Animated property review: X-Men The Animated Series

X-Men the Animated Series Vol. 1  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2009

X-Men origins told correctly

If there ever was a quintessential property in the 1990s of comic book origin, it’s X-Men the Animated Series. The Fox staple in the early part of the decade was a great excuse to get up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons. It also was a great learning tool for those who didn’t know much about the X-Men and wanted an introductory course to the famous mutants.

What we love about the series is the fact that it takes itself seriously. It told stories just as the comic book version told them 10 years before, and it’s pretty close to the origin stories with only minor changes. Our only gripe with some of the episodes in the first volume is the brevity of the story arcs. Sagas such as Days of Future Past and The Cure are told in one or two episodes, something that isn’t normally be done in the comics. However, some are revisited in later seasons of the show, so that can be forgiven.

The production values of the Animated Series, for its time, were top-notch. The writing was superb, and the coloring and drawing were extraordinary for a cartoon production. Few series, with the exception of fellow Fox production Spider-Man, could match what the Animated Series brought to the table in terms of visuals and storytelling. The first volume sets the pace with Night of the Sentinels, and it’s obvious that care is taken with characters and their backgrounds. Most characters are true to their history and those who have been re-established for the Animated Series are well done and not out of place (i.e. Morph).

The voice acting is another standout established within the first volume. The characters all sound like they should, and it is this first set of episodes that established the standard for future X-Men voice acting projects for the next 17 years. The best example: All X-Men characters used in Capcom’s versus series through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were voiced by their Animated Series actors.

The first volume of the Animated Series hit DVD in 2009, a welcome addition to any X-Men fan’s collection. The first 16 episodes encompass the two-disc set and were only $20 at the time of purchase. That’s a bargain for well-crafted X-Men stories in a series known for its technical prowess that seemed to take forever to come to DVD.

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Voice acting: 10/10

Plots: 8/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 26/30 or 8.6

Strip Talk #02: Phoenix Saga Woes

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

Oh where to start about why I despise the Phoenix saga of the X-Men?

OK, I know that started out a little harsh, but we are talking about the Phoenix saga after all, and it’s one of the few story arcs that I absolutely cannot stand in comic book lore. I can’t tell if it’s the self-righteousness of Cyclops, the ridiculous self-sacrifice of Jean Grey or the fact that everyone in the X-Men or otherwise couldn’t see the plot holes forest for the trees.

I’m not a fan of Cyclops or Jean Grey. I have never warmed to either character and I think they’re perfect for each other in a not-so-flattering way. Neither seem to realize that the X-Men isn’t about them. And of course, with the Phoenix saga, both are at the forefront of the drama and tragedy.

It’s the sanctimonious attitude of Cyclops that really bothers me here. Let us not forget that this is the story in which he abandons his wife and child at the mere mention of his not-so-dead wife’s reappearance. To make matters worse, he’s written to later cheat on her with Emma Frost because the Phoenix Force was “becoming a strain.” I know he’s written to be human, show flaws and be the embodiment of “everyone makes mistakes.” But using the Phoenix Force three or four story arcs down the road as a crutch? Thanks but no thanks. And yes, please make a barely tolerable character all the more likeable for me by making him cheat on his wife who really can’t control her manifestation problems. Character assassination 1.0 for Cyclops receives a grade A.

Jean is forever the victim. If I had to hear her utter “Oh Scott!” one more time in “X-Men the Animated Series” I thought I’d stop watching altogether.  It was annoying to see Jean be classified as one of the most powerful mutants in the collective universe yet she is always dying, reborn, manifesting the Phoenix Force, teasing Wolverine, etc. in a never-ending cycle. It gets old after awhile. And can someone please tell me how she’s supposed to be an omega-level mutant (look it up kids and get back to me if you don’t know what it means) as the Phoenix yet is always “exhausted”? She can’t seem to use her powers more than five minutes without fainting or going to sleep. It’s mind-numbing stuff like this about Jean that makes me question the coddling.

The writers did no favors to the X-Men by having the Phoenix Force annihilate an entire universe. I get it, she’s all-powerful, can cause destruction in the blink of an eye, is a force to be reckoned with, blah, blah, blah. I get it, really I do. But I don’t care. Having her wipe out an entire universe is a bit much. Too much. The writers almost painted themselves into a corner just showing her power. Was it too much to ask that it be implied and not seen? I can accept that about the Phoenix.

Really, after having the Phoenix saga shoved down my throat in the animated series in a five-part arc and having to be constantly reminded by its reappearance, I’m quite sick of the Phoenix. Take obnoxious characters, make them the centerpiece of a huge arc and voila! You have the equally obnoxious Phoenix saga. To paraphrase the Scarlet Witch in the House of M saga: No more Phoenix Force.

Lyndsey Mosley is the editor of Gaming Insurrection. Contact her via email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

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