Monday, March 25, 2024

X-Men '97 - To Me, My X-Men / Mutant Liberation Begins

Resurrecting the 90s X-Men cartoon, X-Men '97 returns much of its voice cast and core characters to continue its storylines following the death of Charles Xavier. There's quite a bit to praise in the opening two episodes of the series. As a huge fan of Cyclops (Ray Chase), I'll start with the much maligned X-Men's field leader who gets to kick a serious amount of butt stopping a terrorist group known as the Friends of Humanity who are kidnapping mutants and have access to Sentinel technology. A character Fox struggled with in various live-action adaptations is given a great showcase here. Cyclops is also navigating a world without his mentor one the eve of the birth of his son both of which alter his role towards the rest of the X-Men.

The other major player to discuss immediately is Magneto (Matthew Waterson). Despite being dressed in the worst possible costume from his lengthy reimagining, the X-Men's former greatest foe has returned as their ally. Bequeathed the mansion and X-Men in Xavier's will, it has the desired effect in pushing Magneto to try things Professor X's way this time around. The second episode of the series deals with the challenges that will entail when he's put on trial by the United Nations, nearly loosing his temper after another anti-mutant attack that leaves one prominent X-Man cut-off from her powers.

The animation of the series is an update of the original, capturing the look and feel of the 90s series with a bit of modern flair thrown in as well. The action sequences from the first two episodes are certainly highlights. Juilee (Holly Chou) works providing the youth and energy in contrast to the harder veterans of the team. In a world more outwardly tolerant towards mutants, the show focuses early on on the vocal minority still fueled by prejudice and hate (who must have some support to get their hands on the anti-mutant tech they are brandishing). We also see some mop up to the Sentinel program, leaving the door open for an eventual new antagonist to appear.

I do have some concerns, which may eventually become complaints. While removing her powers opens a separate potential arc for Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith), one I have doubts we'll get much time playing out on-screen, it does take away one of the best characters from the group reducing the quality of potential character interactions. Wolverine (Cal Dodd) is also a problem. Given how the character is often given too much prominence and can overshadow other characters, I understand (and even agree with) limiting his role here but the snarling hairy guy in the corner thing isn't all that interesting. 

Speaking of problematic characters, lets end by turning our attention on Rogue (Lenore Zann). The flirty southern belle's accent and odd turns of phrase, often with sexual innuendo, makes her a potential landmine for the series. Beau DeMayo has admitted she is one of the harder characters to write. A couple of her lines here are... less than great. Holding your breath every time she opens her mouth to see how wince-inducing her latest dialogue might be isn't exactly the best recipe for success. The choice to also tease the relationship explored in Age of Apocalypse between Rogue and Magneto is also a precarious choice.

  • Title: X-Men '97 - To Me, My X-Men / Mutant Liberation Begins
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