X-Men ‘97 Season 1 Review

‘X-Men ‘97’ has concluded its first season on Disney+, reviving the X-Men animation and set the stage for several seasons of exploration. It’s the first property to exist outisde of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and, free from that baggage (along with several other factors) it’s a success, showcasing off themes and characters core to the X-Men but updating them to fit modern times. The production values on the show is amazing, both with its visuals and sound. 

Marvel Entertainment

It should be noted from the outset that this is done from the perspective of having never seen the original series. This review is written by someone who’s being introduced to the animated world for the first time. And it’s a stunning introduction. The plotline, while being a distinct continuation of the old series from the 90s, is easy enough to grapple with for someone jumping onboard now. This could easily serve as the entrypoint for those unfamiliar with the show, though having a cursorary understanding of who some of the key X-Men players is helpful. 

The animation style, while not revolutionary, carries the look of a comic book, and allows for huge action sequences to be carried out with flair and style. There are long beats like Storm’s flight, but also more quieter moments that show off the strength in this style and the work that’s gone into developing it. 

The animation isn’t the only thing that feels like it’s been ripped out of the comics, as the characters and the villains they face feel true to the comics, journeying through several different eras of X-Men comics, though tweaking them per the needs of the writers. The plot of the show is well paced, with the majority of the episodes telling a coherent and worthwhile story. 

The heroes of the story are full-fleshed out characters, with Cyclops, Jean, Magneto and others going on arcs throughout the season. Sunspot, a mutant who goes on a journey of accepting his mutant powers shows how to update the X-Men theme without diluting it, and does it in a less heavy handed way that in the past. 

Marvel Entertainment

While not all of the characters go on arcs (unsurprising given the sheer amount), and while some are underwhelming (Morph, despite having a strong powerset is quite useless in a fight), not them feel completely out of place, contributing something to the plot. And throughout the episodes there are plenty of cameos from lesser-known X-Men, treating fans who know the expansive X-Men lore. There is nothing to complain about the voice acting either. 

There are several villains that pop up throughout the ten episodes, but at no point does the show ever filled overstuffed or like no villain gets too little time in the spotlight. There’s The Adversary, a fear-based villain that terrorises Storm in particular, magical villains like Mr Sinister, and high-level villains like Bastion. They all feel threatening however, and not as though it would be easy to beat them, with one exception. 

Across the episodes, there are plenty of cameos from other associated Marvel properties, Captain America, Iron Man, Daredevil, even Spider-Man. Their appearances are a welcome addition, helping build out the world beyond the X-Men, and making it more alive. It’s a world populated with different types of superheroes, not just mutants. 

One episode that sticks out for being a brilliant watch is episode 5 titled “Remember It”. It’s a wake up call that this series isn’t messing around, both with the emotional stakes it teased in previous episodes, but also the threat that the X-Men face. It’s an action tour de force, and moments that propel characters forward on their arcs and pay homage to the core themes of the X-Men. It also serves as a wake up call to the audience that it’s not a series where only safe things happen, demanding their attention for the remainder of the season. 

Of course, while a large part of the series is a great watch, some are unlikely to be as sucessful. The one that sticks out for being subpar is episode 4 titled “Motendo/Lifedeath – Part 1”. It’s two episodes stuck together, preventing both from having room to develop their ideas, and, other than Jubilee and Sunspot bonding with each other, not contributing to the overall narrative being told. Both characters breeze through the episode without much trouble. It’s just mindless action that in the end doesn’t matter. 

Overall, at a time where Marvel Studios needed the win, they were able to deliver one with ‘X-Men ‘97’. The animation, its core themes, characters and more all come together for an amazing first season, a win that Marvel Studios are hopefully able to translate across their other projects.

Kieran Burt

My name is Kieran and I am based in the UK. I love writing about all things science fiction and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Marvel. When I’m not writing or watching anything sci-fi related, you can probably find me exploring the open worlds of alternate lands through my Xbox.

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