I actually feel bad writing about Wolverine And The X-Men before talking about the second and third seasons of Beast Wars, but seeing as how the Marvel toon is fresher in my mind, I’m going to roll with it. I have a long history with animated versions of the X-Men. I remember seeing Pryde Of The X-Men when I was a kid on VHS at a friend’s house, I was a huge fan of the arcade game (technically animated, I guess) and was all over the 90s cartoon when it was on. That also lead to me buying a ton of the 5-inch Toy Biz X-Men and X-Force action figures. I have a two-stack printing paper box packed to the gills with them back home. I think the X-Men work best in this kind of “let’s pull from the comics, but not be glued to continuity” way. I’ve said this before, but most long-running mainstream comic books tend to be huge sandboxes littered with toys that other kids have created their own adventures with. You can go in and pick out the toys you like, maybe borrow a few of the elements that the other kids created, but then go off on your own.
What I liked most about WATX is that the whole 26 episode season felt like a great example of long-form storytelling. Plus, even though it borrowed some of the larger story elements from the comics–even ones that were already done in the 90s cartoon–the overall story felt fresh. Speaking of the story, in the very beginning of the series, Professor X got zapped and is unconscious. This lead to the break-up of the team, but Wolverine needs to put them back together. He also happens to be communicating with Professor X who has woken up in a very “Days Of Future Past”-esque future (but one populated with latter day mutants like Hellion and Marrow). This storytelling device really broadens the story because you’ve got Wolverine not only trying to put the team back together but also trying to prevent whatever leads to the devastation in the future. At the same time, though less frequently shown, the Professor fights in the future to figure out what happened so he can tell Wolverine.
But, don’t be scared away by the show’s long-form storytelling. Most of the episodes work very well on their own and even hint at other future stories they might have gotten to had there been a second season. I actually wish that this was my very first exposure to the X-Men because it would be pretty amazing. Sure, a few things were changed or simplified, but overall I think it’s a great dose of X without getting too complicated. On the other hand, there are so many cameos from comic-based characters that even I had trouble keeping up. To be fair, though, I’m not exactly an expert by any means, but having read a few X-books in my time, watched the movies, seen the cartoons, collected the trading cards and just been around comics for almost two decades, you absorb a lot.
So, yes, I absolutely recommend watching Wolverine And The X-Men. It’s on Netflix Instant, so it’s easy to track down. The only downside? It’s only one season! The story completes pretty well, but then they do an Age of Apocalypse tease at the very, very end that made me really sad that I’d never see those episodes. That’s one of my all-time favorite alternate reality stories ever!