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

With six episodes left in season five, the creative team redesigned the characters and the backgrounds. The reason was Saban Entertainment took over full production control from Graz Entertainment when it shut down. In general, the new designs were preferable--sleeker and easier to animate. (Though Storm's hair still looked stupid. I don't know why her hair gives everyone so much trouble. Halle Berry's gone through seven wigs in three movies.) On the whole, the designs were less Jim Lee and more Joe Madureira.

Season Five featured the oft-delayed "No Mutant is an Island" and "Longshot" episodes. The first (sort of) explained Jean's reappearance, the second took shots at network television. (Apparently this one still doesn't air on Disney. I guess TV execs don't like TV episodes about how bad TV is.)

"Storm Front" befuddles me to this day. This story, transliterated from the comics, features Arkon. Who wants one, let alone two, episodes of Arkon? Arkon is a slave-owning, planet-running doofus who wants to marry Storm. The moral, Storm has awful taste in men.

"Phalanx," on the other hand, is riveting. Beast pulls together a mismatched crew (Forge, Magneto, Sinister, Warlock and himself) to stop an assimilating, planetary threat. Magneto and Beast get the choicest screen time. The grief Magneto has after the loss of his son is palpable. (I'm honestly surprised that there are those who prefer Evo Magneto.)

Nightcrawler, Graydon Creed, Mystique and Sabretooth all return in "Bloodlines," an episode that tries to explain the most convoluted non-Summers family possible. The ep itself is relatively good. Pairing Mystique and Nightcrawler (or anyone and this Nightcrawler) is brilliant. But the episode isn't as compelling as Kurt Wagner's debut.

After the redesign, we saw "Old Soldiers." Captain America (the most popular cameo since Nick Fury, who was also supposed to appear in this episode) and a pre-Weapon X Logan team up to beat up Red Skull. It's good stuff, but I get nostalgic for any Golden Age Marvel. (Just bring up Whizzer and I get misty-eyed.)

"Jubilee's Fairy Tale Adventure" inserts Jubes into what was a classic Shadowcat story from the comics. The replacement isn't surprising. For the length of TAS, Jubilee was played as Shadowcat. She's Wolverine's spunky, young sidekick. She's the rookie clamoring to get in the action. Classic Kitty stuff. I think that's why Shadowcat was never used in TAS. They don't need her. They have Jubilee. The episode itself is marred by Gambit's awful voice recasting. This guy could ruin whole scenes with a butchered "cherie."

"Descent" was an odd choice. it featured no X-Men (though there were nods to Xavier and Jean Grey.) It is a creepy, gripping tale of Sinister's origin. The episode does well by not tipping its hand too early. We don't know until the closing moments that Dr. Essex will become Mr. Sinister. (Every villain wants to throw "doctor" in front of his moniker. We get an actual m.d., and he settles for "mister." Weird.)

Graduation Day is a splendid series finale, a personal favorite. Once again, the story is adapted from the comics. Magneto must choose between helping his closest friend or becoming the figurehead of a massive mutant uprising. Touchingly Magneto chooses to save Xavier's life. (Seriously, who could prefer Evo Magneto? This conflicted hero/villain stuff is gold.) More touching are Xavier's bedside farewells. Morph makes an appearance. Trish Tilby gets a cameo. It gets no better, I mean it.

A few notes on TAS-era crossovers. The X-Men appeared for two episodes in Spider-Man:TAS. The story was actually taken from Stan Lee-penned comic strips. (How's that for knowing your roots?) The episodes are a requisite for completists if for no other reason than that Beast received too few spotlight episodes.

The X-Men were supposed to make an appearance in the Secret Wars. An episode was planned with Magneto, but since TAS Magneto wasn't much of a villain, he was replaced with Sinister. The episode was scripted. It involved Spidey getting the symbiote back temporarily (another nod to the comics.) This script is still floating around somewhere. (I think a certain board member has a copy.) Of course, the Spidey crew couldn't afford to ship everybody from Canada to the States, so we got just Storm instead.

Logan, Jean and Scott make a brief cameo in their civvies in FF:TAS "A Nightmare in Green." They don't say anything, but it's a nice nod. Juggernaut gets a hand in there, too.