Wolverine In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Premiering in the fall of 2000, X-Men: Evolution featured an all new continuity with few ties to the previous FOX series and de-aged the majority of it’s characters to fit them into the teen demographic. The show was to be set in high school, with the X-Men, consisting of Cyclops, Rogue, Jean, Nightcrawler, Kitty and a new, original character Spyke trying to keep their powers a secret whilst they thought The Brotherhood and evil Head Mistress Mystique, with Magneto usually looming in the background.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned Wolverine yet in his own retrospective thread, it’s because he’s an adult, something Kids WB! wanted very little to do with. Thankfully, the creative realised that a teenage Wolverine wouldn’t work, and they had him act as a mentor/teacher to the students. He could sometimes be found in a solo adventure as part of the B plot. A lot of these involved Sabertooth, but because they barely bothered to develop the middle-aged villain and the first season was incredibly weak in terms of story and character, most of them aren’t stuff you’ll rush to watch again.

One such plot involves Juggernaut handing Wolverine his ass once again, as he waits for the kids to come rushing to his rescue. The difference here is, Wolverine didn’t look like an assclown after his defeat, and made Juggernaut look more threatening, whereas back in the 80’s, kids were merely under the impression that Wolverine sucked.

This version of Wolverine wasn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things however. It was a lot easier to except Scott McNeil in the role than I thought it would (Cal Dodd is Wolverine, remember folks) and his new design is easily my favourite looking version of Wolverine ever. Orange and black aren’t colours that I’d usually associate with Wolverine, but this suit simply popped every time it was on screen. Logan’s civvies design wasn’t too shabby either, despite his odd lack of facial hair. His hair wasn’t as goofy as it was in TAS, and his outfit actually suited the character, unlike the previous show. In visuals, this show has TAS’ Wolverine beat, hands down.

The best episode of the first season is the lone Wolverine focused episode, Grim Reminder in which he travels to Canada in order to discover his origins and learn more of the Weapon X programme. It does say something about the quality of this season that in a show focused on kids at school, the best episode by a wide margin is the one that focuses on an adult. Indeed, it was a thoroughly mediocre season with very few high points, but Grim Reminder was defiantly better than anything else this season had to offer.

With season two came a few changes, all of them welcomed. The show stopped with the clichéd characters and stories and really made an effort to improve its overall quality, making the show a hell of a lot more fun and watch able in the process. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of Wolverine to be found in this season. He’s more of a background character, but he does get a few starring moments in The Beast Of Bayville in which we get some beautiful fight scenes between him and a savage Mr. McCoy, but again, he spends most of the season as a teacher.

Things pick up a little with our one Wolverine episode a season (yeah, that trend didn’t last long, did it?) as we see a good old fashioned team up between him and Captain America back in their days in World War II. This one made more sense than Old Soldiers, and features a much cooler version of Captain America – despite the fact he didn’t utter a word.

One of the more embarrassing moments Wolverine has ever suffered comes in Mindbender, as he struggles to attack a possessed Kitty, who promptly kicks him in the shin as he hops in pain.

Yes, Kitty managed to hurt his shin, despite the fact it’s covered with the hardest alloy ever. Even the amazing animation found in the episode could help me forgive that. It’s illogical in every sense of the word. Thankfully, the series once again improved dramatically as Wolverine came face to face with the shows most bad ass villain yet – The Sentinel. And boy, did he get his ass kicked. In one of the shows best fights, Wolverine went toe to toe with the towering tin can and helped create one hell of a threatening villain, which left me eagerally awaiting the second part, which was rare - Evo wasn't really something I looked forward to each week back in these days, it was just something I watched because I liked The X-Men.

Wolverine usually lost most of his fights in the show, mainly because his job seemed to be making everyone else look good. He was a jobber, plain and simple. But the fact remains, he was a very good jobber.

When season two finished, Wolverine and several members of both The Brotherhood and The X-Men had been kidnapped, and the world now new that mutants existed. No doubt changes were afoot, but were they for the better?

Oh hell yeah.

Season three began with the biggest bang possible, with several members Of The Brotherhood and The X-Men being held in Area 51, and the remaining members and Mystique attempting to rescue them. With not one teenage cliché or annoying comedy moment, Day Of Recovery was a wall-to-wall action episode done in a superb manner, no doubt about it, the episode was one the finest half hours in animation I’d ever seen, and for one of the first times, left one wondering if this series could eventually top the original.

The second episode of the season gives Wolverine some rather confusing characterisation, as he is annoyed that Cyclops has taken the leadership role from him as the kids disagree with his action. Again, this was done to show everyone that this show was about the kids – not Wolverine or any of the adults. I won’t complain anymore, because the episode in question is absolutely spectacular.

It was at this time however, that Marvel stepped in and asked that Wolverine’s costume be changed to fit the look he sported in their Ultimate X-Men book. The design isn’t bad by any means, but the original was so much better. I personally found it a shame they got rid of the orange suit because it looked so damn cool. I remember hearing they were revamping the suits in the comics again, and I hoped they would look towards the orange suit for inspiration. They didn’t. He’s in yellow and blue again. But wait, cheap ratings spike, he’s in his tan suit. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a red and yellow Iron-Wolverine this time next year.

If these last few posts seem bitter, I assure you it’s not intended. Wolverine is by far my favourite X-Man and I am getting entirely sick of the Wolverine bashing that never, ever seems to stop, but as you’ve probably noticed, he didn’t really get up to all that much in this series. His very powers were difficult to use on Saturday mornings, and the network wanted everything to focus on the younger members, which meant he was rarely allowed to save the day, which reduced him to the jobber status mentioned in the aforementioned post. There’s no denying that X-Men: Evolution is a truly fantastic show; it’s just not geared towards Wolverine fans, which the previous shows and movies were.

Wolverine’s always had great chemistry with Kitty in the comics and that managed to make its way into the show, thankfully, the highlight being the episode in which he tried to teach her how to drive. Whatever faults character may have, his lack of humour is not amongst them.

It’s been said that Wolverine best role in this series is leadership, and one of the better examples would be Self Possessed in which Rogue’s powers overload and she begins to lose control and morphs into everyone she’s ever absorbed. The episode shows he genuinely cares about the students and doesn’t do what he does just so he can be a hard ass in the Danger Room or out in the field. It was cool to see Logan save the day, and it’s one of his finest episodes, which is especially impressive as this episode was purely focused on Rogue.

Our one Wolverine episode of the season rule got turned on it’s head a little this season, thanks to the inclusion of the new original character X23 which managed to give us fanboys our one Logan episode and still satisfy the network by having it focus on a teenager. X23 features a teenage girl who grew up unloved, created from Wolverine’s own DNA. We get to see a little into Wolverine’s past (he used to work for SHIELD, for starters) and his chemistry with X23 was actually really interesting. She had an annoying voice actor, sure, and the story itself could be found in fan fiction, but the episode was fun to watch, the score was great and the animation was probably the best the show ever reached. The fight scenes were something to behold – no small feat considering Saturday mornings are violence free now, and they had 12 adamantium claws between them.

Everyone got in on the fun in the season finale in order to stop Mesmero unleashing Apocalypse upon the world, and Logan was no exception. Paired with Sabertooth and Gambit, our hero travelled to Tibet in order to kick Mesmero’s ass. He failed, which came as no surprise at this point in the series, but what was surprising was Mesmero, who locked about as physically threatening as Spacker Dave from The Punisher, managed to lay the smack down on Logan, Gambit and Sabertooth at the same time.

Again, a great season overall, but very little for Wolverine fans to sink their claws into. Season 4 wasn’t much different, one Wolverine focused episode in which he shared the spotlight with X23, he plays the leader in a few episodes, some hints are thrown in there about his past. Lather, rinse, and repeat to sum it all up.

Omega Red deserves a special mention, however. In Target X, a battered Wolverine manages to make pathetically quick work of the once fearsome Russian, and at the end of the episode, it left you rushing you to your X-Men TAS tapes (damn you Disney!) to see if Omega Red was another one of those things that you thought was cool in your childhood simply because you were too stupid to know better. Nope, Red was still awesome, but Evo really, really dropped the ball here. Few things disappointed me in this show since The HeX Factor, but Omega Red is defiantly high on the list.

So, after 52 episodes, X-Men: Evolution was cancelled and quickly disappeared. The upcoming X-Men 3 movie seems to be the only reason we’ve managed to get season 3 on DVD, and there’s no word on whether or not we’ll actually get the final season in a set.

I hope you’re not sick of Wolverine by now, because next year sees the X-Men return to the small screen on Cartoon Network in a new show, dubbed Wolverine And The X-Men. The show promises to be a blend of the two previous animated series, with great stories like TAS and a lot of character development like Evo, according to head honcho of Marvel animation Craig Kyle. The three-part opening will air next fall, and beyond that, very little else is known about the show.

But rest assured, True Believers, Wolverine’s in it, so it’ll be worth watching.

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