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Avril Brown Presents:







Hold on to your hair piece and hitch up your hose; the X-Men are back in action!

No, I’m not talking about their latest death-defying adventure in a multi-book crossover; in fact, I’m not talking comics at all. I’m talking cartoons. That’s right boys and girls, the almighty X-Men are returning to television in ‘Wolverine and the X-Men,’ an all-new animated show slated to come out spring of ‘09.

This won’t be the first love affair the X-Men have had with television, and both times the shows were phenomenal successes. The nineties gave us five glorious seasons of ‘X-Men: The Animated Series,’ the birthplace of my comic fandom. The bright and colorful art, the fantastic adventures and the heart-breaking drama captured my imagination, never to release it. I did an English project on the evolution of comics my senior year in high school, and for part of my visual presentation I played the opening sequence to ‘X-Men.’ I wasn’t terribly surprised to see delighted grins on the faces of my classmates, heads bopping to the music, and every single hand in the air when I asked who was familiar with the show.

This superbly drawn cartoon was based on Jim Lee’s wildly popular stint on the X-Men book in the early nineties, and since it was in this form I first fell in love with these characters, Lee’s art and this show will remain the default setting for the mental image I conjure whenever I think about the X-Men; Rogue and Gambit in particular. Many of the story lines used in the show were taken directly from the comics, usually simplified and easier to follow for those not familiar with the comic plots. This is a ground-breaking and infectious show I can’t help but enjoy even now, despite the copious cheese factor in the dialogue.

With the new millennium came four fantastic seasons of ‘X-Men: Evolution,’ a different take on these classic characters. Right on the heels of the first X-Men movie, ‘Evolution’ was designed to bring the younger generation into the world of mutants. With a few exceptions such as Professor Xavier, Storm and Wolverine, the rest of the X-Men are teenagers who attend classes at Bayville High School by day, and train in the Danger Room at the Xavier Institute by night. For the first two seasons, the world at large does not know of the existence of mutants, so these X-Men have to save the day, remain inconspicuous and be back in time for a decent night’s sleep and school tomorrow. As with many shows targeted to a pre-teen and teenage audience there was usually a message with every story, but they don’t overly sugarcoat anything, especially towards the end of the series. In one very memorable episode, a bitter and disturbed Rogue faces her adoptive mother Mystique, who was responsible for Rogue’s latest traumatic event. Mystique had been turned to stone, and despite being told her touch would revitalize the blue shape-shifter, Rogue instead shoves her off a cliff while Kurt, Mystique’s biological son, watches helplessly as she shatters on the rocks below.

As the stories and writing matured throughout the seasons, the art remained as consistently awesome as it did in the first episode. The lines were crisp and clean and the costumes were simple and unifying; more suiting for a team of teenage heroes than the character’s traditional individual looks. Radical changes were made with familiar faces: Rogue and later Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, were both drawn as a Goth girls with pale skin, dark lipstick, chokers and combat boots. Rogue and other characters’ ‘off-duty’ wardrobe expanded over the years, giving the art new life. Even the sound effects were enjoyable, from the trademark ‘snikt’ of Wolverine’s claws to the new sounds created for telepathy and telekinesis.

Though I was grateful the show was given four years to run, I still feel ‘Evolution’ could’ve had a longer life span. I understand quitting while you’re ahead, but this show was such a blast and still had so much it could cover. So I sulked when it was cancelled. Quite honestly, I’m still sulking. But now there is something new to distract me from my sulky slump.

A couple months ago my cousin Keith, fellow comic nerd, passed along the joyous news of a brand new X-Men cartoon in the making. After I finished my wild and wacky happy dance, I watched the trailer. Then I watched it again. I squeezed in another happy dance before two more viewings.

It. Looks. SWEET.

The art is reminiscent of ‘Evolution’s’ style, so naturally I think it looks fabulous. There may be some seriously puffy heads of hair on Storm and Kitty, and Logan’s sideburns look large enough to take over the world; plus I’m not sure what’s going on with Rogue’s triple ponytail and translucent white bangs, but for the most part I really like the overall look. As with ‘Evolution,’ the art looks clean and well-finished making many classic characters instantly recognizable. There were several familiar faces but it was the not-so familiar faces who caught my eye. Sooraya Quadir, also known as Dust, is a recent and semi-mysterious addition to the X-Men roster. Sammy Pare, also known as Fish or Squid-boy, lives on here as he never will again in the books (some characters just aren’t cool enough to warrant a resurrection). Emma Frost, hardly a new character, has her well-known powers of telepathy, but she also has her secondary mutation of diamond skin which only popped up in the books a few years ago.

Initially I was a bit trepidatious about Wolverine leading the X-Men. It seemed like another play to get Marvel’s most popular character even more face time than he already has. I love the mutton-chopped, metal-laced hunk of man meat as much as the next fan girl, but Wolverine in the comics is like Oprah and Suri Cruise’s love child; you just can’t get away. He’s in several X books, he has his own book, he has numerous one shots or mini arcs at any given time and he’s occasionally a fucking Avenger. Where does he find the time? Yet in the TV shows he was just another member of the team. He might have had one or two more stand alone episodes than the other characters, but in all fairness he has been alive a lot longer than most. So naturally my knee-jerk reaction to hearing he is going to be leading the team was one of exasperation and slight annoyance.

The more I watched the trailer, however, the more I really started considering the possibilities. Yes Wolverine has his hairy ass on every team in the Marvel Universe and has more after school projects than James Bond, but it is a rare day that we see Logan actually take point and lead a team. He takes orders from people he respects (the orders he was going to do anyways), or he’ll take off on his own and throw himself onto a live grenade, but he doesn’t often call the shots that will affect the whole team. So it will certainly be interesting to see such a well-known character assume such a little-known role.

A universal sense of humor and kudos to its origins are vital components for any comic book-based animated series. Kids aren’t enough to make the ratings, so a show like this has to appeal to all ages. We get a glimpse of that in the ‘Wolverine and the X-Men,’ trailer when Emma sees Cyclops and comments Wolverine must be more desperate than she thought, which is a shout out to Logan and Scott’s long-standing grudge with one another. The scene continues with Scott asking who she is and Logan grunts out, “Temporary,” showing his contempt at needing the bitchy blonde’s help during a crisis.

Maybe this is an apology for the suck-fest that was X3. Or maybe this really is just another way to get Wolverine even more exposure. Whatever the motivating factor may be, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ appears to be a very pretty pony. I’ve been waiting years for the X-Men to make it back to the boob tube, and just as long as they keep Wolverine’s inspirational speeches to a minimum, it looks like the third time is more than a charm for the cartoon versions of the world’s mightiest mutants.

Avril Brown

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