TV Review: Wolverine and the X-Men

The hardest part about loving any comic property turned TV show, anime, or movie, is letting go of the comic.  This is especially true in the X-Men’s case, a series with so many characters that cause such extreme loves and hatreds that translating it becomes nearly impossible.  Wolverine and the X-Men has stories and characters that are shadows of the comic series.  At times it seems like Grant Morrison’s New X-Men or Chris Claremont’s two issue Days of Future Past are the inspiration for the series.  The writers purposely ignore the essence of the characters, simply carrying over the look and power of the character, which is more than X-Men 3: The Last Stand did.  Its a complicated series to critique because its 26 episodes vary to such a  degree in quality.  Either way, I will tell you what I know.  I understand now what fans see in this series and why its such a disappointment the second season was never finished.

The voice acting in the series is mostly top notch.  With Steve Blum (Spike from Cowboy Bebop) voicing Wolverine and Nolan North (Drake from Uncharted) voicing Cyclops, people have to bring in their top game and they do.  The largest complaint I have is Magneto occasionally sounds too old because it seems Tom Kane is doing his best to channel Ian McKellen, which contradicts the tall healthy built Magneto we see.   Oftentimes Xavier’s voice from the future sounds younger than Magnetos.  But this is knit picking.  The point is not all the voice acting is top notch, but none of it is outright bad, let alone mood breaking.

The animation is good, miles above the 90’s Fox animated series and a logical advancement from X-Men Evolution, but not as good as the recent anime.  Characters have slightly square features, Sentinels usually stay the same size, and the action has a better sense of space than past series.   Many of the characters look like they’re wearing mascara around their eyes, Nightcrawler being the one hit the hardest, as if the characters never sleep.  Although there is no blood in the series, we are never presented with a situation where Wolverine pulls out his claws threatening to gut someone and then everyone ignores him (like in the 90’s Fox show).  Thankfully most of the costumes are tasteful.  Not every female is voluptuous and spilling out of their suit.  Granted Emma Frost and another character or two might, but nothing extreme.  No gravity defying costumes.

All of the characters are different and all of the situations are different.  There are nuances from the comics here and there.  Magneto running a mutant paradise on Genosha, Jean and the Phoenix Force, Gambit in the Thieves Guild, Sentinel run future, but the similarities do not go beyond the words I just wrote.  The series plays role swap with Wolverine and Cyclops to a degree.  Professor X puts Wolverine in charge and Cyclops is the loose cannon who can’t follow orders.  Wolverine has the wisdom of age and experience and Cyclops is rash, often acting out of emotion.  The biggest change in Wolverine has to be at his Weapon X roots.  Wolverine left Weapon X when he was asked to kill someone.  Yeah, because we all know Wolverine doesn’t kill people (sarcasm).  Gambit isn’t an X-Men or good guy really at all.  Just a thief looking for the next big score with no intention of leaving the Thieves Guild.   Nightcrawler and the Scarlet Witch have a bit of implied sexual tension (I suppose it beats an android).  Sinister eventually makes Archangel instead of Apocalypse.  The Captain Marvel villain Nitro was turned into a mutant who couldn’t control his power and didn’t want to hurt anyone.  Nitro, the guy who killed Captain Marvel with cancer.  The guy who started Marvel’s Civil War by blowing up an elementary school!  Yes, some of it looks familiar.  Yes the costumes and powers are  close to the same, but leave the books behind.  This a new world with new rules.  This isn’t X-Men Evolution where they caught the essence of the characters and put them in altered circumstances.  This isn’t the 90’s Fox animated series that tried to rehash old X-Men story lines with retcon tweaking.  This is an entirely new beast and you don’t know these characters.  That’s what I had to learn before I could love this series.

The story is the hardest part.  When the plot works, its great.  It may not challenge your mind in any social, political, or moral areas, but it is definitely a fun yarn worth hearing.  When the plot doesn’t work its like cutting out your eye with a rusty spoon and then eating it.  Slowly.  The first four episodes of the series are absolutely wretched.  Rogue betrays the X-Men with an evil smile to find out Senator Kelly’s secret location which is…  a press event?  Yup, Rogue went through all the trouble of back stabbing her team and joining the Brotherhood just to find out about Kelly’s press tour.  Don’t even bring up the episode where they go to Africa and we get a scene of Wolverine attacking the rain.  Oh sure there were some small ice shards in it.  They might have stung.  Doesn’t make it look any less silly.  Luckily, from episode 5 and onward the series gets and stays good for the most part as long as you can ignore Wolverine being an infallible character who has in fact shit that doesn’t stink.

Even though the series is called Wolverine and the X-Men, some episodes only feature Wolverine for a few minutes but make no mistake, Wolverine is the top hero this time around.  The series starts as Wolverine is about to leave Xavier’s institute when everyone gets knocked out and the mansion is decimated.  The X-Men wake up to discover Jean Grey and Xavier missing.  Xavier is discovered through the aid of Emma Frost comatose on the isle of Genosha.  Genosha is a mutant safe haven run by Magneto that Senator Kelly is deathly afraid of and trying to assemble an army of Sentinels to go after it.  The X-Men take the comatose professor back to Westchester where Wolverine  discovers he can have psychic conversations with Charles.  The catch is he’s talking to Chuck from the future.  The series takes place as much in the apocalyptic, Sentinel run future as it does in the present.  The series pivots around trying to prevent the future where the female Master Mold robot (who has boobs because robots need those) has taken over and conquered human and mutant kind alike.  Many familiar faces appear in both present and future.  The problem is why do we need to see the struggles in the future?  Winning in the past will fix the future so what is the point of winning in the future?

The future does produce my personal favorite episode: Rover.  Rover is a story about Marrow and her pet Sentinel.  Nothing like the tragic story of the love between a girl and her dog.  Er, if that dog was several stories high, could only say the word “destroy”, and was capable of killing a dozen mutants.  If that doesn’t touch you then I don’t know what will.

The series wrap up story is leaps and bounds over the rest of the season in terms of plot, characters, motivations, and outcomes.  I will say no more because if you like the X-Men and can let go of any preconceptions for the characters you hold, the last dozen or so episodes are great.

To say I’ve been unfair to the series in the past is an understatement.  This is a good series.  I don’t like it as much as the recent X-Men anime but it definitely comes in a close second.  Where the anime beat this one in visuals and having more characters as I knew them, this series certainly spun a more complicated yarn.  With 26 episodes running roughly 20 minutes a piece and being readily available to stream on Netflix, what are you waiting for true believer?  See that?  I ccombined the old 90’s X-Men animated add where it ends with Magneto saying “what are you waiting for” and Stan Lee saying….  nevermind.  Go watch it.

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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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