Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released the next two installments of the X-Men cartoon series that aired on FOX Saturday mornings during the 1990s. The first two volumes was previously reviewed and a basic overview of the characters were given. Volume 3 has 15 episodes and Volume 4 has 14 episodes and they offer a lot of quality superhero entertainment.
For reasons not clearly explained, the continuity after the five-part “The Phoenix Saga” completely fell apart and episodes aired out of production order, screwing up the storylines. This is an unfortunate but completely understandable situation because the demands of television and the difficulties of producing a weekly, animated series can come into conflict. However, it’s been over ten years and all the episodes are at hand in the vaults. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever why the DVD producers didn’t rectify the situation and present the cartoons in the correct order as intended.
Volume 3 skips four episodes, including "No Mutant Is an Island" where Cyclops quit the group because he was so distraught over Jean’s death, only to discover her alive. However, all viewers know as they watch “The Dark Phoenix (Part 1)” is that Jean is having tests conducted on her in Scotland at Dr. Moira MacTaggart’s lab with no explanation to her reappearance. The resolution of Jean Grey-Phoenix storyline was altered from the comics and lightened, likely for child viewers. It works, but loses its power, especially after she, and the audience, already experienced a false death.
The second disc offers a few single-story episodes featuring X-Men members from the comics such as Archangel, Iceman, and Nightcrawler. The Juggernaut returns in an episode of the same name. Revisiting the “Days of Future Past” storyline, Bishop comes back from the future in the two-part “One Man’s Worth,” which opens in 1959 when the assassination of a young Charles Xavier creates an alternate timeline where humans and mutants are at war.
X-Men fans will recognize appearances by the likes of Apocalypse, Dazzler, the Inner Circle Club (known as the Hellfire Club in the comics, also likely changed for the children), Corsair, Lilandra, and Sabretooth.
The first disc of Volume 4 presents multi-part stories. “Proteus” deals with Dr. MacTaggart’s powerful, reality-warping mutant son who goes in search of his absentee father; “Sanctuary” finds Magneto setting up a mutant refuge on an asteroid, but a follower still seeks revenge against humankind; and the four-part “Beyond Good and Evil” finds Apocalypse working to destroy eternity and create his own universe to rule over.
Disc Two finds Wolverine receiving the main focus in half the single-story episodes. In the last episode presented, “Family Ties,” Magneto learns he is the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Familiar faces to Marvel Comics fans in this set include Mister Sinister, the Morlocks, Cable, Mystique, Silver Samurai and High Evolutionary.
Luckily for the consumer, the quality of the stories and animation makes up for the lack of effort put into the releases by the DVD producers. There are no extras, which is unfortunate for all involved because the series is very deserving of highlighting the subject matter and the creative team responsible for the best adaptation of the X-Men, and one of the tops of any comic book. The video is presented Full Screen at 1.33:1 and in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. Volume 5, which will conclude X-Men, can’t come soon enough, especially because it will allow the viewer to watch the series in the order intended.