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Marvel X-Men Volumes 3 & 4 (1994-1996)

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/15/2009

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

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/15/2009

I hate to open a review by being vague, but here goes. I think that it someone involved with the making of Silent Hill who said something to the effect that the audience doesn't want to see the video game turned into the movie, they want to see a brand new story based on the game. That couldn't be further from the truth.

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.

Marvel X-Men Volumes 3 and 4 contain 29 episodes which originally aired from September 1994 to May of 1996. And just like the comic books on which they are based, there are six multiple-episode story arcs which run through this collection of shows. This is just one of the ways in which X-Men wisely mimics its source material.

Proving that opening quote very, very wrong, the best attribute of X-Men is that it doesn't shy away from lifting ideas, storylines, and characters directly from the comic books. And why does it do this? Because that's what the fans want. The show doesn't follow the same timeline as the comics, and some details are changed here and there, but some of these shows are more-or-less animated versions of stories from the comics. For example, we get a story-arc focusing on Jean Grey's transformation from Phoenix to Dark Phoenix. Now, being a Saturday-morning cartoon show, it was a gutsy move to even attempt to tell this story. But, X-Men takes it a step further by closely following the story told in the issues of The Uncanny X-Men (in the 130s). They've actually included the presence of The Hellfire Club, although they are simply called The Inner Circle here. This is the kind of storytelling which we rarely get in American animation. And while the finale of this didn't follow the comics to the letter, it was still good. We also get other stories and characters which are familiar from the comics, such as Kazar, Proteus, Silver Samurai, and Apocalypse.

The inclusion of these elements which are familiar to fans of the X-Men comics makes the show very similar to the current Wolverine and the X-Men show. However, there are two major differences between the two shows. The most obvious difference are the visuals of the two shows. The animation on X-Men is very hit-or-miss. The character designs are clearly influenced by the comics from the early 90s, especially those of Jim Lee. At times, the art is very detailed and looks like a comic page. However, most of the animation is low-calibre and lacks in detail. In contrast, Wolverine and the X-Men is quite slick looking. The other difference is in story-telling. Both shows liberally take ideas from the comics. But, Wolverine and the X-Men seems to pick stories and characters haphazardly, as if it's determined to prove that it's aware of its heritage. X-Men has a much more organic feel and the stories have a very natural progression.

For anyone who watched these shows when they originally aired, or is a fan of 1900s X-Men comics, the acquisition of these DVDs is a no-brainer. While the animation looks questionable today, the writing is still top-notch and it will whisk fans back to a better time.

X-Men gets animated on DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment (a division of Disney). Each Volume is a two-DVD set. The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear. However, some of the shows do display minor defects from the source material, such as dirt and light scratches. There is no grain here. The colors look very good and only in select scenes are they washed out. The transfer does reveal the lack of detail in some of the animation and it also produces jagged lines and stuttering at times. The DVDs contain a Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being an older cartoon, we are overwhelmed by audio effects here, but the dialogue is always audible and there are occasional stereo effects which will get your attention.

There are no extras on these DVDs.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long