Following up 2010’s Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, Marvel Knights Animation brings another story arc from the Astonishing X-Men comic book series to life. Joss Whedon wrote the original issues from which both of these motion comic DVD releases were adapted. In Dangerous, his dialogue is well-voiced by the actors portraying the X-Men. John Cassaday’s evocative, occasionally gruesome artwork looks pleasingly stylish when animated. The story is presented over the course of six 12 minute episodes, though more than two minutes of credits for each results in a padded 69 minute total running time.
Make no mistake, Dangerous is not a fully animated feature. If you’re not used to the motion comic format, it may seem a little jarring. The original artwork is minimally animated, with mostly static backgrounds and characters that move similar to cardboard cut-outs. The idea is to remain relatively faithful to the panel-by-panel look of a print comic. The soundtrack is fully produced, with quality voice acting and realistic sound effects. Just don’t expect a smoothly flowing animation style. As with the still images in a comic book, these motion comics rely on a minimalist approach to capturing emotion as well as depicting action.
The X-Men find themselves up against a powerful robot that gained self-awareness within the confines of the X-Mansion’s Danger Room. At the beginning of the story, a promising young student is tricked by the sentient creation into committing suicide by jumping to his death within the holographic training room. In a horrific twist, the mangled student’s body is controlled like a puppet and used to taunt the other students in Professor X’s academy. All the students, along with Kitty Pryde, are held hostage inside the Danger Room. Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast, and the rest of the gang must try to bring an end to the murderous robotic menace. Truth be told, it all plays out with a bit of an anticlimactic and abrupt conclusion. But it’s reasonable fun up until the last of the six short episodes.
No supplemental material is included on Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous. The DVD is housed in a thin, cardboard case, which itself is enclosed in a resealable mylar bag. The bag is a nice touch, meant to replicate those used for storing comic books. It helps ensure the cardboard case will stay in good condition. The whole motion comic concept is definitely not for everyone. Despite a low retail price, I’m betting most casual fans will question the value of such a primitively animated series. But for those who love the Whedon-Cassaday Astonishing X-Men collaboration, Dangerous should make a nice addition to their collection.