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X-MEN '97

I Disney+ I March 20, 2024 I

Starring:  Jennifer Hale, Ray Chase, Lenore Zann, Cal Dodd, George Buza, JP Karliak

 

Created By: Beau DeMayo

Marvel Animation’s “X-Men’97” revisits the iconic era of the 1990s as The X-Men, a band of mutants who use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them, are challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.  

FIRST LOOK: EPISODES 1-3 // By Darren Zakus

RATING 4 out of 5

X-Men ‘97 is a glorious return of the beloved animated series that maintains the style, heart and entertainment of the original series, but evolves the story and explores themes ingrained in the DNA of the X-Men comics that promises an exciting return of the mutants to the small screen!

 

Sitting down to watch the first three episodes of X-Men ‘97 immediately transported me back to Saturday mornings in my childhood when I used to watch X-Men: The Animated Series and its many reruns. Instantly, a rush of nostalgia washes over you as you see the mutants once again on your screen in their two dimensional animated form, and while the new Disney+ series is very much a sequel to the original series and maintains the style and design of it, much like the fans of the original series who are eagerly awaiting its return, the series too has grown up. It is more mature in tone with how it plays with the themes at the heart of the story and challenges the ideas present by the showrunners, creating a captivating first three episode run that lays the groundwork for what appears to be an incredible season of television while maintaining the entertainment value and widely accessible feel that made the original a hit.


At the core of the X-Men comics have always been themes of acceptance, family and persecution, and that is not lost in the writing of X-Men ‘97. Picking up not long after the events of the original series, we follow the X-Men after the death of Charles Xavier as they try to move forward as a team in a world where there is still extreme hostility towards mutants. If you have not watched the original series, or forgotten most of it like myself as you haven’t watched it in almost three decades, you will pick up easily on what you need to know and will have no issue following the plot of this new series. There is no question that the series is still accessible and will be enjoyable to younger viewers looking for a superhero cartoon to watch, but it is evident that the storytelling has matured much like the fans of the original series, which is only an asset to the series. While told through a comic book storyline with different villains and instigating forces, the themes of acceptance, persecution and family take centre stage in the storytelling. Whether it be the hunting of the mutants by the Friends of Humanity, the involvement of the United Nations and the hesitancy towards mutants by them, or the new characters that are introduced that are being set up to join this iteration of the X-Men, the writers dig deep and highlight the roots of the X-Men comics and what made this superhero team a fan favourite.

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At the same time, the series does a wonderful job of showcasing all the members of the team in a matter of three episodes. Characters like Cyclops and Gambit, who were treated as supporting characters in the live action films, are given their due with meaty roles that capture the humour of these beloved characters as well as their internal struggles, reminding viewers why they fell in love with these characters while watching the original series. If the remaining seven episodes of this season continue with the same quality writing we experienced in the first three, fans are in for one massive treat. And that is before the teased appearances of other Marvel characters that will no doubt have fans abuzz!

 

Visually speaking, the animation is stunning. It maintains the style of the 1990s two dimensional animation style with a clarity and crispness with modern advances in animation, delivering a spectacular looking series. The iconic X-Men: The Animated Series theme song is back with The Newton Brothers stepping in as composers for the series, who are the perfect choice for the job. Not only do they add their own flair to the iconic theme song, their rock-electronic musical score complements the emotional themes of each episode and brings the excitement to the action sequences, ensuring that the audience is fully engaged throughout each episode. For the most part, the original series’ voice cast returns either in their original role or in a new role if the actor’s voice had changed too much over the past three decades. There is not a single weak voice performance, nor would you realize that some roles have been recast as the new voice actors do such a good job of becoming the characters and continuing the iteration of them started thirty years ago. All in all, while it’s almost thirty years later from when X-Men: The Animated Series concluded its initial run, it feels like no time has passed at all.


It may be the childhood nostalgia talking, but X-Men ‘97 is easily one of the best Marvel television series in recent memory along with What If…?, quashing any fan complaints of superhero fatigue within minutes of the first episode. Not only does X-Men ‘97 capture everything that has made X-Men: The Animated Series a fan favourite series since its debut back in 1992, the sequel series evolves to deliver a richer and more rewarding experience that is sure to delight fans of all ages. From gorgeous animation, a rocking soundtrack that never shies away from using the iconic theme song of the original series, and powerful writing that captures the essence of the X-Men comics and the team’s social importance at every turn, the first three episodes of X-Men ‘97 are not only brilliant but lay the groundwork for another hit Marvel series!

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