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Our reviews of Wolverine And The X-Men: Final Crisis Trilogy (published September 1st, 2010), Wolverine And The X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy (published April 27th, 2009), Wolverine And The X-Men: Revelation (published May 4th, 2010), and Wolverine And The X-Men: The Complete Series (Blu-Ray) (published October 24th, 2010) are also available.
"I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice."—Wolverine
Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies picks up where Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy left off, with the X-Men still trying to pick up the pieces after an explosion at the X-Mansion decimated the team's leadership. Professor Charles Xavier is still in a coma and locked under glass in the rebuilt X-Mansion. His disembodied psyche makes occasional visits from 20 years in the future, where he has just awakened. Dr. Jean Grey is missing in action. Her husband, Scott Summers (aka Cyclops), has mostly lost the will to fight. This leaves the mutant superhero team with the most unlikely of leaders: Logan (aka Wolverine), a gruff, violent, and fiercely independent warrior with quick-healing abilities and indestructible metal claws.
Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies presents episodes four through eight from the series' first season:
• "Thieves' Gambit"
• "Wolverine vs. the Hulk"
• "Time Bomb"
As Wolverine and the X-Men begins to find its rhythm, it's clear that Season One is made up of two kinds of episodes: those involving Wolverine's gritty battles against evil mutants and the hostile American government, and those in which Professor X's telepathic dispatches from the future set the X-Men off on quests to prevent future apocalypses with their roots in present-day events. The latter is the weaker of the two varieties of episodes as the global crisis plotlines are often corny and the use of Xavier as a deus ex machine is repetitive and silly. The two Professor X episodes here, "Overflow" and "Time Bomb," are easily the weakest in this set. While seeing Ororo back in Africa and being worshipped as a demigoddess, as well as her squaring off against Shadow King, is a fun nod to the character's origin, she's such a minor presence in the show that "Overflow" feels like a distraction from the main story arc. "Time Bomb" is slightly better than "Overflow" because it gives us a glimpse of Rogue's life among the Brotherhood, but Professor X's warning about the impending death of half of the world's mutant population still comes off as lazy, formulaic storytelling.
Deadly Enemies finds its groove with "Thieves' Gambit." The conspiracy plotline and game of one-upmanship between Wolverine and Gambit are a blast. The duo's tentative partnership is dynamic, and their assault on a high tech laboratory is kinetic fun. Plus, Sentinels make a brief appearance. The episode is good enough to make you wish that Gambit had found his way into one of the better X-Men feature films instead of the inferior X-Men Origins: Wolverine. "X-Calibre" is similarly action-packed and entertaining. Nightcrawler dominates the proceedings and proves a solid leading man as we're given flashback glimpses of his troubled past. The episode also sows the seeds for Nightcrawler's involvement in future adventures, though he maintains his independent spirit.
Of the five episodes on this disc, "Wolverine vs. Hulk" is the best and most fun. Hulk's nearly limitless strength and Wolverine's healing powers and thick-headed determination ensure major fireworks whenever they square off against one another. Their battle in this episode is explicitly treated as a follow-up to their knock-down-drag-out in Hulk Vs. (though the violence is toned down for younger audience members). The fact that necessity makes them allies in a battle against Wendigo is only icing on the cake. But the episode offers more than great action. Nick Fury's presence fits nicely into the story arc involving Senator Kelly's persecution of mutants and the government's dangerous experiments with mutations and super soldier serums. The show's handling of Fury is also fresh and interesting—seen from Wolverine's perspective, he's essentially a government douchebag who doesn't hesitate to abuse his own authority.
Produced by Marvel Animation, Wolverine and the X-Men is a solid piece of work, but doesn't approach the best of television-grade animation. Character design is simplified from the comics, of course, but still attractive. Action sequences are fun despite some rickety character movement. The DVD presents the show in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen displays. Color reproduction is excellent, but the transfer is marred a bit by isolated compression artifacts. Audio is a reasonably beefy (by TV standards) Dolby 5.1 mix.
Each of the five episodes is decked out with an audio commentary. Supervising producer Craig Kyle and writer Greg Johnson provide tracks for "Overflow" and "Thieves' Gambit." The duo is joined by writer Christopher Yost for the remaining episodes. The tracks are lively and informative as the Kyle, Johnson, and Yost talk specifically about the episode they're watching as well as how the series was planned out. They also provide a solid primer in the X-Men comic book continuity that inspired events in various episodes.
Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies is superior to Heroes Return Trilogy if only because it offers five episodes instead of three, and includes stories featuring Gambit and the Hulk. Hardcore fans of the show may still want to hold out for a complete season box.
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