TV Review: X-Men Evolution

X-Men Evolution has been a favorite kid’s TV Show of mine for a few years now although I had never seen the last season.  Luckily Netflix has it on streaming so now I can without guilt talk about my likes and dislikes of this series.

In every single instance of X-Men being translated from comics to TV or film, tons of things are significantly changed.  From the made up characters such as Morph to the complete fabrications, the source material never stays anywhere near the same.  So when I tell you X-Men Evolution takes a handful of the X-Men and puts them in high school, any grip is null and void.  Plus when it comes down to it the original five X-Men started as teenagers.

X-Men Evolution features Professor X running a charter house of sorts for mutants while sending them to a high school run by Principle Kelly.  Wolverine, Storm, and eventually Beast are all the charter house teachers.  The first season cast of X-Men high schoolers includes Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, sometimes Rogue, Kitty Pryde, and Spike.  Spike is a character invented for the show.  He’s basically a hybrid between Storm’s nephew from the 90’s cartoon series and Marrow from the comics.  Eventually the cast is expanded to include a huge amount of the various Marvel mutants including Beast, Angel, Danielle Moonstone, David, Sunspot, Cannonball, Boom Boom, Iceman, and many, many others.

The charm of X-Men Evolution comes in the form of seeing the X-Men as kids grapple with life while still developing into who they will eventually be.  From Nightcrawler’s insecurity about his appearance to Jean dating the high school football player to Cyclops’ lack of confidence to Spike’s need for affirmation through competition, everyone has some sort of issues.  This is still a kid’s show so keep in mind its not going to get super dark.  That doesn’t make the feelings these characters experience any less interesting to watch.  Rogue’s personality cycle was probably my personal favorite as she starts out seeing the X-Men as bad people but even when she inevitably joins she still feels out of place.  Add that to her estranged relationship with her mother and step brother while wielding a power she can’t control and it makes for some fantastic character development.

But there is bad.  And most of the bad has the title of Season 1.  At the beginning of Season 2 the series actually starts blatantly ignoring certain story aspects of Season 1.  The best of the series starts near the end of the Season 2 where mutants are finally revealed to the public.  From the public prejudice towards mutants to certain students joining the Morlocks (mutants too deformed to live in normal society) because of it, very little comes off as two dimensional in the later half of the series.  The problem is, Season 1 still introduces the viewer to quite a few characters and who they are.  While any seasoned X-fan will be able to skip Season 1 and probably figure out what’s going on in Season 2, if you don’t read comics you probably should sit through all of Season 1.  There are some good moments in Season 1, its just primarily the various story arcs and villainous plots that bring the first season down.

X-Men Evolution did something that Batman the animated series did too.  They introduced a character in the cartoon that was so popular she became a regular in the comics.  Batman introduced Harley Quinn.  X-Men Evolution introduced X23.  Basically Hydra took Wolverine’s DNA, made some improvements, and made the deadliest little girl in the world.  While she only appears for 2 or 3 episodes in the series, her story is a heart felt one.  And her theme music is some of the better music in the show.

The villains of the series draw from all corners with Magneto and Mystique showing up repeatedly.  From personal vendettas with certain X-Men to a certain mother caring about her children, there are a lot of call backs to the old comic series.  Did I mention Apocalypse is the primary villain for all of Season 4?  And I mean that in the “oh crap we can’t stop this guy from doing what he’s doing” and not the “blast you kids you defeated me this time but I will have my revenge next episode”.  While they do take quite a few liberties with Apocalypse I will mention he is Egyptian in the comics and they use his correct actual name.  Also the four horsemen he picked had me squealing like a little girl.

There is a disconnect at times between the writing, animation, and soundtrack.  Overall the writing is pretty good.  The dialog isn’t always fantastic but the stories and character development are all there.  But a lot of the time it really felt like the writers were big X-Men fans and the animators were just completely out of touch with the X-Men.  On top of that while most of the stills look fairly decent, the animations for the art are sometimes out right bad.  But slack has to be given since this is a series from around 2000.  The animation and art are in my opinion better than the 90’s X-Men show but probably draw the most comparison with Batman the Animated Series.

X-Men Evolution has never gotten the credit its due.  Probably 90% of the characters are treated with reverence and respect.  Heck even the Brotherhood are entertaining characters and I’ve never been able to stand Toad or Avalanche before.  There is bad with it as there is with any TV show but if you like the X-Men, you really can’t go wrong.  The four seasons add up to around 50 episodes total and at 20 minutes a piece, its not as big of time commitment as other TV series or animes  are.  And they’re all on Netflix.  My favorite part about the series will the determent to others.  X-Men Evolution is no particular character’s show.  Everyone gets the spotlight now and again.  All I’m saying is if you’re watching Buffy or Angel for the headlining characters you’re watching it wrong.  Same deal with any good X-Men story.


About MusiM
Musician, writer, Gundam model hobbyist, video game lover, host of The Carousel Podcast, and all with a day job.

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