The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

‘X-Men 97’ Premier Review

Nostalgia Done Right
Photo from IMDb.
Photo from IMDb.

X-Men The Animated Series was a gargantuan cultural phenomenon that defined superhero cartoons (and children’s serialized storytelling in general) for decades. Marvel’s magnificent mutants became the company’s defining team and changed superhero stories on both the silver screen and home televisions.

More than any other adaptation, X-Men The Animated Series is seen as the definitive version of Marvel’s most popular team. So, when Marvel announced a continuation of the classic series in 2021, many fans were left weary that this would be a nostalgia-driven cash grab that would do little to build upon the original show.

I am happy to report that the first two episodes of X-Men ‘97 are absolutely Astonishing (pun intended) and not only carry on the legacy of the original cartoon but evolve it to entirely new heights. 

Right from the get-go, this show makes it clear that this is not necessarily a trip down memory lane but rather a natural progression of a show that just so happens to be 30 years old. Has the animation changed? Yes. Are some of the voice actors different? Yes. Despite these notable shifts, this feels like such a meaningful and loving continuation of the original show.

It feels so fitting that the premise of this show follows the X-Men trying to carry on Charles Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence in the absence he left at the end of the original show. It feels like a thematic acknowledgment of the weight and meaning this return has as the show also tries to carry the torch that’s flame has been extinguished for 27 years.

This premise is not necessarily new to X-Men as he has died multiple times in the comics and has left the X-Men to carry that vision, but I feel like this show especially brings a weight and levity to it that doesn’t make it feel cliched, cheap, or unearned.

This show is also surprisingly beginner-friendly. As long as you have a basic understanding of who the X-Men are and the ending of the original show, you will mostly be able to understand what is going on. The show does a great job of establishing who these characters are, where they are at in their lives, and the relationships they have with each other.

At the end of the day, the X-Men are always at their best when they are a glorified soap opera with really messy relationships and dynamics between characters, and this show nails it perfectly.

A lot of recent Marvel shows and movies feel like they place drama before the high-flying heroics but these characters and stories are always at their peak when writers use interpersonal drama to ground the narrative and make it feel real despite the bombastic science fantasy action. 

The characters are all exceptionally written, and the first two episodes do an excellent job of balancing such a large cast of characters (extra points for not making Wolverine the center of the universe in this one). In just under an hour of screentime, every member of the team got some form of meaningful development, even if some had a bit more than others. 

I am also incredibly pleased to report that this show avoids some of the largest pitfalls of most X-Men adaptations; Cyclops and Storm are actually great.

Normally both characters are kind of boring and don’t really have much to do beyond looking cool so it makes me incredibly happy that not only are they great here but that they are the standouts of the show.

For once, Cyclops’ stoicism and stick-up-his-butt attitude actually have depth and help to further his character development. So many adaptations portray him as a boring generic, white guy with laser beams for eyeballs but this show presents a multi-faceted version of Scott Summers that makes that stoicism relatable and understandable. They don’t downgrade his character to prop up Wolverine like most stories do.

Storm is also incredible. I have found her character to be very disappointing across all the cartoons and movies as she almost always is kind of just there to float around and shoot lightning. Here, she plays a pivotal role in the story and acts as a wise confidant to Jean Grey. I am so glad to finally see this character get treated with the respect she deserves, especially with how important of a representational role she has played in the wider superhero fandom.

Magneto is also just … well … magnetic. He has a commanding presence in every scene he is in as his unlikely alliance with the X-Men comes with some turmoil that just makes their dynamic all the more entertaining to watch. He also consistently drops some of the hardest bars of all time. When this man starts to monologue, you are in for a mesmerizing sequence. 

The rest of the cast is also great and they all get their moments to shine and I’m sure they will be further explored as the season progresses.

The biggest thing that worried me about seeing a Disney-produced X-Men project was that I didn’t trust them to do the themes and social commentary that are core to this team justice. Recently, they have fumbled at nearly every step with characters like Moonknight, Ms. Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and more so I was fully expecting the themes of social justice to be watered down to appease brain-dead “fans” who somehow never got the memo that a group of mutant outcasts could be commentary on oppressed groups in society.

Thankfully, I was completely wrong. This show absolutely does these themes justice, and they put them at the forefront and center of the story. They even acknowledge Magneto living through the holocaust and incorporate it into one of the best moments of the first two episodes. This show wholly and unapologetically understands what makes the X-Men compelling on a thematic level. If it wasn’t clear before, it definitely is now; if you have a problem with politics in the X-Men, you have a problem with the basic foundational principles of the franchise.

X-Men ‘97 is everything fans could want and more. From great animation to intelligent writing, this show absolutely nails Marvel’s mutant mascots. For years, the X-Men have been overlooked because of Marvel’s other properties, but if these two episodes are anything to go by, the X-Men are finally back, and they are better than ever.

Score: 9/10

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Any comments that are considered racist, sexist, using expletives or slurs, based on factually inaccurate information, or are derogatory in any way will be deleted.
All The Comenian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *