The first 33 episodes of the 1990s X-Men cartoon will be available on DVD on April 28. That takes the series about a third of the way through its third season in two volumes with two discs in each set. (In total, the show had 76 episodes over five seasons.)
Me, I didn’t know there was an X-Men cartoon then. I wasn’t as into comics then as I was now, and unlike today, such things weren’t intended for an adult audience. But with the Wolverine movie coming out next month, what better time for new products for all things X-Men?
I found the opening helpful, as the various heroes demonstrate their powers and then a giant logo of their name swoops in. There are plenty of rays and blasts and explosions, too. I’m sure it seems cheesy on multiple viewings, but it’s a great quick introduction. (Until the team of good guys and team of bad guys run smack into each other. That’s cheesy no matter what.) This version of the team features — in addition to the ever-present Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Jean Grey, and Professor X — Rogue, Storm, Gambit, and Jubilee.
The animation is standard, getting the job done but with no particularly distinct visual style. The movement can be stiff and limited. Content-wise, there’s emphasis on action, not the quieter bits I enjoy most about superhero team stories. That’s not a criticism, just an indication I’m not going to be part of the show’s audience.
Although I’m by no means an X-Men expert, several factors were similar to what I knew about the comics:
* Angst. The first episode features Jubilee, not yet a team member, hating that she’s a mutant while her foster parents fear yet love her.
* Continuing storylines. Out of the 16 episodes in the first set, six make up two-part stories. The second set is even more connected. 17 episodes include three two-part sets plus the concluding five-part “Phoenix Saga”. Many of the episodes were based on comic stories, as you can tell from the titles: “Enter Magneto”, “The Unstoppable Juggernaut”, “Days of Future Past”.
* Sentinels, the giant purple mutant-hunting robots. The series starts with the two-part “Night of the Sentinels”, in which they’re chasing down Jubilee (yet ignoring Storm and Rogue while they’re shopping in the same mall), and the robots continue to appear throughout the series, because they make such convenient opponents! They’re big and dangerous, yet they can be attacked and destroyed without falling foul of any “is it ok for kids?” rules because they’re only robots.
* Ridiculous dialogue. “Storm, mistress of the elements, commands you to release that child” demands Storm, referring to herself in the third person. Rogue immediately follows up by telling her to “lighten up”.
I hadn’t realized that Morph (currently appearing in Exiles) was created for this series. He doesn’t have his blank white head, though, and he doesn’t last very long.
The voices don’t sound right to me, probably because I have expectations from the movies. They’re generic and far from subtle. The emotions are overplayed, with too much exaggeration for my taste. Again, I’m probably too old for this, not having a young love for superhero action or a nostalgic fondness from when this first aired. But I was impressed to see them tackling the big storylines about mutant prejudice.
Plenty of continuing subplots, familiar guest stars, and long-running motivations make the series enjoyable to watch as a whole. Each episode starts with a “story so far” to aid in keeping up with them all. This is a good choice for the kid or teen looking for more X-Men entertainment. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)
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