It came as a surprise, reading this Newsarama review of the first episodes, to discover that the US is getting Wolverine and the X-Men a few weeks after it has started airing over here in the UK. I’m so used to most programmes starting over there and us having to play catch-up, I can’t cope with the reverse, especially on something that is specifically American. We have already had the first three episodes laying the groundwork for the series, and we even had two episodes in a row last weekend (not a two-parter, just two distinct episodes).
I wasn’t going to talk about it too much, while I waited for it to settle down; however, the double header included an episode that was so awful in its execution that I couldn’t contain myself.
The set-up for the series is that an attack on the Xavier institute, specifically hitting telepaths, has removed Charles Xavier and Jean Grey from the current events. Xavier is brought back but he is astral projecting himself from twenty years in the future, telling Wolverine that the X-Men must reform and Wolverine must lead them to prevent the terrible future from occurring. So, they have to reform the X-Men, while Senator Kelly tries to control mutants (a Mutant Response Division has been set up, arresting wayward mutants).
The writers pilfer from throughout X-Men history but in inconsistent ways – they have a Brotherhood of Mutants, but with Quicksilver (in green costume) and Domino (with a very weird cleavage shadow that defies physics by looking equally odd whichever way she stands); Magneto is ruler of Genosha; Emma Frost is present, including the secondary mutation of the diamond form.
An aside for special mention of Frost. Firstly, the actress who voices her is an American doing an English accent but who has been told that English people say the word ‘telepath’ with a long ‘a’ rather than a short ‘a’ – it’s really annoying and makes her sound stupid. Secondly, she shares the same bizarre boob cleavage issue as Domino, which makes her breasts look surreal (as far as then can look real in 2-D animation). Thirdly, the costume: they’ve gone with the basque top outfit for what is a cartoon aimed at kids and it looks so out of place. There are some shots where it looks like she is going to fall out of the costume; it’s inappropriate and distracting and they should have tried something else.
If there is one problem with the show, it’s that they’ve turned Wolverine into a whiny, self-absorbed old man, which is really depressing to watch. They are trying hard to mature him for the leader position but they have their work cut out because the character doesn’t fit into the role. But there are other problems. Gambit is present in one episode, complete with the original costume from when he was first introduced and that incredibly stupid Cajun accent (and they can’t even get it right, having call a woman ‘cher’ rather than the correct ‘cherie’). When they have Wolverine in costume, they have him pop his claws at any opportunity, even if he is running from one place to another – why would he do that? Surely it’s easier to run without six blades coming out of your arms?
But the worst episode is the reintroduction of Storm. Stepping away from the overall plot line, which mixes in the mutant paranoia, Senator Kelly, Sentinels and Days of Future Past with the cartoon’s original story, we have Xavier come back from the future (that’s handy) to warn about Storm destroying the ecology of the world. So they pop over to Africa (all of the continent, not a specific country), where Storm is living life she led back in Giant-Size X-Men – as a goddess helping the poor people of Africa. The wonderfully naïve view of what Africa is actually like aside, it also ignores the problems of Storm affecting the weather of a continent in such a cavalier manner.
The villain of the piece is The Shadow King, harking back to old-school Chris Claremont stories, even going so far as to having a young Storm as a thief for Farouk in a flashback. He invades Storm’s mind and makes her believe that Africa is burning (they never specifically mention where exactly she is, but it’s only Africa, right?) and she brings thunderstorms to put them out, which are sufficiently large to cause flooding almost immediately (the entire continent of Africa, remember). Actually, there seems to be a reservoir nearby that gets flooded: why would they need Storm if they’ve got all this water?
The X-Men turn up to save the day (with the hilariously stupid sight of seeing Wolverine protecting himself from shards of ice with his claws) and Emma Frost fights the Shadow King on the astral plane – although the astral laws of physics are apparently the same as reality because Emma and Farouk keep falling on the ground when they fight, which is just lacking in imagination. The whole fight is rather lame – the astral battle is severely limited by the poor creativity of the animators, which is inexcusable. This episode is really rather awful – it feels completely out of place next to the rest of the series and does nothing to help the overall plot line of the show. It’s clunky and limp and a bit embarrassing; I hope the rest of the series improves after this.