SDCC '08 - 'Wolverine and the X-Men' Review

SDCC 08: Wolverine and the X-Men Review

The best way to sum this cartoon is up is to go ahead and get this off of my chest:

Wolverine and The X-Men is astonishingly uncanny; it’s so good at handling all the best aspects of all the iterations of the X-Men over a number of mediums that I was left adjective-less and awestruck after the screening at Comic-Con on Saturday night.

Hype for this project has been strong but I had a feeling, based on seeing the trailer several months ago, this project was a winner. The opening title sequence is minimal and well constructed—with a couple of clever cameos and the threat of the Sentinels, who closely resemble the Marvel Legends Sentinel toy from a couple of years back. The X-Men are dynamic and in the intro—they’re a team of bad-asses—being the best at what they do.

Wolverine, who is the central figure in this contemporary update, may have a bit more face time than the rest of the characters in this project since he’s got the top-billing; but it really doesn’t seem that way at all once the X-Men start to return to the mansion after mysteriously disbanding. The first five to ten minutes of the first episode was an X-continuity freak’s fantasy—displaying a number of prominent characters who had been frequenting the mansion before the mysterious event that cost the team both Professor X and Jean Grey.

Without spoiling too much, the three episode pilot had all the trappings of the comic book—you could feel each episode channeling the breadth and depth of the Claremont-era stories (and more) without all the weight of a 40 year old comic books’ weight in continuity. Fans of the X-Men: Evolution cartoon could easily connect with the visual style of this far edgier series; and average, casually connected fans, who attached to these characters via the movie franchise or a comic book here and a cartoon there, would find these episodes accessible and dynamic—there is something there for everyone. Big Kudos to the on-hand directors and writers, Steven E. Gordon, Boyd Kirkland, Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle for interpreting the source material; they have crafted this project so well that children and their adult-fan parents can watch these cartoons together.

The show easily recognizes and understands the key elements that thematically drive the X-Men: driving melodrama, issues of race, strong characterization, and intense action. Once I had gotten over how good the cartoon was on the surface, I started noticing other really impressive internal aspects of the show—particularly the voice talent; Steven Blum (Wolverine), Fred Tatasciore (Beast) and Tom Kane (Magneto) were easily the standouts—but by and large the voices of the characters were spot-on. The design elements of the show—the look of most of the characters and their costume designs closely followed the visual continuity of the comic book line—and, at times, updated themselves to indicate a passage of time during the episodes. For example, Rogue, during the introductory episode, sported more of a green and black “Claremont/Romita-era” look from the late ‘80s; whereas, one year later, she wears the green and yellow “Jim Lee” design introduced in X-Men #1 in 1991—and some characters like Angel and Magneto bore their trademark, iconic costumes with slight updated changes to match the other characters.

Marvel Comics has done it again—harnessing lightning in a bottle—not only on the silver screen, but, on the small screen as well with this amazingly faithful adaptation to the X-Men. There’s something here for everyone—whether you like watching Wolverine beat the crap out of everybody; you enjoy well-written, compelling cartoons, or you like finding scores of characters making cameos from the extended mythos of one of Marvel’s most venerated titles. These first episodes, acting as the pilot, will begin airing on BBC 2 in the UK in August—look for this series to begin in the US in the Spring of 2009 on Nick Toons—trust me when I say that this show is so good that it is well worth the wait.

Newsarama spoke briefly with Marvel writer, Chris Yost, after the show—Yost informed us, “This is just the beginning—every great story with these characters over the years will probably turn up in this series.”

Click here to view the trailer for the series.

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