Monday, August 6, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men: Evolution

X-Men: Evolution is an animated cartoon series that ran on the Kids WB! for four seasons starting in 2000. It was on the air for 52 episodes total.
The X-Men: Evolution cast of characters started small but grew quite large over the course of four seasons.
This series started in a pretty slow and formulaic way - every episode, a new mutant was introduced that was recruited by both Charles and Mystique (as an agent of Magneto). In season one, the X-Men consisted of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Wolverine, Rogue, and Storm. Most of the X-Men are high school students and much of the action happens in and around the high school such as a food fight with the Blob or Avalanche vandalizing the lockers.

Spyke is a new character developed for the show with the ability to project, well, spikes, from his body. I was a bit disappointed because they never really seemed to develop him as a character or do much with him. Because he's an African American he's simply used to make the team more diverse. It's a real shame they didn't develop the character further and take the opportunity to add to the X-Men mythos in a meaningful way.

Fortunately, the show quickly develops beyond its simple beginnings. Long term storylines develop and... well, evolve over not only the course of a storyarc or a season but the entire show. Magneto is a primary villain but a host of other threats including Apocaypse, the Brotherhood, and the Acolytes playing major roles. Throughout the season dozens of mutants are introduced including the New Mutants. The show does a great job of balancing such a large cast and giving each character moments in the limelight. X-Men fans will be very pleased to see characters such as Magma and Sunspot make reoccurring appearances.

This show was certainly not afraid to shake up the status quo. In the course of the show, the X-Mansion is blown up, the X-Men are publicly revealed, and characters shift allegiances throughout the show. This keeps the show's situations genuinely interesting, knowing that that status quo simply isn't going to be restored at the end of the episode. Like all good X-Men shows, the struggles are usually portrayed not as being between good and evil but simply between competing philosophies.

The art and animation also improve as the seasons progress. Shots often have six or more characters in them but the animation doesn't suffer because of the large cast. Action sequences are presented as smooth and easy to follow. Faces of characters easily convey emotion. "Special effects" and the use of CGI and nearly flawlessly integrated into the show.

Voice acting is fairly good. Some of the characters that should have accents such as Storm and Rogue really don't while others, such as Nightcrawler, maintained their distinctive speech patterns. They got Wolverine right which is always a good thing.

If the show has one major flaw it is that it constantly fights the "been there, done that" feeling. After the highly successful 1992 series covered so much ground, it sometimes felt like this show went a different way only because it had to create it's own identity.

Surprisingly, this show succeeds admirably at that massive task. X-Men Evolution delivers one huge, epic story that sees all of the disparate storylines introduced over four season come together in the final episode.

1LR REVIEW - 17 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

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