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REVIEW: X-Men the Animated Series on DVD

X-Men the Animated Series.  When recalling this series certain things automatically spring to mind: the opening credits, the drama, the action, the compelling stories, the mutant cameos, the cliffhangers… and much more I’m sure.  While the series wasn’t perfect, it was definitely one of the better comic book adapted cartoons.

Just so we’re on the same page, this was the series that ran on Fox from 1992-1997 for five seasons with a total of 76 episodes.  In an effort to capitalize on the new Wolverine movie, Disney and Marvel have recently released the first 33 episodes of this series on DVD across two volumes.  Volume I includes the first 16 episodes, while volume II features episodes 17- 33.  The suggested retail price for each volume is $23.99, but you can get them on Amazon for $17.99 each.

Personally, I gave up on X-Men comics several years ago.  I’ll occasionally flip through an issue in the comic shop, but it always fails to grab my interest.  So I was very surprised when these DVDs slapped me across the face with my own love for the classic X-Men characters and stories.  I thought I’d purged my love for everything “X”.  Turns out I just needed the right stimuli.

Fox did a great job adapting these classic Claremont tales. Some of the uncanny storylines covered include: the origin of Magneto, Days of Future Past; Weapon X, Angel’s transformation into Archangel, the Morlocks, Mr. Sinister; and the Dark Phoenix saga.  Nearly every mutant character from that era makes an appearance.  They even managed to make Cable interesting.  The creators definitely deserve props for not reinventing the X-Men for this cartoon. They pulled plots directly from the old comics, instead of trying to “re-imagine” the X-Universe.

I watched several episodes with my nine-year old step-son.  I wasn’t sure what he’d think about this 15 year old cartoon.  Surprisingly he was hooked almost immediately! The characters and the cliffhangers pulled him right in. In fact, he got tired of waiting for me, so he finished the DVDs by himself.

Now you gotta take the good with the bad.  First, the DVDs don’t have any special features.  While I was disappointed initially, the trade-off is the large number of episodes per volume.  Next, the animation in this series has always bothered me.  Many times the art was weak and detracted from the great storytelling.  One example is Beast in the early episodes; it hurts my brain just to look at him.  It should be noted that the animation improved as the series went on.  Finally, the voice acting is very typical of 1990s animation.  The actors and actresses don’t speak naturally and many lines are belted out.  If this series hadn’t been a contemporary of the perfect Batman: The Animated Series, these flaws wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious.

Even though I have some issues with the cartoon, it doesn’t hinder my appreciation for this series.  It truly is one of the best comic book adapted cartoons of all time.  With each volume available for only $18, offering over six hours of classic comic entertainment, you can’t beat this.

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