I don’t know what it is about superhero movies, but it seems like ever since they became successful, it’s been a requirement to create a concurrent cartoon series to go along with it. The cartoon series usually has a similar feel to the movie, though isn’t necessarily in the same universe. As such, after the first X-men movie was released, X-men Evolution wasn’t far behind. I didn’t really get into the series very much. I seem to recall that my dad watched it more often than I did.
I think part of the problem was the large number of changes they made. While I was mostly okay with the changes made in the movie, the idea of having another cartoon and having it vastly different than the previous one didn’t sit as well with me at the time. The idea of nearly all the X-men and the villains being teenagers also wasn’t something I was crazy about. Maybe it’s because I was in college at the time, or maybe because even at the age of 11 when the first cartoon came out, I was sitting around wishing I was 25. I didn’t need young characters to help me relate.
With all that said, if you accept the fact that this is an alternate universe storyline, it’s pretty well done. Most of the characters are similar in spirit to their comic book counterparts, though they occasionally also get attached to goofy stereotypes. Rogue is a goth chick while Kitty acts like a valley girl, for instance. The first season can be a little hard to sit through, as it is basically all about them being in high school and doing silly things like competing at a summer camp with the Brotherhood or being blamed for stealing from people’s lockers. In later seasons however, we get to see more of them being actual heroes.
I did not have the time to watch the entirety of this series run before doing this review. I watched all of season one, but did not get to the rest. If I have more time (and let's be honest, interest) in the future I will return to it and add an additional review.
Wolverine and the X-men
When I first heard about this series, I couldn’t help but groan. No doubt in part to Hugh Jackman’s great performances in the movies, this time period was suffering a severe amount of Wolverine fatigue. He was a member of the Avengers as well as every X-men team in the comics and you just couldn’t get rid of him. The most annoying part of this cartoon series was the fact that Wolverine would be leading the X-men. The whole point of Wolverine is that he is a lone wolf who plays by his own rules. That’s not a born leader type. He’s usually the one telling the leader to stick it where the sun don’t shine – not giving others orders.
The reasons behind Wolverine’s leadership aren’t very strong. At the start of the show Professor X has disappeared, but he makes occasional contact from the future and tells Logan he needs to lead. This is a pretty big insult to both Storm and Cyclops who are former leaders of the team and around in this series but just get pushed aside. With Cyclops they try to explain that he is too grief stricken by Jean’s disappearance, but there’s no good solid excuse for why Storm can’t lead. There was also never a good explanation for why Wolverine has to be the leader from what I remember.
With all that said, I really liked this series. I think it does a good job of balancing the line between creating its own universe and paying tribute to a lot of the classic storylines from the comics, as well as some of the more recent ones. These are mostly grown up mature heroes with mature storylines that are still accessible for children to watch. I felt like it was a more suitable follow up to the 90s series. Apparently not enough people agreed with me, because it only lasted for one season.
This series is still pretty new, but I’ve been catching subtitled episodes online. The first episode starts with a flashback very similar to how Wolverine and the X-men did, but here we know from the beginning that it was the Phoenix that caused an explosion. The X-men are not quite as hated and feared here as they are in most other adaptations, and their very first mission on the show brings them to Japan. It is definitely catered to a Japanese audience, as to be expected. It reminds me a lot of other high technology, gritty style anime.
The main villains are the U-men, and the X-men team is made up of Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine and Beast. It's kind of surprising that they went with such a small team, though they do pick up Emma Frost and a young Japanese girl pretty quickly. I didn't realize at first but the Japanese girl does come from the more recent comics where she is known as Armor.
In episode four they bring up secondary mutation and refer to it as David Haller Syndrome. The idea is that sometimes mutants manifest extra powers, and sometimes this has a chance of making them lose control. It's an interesting concept in that they are pulling elements from the comics and turning them into something completely new. I imagine the series is not made for every X-men fan because of this. I find I am enjoying the series much more as an anime fan than I am as an X-men fan.
Astonishing X-men: Gifted
This one is actually a motion comic rather than a regular cartoon series. If you've never heard of a motion comic, it is where they take the images from existing comic books and animate them while having people read the dialogue from the comic. It's a sort of audio book for comics. The animation is much more stilted than traditional animation. Sort of like the really old cheaply made cartoons where the people wouldn't move half as much as they do now.
This is a motion comic of the first 6 issues of the Astonishing X-men series. It was written by Joss Whedon and therefore contains a lot of his trademark humor and dialogue. You can tell he really does have a lot of love for these characters and knows their history. While I didn't care for the cheap animations, I thought the voice acting was pretty good. It's a decent story, even if the angle of curing mutation has been done before quite a few times. The main issue is that since this is just the first storyline in a continuing series, it doesn't end very neatly. Of course they probably did that on purpose, hoping you would rush off to buy the comics to find out what happens next.
There is also a Wolverine anime, though I haven't seen it yet. Some X-men characters have apparently also appeared in the The Super Hero Squad show. I haven't seen that one either, though I hear it's better than what you might expect for a show targeted toward young kids.
Am I missing any X-men cartoons? Let me know!
Most of next week will be all about X-men video games!