Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Audio/Visuals 2/25/2009

Hey there Brow-readers, it’s Wednesday and you know what that means, new content!

Okay, first off, a quick introduction, my name’s Magus and I’m the newest addition to the LowBrowMedia writing staff. I live and work in beautiful Central Pennsylvania where Jon found me and brought me on board. In any case, there’s no need to bore you all with a full bio, you’ll learn what you need to know from my writing. So let’s get to it?

Wolverine and the X-Men
head writer: Greg Johnson

Before I get too far into this I should say that thanks to some friends in Canada and the magic of the internet I’ve been able to watch 17 episodes of Wolverine and the X-Men. As I understand it, here in the United States, we’re only up to the sixth episode of the show. Don’t worry, I’ll do what I can to keep things spoiler free.

Marvel has gone to its well of X-Characters for a third time (I’m not counting Pryde of the X-Men) to produce an animated series with the most popular mutant (it would seem) taking center stage. The animation style reflects a solid progression from previous incarnations and the voice work is pretty top notch. However, it’s in the realms of story and character that the show tends to fall short.

The series starts itself off by taking two of the more powerful characters out of the mix. In a mysterious explosion, Professor Xavier and Jean Grey go missing and the Xavier Institute is leveled. In the aftermath, the X-Men have all gone their separate ways and an agency known as the MRD (Mutant Response Division) has cropped up. Also, it would seem that Magneto has taken to putting up billboards inviting mutants to join him in Genosha. This sounds like a decent set up but the execution leaves much to be desired.

The MRD is a seemingly nebulous organization that gets its authority from... Senator Kelly? It’s never clearly established how it came into being or just where it gets any legal jurisdiction. It gets a bit more confusing when Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D show up.

When the X-Men finally get put back together and Xavier’s comatose body is found on Genosha, Wolverine is tapped as leader by an Xavier communicating telepathically with them from twenty years in the future. Xavier has come out of his coma, which seems to have stopped his aging, into a future dominated by Sentinels and a Cameron-esque post-apocalypse. The reason for Wolverine leading the team is not terribly clear and tends to neutralize any relevance that Cyclops has. In fact, all this seems to do is swap out the two characters. My brain just about melted and oozed out my nose during a scene where Wolverine lectures Cyclops about what it means to be on a team and that he’s either part of it or he can walk. Seriously. Brain melt.

Remaining true to the core of a character yet telling their story in a new and compelling way is part of the art of adapting and updating. By and large, most of the characters in Wolverine and the X-Men don’t fall too far from recognizable themes but Wolverine is practically reinvented for this show. He is softened and more team centered. He tends to be more emotional than he’s ever been shown in other formats. He wears the burden of leadership to live up to Xavier’s legacy. If I didn’t know any better, he and Cyclops have switched personalities.

This show feels like an attempt to cash in on the popularity and recognition of Wolverine and less about crafting a quality show. I know there’s the argument that it’s just a kid’s show and I should lighten up. Sorry, but DC managed to produce quality animated programs that not only kids could watch but older fans could enjoy. I just wish Marvel would bring Bruce Timm and Paul Dini on board for one of their projects.

In the end, if you have half an hour to spare and just want to see the X-Men doing cool stuff, tune in for Wolverine and the X-Men. Otherwise, keep waiting for an animated series based on Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men.

Wolverine and the X-Men at Nicktoons
IMDB entry