In the early 1990s, when Marvel’s X-Men comics were at the peak of their popularity, Marvel Entertainment finally produced an animated series based on their wildly successful mutant superheroes. Cartoons, in general, were gong through a renaissance. Steven Spielberg attached his name to Tiny Toons, attempting to recapture the lunacy of the old Warner Brothers shorts, while Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were taking on the Batman legacy with their classic Batman: The Animated Series. Marvel’s X-Men may never have been on the same level artistically as those two shows, but it was influential in its storytelling and the way it managed to incorporate the nearly 30 year legacy of the X-Men comic books into a single series. Moreover, despite the clunky animation and some questionable voice over casting, X-Men is solid, fun entertainment for kids and adults alike, with themes of tolerance, loyalty and family that don’t get to preachy.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment has just released what they dubbed the Marvel Comic Book Collection. X-men Volume 1 and Volume 2 each have 2 discs each and contain the first 33 episodes in order from seasons 1 and 2 and the first 7 episodes from season 3.
When creating this particular series, it was apparent that the producers had a specific approach: Keep the X-Men team simple, with no more than 8 characters. That may seem like a lot, but considering that there are too many X-Men related characters in the Marvel Universe to count, this was a wise decision. They opted with the popular characters of the time: Cyclops, the pensive leader who shoots optic rays out of his eyes; Jean Grey, a beautiful and powerful telekinetic; Wolverine, (the most popular character then and now), a savage with claws in his hands; Gambit, a reformed Cajun thief with the ability to manipulate kinetic energy; Rogue, a southern misfit who is seemingly indestructible and can absorb other peoples’ powers; Beast, a brilliant scientist trapped in a furry blue body; Storm, a stunning weather goddess from Africa; and Jubilee, a teenage girl just learning to use her mutant ability. With a smaller group it allowed the viewer to get attached to the characters on an emotional level.
In addition to the popular heroes of the time, these X-Men DVD’s also feature many of the key villains from X-Men history, including Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse and the Sentinels. Popular storylines from the comic adapted for the series include “Days of Future Past”, Wolverine’s run in with Sabertooth, the Savage Land, and “The Phoenix saga”, which introduces a mysterious life force that overtakes Jean Grey’s psyche and makes her the most powerful being in the universe.
Just like the comic book series, this is a serialized adventure series with storylines carrying over from episode to episode, some story arcs even lasting four or five episodes. This technique is as much a tribute to the month to month storytelling of comic books as well as a benefit to viewers. Instead of cramming things into 30 minutes and moving on, X-Men is more like a nighttime drama than your typical Saturday morning cartoon. Thus, having a collection of the episodes in order like they are presented in these two volumes is the best way to watch them.
Although a Y7 show, there are some adult themes being dealt with in X-Men, themes of love and broken hearts that may fly over a youngster’s head. No matter, there is enough action and adventure to keep them happy.
After X-Men completed its 5 season run (future DVD volumes are sure to come), there would be two more X-Men animated shows, X-Men: Evolution and the current Wolverine and the X-Men (as well as three feature films and the Wolverine prequel that now dwells in theaters). Although those later series are better animated, they are not necessarily better shows. In fact X-Men is a fine tribute to the legacy of the X-Men universe and good time for anyone who is a fan of super heroes.
Marvel DVD Comic Book Collection: X-Men Volume 1 (2009, Buena Vista)
purchase this DVD from Amazon
Marvel DVD Comic Book Collection: X-Men Volume 2 (2009, Buena Vista)
purchase this DVD from Amazon