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JC Reviews: X-Men 97 Breathes New Life into Old Classic

by James Coulter

X-Men: The Animated Series. Chances are, you’re hearing the theme song play in your head, even if you never watched the show.

The 90s animated classic was influential in helping bring the X-Men franchise from out of the comic books and into the mainstream. Were it not for its success, not only would there not have been any other animated Marvel series, there arguably wouldn’t have been the 2000 X-Men film, let alone the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

So, now that Disney owns the rights to both Marvel and the X-Men, it only made sense for them to revitalize the brand by creating a revival of the old series, not only to bank on the nostalgia of old fans, but to spark potential interest for new fans. But does X-Men live up to the lofty expectations of the 90s classic? Or is it better off collecting dust on the shelf alongside other aging 90s memorabilia?

The year is 1997. One year has passed since the events in the last episode of the original show. Charles Xavier, the leader of the X-Men, has gone missing, presumed dead after an assassination attempt. Tensions between mutants and non-mutants continue to escalate, spurred on by the criminal activities of the terrorist group, Friends of Humanity.

Cyclops takes on the role as the X-Men’s new leader, as well as juggles his new life as a father-to-be with his wife, Jean Gray, pregnant with their child. Matters become further complicated when Magneto, the X-Men’s main antagonist, and Professor Xavier’s former colleague, reveals himself to be the heir of the X-Men’s headquarters, as per the late Xavier’s last will and testament, thus making him their new leader. How will the X-Men handle this unexpected development? And how will they handle the growing schism between humans and mutants?

As a 90s kid, I remember watching X-Men: The Animated Series when it first aired on Fox Kids. However, I only watched the show passively, and never considered myself a real fan. (I was more into Batman: The Animated Series and the Disney Afternoon shows!) However, even with a passing knowledge of the original show and its characters, and even having only watched a few episodes beforehand, I still found myself enjoying the new show. Not only do I consider it the best Marvel show on Disney Plus since Wandavision, but the best thing Mavel has released since Avengers: Endgame.

As of this review, only four episodes have been released on Disney Plus. Even then, the first two episodes alone manage to tightly pack in plenty of dynamic animation, melodramatic action, and tight-knit plot and continuity that does the old show justice. By the end of the second episode, tensions rise as one old character becomes out of commission and another character is revealed to allegedly not be what they seem.

Old fans will love how faithful X-Men 97 remains to the original show. Each episode begins with a re-orchestrated version of the iconic Wasserman theme song and a recreation of the original opening intro. The animation and art style faithfully emulate that of the original series with some

notable modern upgrades. And not only do some of the original voice actors return to lend their voices to their characters, but producer Larry Huston and writers Eric and Julia Lewald return to help oversee production of the new series.

As for newcomers, they do not need to have seen the old show to enjoy the new one. If anything, X-Men 97 proves equally accommodating to new viewers, who can easily jump straight into the series with fresh eyes and perspectives. As with Jubilee in the original series, a new character, Roberto, serves as the audience surrogate character, helping to acclimate new viewers to the show’s setting and characters.

Overall, X-Men 97 is a fun watch for fans old and new. Old fans will love how faithful the new series remains to the original cartoon, while new fans will be introduced to a fresh take on an old classic. Either way, this show will have you feeling like a kid again watching cartoons on Saturday morning. (Feel free to bring a bowl of sugary cereal!)

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Staff Reporter

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