Marvel Entertainment (September 10, 1994 – September 23, 1995), Buena Vista Home Entertainment (September 15, 2009), 2 discs, 345 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $23.99
The X-Men return with their third volume of stories from the show’s third and fourth seasons.
The Sweatbox Review:
While the relationship between Disney and Marvel has never been a secret (Disney purchased television and video rights to some of their animated properties years ago), the announcement that Disney was purchasing Marvel surprised many people in the industry. Fans of Disney were undoubtedly puzzled by the connection, while fans of Marvel were most likely worried about what would happen to their beloved characters. Since then, the furor has died down and I think many people have come to realize that there is more to be gained for both parties than there is to be lost. After all, DC Comics and Warner Bros. have enjoyed a fruitful relationship now for over a decade with a great creative resurgence on the animated front. I’m looking forward to what is in store for some of my favorite Marvel characters. I just hope that with new-found interest in Marvel properties available for distribution, Disney decides to release some of their best animated cartoons on DVD.
X-Men: The Animated Series has steadily been released on DVD by Disney for the past year. While there have been minor themed releases here and there, this is the first time fans of the show have been able to collect all episodes of the show on DVD. With their latest batch, Disney has now released more than half of the show’s entire run with more releases (hopefully) to follow. X-Men:TAS was a great show and it features some of my favorite Marvel characters. The episodes contained in this release have some of the best types of comic book stories. There are stories about strange, far-off places, visitors from outer-space, origin stories, time travel stories, and good-old revenge stories.
The two main stories on the first disc deal with the X-Men women and their great powers. In the two part Savage Land, Strange Heart storyline, Storm is kidnapped to the Savage Land where Sauron manipulates her into using her powers of destruction. It all starts when the reptilian mutant Sauron escapes the Savage Land as his human alter-ego and heads for New York City. There, he spots Storm riding a horse in Central Park and proceeds to take her with him to the Savage Land. Back in the Savage Land, Storm is hypnotized and her powers of destruction are unleashed upon the land, waking up the ancient entity called Gorakk in the process. Gorakk feeds off of her destructive powers and it is up to the X-Men (who have followed Sauron to the Savage Land) to stop Storm, Sauron, and Gorakk before it’s too late. I’m not a big fan of the Savage Land storylines, or Sauron for that matter, but I’m always up for a good Storm story. She is the heart of the X-Men team, and one can ever underestimate her true powers of destruction. In many ways, she is actually one of the most powerful X-Men.
The second storyline dealing with X-Men’s most powerful women is the four-part Dark Phoenix Saga. This is a sequel to The Phoenix Saga and it starts with Jean-Grey still suffering from the psychological repercussions of the Phoenix entity still within her. After a full psychological analysis, everyone agrees that Jean-Grey will have to move on with her life while attempting to control the Phoenix entity within her. When she returns to the mansion, Scott has a hard time accepting the new emotions that Jean-Grey is feeling. When Jean sees another woman kissing Scott, she flips and a mutant organization known as The Inner Circle is able to control her mind through vivid hallucinations. These visions ultimately unleash Phoenix and even the Inner Circle can’t control her as she craves new emotions and experiences. When Phoenix leaves Earth (as Jean-Grey) and destroys an entire star system, she crosses a line and the Shi’ar Empire takes notice. The fourth episode deals with the final judgment as Jean-Grey must atone for Phoenix’s sins. At the same time, her fellow X-Men must deal with their conflicted feelings regarding the real Jean-Grey and her Phoenix entity. Overall, this storyline is not as strong as the original Phoenix Saga, but it gets better after the Inner Circle is out of the picture and we deal solely with Phoenix and the punishment she must endure for her crimes. It’s compelling and there are some deep emotional issues that are dealt with during the four-part story.
A second set of stories on this DVD set deal with the origin of different X-Men and mutants. In this volume, we see the backstories for Cyclops, Juggernaut, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine. In Orphan’s End, Corsair (a member of the Starjammers) once again returns to Earth. This time, he is being pursued by the Shi’ar authorities for kidnapping a woman. This is an interesting story because it also explores Cyclops’ past and his mysterious connection to Corsair. In another episode, The Juggernaut Returns, we get to see the how Juggernaut developed and grew to hate his younger brother Charles. It’s an interesting look into a villain’s making and it is told almost entirely through flashbacks. Nightcrawler, explores the story of the mutant Nightcrawler and how the X-Men first meet him. While a fan favorite in the comics, Nightcrawler gets very little screen time in this original series (although he would be a regular in the follow-up X-Men: Evolution). In this story, Wolverine, Rogue, and Gambit are on vacation in the Alps when they hear strange tales of a demon terrorizing a nearby town. When they arrive at the town, they take refuge in a monastery where they meet the intriguing, spiritual mutant. Finally, the last episode to deal with origin stories is Weapon X, Lies, and Video Tape. In this episode, a postcard triggers headaches and strange memories in Wolverine. He then heads out to the middle of the Canadian Rockies and finds the Weapon X lab where he got implanted with adamantium bones. There, he meets up with fellow Weapon X subjects Sabretooth, Maverick, and Silver Fox and together they find out that many of their memories were implanted while others were destroyed for a secret government program.
One of my favorite storylines in this two-disc set is One Man’s Worth (Parts 1 and 2), a time-travelling story featuring Bishop, Shard, Wolverine, and Storm as they travel to 1959 to stop the assassination of a young Charles Xavier. In the first episode, we see an explosion that alters time, causing an alternate reality where Storm and Wolverine (who are lovers) are fighting against humans in a civil war with Magneto as the mutants’ leader. Bishop and Shard then show up and explain to them that they must travel back in time to prevent Charles’ assassination. He explains that without Charles there would never be harmony between humans and mutants and that in the real world Storm and Wolverine exist helping Charles preserve peace. Back in 1959, they barely make it in time and an explosion still happens. When they return to the future, they find that Mastermold has taken control of the world and they must return once again to 1959 and prevent the explosion from taking place. What makes this story interesting (aside from seeing Storm sporting a Mohawk) is the inner battle within Storm and Wolverine as they realize that they must give up a world where they are in-love and married for another one where they are merely colleagues fighting for peace. It makes for great melodrama and it shows us fans what could have been between these two fan favorites.
It would not be the X-Men without individual episodes dealing with minor characters and their relationship with the X-Men. There were so many mutants that came and went from the X-Men team that it is always fun for fans of the comics to see some of their favorite secondary characters making appearances on the show. Many of these episodes deal with the theme of revenge. One such fan-favorite is Archangel who makes another appearance in Obsession (after being one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen in a previous story). In this story, Archangel becomes obsessed with destroying Apocalypse and his search leads him to a sentient Shi’ar vessel that may hold the secret to capturing the immortal mutant. In Cold Comfort, we see Bobby ‘Iceman’ Drake desperately trying to find the love of his life, Lorna Dane, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Eventually, Drake’s quest leads him to discover a secret government facility where we are introduced to the X-Factor team. It’s a fun episode, especially because we get to see many comic book favorites such as Havok and Quicksilver. The last episode on this set, Courage, deals with Morph. After a long season two storyline where he was manipulated by Mr. Sinister into being a villain, Morph undergoes psychological treatment on Muir Island. In this episode, Morph returns to the X-Men and must now battle an old foe as Mastermold and his Sentinels make a surprising return. It is then up to Morph to overcome his fears and face Mastermold and the rest of the Sentinels.
The fifteen episodes included in this release are divided as followed:
34. Savage Land, Strange Heart (Part 1)
35. Savage Land, Strange Heart (Part 2)
37. The Dark Phoenix (Part 1)
38. The Dark Phoenix (Part 2)
39. The Dark Phoenix (Part 3)
40. The Dark Phoenix (Part 4)
41. Cold Comfort
42. Orphan’s End
43. The Juggernaut Returns
45. Weapon X, Lies, and Video Tape
46. One Man’s Worth (Part 1)
47. One Man’s Worth (Part 2)
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.
This third 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 emblazoned with some of the main X-Men characters. The front cover features a collection of characters (some horribly off-model) while the back features Phoenix. There is a metallic sheen on Phoenix and the lighting Storm is controlling on the front cover, giving a cool look to the box. Inside the case is an insert for Disney Blu-Ray films.
Ink And Paint:
This DVD is being released in its original 1.33:1 television aspect ration. The animation has some errors here and there (sometimes the wrong character’s mouths move to the dialogue), but it is also as colorful as a comic book would be. 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.
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.
While not its best season (that would be Season Two), this release does feature some great episodes. I was always baffled as to why Nightcrawler was not included in the original team, so to finally get his episode is always a nice addition. The Dark Phoenix Saga is not nearly as intense and interesting as original Phoenix Saga, but it is still a great series of episodes that center on the main characters of the show. In fact, I can’t think of one episode on the disc that is uninteresting. Certainly some are better than others, but none are stinkers. Overall, I think this is a good set and I look forward to getting the rest of the episodes released by Disney.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?