Producers: Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Entertainment
Review by: John Gustafson
When news broke that a fourth animated X-Men show would return to the airwaves, inspired and influenced by the current characters in the comics, it was difficult not to get a little excited. Then it was announced that Wolverine would be leading the X-Men.
Naturally, the comic book community cried foul and made their argument against the direction well known – so much so that writers Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle took it upon themselves to address the fan fears and explain their reasons for the unthinkable. The new series would have an overarching story that would define the tone and character progression as the seasons went along, differentiating itself from the previous cartoons. As Wolverine and the X-Men begins, the X-Men are sneak-attacked by an explosion preceded by a psychic attack on Professor X and Jean Grey. After the explosion, the X-Mansion is destroyed, the X-Men are down, and Professor X and Jean have disappeared without a single trace pointing to their whereabouts, kidnappers, or if they were killed. As a result, the X-Men disband and go on their separate ways. As Wolverine is going about his typical loner business, he experiences first-hand the newest attempt to register and contain mutants by an independent contractor.
Wolverine wants to get the former members together to deal with this issue, but knows he is not fit to lead the team, so he attempts to get Cyclops on the job once again. No such luck. Cyclops is sad and upset over the loss of Jean – all the more true because of his serious drinking beard. At the end of the third episode, a future message from Professor X tells the X-Men to get together as a team, and Wolverine must lead them for there to be any hope of changing the course of a terrible future.
If that all sounds like a lot, it is. In just three episodes, many story developments are made to create what could be a very exciting season (for anyone that has yet to watch the program on Nicktoons). Yet, because there is so much setup, the first three episodes have a rushed and disjointed feel to them, as the pacing is off and some developments are left dangling for future treatments. To the credit of the show, though, when the story is working it is exciting and quite entertaining. It is best to think of this first disc and episodes as a preface of what to expect. And the foreshadowing of what is to come looks mature and well-executed.
For the artwork and animation, anyone familiar with the previous cartoon, X-Men Evolution, will recognize this as a progression and refinement of that style. The X-Men retain, for the most part, their current comic book costumes, with a few liberties taken. The animation itself is very fluid and dynamic. The characters look great in motion as well as when standing still or as talking heads. One complaint, however, is the feet of every male character wearing shoes – talk about cankles!
Bonus features are of particular note. The audio commentary tracks provided by Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle are informative and do a great deal to explain the decisions made, as well as the thought process behind the scenes. There is also a great ten-minute video with members of the crew, ranging from Johnson and Kyle to the producers and voice actors. It is a fun little bit of reassuring the fans that the guys working on the show know the tremendous chance they are taking with this series and feel it will all pay off.
Overall, Wolverine and the X-Men is worth a purchase if not for its $10 price tag then more for the quality delivered through animation and story setup. Yes, the initial three episodes could have used some better pacing, but the trade-off is the fans get a more mature X-Men cartoon that is willing to take chances and go out on a limb while respecting the prior quality that has come before it, as well as the comic book source material.
For more info, www.nick.com