Monday, May 9, 2011

Wolverine and the X-Men (TV show review)

      When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough X-Men, I’m now in my 20’s and I still can’t get enough.  Now, there comes a time when people stop watching animated shows and when I graduated from Middle school, I grew up and stopped watching animated cartoons entirely (with the exception of occasionally looking back at “X-Men Evolution”, “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” and “Gargoyles”) throughout my 4 high school years, I just watched the mature and grown up shows but then I heard there was another animated X-Men TV show and I just knew I was going to rent it someday, why, because “X-Men” is firkin awesome!  The very first attempt at an animated X-Men show was a 1989 TV pilot called “Pryde of the X-Men”, however, a series never followed after this episode. The first full animated series was “X-Men: The Animated series”, which aired in 1992. It was a good show that’s been regarded as a classic but it did get really boring by the fourth season. In 2000 there was “X-Men Evolution”, which still stands as my favorite show from childhood. That was the show that really introduced me to X-Men and I’ve been a huge fan ever sense. So how does “Wolverine and the X-Men” hold up, well, to be honest, this show surprised the hell out of me!      

      I was immediately hooked from the first episode, and it just got better each time. For as great as “X-Men Evolution” was, it didn’t grab my interest until the season finale of season 1. As soon as this show started, I wanted to know what would happen next. This series has nothing to do with “X-Men Evolution” but the same writing staff, directors and animators from that show worked on this one. The premise goes like this, the mansion is mysteriously destroyed, Professor X is in a comma, Jean Grey has disappeared, the X-Men have broken apart and a government team called the MRD (mutant registration department) is waging war with Magneto and his fellow mutants. Meanwhile, Wolverine is frequently contacted by Professor X from 20 years in a future that has gone to hell, he guides Wolverine with the knowledge of events (what little he has) to help him prevent the future from getting ruined. Now, it’s up to Wolverine to reassemble the team, discover what attacked the mansion and what happened to Jean and the Professor, as well as bring peace between mutants and humans before a war consumes the planet.

   This was the X-Men show of my dreams, the stakes were higher than ever before, there was a lot of mystery that held your interest, the X-Men were real hero’s fighting in a war to bring peace, there are many amazing running themes and subplots that all tie together so well in the end and everything felt more epic than ever before. Whenever a situation accurse, it’s a big one, I can’t even count how many times this show got me on the edge of my seat saying “O my gosh, what are they going to do now, how are they going to get out of this, I didn’t see that coming”! It’s a little more violent with intense action and a character actually giving an epic and emotional sacrifice in the end, lines are drawn between organizations, and there’s always one great twist after another. The opening was great, it’s like a little mine episode of Wolverine and the X-Men saving mutant civilians from the MRD and the Sentinels, it perfectly sums up what the show is about, much like the opening to the 90’s Batman series. The music is good and fits the show well, but it’s not as engaging as the music from “X-Men Evolution” and especially not as exciting as the music from the 90’s X-Men show.
      The first great thing about this series was that Wolverine was the leader of the team and the main character of the show. YES! That’s what I’ve always wanted, he’s the icon of X-Men, he’s my favorite superhero, and he’s got the most interesting back stories that are always awesome to theme episodes around. Some have said that he’s not suppose to be a leader but the show is very self aware of this, the characters even have a hard time excepting him as a leader but they become more excepting to him at the end of the show (as dose the audience) and it’s interesting to see Wolverine struggle with being a good leader to the team when he’s always been a loner. They do a terrific job fleshing out his character and voice actor Steven Blum is outstanding in the role. Every X-Men show gets a terrific voice actor to bring the character to life and Steven Blum is probably my favorite.

     I never was that found of Cyclopes and thankfully his character was slightly more downplayed but to be honest, they made him a little interesting, his origin story was great and he felt more complex than usual. Some characters like Shadow Cat, Storm and Iceman could have been developed a little more (like in the Evolution series) but they were still great all the same and considering they only had one season to flesh these characters out, it’s more than satisfying. Every famous character from the series gets a fun upgrade, Gambit is now a mercenary and just as awesome as ever, Magneto is still one of the greatest supper villains of all time, just with a little more depth, Angel was nicely developed and I especially enjoyed Shadow Cat. She had such a fun and spunky personality that only voice actress Danielle Judovits could master. One of my favorite running sub-plots revolved around Nightcrawler and The Scarlet Witch, this was so interesting and fun that it could of held its own TV series, I’ll leave it at that.

     Another highlight of the show was how fresh everything felt. This show did so many things that none of the other shows did and it just enhanced the enjoyment of the series. First off, the series focuses on two teams of X-Men, the second team is a resistance set 20 years in the future with Professor X and Bishop as the leaders. It was really interesting to switch from future to present and it was a real treat to just get surprise after surprise. For example, did anyone suspect for a moment that Rogue would willingly join the brother hood and set the X-Men up, holy crap. Rogue became one of the most interesting and well developed in this show and while they did different things with her, she’s still in character, you understand why she does what she does and it was a fascinating subplot. My favorite new twist to the show was that Jean Grey was replaced by another telepath with diamond skin named Emma Frost, I loved this character (second favorite to Wolverine). She had a fantastic design, an amazing voice, a really fun personality, I loved how her character gets developed over the cores of the series and it was just a real treat to have this new character as a member of the X-Men. Well, she was new for the team but originally in the comics she’s a member of the Hellfire club (which is only described in this show as "The Inner Circle").


    There’s also plenty of Easter eggs for us comic book fans, including an awesome crossover episode featuring “The Incredible Hulk”. The episode was titled “Wolverine vs. The Hulk” and it’s actually an improvement over the animated “Hulk vs. Wolverine” movie. The characters have better interaction with each other, the story was stronger and it’s the only time in the series that “Nick Fury” makes an appearance. It’s also very fitting that the Hulk made an appearance in Wolverines series because the very first comic book to feature Wolverine was an Incredible Hulk comic, there’s even a brief flashback that hints at the events of that comic (even showing Wolverines original comic book design).

     There’s so much more I could say about this show but that would spoil the experience. For as great as the show is, there are two weaknesses, first of all, the show is far more for X-Men fans unlike in X-Men Evolution which anyone could watch and enjoy but if you’re not a huge X-Men fan than you probably won’t know some of the characters and themes, it still should be plenty engaging to watch. The biggest problem is that it was canceled after the first season because they were unable to work out the financing for the show with their financing partner. It’s not the shows fault for ending on a cliffhanger because they did have plains for making a second season and that Colossus would be one of the main characters. It’s really disappointing because they had such a good show on their hands and I really wanted to see what happens to all the characters.

Overall, this was an excellent show, the characters hold your interest, every episode leaves you wanting to see another one and out of 27 episodes it dived into more themes, subjects, plotlines and character development than X-Men Evolution did with 4 full seasons. If you’re a big X-Men fan or comic book fan than this show is highly recommendable and despite the disappointing cancelation I can’t help but give “Wolverine and the X-Men” 5 stars because it did its job so well and out did my other favorite comic book shows with just one season alone, that’s how strong the writing, direction and character development was for this series, good job guys, very good job.             

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