Oh, Netflix. I don’t tell you often enough how much I appreciate what you do for me. You have so many cartoons and allow me to revisit a good majority of my childhood favorites in my downtime while you find new things for me to watched based on my interests! Though where you got the idea to add Laguna Beach to my recommended viewings is completely beyond my grasp. That one mistake aside, however, you and I are clearly going to have a long and fruitful relationship as I reminisce old favorites and find newer, sometimes better versions of the things I loved as a child.
Which, most recently, has become the 2008 NickToons series Wolverine and the X-Men.
For those of you who, like me, had extreme reservations to watching this X-Men title, I totes understand the apprehension. After all, nothing could beat the “classic” 90’s animated series, right? You know, with their “all-star” lineup? Don’t worry. While this title went sans the shoulder pads of the 90’s, it didn’t cross the borderline into whimsical land like X-Men: Evolution, either. Definitely a darker cartoon for an older crowd. So if you’ve got a love of the characters and the nerve to jump in with an open mind, I highly suggest you give it a go.
The fourth animated adaption of X-Men franchise wastes no time and immediately kicks off with MAJOR X-PLOSIONS at the Xavier Institute. The X-Men assume that telepathic mutants were the target of the attack, as only Jean Grey and Professor Xavier were missing when the smoke clears, and the team treks the hard road to finding their missing mutant comrades. As the more astute have gathered from the title, Wolverine indeed hones his leadership skills, taking precedence over Storm, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman and Kitty Pryde. The addition of Emma Frost rules out their “striking telepaths” theory, and she is grudgingly inducted into the team as the resident Cerebro user.
Though the majority of the series deals with following Wolverine, guided by a floating head type vision of Professor X who has woken up from a coma 20 years in the future, gunning hardcore after Mastermold, minor villains including Shadow King, Mr. Sinister, and the Inner Circle are present to contribute a few more hints at familiar story arcs for us longtime X-Men fans. And all the while, the constant threat of Senator Kelly’s MRD (Mutant Response Divison) and the underlying themes between humans and mutants, Kelly’s subsequent team up with Bolivar Trask to create the dreaded Sentinels, Magneto’s founding of Genosha and the Phoenix Saga are all crammed together into 27 episodes. Lotsa meat on these bones of a kid’s show, eh?
Time travel is a staple in any X-Men series and by all accounts is not easy to pull off. There were plenty of times watching the 90’s storyline that I have a big question mark on my face, struggling to figure out how these crazy shenanigans will play out when these X-Men clearly have no regard for the fabric of time. I definitely enjoyed how it consistently dealt with alternate timelines without being overly convoluted.
This series has a lot of head nods to different comic arcs. Future Mastermold, arguably the stories overall big baddie, closely resembles Danger from the Astonishing X-Men series by Joss Whedon, with characters created specifically for that arc making appearances in the form of Tilde and Dr. Kavita Rao.
Tons of wonderfully drawn mutant cameos kept my interest in everything that was going on. Blink’s rendering as Magneto’s most useful tool is the one that sticks out the most.
Rogue is finally a badass. Not a sullen emo tweenager or an overtly punny hickalicious southern belle. Though she may not have the entirety of powers at her arsenal just yet, it is nice to see her have more control and mastery of her absorption powers. Hell, even 90’s Rogue had problems with that. Sure, she could lift a car, fly around and flex, but when the fighting got down to the nitty gritty there were always major control issues and she became as useless as nipples on Batman. Chafing Batman nipples. See how unnecessary that is?
There is a shit ton of information crammed into 26 episodes and rather than taking the time to really flesh out the stories and their characters, there was a lot of time spent on filler episodes that could’ve been replaced with expanding on the current arcs they were going for.
I would’ve loved to learn more about Kitty’s backstory in this universe, as she seems to be closer to the mature, level headed Shadowcat that I’m quite fond of, but there was never any time to explore her in more depth. Even her powers were really boiled down to the basics and mostly used as defensive. I thought now would’ve been a perfect opportunity to really think outside of the box and show us something new with her intangibility. Plus I was hoping to see Lockheed flying around and being all BAMF, but the presence of an awesome purple alien dragon apparently is only awesome to me. Who knew.
Having said that, the majority of background characters, while immensely cool to see, can almost seem one dimensional at times, given their lack of involvement in the events as a whole.
No season two. Though the series started off strong at it’s inception and continuously tacked on more and more viewers with each episode, supposedly funding became an issue. Which REALLY sucks when you see the “series” finale. I wont spoil any deets here, but I will pout about the amazing direction they were headed into an Age Of Apocalypse storyline and really, HOW AWESOME would that have been after seeing the way the writers dealt with time continuity?
Storm’s hair. Okay, siriusly, don’t ask me why but Ororo’s new do really bugged the crap out of me. I enjoy picking up new arcs sometimes solely to see the style changes of my favorite heroines, but this ponyfro had me less than impressed. Instead of beautifully flowing ivory locks, Storm gets stuck with an over cooked S’more marshmellow stuck to the back of her head. Not the most practical choice for Windriding, but to each their own, I suppose.
Hasbro never made any toys of the main female characters. Now this might not matter to some, but when I genuinely like a show, I will eBay the shit out of it’s figurines and the fact that I am not allowed to have a Rogue or Domino fig to add to my collection really irks me.
Verdict: In all honesty, watching Wolverine and the X-Men made me feel like I was blasted back in time to my days as a wee six year old, lounging in an oversized recliner watching Batman: The Animated Series. Though the two have 19 years of space between them, they are both delivered in the same dark style that I have come to love in cartoons and wished the X-Men: The Animated Series had initially. Should you watch it? Definitely. It may have it’s haters because it “just isn’t the same,” but don’t let that deter you from trying something new. Plus, it’s on Netflix, so it’s basically free. Let me know what you think of Wolverine and the X-Men, and any other show recommendations, in the comments below!