“Wolverine and the X-Men”
Fridays at 8 p.m.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Ever find yourself humming the theme song to that old ’90s X-Men cartoon? For those craving the group’s animated return to television, there’s some X-cellent news.
Since the first X-Men comic in 1963, the gang has become one of the most popular superhero lineups in American culture. Aside from multiple comic book series published by Marvel, the X-Men have recently dug their way into the mainstream with three feature films. Less celebrated — at least by a majority of people — are the X-Men cartoons. “Wolverine and the X-Men” is the latest animated show, succeeding “X-Men: The Animated Series” and “X-Men: Evolution.”
This retelling of the X-Men story breaks the norm by beginning not at the time of the group’s formation, but rather at the time they disband. A mysterious attack on the home of the X-Men leaves the school and X-Men base in ruins. Professor X and team member Jean Grey go missing, and the remaining X-Men decide to hang up their tights in exasperation.
In the meantime, the ruthless government-run Mutant Response Division is capturing and detaining mutants and anyone who sympathizes with them. Without the X-Men, there’s no super-team to defend the helpless remaining mutants. Now it’s up to Wolverine to get the gang back together.
This series’s Wolverine is the most manly incarnation of the character to date. He’s still the motorcycle-riding rebellious outsider with kick-ass sideburns who thinks everyone’s name is “Bub.” But his voice is lower and more intimidating than ever, thanks to Steve Blum (the voice of Spike from “Cowboy Bebop”), and each of his arms is the size of his torso, making bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman look like Steve Urkel.
Wolverine is joined by fellow teammates and fan favorites Beast, Rogue, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Iceman and Colossus. Comic fans will be pleased that most of these well-known Marvel mutants are very similar to their comic book counterparts.
Except for Cyclops, that is. Jean Grey’s disappearance has turned the formerly confident frontman into a miserable mess, and he has given up his role as the leader of the X-Men for a life of moping around. This allows Wolverine, once the outsider of the group, to try his hand at responsibility, taking Cyclops’s place as the captain of the X-Men.
The animation is stylistically similar to anime and the visuals of “Wolverine” are noticeably more impressive than those of “X-Men: Evolution.” The environments are drawn more intricately and the characters’ movements animated more naturally. As a result, the fighting scenes are tremendous. It’s impossible to top the three X-Men movies when it comes to mind-blowing action scenes, but these cartoon battles come close.
The cartoons on Nicktoons Network are not exactly tailored to the adult demographic, but “Wolverine and the X-Men” seems to be a better fit for older viewers than either “Evolution” or the original X-Men cartoon. The premise of “Wolverine” is more complex, and the smart-ass Spiderman-esque one-liners are left at the door. Of course, kids will still enjoy the show, but now more seasoned X-enthusiasts can too.