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The Great X Men Series Goes Out With A Whimper
on 11 April 2011
The X Men cartoon series is sheer greatness. Filled with exciting action, intense graduation of character, and complex meta-plot issues it is leaps above most other television series. Unfortunately it ends on clearly the lowest note as Season 5 Volume 2 puts in 4 weak episodes and only 1 decent effort. So much of the subtlety is lost here, the action is either missing or forgettable, the animation is terrible, and the plot lines are dull. X Men is unbelievably good but this is not a great volume.
The volume opens with what is the worst episode in the X Men series. Jubilee's Fairytale Feature features Jubilee telling stories of medieval fantasy heroes to children. It has absolutely no action at all and is not set in the X Men universe. It clearly beats Morlock Christmas in season 4 for worst episode.
Old Soldiers pits Wolverine and Captain America against Nazis including Red Skull. It is a below average episode and while Captain America has some good action, Wolverine's doesn't make a huge amount of sense. As this was decades before Weapon X, it seems strange that he acts identically to his older self with even the same dialogue. Not sure how often "Yo" came up in 1940s Canadian slang but apparently Wolverine was ahead of the curve in his use of language. The rage Wolverine feels towards the kidnapped scientist feels utterly forced.
Hidden Agendas is terribly weak. A top secret military black op targets a small town mutant from Kentucky. This black op team are remarkably incompetent and have put in none of the research that earlier shady psuedo-governmental teams have done in X Men. The mutant does not want to leave home and is protected by Rogue. The animation change utterly ruins her look and it is off-putting. The episode isn't helped by the change in voice acting for Gambit. The playfulness of the original is not there in the more gruff acting and while it might have been ok had there been no prior comparison, it has much less charm. The episode itself has no real charm either.
The one good episode on the disc is Descent. Like all of the other episodes on the disc except Old Soldiers it has no real action. However, this one is the origin story of Mister Sinister. With the origin stories of Magneto and Apocalpyse having already been told, it seems only right that the third of the triumverate of legendary X Men villains has his emergence explained. It is an excellent story based in 19th century London featuring Charles Darwin, Jack the Ripper, an ancestor of Charles Xavier, and Sinister himself. Mister Sinister has always been kind of creepy and his setting in the smog of industrial London works a charm. This is the one redeeming feature of 5.2 and while it has very little action and pretty much none of the X Men it is excellent because Mister Sinister is an excellent character.
The conclusion of this magnificent series is a whimper. The bang is fired at Professor Xavier who is fighting another Congressional attempt to legislate mutants away. This feels so much like a re-tread of the early parts of the series and it is weird that Prof X is successfully attacked in such a throwaway manner. The rest of the episode goes on with his life in the balance. It turns out that only Magneto can save the day though he must give up his dreams of world domination to do so. The friendship between Magnus and Charles has long been a rewarding feature of X Men so it is nice that the series ends with this to the fore. It is only a shame that it did not come amid a better collection of stories as this truly remarkable series was utterly amazing for almost all of the duration.