X-Men ’97: Season 1 Review


The X-Men Party Like It’s 1997

Magneto: “All the X-Men have done is use their awesome power to protect a world that hates and fears them. Behold their reward. …What must we do to be good enough? Is this the high road’s destination? If so, I say as I have too many times before, never again.

“Mutant Liberation Begins” (Season 1, Episode 2)

X-Men: the Animated Series pioneered Marvel’s TV universe in 1994. The series featured tight characterizations and story arcs that kept kids running home from school to see what happened next. The X-Men hung up their costumes after five seasons. Twenty-seven years later, they’re back for the continuation, X-Men ‘97.

A lot can change after almost three decades. Is X-Men ‘97 exceptional or should we call for an executioner? Let’s find out.

The Good

The Gang’s All Here

Cyclops:To me, my X-Men!

“To Me, My X-Men” (Season 1, Episode 1)

X-Men ‘97 picks up one year after the original series. A year of training has done the team well, but now they must find their way without Professor X.

Cyclops has taken over as the leader. He struggles to balance his responsibility to the team with taking care of his pregnant wife, Phoenix. Second-in-command Storm helps, and Beast acts as a liaison with the team’s government contacts.

Rogue and Gambit have grown complacent after a year without major threats. A new student called Sunspot acts as the audience’s POV, asking all the questions new viewers would have. He quickly falls for Jubilee, who becomes his mentor and confidant.

Fan favorite Morph spent their year powering up. Their shape-shifting has grown stronger, allowing Morph to transform into other heroes and use their powers. The writers sneak in many cameos through Morph before dropping the pretense and having everyone from Doctor Doom to Cloak and Dagger appear.

Benching Wolverine is the wisest choice that ‘97 makes. He was the main character of the first series and the X-Men films. He’s had more than enough time in the limelight. Putting that big galoot on the backburner makes his scenes more special and gives the others room to grow. 

X-Men ’97 Seeks A New Path

Magneto:If I may offer advice, Scott: Be wary. Be vigilant. Tragedy lures with fortune first.”

“Mutant Liberation Begins” (Season 1, Episode 2)

X-Men ‘97 flips the script on the usual X-Men setting. Society is slowly accepting Mutants. The team has connections with government officials instead of being pseudo outlaws. The biggest change comes in the form of their Big Bad.

The first episode reveals that Professor Xavier left everything he owned, including the team, to Magneto. The terrorist was convinced to try aiding Mutants as a hero and takes command of the X-Men. 

The new position tests Magneto. He reluctantly restrains his rage at Mutant suffering and searches for less violent ways to end battles. The X-Men chafe at their foe being in charge, but reluctantly accept it because of their faith in the Professor.

The X-Men grow darker under their new leader. They’re more willing to call out ungrateful humans, quarrel with each other, and become more violent. Even the main characters aren’t safe.

Zero Tolerance

The Villain:Bully an underdog too long and people start to feel sorry for it, like when our village idiot Gyrich made a martyr of Xavier and… tolerance. But really, guilt, So I hand humanity Genosha. Overload their bandwidth. Too much to compute. Because when your skin’s not in the game, apathy is your answer.

“Tolerance is Extinction Part One” (Season 1, Episode 8)

Humanity is slowly warming to Mutants in X-Men ‘97, but there are many who hate them. Bigoted and fearful, they think that tolerance is another word for extinction. Even an army of X-Men will struggle against their hatred.

Well-armed bigots are the X-Men’s bread and butter. They mostly rely on numbers, but a terrorist group called The Friends of Humanity wield stolen anti-Mutant weaponry. Their leader is The X-Cutioner, a crusader who has studied The X-Men’s weaknesses.

The U.S. government ended the Sentinel program, but many of the giant Mutant-hunting robots still exist. They have energy cannons and several weapons designed to nullify superpowers. Standard Sentinels are dangerous enough, but deadlier variants are introduced throughout the season.

The X-Men have more foes beyond bigots and bots. They face the hellish illusions of The Goblin Queen, deadly videogames from interdimensional media mogul Mojo, and a demonic owl spirit called The Adversary.

The Bad

Generational Gap in X-Men ’97

Magneto: I won’t deny my passion for you. As with Gambit, loving you makes broken men whole, so that even as you deny us, our heartache is not in vain.”

“Remember It” (Season 1, Episode 5)

Romantic drama has always been at the heart of The X-Men. The franchise has often resembled a soap opera with more punching and less outlandish costumes. Unfortunately, X-Men ‘97 introduces a pairing most soaps would turn up their nose at.

Shortly into Magneto’s takeover, he and Rogue rekindle their romance. Viewers learn that he had taken her in while she was part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Rogue fell in love with his passion and idealistic plans for Mutantkind. After discovering that her energy draining powers didn’t work on him, Rogue and Magneto escalated to a physical relationship. They broke up when she left the Brotherhood and never spoke of it again.

Magneto is in his sixties, having been a child during the Holocaust. Rogue’s powers activated when she was around 17 years old and she’s in her twenties in ‘97. That’s a fortyish year age gap between the lovers.

Rogue and Magneto’s romance is icky. Leaving aside that he’s old enough to be her grandfather, there is a major power imbalance because of Magneto taking a mentor role and being the only person that she can safely touch. Rogue is also cheating on her boyfriend Gambit, who suspects the affair.

Days of Our Lives wishes it was this tacky.

Disordered Minds

[Wolverine is watching coverage of Magneto’s trial]
Jean Grey: [clutching her stomach] “LOGAN! He… he’s here!
Wolverine: [enters a battle stance] “Who? Apocalypse?!
Wolverine:…Oh, crap.”

“Mutant Liberation Begins” (Season 1, Episode 2)

X-Men ‘97 is a dense show that juggles an ensemble of fourteen characters, a supporting cast, cameos, villains, and a partridge in a pear tree. Five hours is not a lot of time for them all.

Many episodes feature two plots to fit everything in. Even when stories match their tone or fit together, one can make the other drag. That’s ignoring jarring plot differences, like Storm and Forge’s vision quest being interrupted by Professor Xavier navigating imperial courtship on an alien planet.

Part of the problem is X-Men ‘97’s attempt to speedrun too many storylines. The show rushes through Inferno, Lifedeath, Fall of the Mutants, Operation: Zero Tolerance, and Fatal Attractions faster than Quicksilver. The adaptations are good, but don’t take enough time to savor the stories they’re telling.

The Verdict

X-Men ‘97 hit the ground sprinting. The characters, stories, and conflicts have grown up with viewers who watched X-Men: the Animated Series. The soap opera pairing is skeevy, and the writers should slow the pacing, but X-Men ‘97 is worth your time. It is streaming on Disney+ and the second season is in production.

Want some extra X-Men content? We’ve ranked the Top 5 Episodes of the original series.

Image: (L-R): Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Jubilee (voiced by Holly Chou), Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase), Roberto Da Costa (voiced by Gui Agustini), Nightcrawler (voiced by Adrian Hough), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), and Morph (voiced by JP Karliak) in Marvel Animation’s X-MEN ’97. Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL.

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