Iron Man: Extremis

Iron Man: Extremis
Motion comics are a strange proposition. What makes a story worth enhancing through voice acting and limited motion, but not full-on animation? One would guess the decision is primarily budgetary and marketing-related. Without a hot movie property such as Iron Man 2 to tie into, it's doubtful Marvel would bother trying to appeal to people who'd rather watch and listen to comics than read them. Odd as the medium is though, Extremis is a massive step forward from the off-putting simplicity of the Watchmen motion comic. As a story, Extremis is paced like a film, lending itself much better to the limited serial feature format. Warped genius Warren Ellis's seminal story arc, with Adi Granov, revisits the origin of Iron Man via flashbacks, paralleled with Tony Stark's next technological evolution of man and machine. In attempts to recreate the Super-Solider Serum that birthed Captain America, a brilliant doctor creates Extremis, a military nanotechnology serum that reprograms the body's healing receptors to rewrite the body's DNA, growing new organs to imbue superpowers in the subject. The serum is stolen and injected into Mallen, a member of a domestic terrorist group with a bone to pick with the American dream. The ensuing chaos leads to a confrontation between Mallen and Iron Man that leaves Stark near death. Each chapter is relatively short and the clever tech talk and wicked humour will keep asses glued to seats until the conclusion. It's heavy stuff: the ramifications of weapons dealing; Terrance McKenna DMT references, with a fascinating alternate take on the nature of the shared visions induced by the drug and the impact of hallucinogens on the evolution of the species; Stark's human frailty. And it's topped off by some pretty horrific violence. The way Ellis ties transhumanist themes into Stark's mission statement as an engineer is revelatory, a perfect marriage of writer, material and character. Adi Granov's hand-painted artwork is gorgeous, the best argument for the motion comic approach; it's not an art style that's easy to replicate with outsourced animators. The motion work is actually pretty good, with subtle facial expressions toeing the line when there's no action. Magnetic Dreams, whose process is examined in one of the special features, borrowed cinematography ideas from Favreau's big screen versions for inspiration. There's a good conversation with Adi Granov and behind-the-scenes peeks with the voice actors (unfortunately the weakest aspect of this production) and the folks at Marvel.Com. A "History of the Character" is an art gallery of all Iron Man suit designs by year and issue number. Granov receives a gallery as well, then there's a crappy music video for a lame electro rock track that doesn't have anything to do with Extremis, and finally, a weird, Robot Chicken-biting Hollywood Squares parody featuring superstar comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, the dude from Coheed and Cambria and a bunch of action figures. While a strong achievement in a medium it's hard to argue the existence for, Extremis is still best experienced in its original comic form. (Shout! Factory)