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‘X-Men ’97’ is a Blast from the Past

Can the new series capture the hearts of new, moderate and veteran fans in a world over-stuffed with superhero content?
%28L-R%29%3A+Jubilee+%28voiced+by+Holly+Chou%29%2C+Morph+%28voiced+by+JP+Karliak%29%2C+Wolverine+%28voiced+by+Cal+Dodd%29%2C+Storm+%28voiced+by+Alison+Sealy-Smith%29%2C+Cyclops+%28voiced+by+Ray+Chase%29%2C+Rogue+%28voiced+by+Lenore+Zann%29%2C+Jean+Grey+%28voiced+by+Jennifer+Hale%29%2C+Gambit+%28voiced+by+AJ+LaCascio%29%2C+Bishop+%28voiced+by+Isaac+Robinson-Smith%29%2C+and+Beast+%28voiced+by+George+Buza%29+in+Marvel+Animations+X-MEN+97.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marvel+Animation.+%C2%A9+2024+MARVEL%29
(L-R): Jubilee (voiced by Holly Chou), Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale), Gambit (voiced by AJ LaCascio), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), and Beast (voiced by George Buza) in Marvel Animation’s X-MEN ’97. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL)

 

The X-Men haven’t been a part of the zeitgeist for quite a while. Despite some cameos in recent MCU films like Professor X in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Beast in “The Marvels,” the X-Men are currently far down the list of popular superheroes.

Yet, it seems that Marvel Studios’ president, Kevin Feige, is trying to change that with the mentioned cameos, the upcoming “Deadpool & Wolverine” and his latest effort, “X-Men ‘97.” The series is a direct continuation of “X-Men: The Animated Series,” and picks up right where it left off in 1997 following the death of Professor X. While many fans were introduced to the group through the 90s cartoon, younger generations are likely more familiar with the characters through the 2000s live-action films.

Can “X-Men ‘97” capture the hearts of new, moderate and veteran fans in a world over-stuffed with superhero content? Based on the first few episodes, everybody will be cheering for more on-screen mutants soon. 

Super-Powered Animation

Front and center is the outstanding animation. It finds a balance between capturing the grainy look of the original 90s series while having the sleek sheen of a modern-day cartoon. The bright colors that defined the show and the time it was initially released are out in full force.

The blue and yellow of Cyclops’ costume with the deep reds and purples of Magneto’s outfit makes the series look like literal eye candy. The animation is also incredibly detailed and choreographed. The action scenes are particularly electric to watch.

It’s an absolute blast watching Rouge punch off Sentinel heads while Gambit super-charges Wolverine’s claws into neon-pink blades of fury. The viewing experience was reminiscent of watching TV as a child, which should be expected of a Saturday morning cartoon revival series. 

Timely As Ever

As for the writing, the show naturally slips back into its world and characters as if 26 years haven’t passed. A highlight of the original show was its ability to be a fun cartoon for children while also addressing mature issues and themes. This is nothing new for the X-Men. From their beginnings in comics, the group, and mutant-kind as a whole, have been an allegory for civil rights activists and oppressed minority groups.

“X-Men ‘97” takes no time showing its embrace of this. In the second episode, a group of violent, anti-mutant protestors attack a courthouse where Magneto is standing trial. This moment feels frighteningly real despite the show’s goofy veneer. In the same episode, an in-labor Jean Grey is denied a hospital room, as a doctor claims they “don’t do mutant births.”  

At a time when certain people would like to complain about movies and television being “unnecessarily political,” it’s great to see “X-Men ‘97” proudly embody its roots. 

The new series easily could have been a constant stream of nostalgia and callbacks to the original show but it is apparent the writers and showrunners want to create something far deeper. While there are occasional mentions of events from the past five seasons that could confuse newcomers, “X-Men ‘97” overall is a great entry point into the wonderful universe of the X-Men. The superhero group is just as valuable now as when Uncanny X-Men #1 was released in 1963.

To see a show that understands this and wants to tell new, smart stories with these characters is an absolute joy. Get ready to settle down in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal for the next seven Wednesdays. You won’t want to miss these mutants saving the world each week! 

 

[email protected]

@grahamcool8

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About the Contributor
Graham Jones
Graham Jones, Assistant Arts Editor
Graham Jones was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to Utah to study film. Despite his passion for cinema, Graham joined the Chronicle to engage with the University of Utah community and pursue his love for journalism. Outside of the student media office, Graham can be found buried deep into the pages of a graphic novel or lip-syncing to the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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