Reboots and Re-imaginings – Wolverine and the X-Men: In which we learn that animators don’t know how comas work.

First aired:23rd January 2009

Voice Cast:

Steve Blum  –  Logan/Wolverine

Jim Ward  –  Charles Xavier/Professor X

Nolan North  –  Scott Summers/Cyclops

Fred Tatasciore  –  Dr Henry McCoy/Beast

Danielle Judovits   –   Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat

Yuri Lowenthal  –   Bobby Drake/Iceman

Liam O’Brien   –   Warren Worthington III/ Angel

Richard Doyle  –   Senator Robert Kelly

Kieran van den Blink –  Rogue

Roger Craig Smith –  Forge

Kari Wahlgreen –  Emma Frost

Michael Ironside  – Colonel Moss

Gwendoline Yeo  – Neena Thurman/Domino

Mark Hildreth  –  Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver

Tom Kane  –  Erik Lenscherr/Magneto

Reboot Specifics:

What and When was the Originial? X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

What did they keep? The team name and several of the main characters.

What did they change? The focus of the show and many of the cast as well as a change in tone.

Are here nods to the past? Not really it seems to take a ground of reboot approach.

Does it stand on it’s own two feet or does it need the connection to the original? It is very much it’s own show, having nothing to do with the shows of the past.

Synopsis: Hindsight opens on a sunny day at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in Westchester County New York. Inside the mansion Colossus, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat are enjoying a danger room session set up by Wolverine, who is taking a leave of absence. On his way out, he gives his goodbye to Beast and walks by Cyclops and Jean Grey who are having an arguement. He tries to say goodbye to Rogue, who has no time for his pleasantries, since he is leaving once again, abandoning her. As he gets to the gates, he sees Professor X and Storm. Professor X starts to suffer a massive headache as does Jean, there is an explosion and both Professor X and Jean Grey are gone and the mansion is in ruins.

Wolverine wakes up, it is a year later. He’s avoiding everyone until he hears a car crash and then goes to help, pulling a married couple and their young daughter from their burning mobile home. The father, Randy wants to help, but other drivers caught up in this have already called the Mutant Response Division on this her, who is clearly a mutant. The family take him home, which causes a lot of aggravation with their neighbours, who object to harbouring a mutant.

Wolverine awakens again, in this family’s home, but he can smell trouble coming and on cue the MRD arrive, all stormtrooper like ready to take Wolverine in. They detain the family, but Wolverine takes the fight to them, but to no avail as  this family are taken by helicopter. He gives the MRD troopers a kicking, but it makes no difference. Out of options, Wolverine returns to the mansion, finding Beast inside the sub-basement. He needs help and doesn’t know where any of the X-Men are, Beast only knows where Shadowcat and Iceman are. Later that night, out in the city, Beast and Wolverine find an MRD van and pull the whole furry prisoner/stormtrooper bit from Star Wars and get inside a MRD detention facility, just as the head of the MRD Colonel Moss is torturing Randy, the father who helped Wolverine earlier. After freeing them, he and Beast free others including Pyro, Boom Boom and Dust who help everyone get away. Randy and his family are placed far away and after seeing how far the MRD have gone, realise it’s time to bring back the X-Men.

Police have arrested Mortimer Toynbee, the Toad, but he is freed by the rest of the Brotherhood, Blob, Quicksilver, Avalanche and Domino who leaves a threat for prominent anti-mutant leader Senator Robert Kelly. The next morning, the senator is demonstrating the prototype of a mutant-hunting robot known as a Sentinel. In the crowd is the businessman behind the Sentinels Warren Worthington Jnr and his son Warren Worthington III, the former X-Man known as Angel. Also in attendance is another former X-Man Rogue. The Sentinel goes after the crowd to get to Rogue, causing panic, but comes to an explosive end at the hands of the reformed X-Men. Wolverine asks Rogue and Angel to reform, Angel declines preferring to help from the sidelines whereas Rogue has no interest in returning, burned by her abandonment of a year ago. That night Worthington Jnr and Senator Kelly scheme.

Rogue is confronted by the Brotherhood, Domino appeals to her sense of abandonment and feelings of being oppressed and she goes with them, first joyriding, then levelling Senator Kelly’s house, before ending up at Angel’s home, interrogating Warren Worthington Jnr with her powers.

Wolverine and Beast find Iceman with his family, but is all too eager to rejoin and Shadowcat is on a ship to Genosha, but is equally happy to join up once more. Wolverine finds Cyclops, but he’s a bitter and broken man, no longer interested in the fight for mutant kind or any part of the world at large. When he gets back from that lovely meeting, he finds Rogue who warns him that the Brotherhood are going to attack Senator Kelly in the morning and that the X-Men need to stop them. The next morning, the X-Men burst into the press conference Senator Kelly is holding and have to battle to MRD in order to leave, when it becomes clear that the Brotherhood were not there and it was all a set up to smear the X-Men and bring humanity closer to war with mutantkind.

Days later and thanks to a cash injection from Angel, the Xavier Institute is a going concern once more. At the door is Emma Frost, the White Queen who requests to join the team, offering her psionic talents to use Cerebro, the computer that can locate mutants, but needs a telepath to use it. She offers to use it and do what no one else could do, find Professor-X. Wolverine and  Beast debate this, Wolverine very much against taking this risk. Convinced by Beast to at least try, he goes to Forge and asks him to stop working on the X-Men’s Blackbird plane and work on Cerebro instead. Forge reluctantly agrees and Emma is able to locate Professor-X, he’s on Genosha, the island nation ruled by their long time enemy Magneto. Wolverine takes that information to Cyclops, who rejoins the team. If Professor-X is alive, maybe Jean is alive too. They all fly off to Genosha. At Magneto’s citadel, the team search for their mentor. Magneto finds them and there’s a fight. In the middle of the battle, Magneto’s helmet is knocked off and Emma tries to mind-blast him, but that doesn’t work and it all looks bleak. Then Wolverine does something unexpected, he apologises. He asks to see Professor-X, Magneto agrees. The Professor is devoid of brain activity and Magneto has been caring for him for the past week. Realising the right thing, Magneto leaves his oldest friend in the care of the X-Men.

At home, Professor X’s voice can be heard in his presence and a projection of his head appears above his unconscious body. This voice comes from 20 years in the future and it’s not a bright future. He begs the team to stay together, to prevent this future from coming to pass and for Wolverine to lead them. The projection fades.

In the future, Professor X removes himself from Cerebro, then stands up and runs out of the ruins of the Xavier Institute and passes the graves of several of the X-Men. In the present Wolverine declares that the world needs the X-Men.

Notes: Not counting guest spots and failed pilots, this is the third attempt to put the X-Men up as an anmated series. I covered the original series here and the other was the under-rated X-Men Evolution. The thing is, each show has been closer in tone to the source material, but has been given shorter and shorter time on TV. We only got one series of this, but it does look like the best of the three. Will get this out of the way early, I don’t like Wolverine. It’s not that he’s not an interesting character, because he is. It’s not that you can’t tell interesting stories about him, because you can. It’s just his being shoe-horned into places where he doesn’t work has become his defining characteristic. He’s been a love interest, school teacher, Avenger and series protagonist so many times and I am not convinced that much of that has ever worked. The loner with a mysterious past stops being viable when he is on several teams and has so much of the back story filled in. So I went into this not really expected too much. The thing is, it leant into the idea. Wolverine is not the heart of the team, nor a leader, so what happens when he is forced to be both to prevent an apocalyptic event? The premise of a future Xavier sending missions back through time is a good one as is the different dynamics.

The characters seem to be sort of based on X-Men the Last Stand, the third in the trilogy of movies that started back in 2000. The Beast is very Kelsey Grammer, Magneto is very Ian McKellan and Storm is barely in it. That’s not an indictment of this show though, because we get a bitter and broken Cyclops as well, which is interesting, having him be the loose cannon that Wolverine has to deal with.

The tone of the show is different from the bright and colourful shows of the past, we get a lot of the anti-mutant as metaphor of other bigotry plastered all over this. Most of the bad-guys are establishment, with a federal agency backed by a senator being the main antagonists, whilst the Brotherhood are seen as bad-guys, but ones that have a kind of point, even Magneto is seen as reasonable and sympathetic. This returns the hated underdog vibe to the X-Men which adds both complications and pathos as we return to the ‘protecting the world that hates and fears them’ motiff of eras past.

Is the writing a bit heavy handed with it’s themes? Yes, but it’s supposed to appeal to children and my 9 year old son got the idea quite easily. Are the characters a little one note? Yes, but that’s only to be expected in the earliest of days. Are these deal breakers? Absolutely not. This feels like X-Men, with time travel, super-heroics and the nihilistic view of the future.  We see the start of the Sentinels here and they are the perfect villains here, faceless, remorseless and inevitable. The only mis-step seems to be that there seems to be no life support stuff or drips attached to the Professor. Still confident he’ll need to be fed and watered intravenously or something. Maybe a catheter or something. You don’t just leave coma patients in a bed in the centre of the room?

The cast are solid, with everyone seeming like they should do, more or less. The animation is sharp, everyone looks good, if a little stylised and we get the usual mix of easter egg cameos and ensemble cast. The pacing is also good, the hour flying by as we see the rebuilding of this team and the narrative choices of showing flashbacks and flashforwards give this show it’s own identity, making it a better show that the last two attempts and one that 10 years on stands up pretty well. This isn’t a perfect show, but it’s a better showcase for what the X-Men as a comics property are than many of the current animated series that showcase Marvel properties are. This is something of a hidden gem and I glad I was able to pull it out of the shadow of more successful shows to have a good look at it once more.

Verdict:

Does it work? Yes, a comic based show with a solid narrative.

Does much need fixing? Not really it’s seemingly fully functional.

Does it stand up? Very well, it looks good and is highly entertaining.

Do I want to watch the next one? I did, me and SuperSam watched the rest of the series within two weeks.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, this show is really good.

Overall: 5 out of 5. I am glad that I was able to share this series with my son and revisit it myself.

 

Published by Munky

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

One thought on “Reboots and Re-imaginings – Wolverine and the X-Men: In which we learn that animators don’t know how comas work.

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