Publisher: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Disc Format: DVD
Release Date: US: May 4, 2010
This is it, the fifth and final volume of X-Men the animated series that ran from 1992 to 1997 with a total of 76 episodes. This series captured some of the greatest aspects of what a comic book adaptation can be and was one of the most viewed animated series in Saturday morning cartoon history. I’d be lying if I said that nostalgia wasn’t my motivating factor in reviewing this volume, but sometimes the reality doesn’t quite live up to our childhood memories.
Before going on, I’ll just point out that I haven’t reviewed the other volumes, so I’m kind of jumping in in the middle here, and so will be making some general comments about the series along with specifying about this particular volume. That having been said…
Probably the one thing that this series did best was that it stayed true to its source material. In fact, it did it so well that even the big modern day blockbusters could learn a thing or two from it. Not only does it have the characters in their true costumes (and yes, I know that sometimes that has to be changed for live action movies), but it even gets the detail work right. For example, imagine this, Rogue ACTUALLY has a consistent southern accent, and Gambit ACTUALLY has a consistent Cajun accent. Those are the kinds of small but important character details that the multi-million dollar movies couldn’t be bothered with (even the recent Iron Man 2 which was put out by Marvel Studios didn’t bother giving Black Widow her Russian accent).
Beyond staying true to the characters the series also used a wide variety of classic X-Men villains and guest stars, as well as other Marvel characters not from the X-books. In this volume there are guest stars Longshot, Cannonball, Captain America and Red Skull amongst others. This volume also features X-villains such as Omega Red, Mr Sinister, Shadow King and of course Magneto amongst others.
While it would be impossible for a cartoon series to stick exactly to the original comic story lines, this series does cover many of the key ones in its own way. In this fifth volume it covers those such as the Phoenix and the Phalanx and the X-Men’s meeting with Longshot and Mojo.
Another good thing about this volume is that the final episode actually gives the series a conclusion. Too often cartoons (and even live action series) are cancelled and no real sense of having it all wrapped up is ever given to the loyal fans. Here we are given a finale that, while some of the key points in the plot don’t make a lot of sense, make enough sense for a kids cartoon and gives a conclusion that’s satisfying. They even tie in the relationship between Xavier and Magneto, which certainly can’t hurt.
Now we get to the artwork, and unfortunately this is where watching this series doesn’t live up to what I remember. Now, I know there’s only so much that can be done when putting together the artwork for a cartoon, especially without using CGI, but this artwork is just kind of painful to watch. The characters themselves resemble those cheap looking Halloween costumes with the foam padding for muscles. Sure, the cover art for the volume looks really good, but that only serves to highlight just how much lower the quality is for the episodes themselves.
Again, I know that cartoon artwork isn’t going to outdo Leonardo anytime soon, but this series’ art is outdone both by X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men (a cartoon pilot that pre-dated this series but which, really unfortunately wasn’t picked up. Watch it if you haven’t seen it yet) and by X-Men: Evolution. So we have examples of better cartoon art in cartoons both before and after this series was released.
And to make matters worse even the movements in the animation are generally too slow and make the characters seem awkward and uncoordinated, rather than having the kind of smooth, quick combat moves that characters like Wolverine and Captain America are supposed to have.
So, do I recommend picking X-Men volume 5 up? Frankly, I just can’t. Even if you loved this series as a kid, like I did, you’ll probably find that watching this just shows you that it wasn’t as good a show as you remember it being, which is a little sad. And even you’re thinking you want to buy it so you’re kids can watch it, there’s better superhero cartoons out there to get them hooked on.
Overall, this was a series that had the right idea, but executed it the wrong way. Given better art and animation it could have been timeless, but as it is, it’s just good for its time.