Review – Wolverine and the X-Men

From Hub_77, March 2009.

I’m almost 31. Some would class people of this age as being grown-up so I probably shouldn’t be watching cartoons in my spare time… Well I am, so nyuh!

As mentioned in a previous review for Hub I am a reader/collector of comic books, be it in “floppy” form (individual issues) or as graphic novels, trade paperbacks and the like. Anyway, the other day whilst scrolling through TV channels to find something that our poor, DIY aerial could manage to pick up, digitally, without the screen breaking into 5-second stuttering mosaic patterns, I managed to stumble across the latest small-screen incarnation of the X-Men: “Wolverine and the X-Men”. To my mind titled because Wolverine, I believe, is one of Marvel’s best selling properties and he’s a member of the X-Men so tagging the show as if “it’s his gang” must surely do well for them. Still, mustn’t grumble, the animation was fairly slick and the screen didn’t break up so I settled down to 20 minutes or so of the goggle-box.

The X-Men mythos goes back to the early 60’s so, in a typical TV style aimed at new audiences, a bit of a rehash of the story is required. Luckily the X-Men movies weren’t that long ago so the animated series (that’s the grown-up way of saying “cartoons”, nowadays) appears to build on that foundation. Don’t know who the X-Men are? Where have you been?? Nah, just kidding! The X-Men are a team of young mutants who have been banded together by Professor Charles Xavier to help quash anti-mutant sentiment and promote peace between humans and mutants as well as learn how to use their powers responsibly. In doing this they occasionally also have to kick ten shades of sushi out of their opposition. In the Marvel Universe a mutant is a person born with super powers which usually awaken and develop during adolescence, as opposed to gaining them because of some incident in their lives, such as being bitten by a radioactive spider or having toxic waste tipped over you. It’s all highly plausible stuff! Some people view mutants as the next step in the evolution process of humans so, naturally, they are feared and loathed by the general public who believe they will, at some point, use their powers to wipe out and replace mankind!

Back to the show at hand, the first story-arc encompasses the initial three episodes which sets the scene for the series. The story begins with a mystery: The X-Mansion is attacked just as Wolverine (mutant healing abilities, has claws, likes beer) is about to leave on one of his walkabouts. When the dust settles, Professor Xavier and Jean Grey (mutant telepaths) are both missing, presumed obliterated in the missile attack. Jump to one year later and Wolverine is travelling America in a style reminiscent of David Carradine in “Kung Fu” when he realises that the world still needs the X-Men! The MRD (Mutant Response Division) are rounding up mutants and mutant sympathisers alike and the US government are trying to push through a “Mutant Registration Act”. Cue a trip back to the ruins of the X-Mansion by Wolverine and the challenge of re-forming the world’s number one mutant superhero team begins.

Action scenes are colourful, pacey and plentiful and the story itself is quite engrossing, especially for one who has already spent a lot of time reading the comic book version of events. It’s quite a mature show, appearing to be aimed at an older audience than the “X-Men: Evolution” cartoon series, and certainly not one for really young children, or that might be me getting over-protective in my, erm, old age. It’s definitely more “CBBC” than “CBeebies”! Wolverine uses his claws a lot but mainly to cut through walls and disarm folk rather than dismember them. Dialogue is nowhere near as cheesy as you would expect from a cartoon of this nature and along with the overall story development helps to show how far comic book/animation writing (especially in the superhero genre) has come in recent years. The animation itself has an interesting stylized look to it that is reminiscent of many comic book artists today and certainly reminded me of the excellent “Batman: The Animated Series” from the early 90’s.

The series was developed for TV by Craig Kyle who, along with Christopher Yost, also has writing credits on some of the episodes. Both have a pedigree on the X-Titles that Marvel produce, they currently co-write the latest incarnation of the “X-Force” title, as well as having plenty of experience writing other animated shows.

It’s worth checking out whether you’ve read the comics, seen the films or not. It’s written well enough to hook ardent fans as well as complete newbies, a fun way to forget yourselves for 22 minutes! I caught it on the CBBC channel… but check your local listings for details, bub.