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Marvel X-Men Volumes 1 and 2 (1992-1994)

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
DVDs Released: 4/28/2009

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/29/2009

Ask anyone who knows me (especially my wife) and they will tell you that I'm lazy. Personally, I think that "lazy" is a harsh term -- I'm industrious, I simply can't stomach the thought of extraneous labor...especially by me. Therefore, whenever I see a movie or TV show which is based on another medium, such as a comic book, novel, or video game, I always wonder why the writers will put so much work into changing things when the original stories had worked just fine in the first place. The X-Men TV series which debuted in 1992 is one of the few projects to buck that trend, as the powers that be behind the show realized that the X-Men comics weren't popular by accident and that it may be a wise idea to follow their formula.

X-Men tells the story of the individuals who inhabit Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. They are all mutants -- people who possess powers and traits which make them different from ordinary humans. In this world, mutants are outcasts and are seen by many as being dangerous. Charles Xavier (voiced by Cedric Smith), a powerful telepath, built the school so that mutants could have a safe-haven in order to learn to control their powers. His "pupils" also form the super-hero team X-Men, who have sworn to protect mankind -- although they are hated and feared by humans. The X-Men include; Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), a rage-filled Canadian who has razor sharp claws and heightened senses; Cyclops (voiced by Norm Spencer), who can shoot force-beams from his eyes; Jean Grey (voiced by Catherine Disher), a telekinetic; Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), who can control the weather; Gambit (voiced by Chris Potter), a Cajun who can turn any object's potential energy into explosive kinetic energy; Beast (voiced by George Buza), a scientific genius who is a gifted acrobat and is covered in blue fur; Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), who can absorb the powers of others; and Jubilee (voiced by Alyson Court), who can shoot powerful fireworks from her hands. The series follows the group as they meet other mutants, both friend and foe, and attempt to keep the world safe from evil.

X-Men isn't the best animated series ever, but it's a perfect example of how to create a series based on a comic book. Again, the creators here took the easy way out and simply transposed all of the popular stories and ideas from the comic books and placed them in the show. Sure, there have been some changes here and there, and some things have been simplified in order to avoid telling a long back-story, but for what was original a Saturday morning show on Fox Kids, X-Men is very faithful to the source material. For the most part, the characters maintain all of their familiar traits, from Wolverine's rage to Cyclops' stoic nature to Gambit's apathy. Some plot-lines, such as "The Phoenix Saga" are taken directly from the comics with little changes. Other episodes consist of original stories, but the characters and settings, such as the island of Genosha, the Sentinels, or Senator Kelly are taken directly from storylines which were popular in the late 80s or early 90s. In another smart move, the makers of the show have decided to litter it with cameo appearances by many familiar faces from the pages of X-Men. Simply look at all of the mutants wandering Genosha!

The choice to stick to the X-Men comics, which have long history of intricate storylines, results in a show which is more complex, and if you will, mature than most Saturday-morning outings. The show doesn't shy away from things like the romance between Jean and Cyclops, Wolverine's jealousy over this relationship, Storm's crippling claustrophobia, and of course, Wolverine's identity crisis, his rage, and his need to work alone. Yes, things are often dummied down and sometimes the show is just plain silly, but for the most part, we get complicated characters whose problems run deeper than the fact that they have to fight a giant robot. The struggle for mutants to be accepted by humans has always been seen as a metaphor for racism and the fight for civil rights, and X-Men doesn't hesitate to depict this. The show could have easily given us simple super-hero storylines, but from the first episode, the show makes sure to portray the way in which mutants are treated and how the X-Men are seen as fugitives.

The care put into this show made it a surprising delight back in 1992, and the stories still hold up today. The only thing which hasn't aged well is the animation. While the main character designs (clearly based on Jim Lee era art) are impressive, many characters and backgrounds lack detail. The animation comes in fits and starts, and for some reason, any text in the show looks awful. That aside, X-Fans have been waiting years to get good collections of this show and the 33 episodes included on these two releases are a great start.

Marvel X-Men Volumes 1 and 2 brings the snikt! on DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment (A division of Disney). The two releases are sold separately. Volume 1 has 16 episodes, while Volume 2 has 17 episodes. Each is a two-disc set. The episodes have been framed in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. I'm not sure how these transfers were done (whether they came from film or tape elements), but it looks as if someone has taken great care of the original materials. The image is fairly sharp, but it's also somewhat blurry at times. Small defects form the source material, such as black and white specks, abound. The colors are pretty good, but they are also washed out in some shots. Stuttering in the animation is evident here and we can also see some stray lines. The DVDs offers a Dolby Digital Surround Sound track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. If surround sound is truly present, it must be very weak, as I never heard it, even in the action scenes. What I did hear is audible dialogue and some minor stereo effects when the X-Men were in a fight. The sound doesn't measure up to a 5.1 track, but it's an accurate representation of what the show sounded like in 1992.

There are no special features on these DVDs.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long