As I mentioned in my last review, there was not supposed to be a season five of this series. In fact, this final season used a different animation studio and in some cases different voice actors, most notably Gambit’s. The coloring is noticeably different, and you can tell it’s more cheaply done. A lot of the details are missing, and Rogue’s face and hair don’t look the same at all.
This fairly short season started off with a two part episode called the Phalanx Covenant. This crossover was happening in the comics right around the same time, but is actually pretty drastically different from the interpretation shown here. It’s all a little too much of a Borg rip off, but on the bright side we get to see Warlock, a character who probably never would have fit into the cartoon universe otherwise.
This was followed by another two part episode featuring Storm and Marvel Comics character Arkon. As is the norm for all Storm episodes, it’s dreadfully boring. Next up is an episode called “The Fifth Horseman” which follows Apocalypse’s attempts to return to earth after being banished at the end of season 4. I will give this episode some credit because of its appearance of Rachel Summers, who even gets to speak one line, but then I’ll immediately take it away because her hair is blonde, her skin is blue, and she creates psychic green boomerangs with her mind. It’s also quite silly in that they act as if Caliban and Jubilee know each other, despite this being Caliban’s first appearance in the cartoon. While I don't mind some off screen continuity, given that we watched Jubilee's introduction to the X-men AND her introduction to the Morlocks in past episodes, it's silly.
The next episode, “Jubilee’s Fairytale Theater,” is something I am sort of fond of but on a very personal level. The plot is that Jubilee is taking kids on a tour of the caves underneath the mansion when they get blocked in. Yes, apparently the X-Mansion has its own Bat Cave. So while they are trapped and waiting for the X-men to rescue them, Jubilee tells the kids a story. It’s essentially a Mary Sue fan fiction with the X-men as the cast being set in medieval times. As I re-watched this episode recently I couldn’t get the smile off my face. Of the stories I wrote in high school, there was one that featured a half elf (Jubilee is elven in the fantasy setting) and the other was another that was an X-men self insert fan fic where Wolverine and Gambit were my best friends (as is also shown here for Jubilee). It’s like someone was reading my mind back in 1996. The story Jubilee tells is meant to be her own personal fantasy, so the only error they make is when all the kids listening love the story so much that they ask to come back again sometime and hear more.
“Old Soldiers” features Wolverine working with Captain America during World War II. The silly part of this episode is that it is supposed to take place before Wolverine gets his claws, which would be fine, but he and Captain America just happen to use these three pronged blades that look exactly like his claws to scale a cliff. So Logan goes “Hey, I like these” and keeps them for the rest of the episode. “Descent” is a Mr. Sinister origin episode, which is pretty good except for the fact that it insists that both Xavier and Jean Grey’s ancestors knew him. Shouldn’t the two of them have known who he was the moment he showed up in the series then? Especially when we see that Professor Xavier owns Sinister's old copy of Origin of the Species at the end of the episode? “Hidden Agendas” introduces Cannonball, and it’s actually a really great story that plays to the various character’s strengths.
A lot of those delayed season three episodes were also aired around this time. Beside the Cyclops one I mentioned in my season three review, there is also "Longshot" which brings the Mojoworld characters into the X-men's universe. "Love in Vain," a Brood episode that also features the return of Cody, Rogue's first kiss. It's interesting because this version of Cody still loves Rogue and wants to be with her. "A Deal with the Devil" is another Omega Red episode, "Xavier Remembers" is a Shadow King origin story (and not a flashback episode like you might expect), and "Secrets, Not Long Buried" is an abysmal Cyclops episode that I hated back then and refuse to re-watch now. It takes Cyclops away from all the X-men and puts him in a town full of unrecognizable mutants who hate humans.
Finally, there is “Graduation Day,” which is a true series finale. Xavier is attacked by Gyrich, who suddenly has black hair rather than the red he had throughout the series. The professor is dying and the only one who can cure him is Lilandra and her Shi’ar technology. Morph comes back and pretends to be Xavier on TV to try to calm mutants everywhere, who are rioting. They are begging Magneto to lead them and dominate over the humans. When Magneto learns of Xavier’s condition, he halts the revolution and goes to aid his friend. Xavier has to leave the X-men, and he gives every one of them a heartfelt goodbye that I’ll admit left me a little misty eyed. It ends with the X-men and Magneto waving goodbye as Xavier leaves on Lilandra’s ship. I like that it allows you to wonder what happens next while still giving you a satisfying end.
At least three X-men cartoon series have followed this one, but I feel like this one is the best and represented the characters in their truest forms. Of course, it's entirely possible that my nostalgia is blinding me. This series is how I fell in love with the X-men, and these characters are what I refer to as my X-men. Someone who read the comics earlier or later may feel very differently.
In the next post I'll be talking about the other animated series that I'm aware of.