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Review: ‘X-Men ’97’ Premiere Is A Valiant Return to Form for Marvel

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The X-Men are back! I’ve waited so long to say those words and mean them, and boy, I mean them with every bit of my soul. A double episode premiere of X-Men ‘97 has landed on Disney+ and surely transported everyone back to the Saturday morning feeling of gathering around the television to see what happened “Previously on X-Men!” I couldn’t be more overjoyed to hear that iconic theme song, ushering in the most formidable team of mutants known to Marvel fans worldwide.

[Warning: Slight spoilers for the first two episodes of X-Men ’97 are below!]

The new but old style of animation in X-Men ‘97 looks superb

Let’s get right into it, the animation in this series is incredible. I’ve always been a champion of animation, and seeing the elevation of effort from this creative team is nothing short of mind-blowing. I had difficulty focusing on the dialogue (not a bad thing!) because the scenes are an explosion of color, something the original series always had as a major strength.

How they managed to pull this off should be turned into a double-semester college course in animation excellence. Also, no one can forget that incredible opening credits scene, a hallmark of nostalgia for those lucky enough to grow up with it on Saturday mornings. Before I fired up the episodes, I ran out to grab an iced coffee to mirror the cereal bowl rituals from days of old.

(L-R): Beast (voiced by George Buza), Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Gambit (voiced by AJ LoCascio), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) in Marvel Animation's X-MEN '97.
(L-R): Beast (voiced by George Buza), Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Gambit (voiced by AJ LoCascio), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) in X-MEN ’97 (Disney+/Marvel)

I appreciate that they didn’t abandon the signature looks of its predecessor and rather built upon it, by no means an easy task but, one that should be applauded. It’s been a couple of decades since the show went off-air, but its mark on animation history left a huge impression. I’m so pleased to see that they not only acknowledge it but amplify it to give us another monumental series that will be unforgettable and beg for repeated watches.

The action is so refreshing that I simply do not know how to process it internally. This is the fast-hitting, combo-dealing, mighty power of Mutants we have longed to see. The sheer chaos on display from Storm, when she decimates a squadron of Sentinels, reminds us vividly that she is indeed an Omega-level Mutant.

Cyclops using his powers to slow his descent from a crashed X-Wing was not only clever but alluring to my aged eyes. Magneto’s entrance to rescue a group of mutants does the same feat but in a more terrifying manner, displaying his disregard for humankind, albeit restrained from his usual cruelty.

Voice work from Storm, Magneto, and Cyclops is incredible

I’ll be frank, when I originally watched the series all those years ago, I was abroad, so I listened to it in Latin American Spanish dubs. It wasn’t until they uploaded the show to Disney+ that I was able to finally hear all the episodes in English. So I don’t have any attachment to the original actors, but after the first episode, I completely understand why they worked hard to get the cast back. It’s hard to highlight just one performance, since I can’t think of a single one that didn’t deliver. 

X-Men '97
(L-R): Magneto (voiced by Matthew Waterson) and Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) in X-MEN ’97. (Marvel)

Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith), Magneto (Matthew Waterson), and Cyclops (Ray Chase) were easily my favorites of the bunch. The deliveries from these overly-talented voice actors are award-worthy. Sometimes things can only be well conveyed in certain mediums, and I had about half a dozen moments where Storm or Magneto had my jaw dragging across the floor for a while. All three commanded several scenes with seriousness that perfectly paralleled the message they were working to get across, finding harmony with humans.

The loss of Professor Charles Xavier (Ross Marquand) is deeply understood by not only Cyclops but Magneto as well, especially towards the end of the second episode when he gives a chilly monologue to the UN Council. 

X-Men ’97 premiere episodes set up an exciting first season

The trailer for X-Men ‘97’s first season intrigued everyone when Magneto appeared and claimed that Charles Xavier’s last will left everything to him, including control of the X-Men team. As a constant enemy of the X-Men, this was one heck of a twist! It’s a difficult thing for Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men to comprehend, let alone accept, but the trust they have in Xavier’s judgment is rightly put to the test. 

It was an even bigger surprise that Magneto willingly went with the UN Council and did not harm any of the humans that had arrived to arrest him. Once again, Xavier made a risky but calculated move that paid off in dividends by the end of the second episode. It’s hard to ignore the massive hole left by his absence, but Cyclops capitalizes on his role as team leader to guide the X-Men through this new era. 

Then there’s the stinger at the end of the second episode, where a second Jean Summers (Jennifer Hale) appears at the doorstep of the mansion! Jean had just given birth to Nathan Summers with the help of Rogue (Lenore Zann), Wolverine (Cal Dodd), and her husband Scott, so to say this was confusing is a vast understatement.

Between Magneto being in charge, a new addition to the X-Men with Roberta da Costa/Sunspot (Gui Agustini), Storm losing her powers, and a second Jean Summers, it’s going to be one hectic season for the world’s most beloved Mutants.

(L-R): Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale) and Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith) in Marvel Animation’s X-MEN ’97

If you haven’t watched the original series, don’t feel obligated to rewatch it before you start X-Men ‘97. The story doesn’t rely on prior knowledge to get things going, and they don’t hammer you over the head with references. Within 10 minutes of the first episode, you’ll be up to speed on what has transpired for the X-Men after the lengthy wait for their return.

If anything, a rewatch of X-Men: The Animated Series will only enhance the experience and give you an extra sense of gratitude that this is a faithful revival/continuation that deploys every emotion and attempts to bring the magic back to a beloved series. I’m still in awe of the achievements of this new series and I’m debating ruining my sleep cycles to see the new episodes as they are released weekly.

X-Men ‘97 can be streamed on Disney+ with the first two episodes already released! Are you a fan of the original series? Will you be watching it with the rest of the world weekly? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or join our official Discord server to discuss the episodes as they hit the internet!

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

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