Iron Man: Extremis Release Date: November 30, 2010 Studio: Shout! Factory Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Digipak Year: 2010 Rating: NR Running Time: 1:18:40 MSRP: $14.97 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1.78:1 anamorphic Mix of 4:3 and 16:9 Audio Dolby Digital: English 2.0 Stereo Subtitles None None The Feature: 4/5 "Iron Man: Extremis" was a six-issue comic book arc written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Adi Granov for Marvel Comics. Considered to be one of the most popular stories for the character, aspects of it were ultimately used in the 2008 "Iron Man" feature film starring Robert Downey, Jr. Indeed, movie fans will find familiar "Extremis's" revised Iron Man origin story, which is seamlessly woven into each installment. Integrating it proves rather critical as the arc is effectively a re-boot for the series, representing not just a change in design of the character's signature armor, but a fundamental shift in how the armor functions in relation to its human pilot. Flashing back to the Stark's first steps as a superhero reinforces the significance of the revisions, as well as provides a foundation for those unfamiliar with the character's history. Whether the re-boot proved effective only followers of the series know, but based on the "Extremis" arc there certainly appears to be a lot of potential for new growth. For the "Extremis" motion comic, Marvel takes the critically-acclaimed material and gives it a new look, using an animation method first presented to the masses in "Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic." Not quite frame-by-frame animation and not quite panel-by-panel storytelling, motion comics are an interesting fusion of the two that could be dismissed as crude and rudimentary, but that can work quite well as a form of animation. Though Marvel's first entry into the medium, "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted," had some problems, "Extremis" shows a marked improvement. The "skinning" of 3D wireforms with the original 2D illustrations is more refined, image zooms appear reasonably detailed, and various body movements - including mouths, eyes and hands - look more natural. There's still a kind of puppet-on-a-string quality in regards to the latter, but it didn't take long for me to forget that minor issue and become engrossed in the story, which by and large lived up to its reputation despite ho-hum character development for its main villain. And it's ultimately the strength of its stories that will keep Marvel in the motion comic game, now that the major technical-aesthetic kinks appear to be resolved. "Iron Man: Extremis" is composed of six episodes, which line up with the original comic book issues: Episode One (20:13) Episode Two (14:28) Episode Three (10:14) Episode Four (13:16) Episode Five (10:20) Episode Six (10:09) Video Quality: 4/5 "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted" had some ghastly image problems resulting from the poorly executed motion comic process, but fortunately "Extremis" doesn't suffer the same fate. Line art is clean and free of aliasing, there's negligible compression noise and likewise no signs of edge haloing. Backgrounds still show a slight amount of color banding, but you generally have to really look for it. Overall detail is also quite good, the fine 3D texture effect on the Iron Man armor coming through quite nicely. Colors are muted, which I'm assuming is the nature of the original artwork, though I'm curious how things would look on Blu-ray with its expanded color gamut. Audio Quality: 3/5 The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is dominated by dialogue and as such sounds very clean and intelligible. Support for the score and sound effects are placed well, establishing a respectably wide sound stage. Strangely, credits indicate the creation of a 5.1 mix, but then it isn't included on the release. Special Features: 4/5 The set of extras provides a solid background on the motion comic project and its comic book source material. A Conversation with Adi Granov (16:55): The talented artist talks about how he got involved with "Extremis," his experience working on it, what it's done for his career, and how he feels about its adaptation into a motion comic. Edge Studios (3:10): DJ Tanner, the voice actor for Tony Stark, talks about his experience in the recording booth. Magnetic Dreams (6:38): A look behind the scenes at the animation house that made the motion comic adaptation. Marvel.com (3:44): Additional voice actors Michael Mitchell, Ed Paul and N. Ronald Levine talk about their recording booth experiences. Music Video (3:10): Clips from the film set to the song "Ready to Go," by David Ari Leon and Guy Erez feat. Glen Philips. History of the Character: Slideshow of Iron Man's 38 armor models, from 1963 to 2007. Adi Granov Artist Gallery: Ten slides with 20 images of Granov's "Extremis" artwork. Marvel Super Heroes -- What the ?! Starring Iron Man (3:11): One of a series of Web shorts featuring Marvel characters in humorous situations, created with action figures and stop motion animation. In this episode Iron Man hosts a Hollywood Squares-inspired game show. "Iron Man: Extremis" Trailer (3:13) Trailers: Previews of other Marvel Knights motion comic productions. Astonishing X-Men: Gifted (1:55) Spider-Woman - Agent of S.W.O.R.D. (:53) Black Panther (2:09) Recap The Feature: 4/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 Marvel addresses many of the misgivings I had about its initial foray into motion comics and in the process provides a much stronger technical presentation. With special features providing solid background on the project and its source material, fans of the "Extremis" story arc and those new to motion comics should be quite pleased.