Looking back at my X-Men: X-Men Evolution Season 1

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Jonathan Hickmans whole revolution of the X-Line has gotten me back into X-Men since, despite it being one of my favorite series, is only one of my favorite series in concept. I love the idea of a half teen drama/half super hero drama and social commentary. The problem is that there were never runs liked enough or current enough for me to latch onto. I’m finally finishing my Brian Michael Bendis grade collection to read that. But that was not my X-Men. Neither were the movies or the 90s show.

No. My X-Men was the 2000s era reboot of the series with an actual Canadian as Wolverine, and Miroku from Inu Yasha voices Cyclops, and new character Spike that everyone forgets exists. That’s right, X-Men Evolution. And thanks to Disney + (one of the two good things it has done. No Mandalorian isn’t one of them. That show sucks) it’s finally available to watch online. All 4 seasons.

This first season is a mostly episodic character episodes in the first half. Those episodes establish the hometown the X-Men live in, Bayville, where they attend the local high school by day, and train to master their mutant powers or find new recruits by night. During the first episodes they encounter new mutants Quake, the Blob, Rouge, Spyke, and Quicksilver. However, unbeknownst to most of the team they must also deal with Mystique, who poses as the Principal of Bayville, and her silent partner Magneto as they try to recruit the mutants for their own goals. The back half of the season focuses on individual skirmishes between the mutants, and building more of Wolverine’s backstory. All of this comes to a head in the two part season finale where Magneto shows his true plans for mutant kind.

The seasons pacing is really interesting in how it relates to the fact the x-men go to a high school and live with Xavier, Ororoa (yeah, this show does the same as the movies and just calls her Storm which is always weird), and Logan in their mansion like it’s a boarding house or something. The clearly delineated lives gives the show more of a classic Marvel feel where the drama is both separated and important because many fights come from high school drama taken too far. For a early 2000s kids action show made pre-Avatar it feels all very character driven when it comes to the fights.

It also feels very Marvel comic in the ways it does overarching drama and pacing. Though each episode has its own plot to it there are arcs and threads that run through all of them. The biggest ones being Wolverine’s history with Sabertooth, Rouge’s loyalties, Kurt and Mystique’s relationship, and the building conflict to Magneto. These all have their moments to shine in episodes and give it light serialized elements, but none too overbearing.

The best examples are Rouge and Wolverine’s plotlines. Each has a few episodes dedicated to them but has that conflict always act as a b-story to another episode with its own mini-arc until it comes to a head in one episode. For Rouge it is her will she-won’t she with joining the X-Men. She has many episodes where she sees them do good but is pulled back until she finds out the truth. Similarly Wolverine constantly battles with Sabertooth for unknown reasons until the Weapon X program is revealed and is taken down in the same episode.

Both arcs, with their slow build and decisive execution make it feel naturally paced. This pace goes for the whole season. Everything feels isolated until it comes together with the two parter finale, just like more classic comics. Mostly one off issues with some stuff in the background, and rare but heavy two part stories.

As great as that is, none of it would mean anything if the characters weren’t great, and they are for the most part. The first thing that stands out is how great both the civilian and team suits are for the X-Men. Sure, the shirt tucked into boxers that are sticking out of the pants is a weird look for the guys, but the girls all have a real nostalgic look that feels very 2000s in the best way. Jean’s crop top and giant cargo pants with flip flops is so much that era that I love it. In addition the team outfits are my favorite versions of those outfits. They all have a solid, unified look but with enough flare to seperste them. I could see it being too much leather if it was live action, but as a cartoon it feels very natural looking. Out of the designs though Wolverine in his orange and black look stands out the best.

But these characters are more than their looks. Each of the main team have distinct personalities that all work well. Scott and Jean feel like very honest portrayal that people know. It helps Jean is actually caring and not held up with all the Phoenix nonsense for once. Nightcrawler is a good comedic relief character. Kitty, a preppy but super smart valley girl feels like the inspiration for or got the inspiration from Brian Michael Bendis and his Ultimate Spider-Man run. Spyke is a brand new character that was never used outside of this and feels very 2000s cool. A skater/thriller seeker with spikes is a good concept and helps bring energy to the group.

Finally, Rouge shouldn’t work. She does, but shouldn’t. She is an amalgamation of the emo movie and southern belle Tv versions. She dresses and looks like a goth, but has a nice southern accent. It’s a strange combination but the portrayal of a cynical goth who also happens to be from Mississippi feels really fresh. She also has the best designs (for obvious reasons).

Where the show does fail is in the animation and sometimes writing. The writing can be very on the nose and written to children teaching lessons in a way that, as an adult, can be groaning to sit through. The animation meanwhile feels very stiff. The use of more realist models for the characters gives their movements a stiffness that more cartoony ones wouldn’t have. This also leads to very bare rooms, or rooms where the space is not well used as a background. It’s more noticeable now as shows are upscaled and makes it harder to watch. Especially some early CGI work and after effects.

In the end, what makes this show feel special is it’s modern mix of using classic X-Men stories and lore to build a new status quo that should not work. The X-Men and Brotherhood going to school, playing nice by day, and fighting at night feels too TV. Too easy, but as the story grows it shows why doing that way works. It allows mutants to exist and show what they can be like in normal society. It gives both team natural rivalry and animosity to build normal high school stories around but taken to a mutant level. In the end it works and has a satisfying ending for one season. However next season may hold something more in store.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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