X-MEN The Animated Series Vol. 1 & 2 DVD Review

     May 13, 2009



Written by Ben Begley


I am obsessed with the X-Men and have been since I was a kid. I was the nerd who caught the original X-Men cartoon “Pryde of the X-Men” in 1989 on Saturday morning and was devastated when the pilot never turned into a series. Luckily in 1992 my wish was granted and a 76-episode run of a newly revamped and totally kick ass X-Men cartoon was launched and thus began one of the best renditions of comic book to cartoon ever on television.



The X-Men cartoon was a lot like “Batman The Animated Series” in that it took the original subject matter seriously and stuck pretty faithful to its comic book roots. Never worrying about dumbing down the material for kids, in fact I even remember as a kid being impressed that the pilot episode “kills” off Morph and imprisons Beast, two pretty big events to happen in a series opener. I say “kills” because later on Morph comes back as a bad guy seeking revenge against Cyclops and the X-Men after they left him for dead. The series built upon itself with each episode having multiple story arcs, especially the increasing complications of the love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine; and it didn’t shy away from inviting as many characters (good and bad) to play in the sandbox as well. So much of the comic book history is covered in 76 episodes it’s insane and the best part is, it’s all done really well.



Volume 1 and 2 include the first 33 episodes of the series, and almost every one of these work like gangbusters even now. There are brilliant episodes like “Night of the Sentinels,” the pilot where the anti-mutant sentiment and current political climate of the mutant/human world is set up and our cast of characters are introduced. “Enter Magneto” where we get to see the Master of Magnetism and his more forceful approach to protecting mutants, by trying to take over Homo-Inferiors (humans). Then there’s the awesome season one cliffhanger “Days of Future Past,” a two-part episode that brings Bishop back from the future to try and kill Gambit in order to stop a political assassination that sparks a war culminating in a mutant apocalypse. The villains Apocalypse, Juggernaut, Mojo, Pyro, Blob, and many more baddies show up to fight the X-Men team as well as some special guests like Cable and Forge. This show is ridiculously layered and full of every character you can imagine from the X-Men universe. And to cap off this great two volume set is the epic five-part Phoenix Saga, where Jean Grey goes a bit crazy and nearly destroys our entire galaxy.


I am always a little worried when I go back and watch cartoons from my childhood, some really don’t stand the test of time. So far GIJOE, Batman the Animated Series, and now X-Men are the select few. X-Men hold up 17 years later because of its all-inclusive storylines and character development. The animation is decent, not as awe-inspiring as I remember and certainly HDTV’s don’t really help in hiding the flaws. Some of the emotional moments veer into melodrama, but I respect the show for having the guts to go that deep with the pain of the characters and the emotions that come with the wars they fight, even if sometimes it’s a bit cheese ball. The voice acting is on par with Batman and other cartoon greats of the 90’s, especially Professor X and Wolverine. I have judged most X-Men cartoons since based on the voice talent and story arcs of this series. They have a five-episode Phoenix Saga!!! How awesome is that?? I don’t know many shows that take five episodes to build a story.



This collection is a dream for die-hard X-Men fans that were tired of dusting off old VHS copies of the show, or buying DVD’s in the past that only had a couple episodes. Finally we get a major dent in the series all on a few DVD’s to add to our nerd collection (or maybe it’s just me that is this excited to finally have all the episodes in one place).



My only gripe is that it has been 17 years since this show aired and they have made fans wait this long for a DVD set and it finally comes out, but there is not a single extra on any of the discs. This is a total bummer. I’m sure there have to be some archival interviews with the voice actors or Stan Lee or some of the original series creators. And if not, then why didn’t they make a retrospective documentary looking back on such an influential and kick ass series?? I also think that the episodes could have been mastered a bit better to match the technology of HDTV, the animation is not as bad as it looks in HD and if they would have taken more time to improve it, then I wouldn’t feel the need to watch it on a small screen to enjoy it fully. The shoddy transfer took me out of it a few times and the complete lack of extras makes there nothing more to explore after you’re done with the episodes. So I’m really happy that the X-Men are finally out on DVD and a whole bunch at once, I just wish they would have made a better effort to make the collection a Collector’s Item, instead we get a run-of-the-mill DVD presentation.



So in summation, the show was and still is great!! The characters and writing and voice acting all take me back to my childhood, but the lack of effort on the DVD seems lazy. If you’re a huge fan like me, spend the small change and buy these sets. Your nostalgia fix will be filled and if you’re an uber geek like me, then your life is a little better with each new X-Men cartoon/comic book that comes into my life… wow I’m a loser.



Grade:


Episodes- A


DVD- C


Special Features- None






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