Capitalizing on the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has made available two volumes of the animated adventures of the X-Men. It first aired on Fox Kids Saturday mornings from 1992-1997 and along with Batman: The Animated Series helped kick-start the superhero animation boom of the decade. X-Men is currently still the longest-running series derived from a Marvel Comics property at 76 episodes, the first thirty-three of which are contained on these two-disc sets.
The roster for this version of the mutant superhero team is comprised of deputy leader Cyclops who shoots red energy beams out his eyes; Wolverine who has heightened senses, fast self-healing powers, and a skeleton fused with adamantium that produces sharp claws; Rogue can absorb the power and memories of anyone she touches with possible fatal results and can fly; Storm controls the weather, such as using the wind to help her fly; Beast has great strength and agility with intelligence to match; Gambit can imbue items with explosive energy, specifically playing cards that he throws with amazing accuracy; Jubilee shoots energy from her hands in the form of fireworks; Jean Grey, who doesn’t use her “Marvel Girl” name from the comics, has telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Their leader is Professor Charles Xavier, one of the most powerful telepaths, who is wheelchair bound.
Volume 1 features the 13 episodes of the first season and the first three episodes of the second season. The series opens with the X-Men coming to the aid of teenager Jubilee who is being chased by the mutant-seeking robots known as Sentinels, and eventually joins the team. Humankind is scared of mutants, yet the X-Men still comes to their aid in time of trouble, even when it comes to battling their own kind, like Magneto the master of magnetism, who demands by force equality with, if not superiority to, homo sapiens.
Fans of the comic book will recognize Magneto’s first appearance similar his debut in X-Men #1 and the two-part “Days of Future Passed” based on The Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142. Both veer slightly from the original material. Many characters from the Marvel Universe appear throughout this volume from X-Men in the comics the winged Angel and Colossus whose body can turn into hard metal, to villains like Wolverine-nemesis Sabretooth, shape-shifter Mystique, Xavier’s brother Juggernaut, and non-mutant government agents Henry Peter Gyrich and Senator Robert Kelly.
Volume 2 picks up with the fourth episode of season two, which finds Colossus returning to ask the X-Men for help to defeat the villain Omega Red, until its conclusion. While the first season focused a lot on the team, the second season presents many storylines that derive from the heroes’ back-stories. In “Repo Man,” Wolverine gets captured by his former team, the Canadian superhero group known as Alpha Flight. “X-Ternally Yours” finds Gambit return home to save his brother. “A Rogue’s Tale” revisits the title character’s past and reveals much of her powers were absorbed from Ms. Marvel.
The second season also featured two two-part episodes. “Time Fugitives” finds Cable from the year 3999 going back into the past to fix the timeline altered by Bishop from the year 2055 who was trying to stop a plague in his time. The season-ender “Reunion” culminates the season’s running subplot featuring Xavier and Magneto who are captured in the Savage Land of Antarctica by Mister Sinister to trap the X-Men. Marvel Comics fans won’t be surprised by the appearance of Savage Land residents Ka-Zar and Sauron.
Volume Two concludes with the first seven episodes of the third season that are used to set up and tell the classic “Phoenix Saga,” which appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #129-138 about the transformation of Jean Grey. The resolution is altered, but delivers similar results, making it satisfying.
The creative team of X-Men do a great job capturing the characters’ personalities and their interactions. Although a Saturday morning cartoon, the writing isn’t dumbed down for children and deals with themes of diversity and tolerance without being preachy. There’s also a lot of good action and fighting.