Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Release Date: June 14, 2011 Studio: Shout! Factory Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Digipack Year: 2009 Rating: NR Running Time: ~54:00 MSRP: $14.97 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1.78:1, enhanced for widescreen displays 16:9 enhanced Audio Dolby Digital: English 2.0 Stereo Subtitles None None The Feature: 4.5/5 Private investigator, ex-Avenger, and ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jessica Drew (AKA Spider-Woman) is the most screwed over person in the history of the world, or at least she seems to think so. Her recent experience with the shape shifting Skrulls, who imprisoned her and then replaced her with their queen, has left her an embittered woman and a sort of pariah amongst her fellow superheroes. An unexpected invitation to join forces with another secret intelligence agency only seems like another opportunity for betrayal, but S.W.O.R.D., represented by Abigail Brand, offers her a chance to get a bit of payback against the aliens who did her wrong. Sent to hunt down one Skrull in particular, Drew finds herself back amongst familiar faces and settings, giving her a chance to not only restore some of her reputation but find a bit of closure as well. Marvel Knights has hit its stride with this, its third motion comic project. The animators take a more measured approach with their techniques, foregoing the retroactive animation of characters' mouths and limbs in favor of broader movements that are more stylized, atmospheric and subtle. This less manipulated approach also maintains the beautiful intricacies of illustrator Alex Maleev's artwork, making "Agent of S.W.O.R.D." thus far the Marvel motion comic most true to its source material. Effective voice acting - headlined by Nicolette Reed as Drew - brings to life the words of writer Brian Michael Bendis, putting the finishing touches on an animated work that is every bit as engrossing as it source material. The only aspect that newcomers will find challenging is the sizable back story that the narrative draws from, but thanks to resources like Wikipedia it's not difficult to get up to speed on the context. "Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D." is made up of fives episodes: Episode One (10:18) Episode Two (10:09) Episode Three (10:17) Episode Four (12:13) Episode Five (10:42) Video Quality: 2.5/5 Issues largely absent in the high definition transfer rear their ugly heads in the standard definition downconversion. Moire, compression noise and color banding are readily apparent. Black levels are deep and relatively stable, but contrast looks subject to compression, with some scenes lacking delineation between its main subject and dark backgrounds. Detail also takes a hit, the line art look rather rough around the edges. Colors are well saturated and bold however, the one highlight in the middling picture quality. Audio Quality: 3/5 Dialogue in the 192 kbps Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is clear, detailed and intelligible. Support for the score and sound effects are placed well, establishing a respectably wide sound stage. Though LFE is non-existent, the track exhibits good depth and fullness. Special Features: 2.5/5 The package of extras shows a noticeable lack of content compared to past Marvel Knights releases. An interview or two with the creators would have been nice. "Watch Your Step" Music Video (3:04) features clips from the film set to the song, performed by Dan Phillips with Anna Abbey. Visual History of Spider-Woman presents a combination of origin story and epilogue images of the heroine. Alex Maleev Artist Gallery presents 10 slides of images from Maleev's "Agent of S.W.O.R.D." artwork. Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Trailer (:54) Black Panther Trailer (2:09) Recap The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 2.5/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 2.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3/5 Marvel Knights finally finds a quality of animation that upholds the beauty of the original artwork, while also imparting the necessary dynamic movement. The stories also continue to be first rate, with Marvel choosing its strongest works to convert to the motion comic experience. Unfortunately, the DVD presentation for "Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D." is markedly inferior to its Blu-ray counterpart, which may have seemed like a foregone conclusion but I frankly wasn't expecting the difference to be so drastic. Considering it also includes the "Iron Man: Extremis" motion comic, it's pretty obvious collectors should skip this DVD release and go straight for the Blu-ray version.