Are you ready for the umpteenth version of the X-Men? Well, if you're a fan you might have already seen this latest Nicktoons version of the classic super group titled Wolverine and the X-Men. One of the best selling comic books of all time (including the single best selling issue of all time, 1991's X-Men #1, which sold over 8 million copies), The X-Men have begun to suffer from the same continuity degradation problems as the Batman and Superman titles. With the constant reinventions every decade, beginning with Giant Sized X-Men #1/X-Men #94 when the original team of five (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast and Angel) were replaced by many now-familiar faces (including Wolverine, Storm, Collossus, Nightcrawler and the lesser known Banshee, Sunfire and Thunderhawk), every television, movie or new comic iteration changes the history and team makeup just a little bit.
This TV version sadly ignores a lot of the comic history and gives us representations of the characters mostly drawn from the movie series. The makeup of the new team is Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Colossus, Storm and Emma Frost. The only X-Man to not come from the movies is Emma Frost, but even she is markedly different from her recent iterations in the comics. My biggest beef is the presentation of Rogue, who, honest to God, has always been one of my favorite characters in comic history -- ever since I was a kid. She's just so layered. Sadly, the series takes the movie franchise's approach to her character, so she lacks the ability to fly and her super strength, abilities which arose at the cost of her sanity when she developed a split personality from absorbing Ms. Marvel's (not to be confused with Jean Grey, aka "Marvel Girl") powers for too long. But that's just a nitpick from a lifelong fan disappointed once again at the portrayal of a favorite.
Conceptually, Wolverine and the X-Men is interesting. The first episode -- the DVD is the first story arc across three episodes -- opens with Wolverine strutting through the campus of Xavier's School for the Gifted only to witness a sudden explosion that robs the team of Professor X and Jean Grey, the group's two telepathic talents. Flash-forward a year and the X-Men have broken up. But as the government begins moving into a fascist extermination and imprisonment of the "mutant menace," Wolverine sees the need to put the team back together. (You know, it's kind of like an animated Blues Brothers.) This leads to a glimpse at a near post-apocalyptic future with giant robots (Sentinels) walking the streets and heavily armed police pulling mutants from their homes.
Sadly, the show is designed more for kids than adults and the dark themes never get explored as deeply as one would like. Yet, at the same time, it is clearly a bit too violent and scary for younger kids. I found myself mostly bored by their approach to the characters, the writing, and the weird cartoonish animation style that puts abnormally large torsos on very thin legs. But it certainly wasn't unwatchable or as painfully awkward as the third X-Men film -- and if it can pick up steam as it moves along, it could develop into something interesting when it finds its footing. I might watch the TV show if I ran across it on cable, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to find it.
This DVD comes with a handful of X-tras (sorry, I couldn't resist), mostly promotional materials from Nickelodeon: A series of 30-second commercials which give us the briefest of introductions to each character; a short introduction to the series which aired in the weeks before its premiere; and two 68-minute commentaries by the creators that cover the duration of the show. The most interesting feature is the five-minute making-of, which is more of an explanation to critical fans of what the series did with character and continuity. It's rare to see a DVD address this kind of criticism directly, so it made for an interesting five minutes.
Overall, it's worth a look if you're a longtime fan, but it is no way to introduce yourself to the glory that is the X-Men if you're relatively uninitiated.
Wolverine and the X-Men is available now from Lionsgate.