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
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
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
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
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.