Depending on where you begin counting, Wolverine and the X-Men is the fourth or fifth time Marvel’s flagship superhero group have come to small-screen animated life. It gets ugly because the X-gang has made countless guest appearances in other Marvel properties but the important thing to remember is that it would end up being the final X-Men animated series produced by the late Boyd Kirkland.
Further complicating the show’s identity is its closeness to the X-Men franchise that preceded it; X-Men: Evolution (which was actually done by the same creative team). Evolution took the X-Men to a decidedly high-school slant in effort to compete with some of the other teen-targeted superhero programs of the era; Teen Titans and Batman Beyond to mention a few. Evolution ran from 2000-2003, spanning four seasons in the process and Wolverine and the X-Men came on the scene five years later (beginning in September of 2008 and running until November of 2009).
The premise of Wolverine and the X-Men works off the adult-versions of the beloved characters and centers on a sudden explosion at the Xavier Institute. Initially perceived among the X-Men to be an attack by an unknown assailant, targeted at telepaths, (particularly Professor Charles Xavier and Jean Grey) who consequently go missing in the immediate aftermath. The resulting trauma causes the X-Men to disband and go their separate ways.
A year after the incident, an organization known as the Mutant Response Division (MRD) is formed for detainment and registration of mutants and begins capturing mutants around the nation. This course of action spurs Wolverine and Beast to rally and attempt to bring the defunct X-Men team back together once more to fight for mutant-freedoms. Hence the title of the series is justified and our dear socially withdrawn Logan finds himself dropped into a leadership position.
Perhaps most unique to this series is the idea that the comatose Xavier in the present is able to make psychic connection to his own self some 20-years in the future. Essentially creating parallel story threads, the X-Men would be totally lost if not for the older Xavier’s guidance. When hope of using Cerebro to locate the missing mutants seems lost, the ever-charming Emma Frost arrives to offer her telepathic assistance to make the arduous task of tracking down the scattered members a bit more manageable.
In all merely 26-episodes (comprising) one season were made of the show despite receiving impressive viewer numbers and critical acclaim. Some argued that the story thread itself couldn’t possibly endure for too long as it relied upon a serial format heavily driven by a need for resolve. However, the true cancellation of the property is credited to financial difficulties behind the scenes.
In my opinion, the show is pretty strong, especially considering that it was only given a single season to accomplish some pretty lofty ambitions. The characters are at least portrayed accurately enough to really make the viewer wonder what could have been done if, like Evolution, they had four seasons to work with.
The voice work is pretty darn spectacular, especially if you’re fan of the movie trilogy’s cast (Tom Kane’s rendition of Magneto could have Ian McKellen wondering if he recorded for the show himself).
Sadly, it’s unlikely this particular telling the storied franchise’s many incarnations will stand out over the years as the definitive animated series, it can’t be faulted for its casuals (which are quite crisp and true to form) or the science fiction style story thread which, quite frankly, is more impressive than any of the live action movie plots to date.
The biggest complaint by far will be the singular storyline, which feels like it should have been a multi-parter story arc amidst a larger series rather than the entire series itself. However, since the show belongs to Lionsgate rather than Buena Vista like some of the other Marvel releases, a full series box set has been released for an MSRP not much higher than individual volume releases. Keeping that in mind, diving into Wolverine and the X-Men is certainly worth the price of admission and quite a solid piece of storytelling to boot.
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