Disney // 1994 // 345 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // October 24th, 2010
"No one can control the power of THE PHOENIX!!!"
Continuing our coverage of Fox's Saturday morning powerhouse, X-Men: Volume 3 covers the second half of Season Three and the first three episodes of Season Four...
Season Three (continued)
Ep. 34-35: "Savage Land/Savage Heart" (Uncanny X-Men #115)
Every heroic action has its consequences. In defeating Sinister during the X-Men's last trip to the Savage Land, Storm's elemental powers unknowingly awakened the sleeping man-god Garokk, one-time ruler of this jungle paradise imprisoned eons before by the High Evolutionary. Enter the malicious Zaladane, who manipulates the mutate leader Sauron into serving Garokk, by helping kidnap Storm to feed his need for power. So it's up to Wolverine, Beast, Rogue, and Jubilee-of-the-Jungle to travel halfway around the world, join forces with Ka-Zar, and reclaim the prehistoric haven once more. Look for a weird cameo by Col. Nick Fury as a hot dog vendor.
Ep. 36: "Obsession" (X-Factor #25-26)
A crazed Warren (Archangel) won't rest until he finds a way to destroy Apocalypse, the evil immortal who warped Angel into his horseman Death. But it'll take the combined forces of the entire team and the benevolent sentience of Apocalypse's "Ship" (faithfully drawing upon Walt Simonson's original designs) to defeat his master's latest plans for world domination.
Whether its the dialogue, the performance, or both, Stephen Ouimette takes Warren a little too far with his obsession.
Ep. 37-40: "The Dark Phoenix"
Here we have what may be the zenith of the series, adapting the legendary Chris Claremont/John Byrne story arc from Uncanny X-Men #129-138. On Muir Island, Xavier, Moira, and Banshee work feverishly to understand why the Phoenix Force continues to possess an exhausted Jean. Meanwhile, in NYC, Scott foils The Circle Club's (Hellfire Club must have been too much for the censors) plans to kidnap Allison (Dazzler), but reveals the Phoenix's existence. Dangerous knowledge in hand, The Inner Circle -- Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Donald Pierce, and Harry Leland -- set their sights on corrupting this limitless power for their own nefarious purposes, using Jason Wyngarde's (Mastermind) power to manipulate Jean's fractured psyche. But it doesn't take long before they learn the Phoenix Force is not something that can be controlled. Pleasures of the flesh and human emotion, a taste of true evil, and the ability to create and destroy life puts the entire universe in mortal peril. In response, the Shi'ar Empire forms an interstellar alliance to eradicate the Phoenix Force once and for all. Look for cameos by Dr. Strange, Thor, Uatu the Watcher, and Eternity. Also try and muscle through the ham-fisted Cyclops/Dazzler sub-plot; some truly bad acting there.
Thanks to the "no-kill rule" on Saturday mornings, the D'bari star system consumed by Phoenix was uninhabited. In the book, billions of lives were lost, leaving no hesitation that Jean should be put to death for her crimes. But even the original written conclusion met with controversy, when Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter overruled a resolve in which Jean was simply depowered, claiming the punishment was not sufficient enough to suit the crime. Interestingly enough, both versions of the tale are woven into the animated conclusion. BTW, the use of real fire as a visual effect comes across as uber-cheesy.
Ep. 41: "Cold Comfort"
The team scrambles to take down former bad boy X-man Bobby Drake (Ice Man) -- not quite the jovial doofus he was portrayed as in NBC's Spider-man and his Amazing Friends -- after he's found breaking into a government facility. When his crimes turn out to be a noble attempt to rescue girlfriend Lorna Dane (Polaris), Jubilee helps him escape, only to be captured by the government sanctioned X-Factor -- Forge, Havoc (Scott's brother), Madrox the Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair), Quicksilver (Magneto's son), and Polaris. A bit of a mashup, this episode introduces Peter David's popular '90s version of X-Factor to lay the groundwork for Scott's forthcoming family reunion. Strange that Bobby still wears his X-Men uniform, even after leaving the team.
Ep. 42: "Orphan's End" (Uncanny X-Men #107)
Chased by the Shi'ar for crimes against the Empire, Corsair crashes The Starjammer just outside the X-Mansion, seeking help from his former allies, The X-Men. When his dog tags reveal Cosair to be Cyclop's father, the past 20 years are revealed, leaving Scott suspicious about anything his father has said, including the reason he came back to Earth. Unfortunately, making the noble choice doesn't always prove to be the best, leaving it to Storm and the Starjammers to make things right.
Ep. 43: "The Juggernaut Returns"
In keeping with the family theme, Xavier's brother Cain (Juggernaut) stops by to put a hurt on his least favorite relative. Little does he realize that a nebbish archeologist is about to steal the fabled power of Cytorrak right out from under him. An odd episode. Part of it deals with Charles trying to help save his stepbrother, learning more about his past than he ever cared to. The other part is a comedy-adventure that feels very much like an episode of The Tick. Look for a cameo by the Hulk.
Ep. 44: "Nightcrawler"
The lovable fuzzy elf himself, Kurt Wagner, finally makes his way into the series, in a fusion of the character's 30+ year history. While on a German ski vacation, Wolverine, Rogue, and Gambit catch wind of a demon terrorizing the local village. Unfortunately, their investigation is cut short by an avalanche, but the X-men are rescued and nursed back to health by nearby monks. When Rogue foils an attempt on Gambit's life, they come face to face with Nightcrawler, who has been living at the Abbey in sanctuary with God. But that safety is short lived, when rampant terror overtakes the villagers. It's a tale of fear and faith, one which hits a little too close to home for Logan. Strangely enough, Nightcrawler was originally created for and rejected by DC Comics. Co-creator Dave Cockrum brought him with to Marvel, when he began work on Uncanny X-Men in 1975.
Ep. 45: "Weapon X, Lies, and Video Tapes" (Marvel Comics Presents
Wolverine takes center stage, as his muddled origins are explored by Charles, in an attempt to quiet his troubled mind. Following Logan to Canada, Beast does his best to help uncover and demistify Wolverine's nightmarish past. What it ultimately becomes is Weapon X reunion -- Sabertooth, Maverick, Silver Fox (in Hydra garb) -- processing through and debunking implanted memories they all once held as true. There's a weird production glitch in which Logan and Sabertooth exchange voices for a short time.
Ep. 46-47: "One Man's Worth"
Bishop and his sister Shard pop by to throw the time-space continuum into flux once again, creating an alternate universe in which Magneto leads an unsuccessful war against the humans. This is a condensed version of the much loved Age of Apocalypse (AoA) storyline. It's a cameo-filled two-parter that shows how critical Professor Xavier is to the peace of all humankind. In this tale, Trevor Fitzroy and not Legion is responsible for Charles' death, thus creating the alternate reality. What could have been a wildly successful two-parter, merely drew back on the previous time-travel adventures from Season One and Two, with a little AoA thrown for flavor; disappointing. Look for appearances by Nimrod, Blink, Mimic, Sabertooth and Wild Child, Nightcrawler, Sinister and Holocaust, Morph, Blob, Caliban, Masque, Pyro, Calisto, Mastermind, Sunfire, The Fonz (no joke!), x-book writer Scott Lobdell.
With Ep. 46, the series starts intermittently running clips of past episodes above the end titles. Why? No clue.
Ep. 48: "Courage"
Back on Muir island, Morph has recovered from his manipulation at the hands of Mr. Sinister and Moira approves his return to the X-Men. But the big bad Sentinels are once again on the rise, Mastermold rebuilding his body out of a polymer 100x the strength of steel. When Xavier, Trask, and Gyrich are taken captive, the team sets out to put an end to these battle 'bots once and for all. Will a rattled Morph truly abandon his teammates to save his own skin?
As we move through Season Three into Season Four, I found myself beginning to lose interest. In its original broadcast run, there were huge gaps in debuting new episodes. After "Dark Phoenix" concluded in late February, the remaining three episodes were strung out in early May and mid-June, leaving everyone to wonder if the show would return to Fox Kids' lineup in the Fall. Don't get me wrong, there's still a remarkable amount of character development going on for a Saturday morning show, but it started to feel like the writers were panning for gold from some of the books less memorable adventures. In truth, I would have preferred they use "Dark Phoenix" as a diverging point and start telling only original stories. But that didn't happen.
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame format, the image quality remains on par with the previous two volume releases. The same goes for the standard Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix, and the now irritatingly redundant synth score. Despite an impressive scope for these adventures and an overall shift from the PBS kids animation to a more fluid anime-influenced style, what you will see here is a bit less quality control -- character design flaws, sloppy special effects, vocal sync issues, and more. The real problem here lies in consuming these episodes in mass quantities, overwhelming the viewer and amplifying the missteps. My recommendation is to take it slow. It'll play better and you'll enjoy it more.
Still no bonus features.
Worth it for "The Dark Phoenix" storyline, continuation into
Volumes 4 and 5 will hinge on your X-Men appetite. I suspect most will have had
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: 345 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Watch Full Episodes at Marvel.com