‘X-Men ’97’ Had a Great First Season read full article at worldnews365.me

Uncanny X-Men #185 is one of those issues that every longtime X-Men nerd knows, like Giant-Size X-Men #1 (the introduction of Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm), or Uncanny X-Men #4 (the debut of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), or The New Mutants #87 (the first appearance of Cable). In Uncanny #185, anti-mutant government stooge Henry Peter Gyrich tries to use a mutant-power neutralizer on Rogue, but accidentally zaps her teammate Storm instead. The neutralizer is totally effective; Storm loses her ability to manipulate weather, seemingly forever.

Subsequent issues follow Storm through an identity crisis as she struggles to redefine herself without her mutant abilities. She endures, and proves herself to be a hero many times over with super powers.

Years pass. Finally, in Uncanny X-Men #226, Storm regains her powers with the help of Forge, the same mutant genius who created the neutralizer that erased her abilities in the first place.

READ MORE: The Best Part About X-Men ’97 Was Magneto’s Hair 

Storm’s journey from mutant to human and back became a huge part of her character, and continues to help define her character to this day. Bookended by two comics titled “Lifedeath,” this subplot took more than three years of comic books to fully resolve, from Uncanny #185 in June of 1984 to Uncanny #226 in October 1987.

On X-Men ’97, that entire story arc — Storm loses her powers, comes to grips with her new reality, and then manages to repair her broken abilities — was condensed into a little more than three weeks of television. Storm got zapped by Forge’s neutralizer at the end of Episode 2, “Mutant Liberation Begins,” and regained her weather manipulation in Episode 6, “Lifedeath – Part 2.” That amounted to just over 90 minutes of total screen time. And big chunks of those episodes had nothing to do with Storm or her journey.

That was really the only issue with what was otherwise an outstanding season of X-Men ’97, which is surely one of the better things produced for television by Marvel Studios. The show did a genuinely impressive job of turning what could have been a cheap exercise in ’90s nostalgia into a celebration of everything great about the X-Men as a concept. Mining stories like “Lifedeath” and countless other X-Men comics, it was equal parts action, adventure, social commentary, melodrama, superhero soap opera, and romance.

The countless thing is not an exaggeration. “Lifedeath” was just one of a slew of Marvel storylines that served as grist for this season of X-Men ’97. Other comics that got crammed into the show’s first ten episodes include “The Trial of Magneto,” (where Magneto is tried by the United Nations for his previous crimes against humanity while he tries to atone for his past sins as the new leader of the X-Men), “Inferno” (in which the X-Men battle a demonic Madelyne Prior and Mr. Sinister) and “Fatal Attractions,” where a Magneto who has once again reverted to villainy yanks Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton out of his body.

Like “Lifedeath,” all of these stories had to be heavily condensed to fit into the parameters of 25 minutes of weekly animated television. “Fatal Attractions” was originally six oversized issues; “Inferno” crossed over into more than 20 Marvel comics, including non-X-men titles like Daredevil and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Distilling literally years of X-Men comics in this way meant X-Men ’97 was paced like a freight train; every episode was jammed with so much stuff that there was never a dull moment. Every week you basically got the X-Men’s greatest hits. That made for an extremely watchable and bingeable show that never dragged — unlike some of Marvel’s recent live-action productions. (Looking at you, Secret Invasion!)

There was a downside to that approach, though. At times, the season’s pacing verged on manic, as it raced from one massive story to another. There was very little time for any of the character developments to breathe in an organic way; massive changes to the status quo were introduced and dismissed in a matter of minutes. What we got wasn’t bad; far from it. But it did seem like it was also filled with missed opportunities.

Take the season’s most interesting character, Magneto. As the show begins, he begrudgingly accepts his old friend Charles Xavier’s dying wish to inherit the X-Men and to lead them according to Xavier’s idealistic principles of peaceful co-existence. A similar story played out in Uncanny X-Men comics during the 1980s, written by Chris Claremont, but over a period of years. Loyal readers watched Magneto weigh his responsibility to Xavier with his own beliefs, which could gradually shift over time under the influence of the X-Men and the young and idealistic New Mutants.

In X-Men ’97, Magneto was only with the X-Men from Episodes 2 to 6, in episodes he also had to share with ongoing subplots like Storm’s loss of powers. (Similarly, Xavier was only “dead” for six weeks before he showed up in the Shi’ar Empire hanging out with his alien girlfriend Lilandra.) By the end of the season, Magneto’s already ditched his purple superhero outfit and returned to the red armor he formerly wore as the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, along with his more militant tactics.

Some of the best X-Men comics are the ones between the massive events, when the team lets their hair down, tries to live normal lives, or just plays some baseball together. While the first episode of X-Men ’97 did honor that tradition by showing the team squaring off in a game of hoops, there were otherwise very few moments where the character’s simple humanity — so important to the central conceit about these all-powerful mutants — shined through. And the season’s big cliffhanger, exciting as it is, doesn’t seem to offer much room for that sort of thing moving forward either.

X-Men ’97 Season 1 was like a glass of orange juice made by someone who squeezed each orange only once before throwing it away. Sure, the drink you’ve made is refreshing. But you’ve left a lot of juice in those oranges. And you’ve used up a ton of oranges, too. If you want to keep making more glasses, you’re going to run out of fruit pretty quickly.

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