Hopefully there aren’t people out there eagerly anticipating my reviews for the X-Men animated series because I’m sure taking my time in making these entries. It’s been almost a month since my last entry on the subject, but I’m in no rush. This entry continues on with the next few episodes of season 2, one of the shows strongest seasons it would have. The further into the season the show travels, the more character specific the episodes get. This next one deals with everyone’s favorite Canadian:
Wolverine’s past catches up with him a lot, as it did in the previous episode “Red Dawn,” but here the show gives the viewers its first glimpse into Wolverine’s origin. Early in the episode, Wolverine is set up in the Canadian wilderness into thinking he’s to meet a friend named Heather only to be ambushed by Alpha Flight. Alpha Flight was never a popular comic for Marvel, so to put it simply, Alpha Flight is the Canadian version of the Avengers. We find out Wolverine was once a member and that the team seeks to bring him back. Lead by Vindicator, the team attacks Wolverine only to find him a more than formidable match. Once the word “lab” is mentioned, a flashback is triggered showing us how Wolverine came to possess his adamantium skeleton.
The flashback gives us as much detail as can be permitted on a Saturday morning cartoon. Anyone who read the “Weapon X” one-shot knows that it was originally filled with a brutal and bloody rampage by Wolverine that obviously can’t be depicted here. Wolverine was also naked and feral and here he’s shown a little more aware of what’s going on, though still pretty pissed off. It accomplishes the same goal.
Wolverine is eventually subdued by Alpha Flight (not even Wolverine can take on a whole squad of super heroes) and we find out Department H (the organization behind Alpha Flight) is after Wolverine’s skeleton. We then get introduced to the Heather character, wife of Vindicator (James), and treated to another flashback from when Wolverine came upon the couple after escaping the lab. While the two tag a deer, Wolverine attacks but gets a couple of rounds of tranquilizers (Fox wasn’t going to permit shotguns for obvious reasons) imbedded in his shoulder and as he goes down we get a montage of Wolverine gaining his sanity. We then see him putting on the yellow and blue for the first time and taking the name Wolverine.
Apparently everyone at Department H is still sore about Wolverine’s defection. The rest of the team is well-meaning and was lead to believe Wolverine was going to re-join the team. The man in charge though, Jason, intends to extract his skeleton by any means necessary in order to find out how the procedure could be duplicated. Obviously, this would mean the end for old Wolverine and most everyone comes to their senses and helps Wolverine off the carving station. Vindicator never comes around, but when Wolverine has him pinned and readies a killing blow he relents as a favor to Heather. He closes by letting everyone else know they’re not friends and that he’s never coming back. Hard to blame the guy for being rubbed the wrong way.
Overall, this is an effective way to tell Wolverine’s tale. It also keeps the other X-Men out of the story so that they continue to remain in the dark about what he’s been through in his past. As a result, we don’t see much of the others save for one brief scene and a little snippet of Magneto and Xavier as they escape from the mutate Vertigo. This is also a good Wolverine episode as he’s portrayed in a manner I think most people prefer. That is as a gruff and tough fighter with a couple of good one-liners. This would also be Alpha Flight’s only appearance on the show, which is probably a good thing.
It’s kind of surprising that the creators of the show would give the two biggest fan favorites back to back episodes. I’m of course referring to Wolverine and Gambit, and after getting Wolverine’s back story in the previous episode we’re treated to Gambit’s here. Though I’m not sure treated is the right word.
The episode begins well enough with Gambit getting a cryptic phone call that spooks him so much he accidentally lets Cyclops get wasted in the Danger Room. He informs the team he has to leave because someone is going to kill his brother. Rogue, Jean, and Wolverine end up giving chase and Gambit’s trail leads them down into the Louisiana bayou. Here a battle has been waging for years between the Thieves and Assassins guilds. Apparently, Gambit is a former member of the Thieves Guild and at one time was engaged to the assassin, Bella Donna. Bella Donna trades Gambit’s brother Bobby for Gambit’s hand in marriage, which of course is not what it seems. When Gambit places the wedding band on his finger, he finds that Bella Donna holds some power over it that’s able to subdue him. The members of the X-Men that went after him arrive and tangle with some thieves and we get a cool shot of Wolverine wedging a thief’s head between two claws in a threatening manner.
Unfortunately, from here things get kind of silly. The assassins and thieves pay tribute to some god-like entity by presenting it with a tithe every ten years. This being bestows powers on the guild that honors it in the most appropriate way. Break the covenant, and lose your life. Bella Donna sets up the thieves with a fake tithe and intends to get the thieves exterminated. The X-Men are able to foil the plot when Jean reveals the double cross to the External using her telepathic powers and Bella Donna is stripped of her powers, her life spared at the request of Gambit.
I rarely like it when the X-Men goes too sci-fi with its plots, and this is a case of that. This plot with the being the External, to my knowledge, has no basis in the comic canon and I’m not certain where the idea sprung from. The writers clearly felt the guild wars as they appeared in the comic were too violent for Saturday morning and needed a new plot device, but I think they could have done better. It’s not season two’s worst episode, but it’s in the conversation.
Time Fugitives (Parts 1 and 2)
“Time Fugitives” brings back everyone’s favorite time traveling mutant from season one, Bishop, and also gives us a more comic accurate depiction of the mutant Cable. It’s a two-parter (come to think of it, I don’t think Bishop has any one-shots) where the first part is Cable watching the events of the first episode, and in the second he tries to rectify it.
The basic plot is that Bishop returned to the future following “Days of Future Past” to find it unchanged. The Sentinels were no longer in power, but a mutant plague is affecting the population and killing millions. Forge sends Bishop back to find out its origins and put a stop to it.
In the present, the plague is just starting to show itself and the Friends of Humanity are claiming mutants carry the plague and must be quarantined. The X-Men’s resident chemist Beast, is asked to speak on the subject at a hearing where Graydon Creed intends to infect Beast with the plague, only to get stopped by Bishop. In order to put on a spectacle for the television cameras, Creed infects himself and flees the scene. The X-Men are able to pick up on this while watching a taping of the event, and follow Creed to a hideout where the true cause of the plague is revealed: Apocalypse.
His motives are not entirely clear, but Apocalypse has long sought the destruction of all humankind so a fatal disease is within the realm of plausibility for the character. Creed is disheartened to learn he was duped by a mutant, to which Apocalypse gives us this great quote, “I am as far beyond mutants, as they are beyond you!”
The X-Men destroy his plague, but an angry Apocalypse ends up destroying the X-Men. This causes a temporal storm, which is displayed as a bunch of tornadoes in Cable’s time that will re-write history. Cable possesses some kind of omniscient computer that looks like a piece of quartz that tells him all of this, and episode one ends with him struggling with the notion that in order to save his world, he has to help Apocalypse destroy a past one.
Episode two takes Cable and inserts him into the events of episode one. Initially, it is suggested by his computer that killing Bishop will accomplish his goal, but Cable is reluctant to kill someone he considers a good man. He tries reasoning, but Bishop isn’t buying it, and soon shows up at the hearing where Beast is attacked. Before this, he’s shown going through some files on the X-Men (he notes that he’s familiar with Cyclops and Jean Grey), and has the computer stop on Wolverine for an unannounced reason. At the hearing, he makes a B-line for Wolverine and teleports the two out of there. The same events unfold as the previous episode with the X-Men stumbling upon Apocalypse’s lab. This time Cable and Wolverine show up and Cable allows Wolverine to get infected with the plague virus. Bishop is shown enraged, thinking Cable just killed him, but Wolverine’s healing powers soon cure him. Cable informs Apocalypse that they now have the anti-bodies to cure his plague, frustrated, Apocalypse leaves as the X-Men destroy the lab.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I like that this episode gives us a more comic accurate portrait of Cable. He’s first shown fighting Apocalypse in the distant future, and while in the past it’s revealed the Cable is the son of Cyclops and Jean. The show never explains how Cable came to exist, in this episode or any future ones, but at least it is no longer ignoring the character’s back story like it did in season one. Bishop proves once again to be a fun character, he’s a well-meaning hot head whose a little bit of a screw up. I’m in favor of any episode that works in the Friends of Humanity, and the writers prove once again that they have a good grasp on the Apocalypse character. If I have one complaint, it’s that Apocalypse just kind of gives up and leaves at the end of part 2 with no explanation put forth as to why he wouldn’t simply take out the X-Men as he had in part 1. Regardless, this is another good time travel tale that rivals the first.
A Rogue’s Tale
After taking a bit of a diversion with the “Time Fugitives” two-parter, season 2 returns to the character study format and gives us this episode which details Rogue’s back story. Mystique is seen early on meeting with a shadowed Mr. Sinister who reveals to her Xavier’s absence allowing her an opening to take back her daughter. This leads to a confrontation between the X-Men and Mystique’s New Brotherhood, where a chance encounter with a blond girl sends Rogue into a frenzy.
Tormented by visions of this girl, Rogue goes berserk back at the mansion. The specter claims she took her life and informs Rogue where she can find her and silence her. Rogue soon ends up at a hospital and finds the girl in a coma. No one knows her identity. Mystique is there to torment Rogue further, and at her encouragement, Rogue absorbs her powers and memories triggering a flashback.
In the flashback, we find out how Rogue came to know Mystique. After taking in the runaway, Mystique exploited Rogue’s powers in a confrontation with the heroine Ms. Marvel. The flying and seemingly indestructible Ms. Marvel found herself locked in Rogue’s energy draining grasp. At Mystique’s command, Rogue was ordered not to let go despite her pleas to do otherwise, and the end result left Ms. Marvel in a coma and Rogue with her powers permanently. Ms. Marvel’s persona was also trapped in Rogue’s mind, and seeing that Mystique could not help her, she fled and soon found Charles Xavier who would help seal away Ms. Marvel and put an end to Rogue’s torment.
Now, as a result of Mystique’s mind games, Ms. Marvel’s persona was free and with Mystique’s shape-changing powers now absorbed by Rogue, her persona is able to take full control of body and mind. Jean intervenes, and together the two battle in Rogue’s mind. The viewer is left with a series of conflicted emotions. The heroine Ms. Marvel was only doing her duty when she first encountered a young Rogue, and the fate that befell her was unfortunate and unjust. However, we’ve come to know Rogue to be a hero herself and it’s tough to root against her. Ms. Marvel (revealed to be Carol Danvers), is shown as both angry and sad as she screams at Rogue “You stole my life!” with tears streaming down her face. She wants revenge, and justifiably so, and when Jean’s attempts to calm her spirit prove ineffective, she and Rogue find a way to seal her away once again.
Rogue is understandably torn up, and tells Mystique she’ll never be her daughter again. Despite her villainous ways, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Mystique as Rogue flies off and leaves her behind once more. In the end, Rogue is shown visiting the still comatose Ms. Marvel at the hospital and informs a nurse that her name is Carol Danvers. As Rogue departs, a tiny smile creases the face of Ms. Danvers just before the credits roll on an extremely satisfying episode of X-Men.