Continuing our coverage of Fox's Saturday morning powerhouse, X-Men:
Volume 2 covers the second half of Season Two and the first two story arcs
of Season Three…
Season Two (continued)
Ep. 17: "Red Dawn"
Charlie and Erik's excellent adventure
continues, complete with working legs, carnivorous dinosaurs, and pompously
spouted pretentious dialogue. Meanwhile, in an ambiguous former Soviet republic,
the USSR's most dangerous mutant, Omega Red, is thawed out Austin Powers style,
to squash the sovereign states and restore the communist empire to its former
glory. A distraught Colossus calls upon the X-Men to protect his newly free
homeland, but the only one home is Jubilee. It isn't long before the rest of the
gang shows up to help. Easter Egg: We get to meet Illyana Rasputin, prior
to her imprisonment in Limbo.
Ep. 18: "Repo Man"
Wolverine creator Len Wein steps in to
pen an episode in which Logan's old friends, Canadian super-team Alpha Flight,
captures Logan and returns him to Department H so they can duplicate the
Adamantium skeletal-bonding process. In the process get a Cliffs' Notes
flashback version of Barry Windsor-Smith's original Weapon X storyline.
Half-a-planet away, Xavier learns the truth behind Magneto's past experiments
with genetic mutation, as the Savage Land mutates wants to see their former
Ep. 19: "X-Ternally Yours"
A panicked call from home, sends
Gambit running back to the Bayou to save his brother from certain death at the
hands of the Assassin's Guild. Too bad it turns out to be a trap for our
favorite Cajun setup by a jilted lover. A flashback gives insight to the tithing
covenant with the Externals, and the centuries long conflict between the Thieves
and the Assassins. But can the X-Men reveal the truth before it's too late? Back
in the Savage Land, a powerless Xavier risks his life to save Magneto from his
Ep. 20-21: "Time Fugitives"
Bishop returns, in yet another
attempt to prevent a horrific future from coming to pass. This time, it's a
techno organic plague ravishing humanity, one engineered by the Friends of
Humanity newest ally and blamed on the mutants. (An adaptation of the Legacy
Virus storyline that began with X-Force #1.) Problem is Cable lives in that
future, as does his son Tyler. If Bishop succeeds, Cable loses everything.
Easter Egg: You'll definitely get your Forge fix, and if you ever wanted
to see Cable battle Terminators, here's your chance.
Ep. 22: "A Rogue's Tale"
Mr. Sinister clues Mystique in on
an Xavier-less X-Men, so that she may reclaim the trust of her daughter. A trap
laid by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants unleashes a torrent of repressed
memories along with the most significant personality she ever
absorbed—Carol Danvers (aka Ms. Marvel). Adapting Avengers Annual #10 and
Uncanny X-Men #182, 203, 246, 247.
Ep. 23: "Beauty & The Beast"
Hank gets his long overdue
turn in the spotlight, after spending most of Season One behind bars. Once again
the Friends of Humanity stick their torches and pitchforks in where they're not
wanted, swaying public opinion against Beast whose scientific breakthroughs lead
to restoring the sight of a woman blind from birth. Meanwhile, Logan infiltrates
the hate group to expose the true mutant-related history of their leader,
Graydon Creed. Adapting aspects of the Sabertooth mini-series, while
filtering out the fact that Mystique was Creed's birth mother.
Ep. 24: "Mojovision"
In the deep recesses of space, the most
popular television network is on the verge of collapse and its programming
chief, Mojo, is freaking out. Kidnapping the X-Men to raise his sagging ratings,
they team have no choice but to play out these twisted fictional adventures,
while network superstar Longshot attempts to shut down the control room. This
wacky, off-beat adventure adapts Ann Nocenti and Art Adam's Longshot
mini-series, and several mojo-centric tales of Uncanny X-Men. Easter Egg:
Guest appearances by Psylocke, Dazzler, The Punisher, The Shi'ar Imperial Guard,
The Brood, and Dr. Smith from Lost in Space. Oh yeah, and we get a brief
glimpse of what Xavier and Magneto have been up to in the Savage Land.
Ep. 25-26: "Reunion"
After waiting all season, we finally
resolve Charlie and Erik's excellent adventure. As the Mutates bring Xavier and
Magneto to the citadel and Sauron, Mr. Sinister's carefully laid plans for Jean
and Scott come to fruition. But no one was counting on the timely intervention
of Ka-Zar and his pet tiger Zabu, nor Cyclops and Wolverine going back for
reinforcements and walking knowingly into a trap. It all comes down to a giant
jungle battle royale that actually delivers on its promise.
Ep. 27-28: "Out of the Past"
It's Cyborg-a-palooza, as Lady
Deathstrike (Logan's old flame) and the Reavers (from the X-Men's years in
Australia) head deep into the Morlock tunnels to unlock the mysteries of a
long-buried spacecraft. When Deathstrike's Adamantium nails fail to open the
craft, they lure the X-men underground in the hopes that Logan's claws will be
able to make the cut. What they fail to realize is that some things should stay
buried. Turns out the ship is actually an alien prison housing an unimaginably
evil force. Question is: How do you get the genie back into the bottle once it's
Ep. 29-33: "The Phoenix Saga"
In their most ambitious
adaptation yet, the series takes one of the franchise's most beloved story
arcs—the rise and fall of Jean Grey (X-Men #101-108)—and turns it
into a five-episode, week-long adventure. When a mysterious telepathic cry for
help rattles the Professor, he rallies his team to stow aboard the next Space
Shuttle launch, in order to face an unknown interplanetary threat. Upon docking
with the international space station, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Gambit, Beast, and
Wolverine are ambushed by Shi'ar bounty hunter Erik the Red, whose mission is to
intercept the Emperor D'Ken's rebellious sister, Princess Lilandra, and destroy
anyone who gets in his way. To save her teammates and the space station crew,
Jean must telekinetically hold together the damaged shuttle and pilot it safely
back to Earth. When her mind and body fail, it is overtaken by the enigmatic
Phoenix Force which taps into a depth of power no one can comprehend. Can Jean
contain the Phoenix long enough to end D'Ken's insane plan for the M'Krann
Crystal and save the galaxy from certain destruction? This one is loaded with
guest stars: Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy, Moira and her new fiancee Sean
Cassidy (Banshee), The Starjammers (Scott's dad and his merry band of space
pirates), and Shi'ar Imperial Guard; plus cameos by Emma Frost and the Hellfire
Club, Captain Britain, and Doctor Strange.
Volume 2 shows the writing team pushing the limits of the show's
storytelling, digging deeper in the franchise's history and coming up with some
real gems. Gambit, Rogue, and Beast each receive their own character development
tales, which turn out to be quite effective for Saturday morning TV. The use of
Alpha Flight in "Repo Man" is both a nod to fans and a creative way to
reveal just a bit more of Wolverine's then-shrouded past. Speaking of nods,
"Mojovision" is a trip-and-a-half with a killer vocal performance by
Peter Wildman (The Red Green Show) as his royal fatness, and a brilliant
pairing off of our captive heroes in their own mini-adventures.
On the downside, we're saddled with more Omega Red, a flat introduction of
Lady Deathstrike, and the long drawn-out Savage Land subplot. Sure, Charles and
Magneto have some well written moments, and the scripting choice was an
ambitious move for Saturday morning television, but you could have consolidated
all that nonsense into one decent episode and saved us the trouble. I was also
not a big fan of the Bishop/Cable "Time Fugitives" story. Part of that
may be due to the seemingly never-ending Bishop/Cable time chase in the X-books,
and part due to its similarity to The
Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment where Homer builds a time-traveling
toaster, but these specific episodes simply don't hold up as well as I
Which brings us to "The Phoenix Saga," the epitome of animated
ambition. Playing out like an anime OVA, there is more story and character angst
packed into this 100 minutes than most modern screenplays. And yet, I still find
it lacking. Perhaps it's because I'm in the minority when it comes to the fan
adulation for this story arc. I greatly prefer the devious subtlety of "The
Dark Phoenix Saga," which we'll see adapted in Volume 3. Still, it's a
great cap to this particular collection of episodes.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, the hand drawn
animation continues to suffers from its limited budget, but the consistency of
character and the richness of the backgrounds solidifies as we move into Season
Three. There are still noticeable dirt and scratches, and for whatever reason I
cannot get past the series wonky pastel-infused color palate. The 2.0 Dolby
Stereo mix in on par with the first release. We tend to hear more diversity in
the sound effects department, but those never-ending laser blasts will haunt you
in your sleep.
Still no bonus features.
Two more gripes and I'll let you go: What's with the absence of the Saban
production logo in the end credits? The picture simply goes to black for 10 or
15 seconds. And a special note to the packaging design team—don't use
characters in the cover art who do not appear in the content within. Those
hoping to see Nightcrawler here will be disappointed. Okay, I'm done.