Marvel's much-hyped first motion comic, Spider-Woman has finally been released - But is it a bold leap forward for the format, or as disappointing as Warners' Watchmen adaptation? How about "both"?
Marvel apparently has high hopes for Spider-Woman, calling it both "mind-blowing" and "groundbreaking", but it doesn't quite live up to that hype. It's certainly the best "motion comic" - or, let's be honest, "really, really limited animation" - we've seen so far, but what it does right almost makes what it does wrong all the more apparent.
Let's be clear: As a regular comic, Spider-Woman will probably be great. Alex Maleev's art is atmospheric and stylish while losing the artificiality and sterility that crept into his Daredevil work with Bendis, and will doubtlessly look wonderful on the page. Likewise, Bendis' dialogue here is prime Bendis, with the cadence and asides that his fans have come to expect, and they're unlikely to be disappointed when reading it. It's just that... it doesn't work as a motion comic.
The animation, what there is of it, is well done. But there isn't enough of it... or there's too much of it; something about it, about the way the backgrounds move but the figures seem distractingly static, especially in the talky expositionary scenes, makes you all too aware of how limited the animation really is, although nothing demonstrates that as much as the "fight" sequence at the end of the episode, where the animation is almost laughably limited, killing any suspension of disbelief and drawing attention to itself far too much. Similarly, Bendis' trademark dialogue just sounds awkward and unbelievable when spoken aloud (although part of that could have something to do with the very flat line readings from the actors; Nicolette Reed may have the trans-Atlantic accent that the creators knew that Jessica Drew had to have, but her disinterest in the material - or maybe lack of ability to emote - can be amazingly apparent at times), including truly cringe-worthy lines like "This is what we call bull-ca-ca," which just can't help but sound ridiculous when said out loud.
Ultimately, Spider-Woman feels unsatisfying not because everyone involved hasn't tried their hardest, but because of the very format they're working in; it could just be that Motion Comics in general are not only not the "future of comics," but also not a format that will last past this initial fad and first blush of excitement. There's the start of an interesting story being told in Spider-Woman, but it's one that I'd rather read the rest of, than watch.