Wolverine and the X-Men - An early look - VIDEO
by Mike Moody, posted Jan 17th 2009 10:02AM
It took a while, but the X-Men are finally heading back to TV. Nicktoons premieres the third X-Men animated series, Wolverine and The X-Men, on January 23, and I'm happy to report that Brett Ratner's name does not appear on the credits list.
I caught the first few episodes at last summer's San Diego Comic-Con, but I failed to show up at least two days before the screening. The line to get in was unbelievably long, and I ended up in the back of the screening room with a giant pole blocking my view. (The guy in the Rorschach costume sitting next to me was pissed!) Luckily, Nicktoons was nice enough to send me a screener of the first two episodes. Click through for info, clips and some minor spoilers.
The show follows Wolverine as he attempts to regroup and lead the X-Men one year after an attack that apparently killed (or at least displaced) Professor X and Jean Grey. Being a fan of the comics, I didn't really like the idea of putting Wolverine in charge of the team. Of course, Wolvie is the most popular X-Man these days, so that's why he's the focal point here. But this Wolverine isn't the snarling, cigar-chomping animal man I grew up reading about. What we get here is a softer version of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. He stands up straight, fights for what's right, and acts like a (slightly uncomfortable) leader. Surprisingly, it works. Wolvie is likable and tough. A lot of credit should go to Steve Blum, who voices the character.
The show assumes that we know the basics about mutants and the X-Men. (Long exposition and character introductions seem unnecessary at this point, especially after three hit movies.) It does rehash that familiar old storyline: The X-Men are misunderstood heroes, and there's a war brewing between them, evil mutants, and the humans who fear them. But the storytelling is fun and fast-paced, and the scripts are peppered with jokes that pay off for longtime fans (a quick shot of a billboard with Magneto advertising Genosha as a peaceful paradise is particularly hilarious.) This isn't a comedy, but it's pretty funny, and it's thankfully nowhere near as melodramatic as the original animated series. The animation is good, but not as stylized as I'd hoped, and the voice cast is great. The overall scope of the series is quite ambitious, and I'm looking forward to seeing it all play out.
The first episode, "Hindsight," finds Wolverine defending a human family who are locked in a government-run holding facility (shades of Gitmo?) simply for being mutant sympathizers. Wolvie and Beast bust the family out, and mutants Dust and Boom Boom tag along. They decide to reform the X-Men to stop the MRD (Mutant Response Division), who seem like a worse threat than the Brotherhood. I really liked this episode. It's rare that we get to see the human perspective of the mutant war, and the banter between Beast and Wolvie was perfect. I loved watching these two paired up.
Episode two revolves around Beast's and Wolvie's search for the X-Men, and the Brotherhood's assassination attempt on the mutant-hating Senator Kelly. This ep was more action-packed, and it set the stage for the epic storyline to come. Angel, Ice Man and Kitty Pryde get some screen time, and a disheveled Cyclops shows up to deliver an optic blast to Wolverine's face (Finally!). The big twist here is that Rogue seemingly joins the Brotherhood. I don't think that's gonna last too long.
The following eps are a little darker, but the show still manages to keep that fun tone. It balances its lighter and darker elements well, much like Batman: The Animated Series did. Marvel Animation has already given a green light to a second season, so it looks like this one might be around for a while. I'll be watching.
Check out more clips at Marvel's YouTube page.