Long before the current Wolverine and the X-Men comic series, there was the TV series by the same name. It ran for 26 episodes in 2009 and although season two was cancelled, people are still asking for its return. How good was the show though?
The show was mostly written and produced by Craig Kyle, Greg Johnson and Chris Yost. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost were partners at Marvel for a while, writing the New X-Men series from issue 21 to its end, they wrote the entire X-Force volume 3 together, they created the character X-23 on X-Men evolution and wrote both of her origin minis. They were also heavily involved with both the Messiah Complex event and the Second Coming event. Since then, they’ve split off to do different things; Craig Kyle was a co-producer for the Thor movie and numerous animated specials, Chris Yost is the current writer of the Scarlett Spider series and has wrote a bunch of minis throughout the Marvel universe.
As for the series itself, it takes place a year after an explosion at the Xavier school. Both Xavier and Jean Grey are missing while the rest of the X-Men split up. Wolverine and Beast meet up to rescue a bunch of wrongfully committed mutants and start the X-Men back up again. Wolverine leads this group of X-Men which includes Beast, Shadowcat, Iceman, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Storm, Forge, Nightcrawler and eventually Rogue and Jean Grey. Their enemies include the Mutant Response Division, The Brotherhood, the Acolytes, the Marauders, Weapon X, The Inner Circle and in several episodes, Mojo.
Magneto is currently in charge of Genosha, and advertising it as a paradise for Mutants. This is where his acolytes reign, as well as where his daughters live. His brotherhood is run by Quicksilver, Magneto’s son.
Additionally, there’s the future portion of the show. Xavier is in a coma that lasts 20 years, and he wakes up to a post-apocalyptic world that is ruled by sentinels. These sentinels are hunting both humans and mutants, and Xavier meets up with a future version of the X-Men to fight the sentinels in the future. The future X-Men team include Bishop, Marrow, Domino, Hellion, Vanisher, Polaris, Kamel and eventually Wolverine and X-23. Through his telepathic powers and cerebro, he can talk to the X-Men from the past as well.
Despite the large cast, the show never feels overly crowded or confusing. When I watched the show for the first time, I was never confused or overwhelmed by the large cast despite being a very new comic reader.
The main plot in the series is that while Xavier’s x-men are fighting the sentinels in the future, Wolverine’s X-Men are fighting to prevent that future. The entire series is a retelling of Days of Future Past and the Dark Phoenix Saga, with numerous famous other X-Men stories retold throughout. For someone who reads the comics, this series is both familiar and unique since these retellings are different enough to feel new. Magneto and his brotherhood and acolytes are trying to both start a war with humans, and win that war. The Mutant Response Division is simply trying to contain what they consider the mutant menace. The Inner Circle is trying to gain control of the ancient power known as the Phoenix Force, which is currently possessing Jean Grey.
Of the three X-Men TV shows that lasted longer than one episode, this one has the highest production value. The animation looks great both in stills and in motion. The voice cast is excellent throughout and the music is fairly strong as well. With the exception of several episodes and two three-parters, every episode is directly tied into the show’s main plot while still managing to have its own story. On the production value side, there is very little to complain about.
As for individual characters, I’m only going to talk about the main X-Men team. Talking about everyone would take way too long.
Wolverine is, for the most part, well done. He is voiced by Steve Blum, who is so experienced with voice acting that if you’re a regular gamer or you watch lots of animated TV, you’ve very likely heard him in something. The only real complaint with Wolverine in this show is he’s almost portrayed as infallible and too awesome. He almost always solves the episode’s problem, whether through his fighting skill or indirectly through his leadership. Still, Wolverine fans will appreciate how he was handled in this TV series.
Cyclops isn’t as well handled. Through most of the series, he’s mourning the loss of Jean Grey, or searching for her while filled completely with rage. While the show is respectful to his skills and how insanely powerful his optic blasts are, he just doesn’t feel like the Cyclops from the comics. Yes, Cyclops loved Jean Grey to the point of obsession, but he still knew when he had to move on after she died in the Dark Phoenix Saga and more recently, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run.
Beast is handled pretty much the same in this series as he was in the 90’s cartoon. While he looks like a beast and is perfectly willing to fight when he has to, he prefers not to resort to violence if possible. He’s also a scientific genius, just like in the comics. Beast is very well handled in this series.
Iceman is mostly used for comic relief in the show, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s a little immature, like he usually is in the comics, but he’s still a perfectly competent X-Men that is very helpful both in the battlefield and at the X-Mansion. He is well handled in this series.
Shadowcat could be considered the voice of reason in this series. Despite her young age, she is often wiser than Wolverine. While she can be harsh with others at times, she still knows when to be kind. While she’s not as easy going as she is in the comics, and definitely not as much of a party animal as in X-Men Evolution, she’s still well handled here.
Emma Frost is the X-Men’s resident telepath in the series. She’s also the least trusted member of the X-Men and for good reason. Like in the comics, she still has ties to the Inner Circle in this series and that leads to several great plot twists in the finale. She also has unreturned feelings for Cyclops, a reference to their current relationship in the comics. She is very well handled in this series.
Nightcrawler spends the first half of the series running his own investigation of Magneto’s Genosha. After he is captured and later escapes, he joins Wolverine’s X-Men. He is probably the kindest and most generous member of the X-Men in this series, which is pretty much the same as his comic counterpart. His religious side is never referred to, but it isn’t dismissed either. He is well handled in this series, although it would have been nice to see a hint of his religious self.
Storm mostly seems to be in this show for her power. With the exception of a few episodes, she rarely says anything. While this isn’t a bad portrayal of her, the other two shows handled her better. There really isn’t anything else to say here.
Rogue starts the show by joining the brotherhood over a disagreement with Wolverine. This show does a great job at exploring her relationship with Wolverine as a father figure, much more so than any of the other TV shows. She re-joins the X-Men after learning the brotherhood’s true intentions, at risk of imprisonment, and eventually reconciles with Wolverine. While the 90’s portrayal is better overall, this show does an excellent job with Rogue.
Forge is, well … mostly just comic relief. I can’t really compare him to the comics because I haven’t really read any comics with Forge, but in this show he’s mostly comic relief.
Besides the misuse or underuse of Cyclops, Storm and Forge, the only real complaint about this show is that one of the episodes is completely out of place. Episode 7, Wolverine vs. The Hulk, has nothing to do with the show’s main plot. It’s basically Wolverine sort of teaming up against the Hulk against Wendigo (kind of like the hulk, but white and hairy). While this episode isn’t necessarily bad, it’s a distraction from the show’s main plot and has nothing to do with any other episode. It’s the only episode that has nothing to do with the rest of the show. Every other episode contributes to the main plot in a minor way at the least.
(Picture unrelated, but awesome anyway)
This show is great. The production value is excellent, the voice acting is top of the line and the story is well told. A random assortment of episodes is available to watch for free on Marvel.com, including episode 1, and trailers for major storylines are also available. The entire series can be bought on DVD in one set – I found it for $20, and it’s worth it if you can find it. As for which X-Men TV show is the best overall, I’ll save that for later.