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"X-Men Volume 5" Is It Bad the Best Episode Doesn't Even Star the X-Men?

The final battles of the X-Men are at hand. Mojo returns, the Phalanx Covent arrives, and the graduation day at Xavier’s School rolls around.

In the real world, though, the final battles of X-Men are definitely not at hand. Volume 5 of the series’s DVD release mashes together random episodes and arcs, but no real finality comes out of it. Unlike Batman, where Bruce Wayne would go on to fight another day in other series, the X-Men don’t get their final battles in, and instead for the most part deal with recurring villains.

Is it still a good group of episodes, or is the X-Gene destined for extinction?

The episodes in this set are very hit or miss, and even the hits are a little weak. None have stood the test of time as well as its DC counterpart, Batman: The Animated Series, but there are still some nice bits. The Mojo arc is fun in places. One arc featuring Storm gives her some much-needed focus. “Graduation Day” is a fitting series finale. One highlight is “Old Soldiers”, in which Wolverine recounts a time that he teamed up with Captain America to fight the Red Skull in France during World War II. While he appears in only this one episode on the two-disc set, Captain America gets front and center billing on the box set.

One of the more awkward things about this set is that it’s somewhat cobbled together from episodes that earlier volumes skipped. Therefore, when you watch it in marathon play, Jean Gray is alive for one episode, and then mournfully missed the next. Only “Graduation Day” gets appropriate billing at the end of the set.

X-Men, at its core, has not held up well. Considering it looked weak in comparison to the DC animated offerings at the time, this means that it looks even weaker in retrospect. Sure, the voices are adequate, and some still frames of the series look nice, but cheats and glitchy animation show how tight its budget was. Much of the dialogue is stilted, comic book dialogue. This is fitting in a way, but it’s not natural or timeless.

Nor are there any extras, which is definitely awkward, since the DVDs all start with the start with a requisite, teasing “The opinions in the commentaries and interviews…” notice. Some sort of commentary, or some trailers, original commercials, images of the cast appearing in Spider-Man, other animated X-Men interpretations, a look at the comic origins for some of the storylines, digital comics … something … would have been nice here. Given that Disney owns Marvel outright now, this is an utter betrayal of the concept of “synergy”.

You have to be a fan of the 90’s X-Men, both the cartoon and the comic book, to really enjoy this set. Show mainstays such as Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, and Jean Gray have fallen by the wayside in recent years in favor of Pixie, X-23, Namor, and former enemies like Magneto and Emma Frost have become interesting heroes. The tone of “mutants are the next phase of humanity” has diametrically shifted into “mutants are a near-extinct species”, and even the location of New York has shifted to the west coast. Current comic fans would find this series to be an antiquated attempt at older stories, and older fans will find the glaring flaws in a series that was better illustrated by the likes of Jim Lee than this animation company.

Wolverine and the X-Men has a better flow, better animation, better story, and it isn’t bogged down by lame story arcs. That’s the series to check out in this day and age. Still, if you’ve bought all four previous volumes and/or love the series, there’s no reason not to buy this one.

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