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X-Men: The Animated Series – Volume 4

Marvel Entertainment (September 30, 1995 – May 4, 1996), Buena Vista Home Entertainment (September 15, 2009), 2 discs, 322 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $23.99

Storyboard:

The X-Men return with their fourth volume of stories from the show’s third and fourth seasons.

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The Sweatbox Review:

As X-Men: The Animated Series began to age towards the end of season three, the show slowly started to switch its focus in terms of storylines. While previous seasons had long season-long storylines that focused on many of the most popular X-Men characters and storylines (Storm, Jean-Grey, Wolverine), the show began mining stories in the backgrounds of other characters. In particular, they began to explore the lives and pasts of some of the older X-Men characters. Professor X, in particular, and his past relationships became a prominent theme in the later part of the season, as in season four. Also, after being a main figure in season two, Magneto finally makes a comeback with episodes heavily featuring his character. Of course, the younger X-Men also get their time to shine and there are episodes focusing on Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, and even Jubilee in this set. In the process, we get more of the typical X-Men themes of tolerance, aliens, time-travel, long-lost family members, and atoning for past sins.

Professor X is a very interesting character and he has been featured prominently throughout the entire show, but after a season-long storyline where he was basically trapped in the Savage Land with Magneto while his X-Men carried out their own adventures, he becomes the center hero in many of his own adventures. Volume three already featured episodes that explored his past with Juggernaut and his importance in the One Man’s Worth storyline, and in volume four we get to see more of his past and the extent of his power as he becomes the focus in episodes such as Proteus, Xavier Remembers, and the four part Beyond Good and Evil storyline. In Proteus, Xavier is called to help Moira McTaggert with a patient named Proteus that escapes from her research center. Through flashbacks, we learn that Xavier was once engaged to Moira but that she fell in love with another man while he was off in war. What he doesn’t know is that Moira had a son (Proteus) she kept hidden from the world because of his dangerous and out-of-control powers of molecular manipulation. When Proteus starts hunting for his long-lost father, Xavier must try and calm the young teenager down by using his telepathic powers. The other Xavier-centric story is Xavier Remembers where the Shadow King possesses Charles and traps him in the Astral Plane. It is up to the combined psychic powers of Jean Grey and Xavier to battle the Shadow King and keep him locked away in the Astral Plane. It’s an interesting story because we get to see the first time Xavier met the Shadow King (in Cairo, shortly before taking on his first pupil, Storm).

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One big story involving Xavier in a major way is the four-part Beyond Good and Evil storyline. In this time-travelling story, Apocalypse is the main villain. This is actually a continuation of the One Man’s Worth storyline from the previous set and picks up right as Bishop tries to return to his time after saving Xavier in 1959. In the story, Bishop gets caught in the axis of time when Apocalypse travels through time at the same time. He remains in a state outside of time without a way to go back home. Meanwhile, Apocalypse travels back in time to capture the most powerful psychics in the galaxy to tip the balance of good and evil over to his side. This is where Xavier, and of course Jean-Grey, come in. In Jean-Grey’s case, she is kidnapped by the Nasty Boys soon after her wedding to Scott. Meanwhile, in the 40th century, Cable figures out that the key to Apocalypse’s immortality is a secret chamber in the pyramid where he hibernates. He then develops a plan to go back in time to destroy the pyramid before he is able to use it. Eventually, he meets up with the X-Men and with Bishop’s sister to destroy the chamber and protect Professor X from getting kidnapped. What is cool about this episode is how many characters are involved. It’s fun to spot some famous Marvel heroes with Psychic powers (like Psylocke) in the story and almost all major villains are in on the plan (including Magneto, Sinister, Mystique, and Sabertooth).

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Magneto is the subject of three episodes on this set. In the two-part story, Sanctuary, Magneto announces the existence of Asteroid M and invites all mutants to move to his Utopian colony. Many mutants quickly accept the invitation, but countries around the world are weary of the nuclear warheads contained on the asteroid. Sensing an escalation of the conflict, Xavier takes Beast and Gambit to the asteroid to get assurances from Magneto about his plans. While Magneto assures Xavier that he has no intentions of retaliating against human governments, Fabian Cortez (a mutant from Genosha) takes control of the asteroid by getting rid of Magneto. Blaming the X-Men, Xavier and Beast hastily flee from the asteroid but have to leave Gambit behind. It is then up to the X-Men to take back the asteroid before the bellicose Cortez destroys Earth. This is a fun story (and very popular in the comics) and it is always cool to see Xavier and Magneto face-off. Magneto is a great character and both his strengths and weaknesses are in full display in this episode. The final episode featuring Magneto is Family Ties where we learn more about Magneto’s extended family when he is kidnapped by High Evolutionary, a mutant obsessed with evolution, in a plot that also involves Quicksilver and The Scarlett Witch. In this episode, Magneto is again the victim of another mutant’s ambition and it’s actually interesting that in all episodes Magneto appears on this set (including Beyond Good and Evil), he must fight alongside the X-Men to gain the upper hand.

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The other four episodes on this volume focus more on individual X-Men. We have the X-Men’s only Christmas-themed episode, Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas, where Jubilee celebrates her very first Christmas with the X-Men. It features a villain-free story about Storm, Jubilee, and Wolverine shopping for Christmas presents and helping a sick Morlock. In The Lotus and the Steel, Wolverine quits the X-Men and returns to Japan (where he spent many years) to get some time to think. In the beginning of the episode, we get an interesting recap of Wolverine’s ordeals in the last few episodes during one of his therapy sessions with Xavier. This is when he tells Xavier that he needs to leave for Japan. However, his vacation is interrupted when a mutant Samurai threatens the peaceful village where he is staying as a guest. Rogue finally gets an overdue story in Love In Vain where she reunites with her first boyfriend Cody (the one she put into a coma after her first kiss). However, it turns out that Cody is being used by a group of bug-like aliens called The Family who want to recruit Rogue as their leader. Finally, Secrets, Not Long Buried, features a rare Cyclops-centered adventure where he travels to a small western town and finds it besieged by a militant mutant leader. While Cyclops is frequently the leader in many X-Men missions, to see him carry out his own mission is a treat. He is a powerful mutant and has great leadership skills, even if he is less fun that other characters.

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The fourteen episodes included in this release are divided as followed:

Disc One
49. Proteus (Part 1)
50. Proteus (Part 2)
51. Sanctuary (Part 1)
52. Sanctuary (Part 2)
53. Beyond Good and Evil (Part 1)
54. Beyond Good and Evil (Part 2)
55. Beyond Good and Evil (Part 3)
56. Beyond Good and Evil (Part 4)

Disc Two
57. Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas
58. The Lotus and the Steel
59. Love in Vain
60. Secrets, Not Long Buried
61. Xavier Remembers
62. Family Ties

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Is This Thing Loaded?

There’s not much in the way of special features. The Sneak Peeks section on the first disc includes trailers for Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season, Up, G-Force, Disney’s XD, and Disney Blu-Ray.

Case Study:

This fourth volume is in line with the previous two releases and is being released with a black keepcase with plastic locks. The case is covered by a shiny cardboard box prominently featuring Wolverine and Sabretooth facing off on the front cover. The back cover has a picture of the Silver Samurai. This is probably the first of these covers that does not feature a horribly off-model character, but they usually get Wolverine right. Inside the case is an insert for Disney Blu-Ray films.

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Ink And Paint:

This DVD is being released in its original 1.33:1 television aspect ration. The directors and animators of the show had a unique look that the used and they featured the use of close-ups and zoom in many of the action sequences. Whenever the zoom is used, however, the image can get a little blurry. However, the effect is positive. It’s almost like the comic book is being brought alive before our very eyes. Overall, it is a good quality print with some minor blemishes here and there. There is a play-all feature included in each disc that plays each episode consecutively. Chapter stops are included for Previously-on bumpers, opening credits, commercials, and closing credits. Note that the closing credits feature scenes from upcoming episodes, however given how the episodes were originally broadcast out of order, they do not match the next episodes on this set.

Scratch Tracks:

The tracks here are nice, if not spectacular. The episodes feature English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. The English tracks are much better than the two foreign ones which have a much more muted soundtrack due to dubbing. I love the background music featured on the show and it also features some great sound effects. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.

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Final Cut:

With only fourteen episodes left in the series, I am very happy that we’ve been getting these releases. Disney has put together a great collection for fans of the original show to enjoy for years to come. Sure, they have been sort of lacking in the bonus features department (It would’ve been nice if we could have gotten the Spider-Man/X-Men crossover episodes as a bonus, for example), but it doesn’t affect my feelings about these sets as a whole. The episodes on this set are probably not some of the most memorable (at least to me), but they’re good. Sanctuary and Beyond Good and Evil are great, multi-episode storylines and it’s always fun to see Magneto. Other episodes like Love In Vain and Secrets, Not Long Buried aren’t as great, but they each have something unique to offer fans.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?



MAIN FEATURE
SUPPLEMENTS
VIDEO IMAGE
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OVERALL DVD


 

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