The Brotherhood of Mutants In Animation - A Retrospective
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Part Two -
Part Three -
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Part Five -
I am here and ready to talk about the glory that is the X-Men Evolution version of the Brotherhood.
Then again, it wasn't that glorious at the beginning.
The new show immediately introduced two members of the Brotherhood in the first episode, Toad and Mystique.
In "Strategy X," Toad, longtime loser, was re-envisioned as a longtime teen loser. Instead of a toady sycophant, Toad was a misguided, adolescent pickpocket with poor hygiene.
To put things in context, Toad was experiencing the closest thing he ever had to a renaissance. Bryan Singer had actually managed to make him look cool in the first X-Men film by casting Darth Maul. (Yes, I know he has a real name, but he'll always be Darth Maul to me.)
Consequently, the creators of Evo had a bit more leeway to make "The Toad" cool, even dangerous. Instead, they decided to keep him a slapsticky loser. Fair enough, why fight 30+ years of history. But Toad as a loser isn't a whole lot of a threat, which we realize in the first episode when Nightcrawler takes him out single-handedly.
Mystique's introduction is a bit odder. In Evo, she is not the leader of the Brotherhood, not at first. So instead of making her a brilliant assassin, they make her the principal. Well, to be fair, she's a sneaky, undercover principal, but still the principal.
Neither Toad nor Mystique were immediate sensations. Let's just say many fans were hoping for growth after their first appearance.
Other members of the Brotherhood were introduced soon thereafter. In fact, for awhile, Evo episodes had a set formula. Introduce a good guy, introduce a bad guy, have them fight and then join respective stables.
Their introductions varied in quality. Lance (Avalanche), who would later become a fan favorite, was limited to lame "rock" puns throughout his debut. And can no one tame that cowlick? Say it with me now, "styling gel."
Blob's debut was better. It portrayed him as an angry teen with body and women issues, because he's the size of a grizzly bear. Fair enough. That's a pretty sensible tact. Though it is not saying much, it is probably the best Blob-centric episode of television... ever. (I'm not sure what its competition would be.)
In a move that was true to the comics, Rogue was also brought into the fold. Her turn from neutral to Brotherhood to X-Men never felt forced and was probably one of the best things about the mediocre first season.
The final member of the first season's Brotherhood is Pietro Maximoff. Smarmy, arrogant and pretty much a scoundrel, Pietro was the character that needed the least tinkering from the first season to the second. Like they did with Blob, they took the comic book incarnation of Quicksilver and decided what he would be like as a teen.
The Brotherhood was a punching bag in season one. After the teams had been fully formed, the Brotherhood only existed to get their collective posteriors handed to them. Sometimes, there was hardly any reason for them to fight at all.
The formula of meet, find cheap reason to fight, fight and then lose was only broken twice in the first season. In "Survival of the Fittest," the two teams actually coexist to take down the bigger threat of Juggernaut. It's a pretty good episode, but more importantly it showed that the Brotherhood could tread an interesting middle ground between ally and adversary.
And in "The Cauldron," most of the Brotherhood actually get to win a fight against the X-Men. But, even then, the melee isn't that cool. Blob beats Kitty by grossing her out. That's it. Grossing her out. Not a good moment for either character.
By the end of the first season, it became obvious that something needed to change. The Brotherhood were uninteresting, D-listers. They weren't a valid threat and the audience was not particularly interested in them.
So, instead of keeping them lackeys, the Brotherhood were made free agents. At the end of the first season, both Magneto and Mystique disappeared. Suddenly, the Brotherhood could call their own shots. They weren't villains anymore. They were orphans, outsiders. They were... cool.
But that will be addressed in the next entry.