Disney // 1992 // 368 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // September 26th, 2010
"It's adamantium tasting time, boys!"
Debuting on Fox Saturday mornings in the fall of 1992, X-Men arrived hot on the heels of the unbelievably popular Batman: The Animated Series. Though its craftmanship paled in comparison to its competition, this series was long in coming and warmly embraced by fans of the Marvel books. Liberties were taken in adapting 30 years of mutant history for a 22 min modern framework story, but Mark Edward Edens and the show's writing staff did a nice job of taking classic storylines and reworking them to fit Chris Claremont's modern team lineup. What's more the voice cast was more or less able to nail each of their character's personality traits, save for a few minor exceptions.
Cedric Smith (Avonlea) as Charles Xavier is far too dramatic, with line reads that would make a community theatre director cringe. But, when you're playing to an audience of kids, subtle nuance is not your friend. Catherine Disher (Rolie Polie Olie) is about as captivating as a watching grass grow, with all the energy of a box turtle. When partnered with Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes) as Cyclops, his overcompensation only amplifies what she lacks. The most compelling performers created voices that still live on as I read the X-books today (Yes, I still read them; Matt Fraction, Chris Yost, Ed Brubaker and the gang are doing a fine job with the characters, although Marvel can ease up on the epic crossover storylines for a while). Much like Kevin Conroy will forever be the voice of Batman, Chris Potter (Heartland) as Gambit, Lenore Zann (Happy Birthday to Me) as Rogue, and Cal Dodd (King) as Wolverine can all claim the same distinction.
This is a show that came out of the gate guns blazing, without really knowing what they were shooting at. It wasn't until the final three episodes of the first season ("Days of Future Past" and "The Final Decision") that they truly found their footing. The Graz / Saban production team knew they would never compete with Warner animation, so like Logan they settled for being the best at what they did -- deliver good stories with solid action sequences and plenty of easter eggs for longtime fans of these characters.
Disney's volume-ized releases don't quite match up with show's full season schedule...
Ep. 1-2: "Night of the Sentinels"
Mashing up Jubilee's intro story (Uncanny X-Men #244) with the Stephen Lang's Mark III Sentinels (Uncanny X-Men #98), the Mutant Registration Act (Uncanny X-Men #181), and anti-mutant hysteria present throughout the mid-to-late 1980s. Like the "All New, All Different" X-Men that introduced Wolverine and Uncanny X-Men #129 that gave us Kitty Pryde, Jubilee serves as the audience's window into this fascinating albeit tumultuous world. Here, The Mutant Control Agency fronted by Henry Peter Gyrich (former government liaison to the Avengers) and Sentinel inventor Bolivar Trask, has gone beyond their charter and begun the unlawful capture and extermination of potentially dangerous mutants. So it's up to the X-Men to expose their extracurricular activities and preserve the rights of all US citizens, be they homo sapien or homo superior. In truth, it's a rather pedestrian and uninspired story by Mark Edward Edens; one that relies far too much on the character of Morph (created just for the series and about as entertaining as Jar Jar Binks). Do credit Edens and his team for nailing some of the books' trademark character dialogue and banter between teammates.
Ep. 3: "Enter Magneto"
Xavier's oldest friend and most bitter rival, Erik Magnus Lehnsherr aka Magneto, makes his presence known by attempting to break Beast out of prison. It's a wasted effort though, as Hank insists on having his day in court to prove that mutants are no threat, a philosophy diametrically opposed to Magneto unwavering intentions. In his eyes, humans are the inferior species and must be exterminated. "It's better to die on our feet, than live on our knees." The episode does a nice Readers Digest version of Magneto's origin story, stripping out any references to WWII, Nazis, concentration camps, and political ideology. In the end, the line is drawn between mutant liberation and peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. The episode also introduces Logan's arch nemesis Sabertooth, who may or may prove a threat to the X-Men. Wolverine to Xavier: "How come we're supposed to trash your old enemy, but we gotta go easy on mine?" Easter Egg: Cameron Hodge (Warren Worthington's college roommate and X-Factor's PR man) serves as Hank's lawyer.
Ep. 4: "Deadly Reunions"
Xavier demands everyone's cooperation in rehabilitating Sabertooth, as Magneto plots to destroy a major chemical manufacturing plant. This episode is little more than knock-down-drag-out battle between Charlie and Erik, the outcome of which sets up Senator Robert Kelly as a presidential candidate who wants to place every mutant in internment camps. Easter Egg: Glimpses of Deadpool, Maverick, Omega Red as Charlie probes Sabertooth's troubled mind.
Ep. 5: "Captive Hearts"
Character development ahoy! The love triangle between Scott, Jean, and Logan is established. A Danger Room malfunction reveals Storm's crippling claustrophobia. The Morlocks surface to take out their frustration on bigoted humans, which is nothing more than a ruse to capture Cyclops for Callisto's procreation plans. This is a reworking of Uncanny X-Men #169, with Cyclops replacing for Angel, and a condensed version of Storm and Callisto's royal smackdown. Things I didn't need to see: Gambit in a tiny speedo. Ongoing Annoyance: Why the hell does Jean refer to Scott as Cyclops in public?
Ep. 6: "Cold Vengeance"
Logan heads up to Canada for a little alone time, unaware that Sabertooth is lying in wait for Round 2. Rather than discovering his true self in Japan, as seen in the 1982 Frank Miller mini-series, here he takes refuge in an Inuit fishing village, falling in love with the elder's daughter and making an enemy of the group's young alpha male. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Gambit, Storm, and Jubilee head to Genosha to investigate the rumored safe haven for mutants; only to find something more sinister is afoot. Ongoing Annoyance: Why is Charlie in a wheelchair made from Shi'ar technology, when they haven't yet met the Shi'ar?
Ep. 7: "Slave Island"
Adapting the Genosha enslaved mutant storyline which began in Uncanny X-Men #235, Gambit, Storm, and Jubilee plot a revolt to free the captives and topple a corrupt government, who happen to be in cahoots with the rogue American Mutant Control organization. Little do they know their biggest assist will come from Cable (Cyclop's time-traveling son), whose primary objective is to destroy the Sentinel's very own Easy Bake Oven, Master Mold. Meanwhile, Charlie hooks up with one-time love Moira MacTaggert on Muir Island. Easter Egg: Genosha's captives include Mystique, Pyro, Rictor, Feral, Avalanche, Warpath, Sunfire, Blob, Caliban, Northstar, and Aurora. Ongoing Annoyance: I love how every weapon on the planet shoots the same exact laser blasts.
Ep. 8: "The Unstoppable Juggernaut"
Returning from Genosha, the X-Men find the mansion in complete ruins. Searching for Xavier, they cross paths with Colossus demolishing buildings for a construction company. Mistaking him for the mansion-wrecker, they're distracted from dealing with the real culprit -- Charlie's half-brother, Juggernaut. Luckily, their new friend take down the bad guy and rebuild Xavier's school.
Ep. 9: "The Cure"
Millionaire playboy Warren Worthington III (aka Angel, though never an X-Man) is funding scientific research into a Mutant cure. The man behind this alleged breakthrough is German geneticist Dr. Gottfried Adler, a fake front for the immortal evil mutant Apocalypse, who is creating an army -- his four horsemen. Rogue is the first to volunteer for the de-mutantizing, but ultimately has a change of heart. Ongoing Annoyance: How is it that nobody notices that Cable is wearing the X-Men logo on his uniform? One more question: How could Mystique spend months masquerading as Adler, when she, Avalanche, and Pyro just got out of prison on Genosha?
Ep. 10: "Come the Apocalypse"
Adapting X-Factor #10, Apocalypse transforms Angel into his horseman known as Death, the final pawn in his plan to cleanse the world of human impurity and rebuild it in his own image. Meanwhile, Rogue goes toe-to-toe with Mystique and Apocalypse himself. Thankfully, the X-Men cavalry aren't far behind. It's too bad that Stonehenge gets destroyed in the battle.
Ep. 11-12: "Days of Future Past"
Adapting Chris Claremont classic storyline from Uncanny X-Men #141-142, the series supplants Bishop for Rachel Summers as the mutant tracker, in a mashup of dystopian futures, combining elements of John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men #282. Here, Forge and Logan send Bishop back to the present to stop the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly. The only problem is, Bishop gets confused and thinks Charlie is his target. A quick mind-probe by Xavier shows Bishop's intentions are noble and the team sets out to help him. Only one problem: They have to contend with Nimrod (a future Sentinel model), and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Blob, Avalanche, Pyro, and Mystique) who are trying to frame Gambit as the assassin. In the process, Rogue discovers Mystique is her adopted mother. Ongoing Annoyance: Bishop too has the X-Men logo on his uniform, which nobody pays any attention to. Easter Egg: The Punisher shows up on the cover of a kid's video game.
Ep. 13: "The Final Decision"
Bishop returns to the future only to discover that nothing has changed. Why? Magneto has stepped up to eliminate Senator Kelly himself, but gets taken down by the Sentinels, who are now under the control of a sentient Master Mold with human eradication plans of its own. In the end, Magneto teams up with his rivals to take the Sentinels once and for all. Easter Egg: Appearances by Belladonna and Ghost Rider, as Charlie probes Gambit's memories.
Ep. 14-15: "Till Death Do Us Part"
Love is in the air, as Scott and Jean decide to marry. Unfortunately, their honeymoon is interrupted by Mister Sinister and his Marauders, who use the X-Men's old teammate Morph (long thought dead) to destroy his friends, while stealing the Summers/Grey bloodline to create a master race of super-mutants. Meanwhile, Robert Kelly's inauguration as President is disrupted by Graydon Creed and his Friends of Humanity (Uncanny X-Men #299), who make it look like mutants are responsible for the attack, thus ending any hope for human/mutant peace.
Ep. 16: "Whatever it Takes"
Xavier and Magneto are each lured to the Savage Land where a carefully laid trap in sprung by Sauron. At the same time, Storm is called back to Africa to help rescue her Godson from the clutches of the Shadow King, while Wolverine's hunt for the missing Morph brings him to Brazil. Only the Shadow King storyline is resolved, as the other two leave us with cliffhangers.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, the hand drawn animation suffers a bit from its limited budget visuals, looking more like a PBS Kids show than its slicker competition. There's noticeable dirt and scratches, washed out colors, muted blacks, and a host of production mistakes, but none of these detract from series' the slam-bang action. The audio presentation doesn't fare all that much better. Typical Saturday morning 2.0 Dolby Stereo, a heavy synth underscore with rather uninspiring themes, and obnoxious computer generated sound effects are the downside. The upside is the cast who give their all to sell the vocals.
If you're looking for any sort of bonus features, forget it, bub. There's not a scrap to be found.
For a first attempt at bringing a 35 year-old franchise steeped in rich,
complex history to life, there's little for us to complain about. It may not be
the best looking superhero series, especially compared to what's on TV today,
but damn if they don't capture the core essence of the world's favorite
ever-loving mutants. Not Guilty!
Review content copyright © 2010 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 368 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Watch Full Episodes at Marvel.com