X-Men '97 Review

X-Men ’97 is Off To An X-Cellent Start With Its First Three Episodes

This Marvel revival strikes the sweet spot between nostalgic and modern television sensibilities.

Revivals of television shows are extremely difficult to pull off. They have to capture the specificity of what made their original series work yet modernize and introduce the material to new audiences. Somehow, the creative team behind X-Men ‘97 has succeeded with such skill that you’d believe they too were super-powered mutants. X-Men ‘97 is an adrenaline shot of bright and impactful superhero storytelling, jolting your brain full of ’90s nostalgia but not without contemporary flair.

The original X-Men: The Animated Series ran from 1992-1996 and was ambitious for a children’s show. It tackled both episodic and serialized storytelling, featured a great voice cast that would come to influence future interpretations of their characters, and didn’t shy away from addressing its source material’s themes of confronting prejudice. However, like any show, it suffered from technological and budgetary constraints. In the decades since, kid’s cartoons have evolved greatly; examples include shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, which feature thoughtful storylines and drama without sacrificing their childlike sensibility. 

(L-R): Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Beast (voiced by George Buza), Jubilee (voiced by Holly Chou), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Gambit (voiced by AJ LoCascio), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale), and Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) in Marvel Animation’s X-MEN ’97. Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL.

Revived by Marvel Studios Animation and backed by a passionate team led by showrunner Beau DeMayo (who was recently fired from the project), X-Men ‘97 breaks free of its previous iteration’s restraints with adamantium-clawed efficiency. Taking place soon after the original series finale – Professor X is at death’s door following an anti-mutant assassination attempt – the series looks to the future and asks what happens next. Within that answer, those waiting to find out will be surprised and excited at how the series has upgraded.

The animation purposefully harkens back to the original series’ 2D style but is much more expressive and fluid, especially in action sequences. Whether showing team leader Cyclops (Ray Chase) using his optic blasts to quickly move around the battlefield or Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) using her weather powers to decimate Sentinals, the approach to the animation showcases each hero at their coolest. Also harkening back to the original series is the decision to use many of the same voice actors to either reprise their roles or voice new characters. This decision adds to the nostalgic feeling of X-Men ‘97 – almost as if someone simply found lost episodes of the original series, dusted them off, and pressed play. 

Advertisements

(L-R): Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale) and Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) in Marvel Animation’s X-MEN ’97. Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL.

Thus doesn’t mean the series isn’t slingshotting toward more modern storytelling sensibilities. In this respect, X-Men ‘97s portrayal the injustice towards mutants, and thus many marginalized groups, feels more parallel with modern events, adding a more mature edge to the series. The series also focuses on the complex interpersonal dynamics between team members, which helps make the characters feel more defined outside of action sequences. Despite being a continuation, the series does a great job serving as an introduction to the X-Men universe so that no viewer should feel left out, whether new or returning.  

As Marvel Studios slowly prepares to debut X-Men in its live-action cinematic universe, the first three episodes of X-Men ‘97 is a perfect launching point. It succeeds in catching you up to speed and reminds you why the X-Men are not only cool characters but timely and inspirational figures for our times.

The first three episodes of X-Men ‘97 are now streaming exclusive on Disney+.



Comments

Advertisement



Advertisement


Advertisement