately for said raging geek, however, the Torn DVD lacks special features entirely. And we all know how the inner geek salivates so over special features!