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X-Men '97 review: A near-perfect sequel series that blends nostalgia with modern flair

The Disney+ original series is a departure from the contemporary ‘formulaic’ Marvel productions and reminds the world why Marvel is more than capable of producing compelling stories

X-Men '97 review: A near-perfect sequel series that blends nostalgia with modern flair

Last Updated: 08.50 AM, May 17, 2024


Story: Set in the aftermath of Professor Charles Xavier’s death, Cyclops leads the X-Men into an uncertain future where the fragile peace between humans and mutants is under threat yet again. The X-Men must use their unique abilities to protect the global populace that fears and even hates them.


Review: The relative lack of contemporary animated TV shows about some of the world’s most popular superheroes has become a cause for concern for superhero and comic book enthusiasts across the world. DC’s criminally underrated Young Justice is probably the only recent superhero animated series that showcases some of the most iconic superheroes. Unlike the ’90s and early 2000s, when Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Justice League, and The Avengers were abundant on television, the past decade has been an era when big-screen superhero adaptations for a wider audience were favoured. It could be argued that these blockbuster theatrical releases from both Marvel and DC have paled in comparison, in terms of quality, to the classic animated shows from yesteryear. So it should come as no surprise that Disney and Marvel Studios decided to bring back the iconic X-Men series to revive their ailing superhero franchise amidst the much-debated ‘superhero fatigue’.


Despite the hype and anticipation ahead of the series premiere of X-Men ‘97, it was announced that series creator and lead writer Beau DeMayo was fired. While the studio did not offer an explanation for the unceremonious firing, it did not hinder the premiere of the series. The first two episodes received universal acclaim, with several fans pointing out that the new series has redeemed the character arc of Scott Summers/Cyclops. For the unversed, Cyclops is widely regarded as one of the greatest X-Men characters by comic book enthusiasts, one who even eclipses Logan/Wolverine. However, his reputation took a beating in the original animated series and the X-Men film franchise as a result of poorly written character arcs. The opening episodes of X-Men ‘97 re-establishes Cyclops as a leader who commands the same respect as Captain America.


The episodes that followed emphasise the struggles of each character as well as the collective challenges the X-Men must overcome in the absence of Charles Xavier. Magneto taking over the mantle of Xavier, whilst shocking, is perfectly executed within the narrative. Similar to the original series created by Fox, the animated series serves as a commentary on racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination. The series explores these themes without sacrificing the flow of its narrative. Each episode is packed with exceptional storytelling, whilst maintaining the nostalgic aesthetic of the animation and art style. These episodes also offer incredible action sequences, drama, and emotional depth. The TV-14 rating has also offered the writers the freedom to push the boundaries of storytelling, a liberty that the original series did not have as it was aimed at a much younger audience. In other words, the episodes showcase death and violence as the narrative demands it, which is ironically more profound and well-written than the live-action MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films that refuse to take risks with their creative choices.


The finale wraps up a fantastic season that will keep one hooked to the screen from start to finish. The choice of casting Theo James as the primary antagonist Bastion appears to be an inspired decision, as James brings an equal measure of sophistication and villainy to the role. While Wolverine does play a more reserved role in the new series, he does have pivotal parts in the arcs of each character, like the glue that binds the team together. The final scenes of the series indicate that Marvel and Disney have ambitious plans for the animated series – possibly set across multiple timelines. With the MCU yet to formally announce plans for their live-action X-Men films, X-Men ‘97 could be the perfect introduction to Mavel’s most iconic heroes for new audiences.


Verdict: At a time when Disney has found it immensely challenging to keep audiences invested in their formulaic Marvel films and TV shows, X-Men ‘97 stands tall as the new benchmark for Marvel content. The animated series excels both as a sequel and a standalone story with emphasis on the core message of the X-Men franchise – discrimination. With masterfully crafted plots and subplots, compelling character arcs, and a socio-politically relevant central narrative, the series breathes new life into Marvel films and TV shows.



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