Tuesday, June 12, 2012

X-Men Cartoon, Bub!

"Get a load of THESE, Bub!"

You all know my views on the live-action Marvel films. With the exception of The Avengers and maybe two others, they're all attempts to take these amazing fantastic super heroes and villains and bring them down to our level. I don't care from which story arc they took the insecure moody teenager Rogue. It doesn't do anything for me. And Juggernaut is supposed to be bigger than what they offered in X-3. And Sabretooth (from X-1) looked like an Austin hobo on bath salt.

I really don't like the live-action X-Men films.

So I was really excited to see that Netflix was offering the "original" X-Men cartoon series on Watch Instantly. I started watching Fall last year and I finally finished the 5th and final season recently.

This was the X-Men show I'd been waiting for. Oh wait. You should know I never watched the X-Men cartoons as a kid. I was more a Nick/One Saturday Morning kid. Anyway...the show has the more recognizable costumes/personalities of the X-Men and their foes/allies. The bad guys are great. The music has that quirky 80s-90s Saturday morning cartoon vibe. And, surprisingly, lots of cameos by other Marvel characters.

One thing that struck me overall was the depth of some of the episodes. The whole show is about the X-Men struggling against their adversaries (which are oftentimes their own inner demons) while trying to live in peaceful coexistence with Earth's non-mutants. While the rock-'em-sock-'em action is fun, the careless or casual viewer might miss some of the series' deeper themes/issues:
  • Racism
  • Government extremism (both left and right-wing)
  • War and peace
  • Corruption of the justice system
  • Forgiveness and vengeance
  • Poverty
  • Trauma and suppressed memories
  • Slavery
  • Abuse
  • Absolute power
  • Time travel
  • Gang violence
  • Family feuds
  • Time travel
  • Guilt and redemption
  • Unrequited love
  • Exploitation in the entertainment industry
  • Modern genetics and evolution
  • Addiction and substance abuse
  • Religion and faith
  • Terrorism
  • Freedom of choice
  • Eastern/Western relations
Pretty serious stuff for a Saturday morning cartoon. And yet one of the greatest things about this series is that there's no tender "life lesson" moment where everyone gathers around and blatantly states the moral of the story. The fact is, the characters often don't overcome these issues by the end of the episode. And relationships between characters, for example Charles Xavier and Magneto's relationship, are very complicated. My point? This show has solid, mature depth and has some surprisingly adult themes. Animation is just as effective at telling stories as live action.

I think that's enough for now. Go check out this show on Netflix. You'll be hooked.
"How 'bout THESE hooks, Bub?!"

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