Previously (SLAM!) on X-Men!
- The X-Men escaped enslavement on Genosha.
- Who is Cable?
- Who is the “Scottish scientist”?
- What has happened to the X-Mansion?
Carrying on with the second half of season one…
The Unstoppable Juggernaut (by Julianne Klemm)
Starting the episode off with quite the overindulgent cleanup scene (the music is very OTT!), Charles Xavier has disappeared mysteriously. While searching for him, the X-Men find metallic giant mutant Colossus, leading to a hero/hero misunderstanding/battle. Colossus effortlessly subduing Wolverine and Jubilee, then being carried off by the police while protesting his innocence, is pretty amusing. The mystery aspect of this episode is akin to the Amazing Friends series. Rogue humorously uses her looks and then her energy-draining power to seduce and knock out a desk sergeant too.
With Colossus presented as a red herring, it’s disappointing that the mystery cause of trouble, Juggernaut, is revealed so readily and without much ceremony. His voice here veers closer to George C. Scott than William Marshall’s grandiose performance in Amazing Friends. I wouldn’t doubt from some of the shots that the storyboard artists and directors were reviewing that episode, as there is some familiarity. A very tonally different episode of the series. Wolverine is actually nice in it!
The Cure (by Mark Edward Edens)
Dr. Gottfried Adler is the person of interest in this episode, a scientist with the ability to reverse mutations. This is of interested to a number of people: millionaire philanthropist Warren Worthington III/Angel; Rogue, who if she forfeited her mutant powers would actually be able to enjoy human touch without hurting anyone; and Cable, the rogue soldier, who’s interested in the scientist’s connection to the devices used on Genosha to power down mutants. Professor X., who is already there on Muir Island, and his friend Moira MacTaggert also seek an audience with him too.
Adler is actually a mutant “himself”, with the real benefactor being Apocalypse (with his famous voice that sounds like a canyon), who doesn’t want to take away mutants’ powers and instead has far more sinister intentions. Hanging around in the background, like a couple of stooges, are Pyro and Avalanche, who just come across as total morons, which is a shame given their heritage and looks and powers. Bad voices and accents. This draws me into a discussion of what you can hear rather than what you can see, because the animation is mostly OK at this point bar errors, but the incidental music shows off a rather limited budget. It certainly doesn’t sound like they had a big orchestra to use, and it’s not a Thundercats situation where the guy with the keyboard is a weird virtuoso.
It’s a generally fine but flawed episode, but it does give us the semi-famous image of Rogue travelling overseas by sitting on the wing of a plane and then unwittingly participating in the William Shatner Twilight Zone moment for a funny bit.
Come the Apocalypse (by Michael Edens)
At the end of the last episode, Angel showed up to be “cured” by Dr. Adler. The moment he’s strapped into the device and the doctor shows “his” true face it makes for uncomfortable viewing, as he knows he’s made a terrible mistake, even including funding it, and is about to be turned into something far worse. Apocalypse revels sadistically in what he is going to turn Angel into, namely Archangel. Totally different appearance, and the fact that the circumstances for his transformation are drastically different make it more horrifying.
Archangel fills the Death role of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen, joined by newly transformed mutants Plague, Pestilence and War. It’s the nineties, so they get neon horses and complexions, although generally look much better than before, except for War, who’s still left with his pudding bowl haircut. Their powers actually are a lot cooler than Archangel’s, who has the better look but is limited to flying and emitting metallic feathers from his wings. He splits from the group and is no longer controlled by Apocalypse by the end of the episode, regretful for what he has done in a far different way to how Rogue was not regretful for not doing what she was going to in the last episode.
Days of Future Past Parts I and II (by Julia Jane Lewald, Robert Skir and Martin Isenberg)
Several classic X-Men stories from the comics have been adapted into movies, but the animated series was doing it first. After the “Previously…” we’re transported to a devastated New York City of 2055, with unfamiliar mutants fighting back at their would-be Sentinel captors, before an aged Wolverine shows up as well as mutant hunter Bishop, presented as a cool biker character with harmonics leitmotif, but a dodgy voice provided by Philip Akin, who is at least better here than he was as Slim in Starcom (very wooden). Wolverine, with the help of scientist Forge, is planning to go back to the nineties to stop the assassination of Sentator Robert Kelly, who was murdered by a mutant, which worsened sentiment towards mutants and led to the world they live in now. Bishop takes his place, but can’t remember which member of the X-Men is responsible for the killing.
When Bishop gets to the past, there’s some funny fish-out-of-water stuff with him, including jumping on a bus with his laser shotgun, quickly followed by everyone else, including the driver, jumping off, before he drives the bus roughly and straight at the X-Mansion. The Punisher gets to make a cameo on the front of a video game cartridge called Assassin to prompt Bishop along too. When he gets apprehended by the X-Men, Cyclops looks too at home playing around with the shotgun and posing to give an amusing insight into his character.
In wanting to hold back some of the mystery, to prompt you to revisit the episodes, I won’t say who the assassin is and what the real story is, but bits of details are revealed as the episode goes on in a fairly steady way. Some villains we’ve met before turn up, as well as the first proper appearance of the Blob, who threatens to squash the X-Men by sitting on them (Jubilee: “Ewwwww! That’s gross!”). Nimrod, he of the dodgy name and pink face, is presented as the next phase of the Sentinels, smaller but more powerful and able to regenerate, floating along in a battle where there’s a bizarre curvature to buildings, which makes it feel oppressive and weird.
There’s also a bleakness to the episode, because regardless of what happens, the world Bishop returns to isn’t that different. Also, for all the effort the X-Men put into stopping something, something bad still happens. It’s also an interesting time capsule with the reference to the New World Order (not Hogan, Hall and Nash!) and the paranoia some had at the time about sinister, clandestine plans to oppress people. I’ve seen the movie version of this story, and while this is the third of the length I think it’s more than three times better. If you’re looking for big events to watch from the series, watch this.
The Final Decision (by Mark Edward Edens)
Senator Robert Kelly has been captured and all clues point towards Magneto. Gee, reminds you of the first movie, doesn’t it? If Kelly isn’t captured, then anti-mutant sentiment will escalate. However, Magneto doesn’t fulfil the total villain role of this episode, with Master Mold and his Sentinels looking to kidnap world leaders like Kelly and replace their brains with computers so he can control them, which seems funny when you think about how he aims to achieve this.
The X-Men get hold of Gyrich, the real main villain of this season, with his plotting to take control using Sentinels as his government-approved soldiers. Trask is along too, but gets to have a redemption moment. I would guess the plan was to have him killed off, but editing seems to save him. A big battle brings the Master Mold plan to an end, with the Sentinels seeming a lot weaker this end of the season than at the beginning. Kelly appears to be closer to being an ally in the end, Beast is freed from prison as his sidelined story seems to have been forgotten and quickly resolved, and Scott proposes to Jean, with their together time observed by the villain of the next season. Watch out for a Ghost Rider Easter egg as well.
Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed watching these episodes again after so long and will be watching on, although I’ll look at some other content before picking up with the next season. It is established fact that the quality of the seasons did dip over time, but they made a strong start to put the X-Men in the popular consciousness and knowing what people liked the most out of this the producers and writers were able to adjust in order to wring the most out of Wolverine and the others. We’ll check out the next season in the near future.