The X-Men In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six
Part Seven - Part Eight - Part Nine - Part Ten

Season three of X-Men TAS is probably best known for its interpretation of the Phoenix Saga. Nine episodes were dedicated to a very faithful retelling of the saga. (Of course, this being TAS, it was filled with cameos the original lacked: Banshee, Black Tom Cassidy, Juggernaut and Dazzler come to mind.) It does an excellent job of introducing series' fans to the Shiar, Lilandra, the Starjammers and the other intergalactic aspects of the X-Men. (Unlike Evo, TAS never avoided the sci-fi parts of the X-Men mythos--time travel, space and the Savage Land.)

As per usual, the series' storytelling was hampered by poor animation. "No Mutant is an Island," the story explaining Jean's resurrection, and "Longshot" had to be delayed until season five because of shoddy animating overseas. Consequently, the audience wasn't certain how Jean returned after flaming out at the end of the Phoenix Saga. (Like most children, I assume I missed an episode.)

And now a montage of other noteworthy moments from season three: The Reavers are introduced, the cybernetic enemies of the Australian X-Men. (Out of respect to Spyke, I will take no more cheap swipes at the Australian X-Men... for now.) Archangel returned in "Obsession," a rewrite of an X-Factor story where Beast forms a bond with Apocalypse's ship, only to watch it sacrifice itself to hinder her maker. Iceman made his TAS debut in "Cold Comfort." No longer a child prankster, Bobby is now an embittered ex-X-student. (Heh, I hyphenate too much.) His perspective as the erstwhile youngest student lets him bond with Jubilee, much to Cyclops' chagrin. The episode also features X-Factor (the first Peter David era) including Forge (not to be confused with Future Forge who keeps giving Bishop time machines and decoder rings.) (I also use parentheses too much.)

Speeding up the montage: Morph returns and leaves again; X-Men return the the Savage Land and leave again; Corsair returns, tells Cyclops he's his father and leaves again; Magneto is betrayed by his acolyte Fabian Cortez; the X-Men do a Power Ranger parody in "Juggernaut Returns," and Sabretooth, Logan, Silver Fox and Maverick get together for a Weapon X Class Reunion. (Unfortunately, former class clown Deadpool was not invited.)

Best episode of the season: Nightcrawler. TAS was also able to deal with religious orientation, which EVO was not. TAS Nightcrawler was not a swashbuckler in this cartoon. He was a pacifist and an ordained monk. In 22 minutes, you came to know a hero in an action cartoon who wouldn't fight. His "villain" is a misguided monk and some angry villagers. The episode draws from Frankenstein and, yes, the crucifixion. It was like nothing else on Saturday morning. I still can get goosebumps from it.

Season Four:for some reason I remember Proteus as the season four premiere, not a season three ep, as it is listed at Marvel Animation Age. Consequently, I'll discuss it here. In the comics, Proteus was an all-powerful mutant with kryptonite-like weakness to metal. So the X-folk had Colossus lay a heaping pile of hurt on him after some soul searching. TAS took that option off the table by removing Colossus. (Good call, it was a lame conclusion.) Instead, they have to successfully talk an angry kid down who wants to see his father. The coolest moment: when Proteus melts and reconstructs resident badass Wolverine with a thought. Wolverine is scared for once in his life. Proteus doesn't even notice.

One Man's Worth was the TAS Age of Apocalypse; but instead of focusing on a nihilistic Post-Xavier world, it featured an Exiles- or Quantum Leap-style storyline where Bishop (of course) and his sister Shard enlist lovers Wolverine and Storm to ensure Fitzroy doesn't kill Xavier in college... again. Time travel/alternate universe are sometimes difficult to explain. The story succeeds with the same concept as AOA, but with a wildly different approach. One Man's Worth is essentially a well-told love story between two characters (alternate Storm and Wolverine) who we will never see again. For some reason, we end up caring.

Beyond Good and Evil is easily the most audacious, original story line attempted by the TAS creative team; and because it is original, for once, comic buffs had no clue how it was going to end. Apocalypse enlisted a veritable legion of ne'er-do-wells to help him: Magneto, Sabretooth, Mr. Sinister, Mystique... pretty much any and all A-listers. All of which were promised some largesse. They kidnapped telepaths including a recently married Jean, Psylocke, Xavier, Emma Frost, Rachel Summers, Stryfe... pretty much any cameo they could fit in. A ton of satellite characters are drawn into the fray. It all ends with Magneto (who switched sides again), Mystique, Bishop, Wolverine and the the telepaths fighting Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister and the Nasty Boys in the middle of time. It's as exciting as the series ever got, but the conclusion is a tad rushed. This is the closest TAS Apocalypse ever came to being the villain he deserves to be.

"Lotus and the Steel" and "Family Ties" were good one-shots focusing on Wolverine and Jubilee's relationship in the former and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the latter. The rest of the season's one shots ranged from spotty ("Xavier Remembers") to saccharine (that Morlock Christmas schlock.) On the whole, season four confirmed that TAS was at its best with "decompressed" stories that were allowed to range a little before coming to a conclusion. Tight, 22-minute free-for-alls were not its forte. Character moments and longterm stories were.