X-Men season 2, Vols.1 & 2 review
The animated adventures of Xavier's mutants continue in this second round of thumping and zapping...
X-Men Season 2, Volume 1
After the success of Season 1 of the X-Men cartoon, a second season was quick to follow. With the meta-arc of the season wrapped up following the defeat of the Sentinels, Season 2 of X-Men begins a new meta-arc in which Professor Xavier and Magneto find themselves stranded and powerless in the dinosaur-infested Savage Land. The X-Men attempt to track them down, getting in the usual cameo-littered scrapes along the way.
Season 2 kicks off with the two-part story Til Death Do Us Part, featuring the marriage of Cyclops and Jean Grey – and their honeymoon, which is interrupted by Mr. Sinister and his gang of mutants, the Nasty Boys. As a two-part season opener, it really works, particularly because it also brings back Morph, a character believed to have been killed at the start of season one, and who would later go on to recur in the series. Particular care is given to Wolverine throughout the story, whose love for Jean and friendship with Morph leaves him in a particular state of turmoil.
Following the 2-parter, the disc is rounded out with a further 4 episodes. Whatever it Takes shows Storm returning to Africa, and we learn a lot about her past, including her time in the employ of the Shadow King and her later stint as the goddess of a tribe, before Professor Xavier recruited her.
Red Dawn (loosely) adapts the first appearance of Omega Red, as Jubilee and Colossus head to Russia to defeat the villain, and are later joined by the rest of the X-Men. An appearance by Darkstar, a member of the Soviet Super-Soldiers, the Winter Guard, begins to indicate how heavily this season will feature guest-stars, as an attempt is made to start expanding and populating the universe of the X-Men.
This trend continues in Repo Man, easily the best episode on the disc, in which Wolverine is tricked into returning to Canada and then accosted by Alpha Flight and Department H. Written by comic industry legend and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, the episode also gives us some insight into how Wolverine received his Adamantium skeleton, and his life immediately after.
X-Ternally Yours puts the focus on the X-Men’s other tortured rebel, Gambit, as his wife Bella Donna comes looking for help. Another close adaptation of a story from the Jim Lee-era of X-Men that the cartoon series is heavily based on, it features the fullest exploration of Gambit’s past that the series would ever do.
The episodes are all presented with a clear picture and sound, a fairly faithful reproduction of the broadcast versions. The animation might not have aged particularly well, but the quality of the stories is enough to carry the episodes. The volume comes with a variety of language options, and some rudimentary menus, but there’s little worth noting about the production. There are no special features on this disc at all
X-Men Season 2, Volume 2
The second disc of the season – available separately – contains the remaining episodes of Season 2. At a total of seven episodes, this is actually one more than the previous volume for the same price, so if you’re looking to maximise the value you get out of the disc, this is the one to go for.
The opening two-parter, Time Fugitives, features Bishop and Cable in a sequel-of-sorts to Season One’s Days of Future Past. The use of time travel is inventive through both episodes, as scenes are repeated with minor changes following the interventions of Cable in the second half of the story. The ending especially is a good one, as the X-Men eventually come up with a brilliantly valid way to keep two seemingly exclusive timelines both in existence.
Following this, the first of three single-part episodes comes in the form of A Rogue’s Tale. After examining the pasts of Gambit, Storm and Wolverine in previous episodes of the season, it’s Rogue’s turn to the backstory treatment as we learn how she ended up on the run, and where her powers came from, as well discovering her villainous past with Mystique before she joined the X-Men. The prominent use of Ms. Marvel should makes this episode particularly interesting to other Marvel fans!
Less interesting is Beauty and the Beast, a fairly dull episode where the Beast falls in love with a blind girl, who has a mutant-hating father. Although Beast makes an entertaining lead and it’s good to see him about after he spent most of season 1 in prison, on the whole it’s fair to say that love-stories aren’t particularly engaging fare for Saturday morning cartoons.
Of course, if Beauty and the Beast was a bit too pedestrian, then Mojovision is the antidote to that, as the X-Men are kidnapped by the extra-dimensional Mojo and forced to star in his TV programs. I’ve never found Longshot interesting in the comics, and so this episode of the cartoon doesn’t particularly do it for me either. The fact is that as a villain, Mojo isn’t really a natural fit for X-Men, and this episode doesn’t ever manage to address those failings – he’s just got no convincing connection to the core X-Men concept.
The disc wraps up the season with the two-part Reunion, finally re-uniting the X-Men with Xavier and Magneto in the Savage Land – and bringing back Sinister. It’s a decent end to the arc, but on the whole, season 2 was a weak turn for the X-Men following their much more focused debut. Although the standalone episodes that explore the backstory of the cast are excellent, the rest are mediocre, leading to an uneven season.
Much like the first disc, X-Men: Season 2, Volume 2 has a variety of European languages on the disc, but does not feature any additional extras aside from some slightly flashy menus. This disc might have one more episode than the previous volume, but the quality of the stories is spotty, leading to a marginally more disappointing instalment overall.
Links: X-Men season 2 Vol 1 and Vol 2.
Check back tomorrow for James’ review of season 3