Written by: Michael Edens, Len Wein, Len Uhley, Ted Pedersen, Francis Moss, based on the comic book published by Marvel Comics and created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Directed by: Larry Houston
Starring the Voices of: Cal Dodd, Alyson Court, Cedric Smith
- Five episodes from the show, including bonus episode “The Final Decision”
- Interview with comic book writer Chris Claremont
- Running audio commentary by comic book writer Claremont
- “Stan Lee’s Soapbox,” comments by Stan
Released by: Buena Vista
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Rent It.
The four-color adventures of your favorite comic book characters have always translated easily to cartoons, the results being from the sublime (Batman: The Animated Series) to the ridiculous (Superfriends). The X-Men animated series was one cartoon that was more on the sublime side even with instances of overly long exposition and dialogue that verge on the melodramatic. The animated series successfully introduced a new generation to Xavier’s “gifted” students and to many of the famous story arcs from the comic such as “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” “Days of Future Past,” and “The Age of Apocalypse” (admittedly reworked for the younger viewing audience).
And like the comics, many of the episodes focused on everyone’s favorite Canadian mutant, Wolverine. He has all the classic elements of the “bad boy”: rides a motorcycle, has an unconventional hairdo, prone to violence, and suffers from emotional problems. And of course the ever-ready pseudo-phallic claws. What woman wouldn’t love that? The four episodes on this disc have the two-parter “Out of the Past” where Logan has to deal with a cybernetic-enhanced homicidal ex-girlfriend (aren’t they all? homicidal, I mean, not cyborgs) and a soul sucker alien energy creature. It’s hard to tell which is worse. “Nightcrawler” introduces the bamf-producing mutant who made such a splash in X2: X-Men United and Brother Nightcrawler’s faith in God and man makes Wolverine question his own beliefs. And in “The Lotus and the Steel” Logan goes to a Buddhist temple in Japan to work on his violent rages. Instead he has to confront a biker gang and a teleporting samurai bent on extorting a small village.
All the episodes do a good job providing entertainment for the kiddies without having any adults watching suffer the Barney effect. Of course since the creators had to compromise, some things don’t work. For instance, Wolverine never actually cuts people. He takes down metal grates, trees, and cyborgs, but you never see Logan draw blood. I know this is for the children, but any smart kid is going to find that suspicious. And some of the philosophy and back-story could leave kids cold. In “Nightcrawler,” I was amazed that this show was talking about faith in God in a non-judgmental way on Saturday morning, which usually moralizes in a secular fashion. But this will pass over some kids’ heads who just want more butt kicking. The animation is adequate, but when compared to Batman: The Animated Seriesor Samurai Jack, its looks a little cheap.
There are plenty of extras, but most of them aren’t that good. There is a bonus episode, “The Final Decision,” where the X-Men team with Magneto to kick some Sentinel butt. There is also an interview with one of the more acclaimed writers of the comics, Chris Claremont. Now, Claremont does offer some insight into the thinking behind the relaunching of the X-Men comic and some of the story arcs, but he briefly mentions the other people who helped make X-Men of the flagship titles under the Marvel banner, such as artist John Bryne. Now, Claremont is important, but as I understand it, most comics are made by a team and making yourself to be “the foster father of Wolverine” is just hubris.
Claremont also gives some commentary to the four main episodes on the disc. While he fills in on some of the back-story and thinking behind characters and plotlines, I was more interested to learn of the television show. For one thing, why did the creators of the show make the changes to the storylines they did? And how did they decide on the line-up of the X-Men presented on the show? The info Claremont provided could have been as easily put into text. Stan Lee gives a quick prÃ©cis of how he developed the X-Men concept and since he has probably told the story many, many times, I had no problems with it. All in all, the episodes are good, but I hope the next releases give more information on the cartoon than this one.
A diehard fan of the show might want to pick it up, but for most of the free world, a rental will do just fine.