Dysfunctional Families

Even though his status at Disney/Marvel is that of terminated, X-MEN 97 showrunner Beau DeMayo has been plenty active on Twitter sliding hints on this season, and telling folks what comics or old show episodes to reference prior to watching the next week. While succinct, it was still not enough to prepare us for what very well may have been a masterclass at properly rebooting an iconic franchise back into the modern television landscape, one that has been largely absent from the current Marvel universe save for a spat of movies, for almost twenty years.

There was so much in just one season to iterate over, and much of it will be under the spoiler tag. So much speculation went into what this show would be about, and what is crazy to enumerate over after ten episodes is just how many different storylines were covered from both the original animated series, and comics both pre-1993, and post-1993. When I previewed both the series and the two-episode premier, most of us were locked on the Jean Grey and Scott Summers storyline continuing from the previous series. Showing Jean pregnant in the earlier trailers had us all reaching for which kid it would be, the kid obviously being Cable, and she obviously being Madeline Pryor aka The Goblin Queen. The inclusion of Mr. Sinister in promotional materials helped seal that deal rolling into the third episode, and it was at that point everyone immediately knew what we’d be in for.

Sit on my face, Goblin-Mommy

As I’ve mused before, most shows these days start out good, stall in the middle, and finish strong. XM97 just put the accelerator on the floor and gunned it the entire fucking way to the end. Almost every episode was a finale-tier episode, hitting every note visually, verbally, thematically, and dramatically. But they also stopped on occasion to kind of honor the syndication feel of the previous animated series with half of the fourth episode, “Motendo”, which brought back Mojo for another virtual adventure with Jubilee and Roberto stuck in a video game. They also played on old television’s “A-side” and “B-side” stories in one episode with the sixth episode “Lifedeath Part 2” that split between Charles Xavier on Birdworld and Forge and Storm. The animation style everyone was so worried about not being faithful to the original got quickly discarded going into the mid-season as every big-box action scene was rendered beautifully.

Now, the showrunners could have just stuck with the core cast and run the whole season on just those stories alone. Hell, they could have probably made the Goblin Queen arc or the Lifedeath arc most of the season. But they dug deep into the franchise’s lore and ran with a number of arcs, and even featured a ton of cameos with other X-Men, mutants, Marvel superheroes and villains, and more. This is what we call fanservice in eastern animation. It doesn’t just have to be anime girl tits and ass, it can simply be the red meat you throw your most loyal fan base to acknowledge that you’re here because they’ve kept the faith all these years, waiting for when Marvel could get the rights back to their own goddamn franchise from FOX. Instead of shitting on your fanbase as modern Star Wars movie writers have done, requiring their television writers to claw that back, giving them what they want while still making the show interesting and accessible for newcomers is the best of both worlds.

Why run with the horses when you can fly?
Omega-Level Spoilers

I slightly regret not writing a mid-season post on this, because there is just so much this season offered that I probably cannot jam into a single post. I’ve got a guy at work who is also into the old comics I’ve been talking to about this, and it’s been fun remembering just how off-the-rails the X-Men universe is, and can be, and how much we’ve missed this shit in the modern Marvel universe. Considering how successful this season has been, the tremendous response, and calls to bring Beau back for season three and beyond, I hope this is a start of a proper Marvel Animated Universe. But I digress, let’s break down the spoilers by arc.

Madeline Pryor aka The Goblin Queen, Cable, and Jean Grey

This arc was foretold from the previews, and the likely logical conclusion of the original show’s Sinister arcs. For Nathan Summers to become Cable, he had to be born, infected with the Techno-Organic virus, and brought to the future. What I probably felt slightly disappointed by was how cut short they made this arc. Even if Cyclops and Co. was able to beat her and Sinister to rescue Nathan, I would have liked to see The Goblin Queen remain, brood, amass power, and challenge them again as she did in the comics, before getting her Sinister control broken and redemption arc. I know they were setting her up for Genosha in episode five, and for Cable to see her before body-sliding, it just felt like they could have pocketed that one for another one or two more episodes next season.

Remember it.

The Genosha Massacre and Tri-Sentinel

I readily admit that I am not that knowledgeable on all things X-Men. While it was my favorite franchise as a kid, and I did own and read a lot of the comics published at the time, I only ever really remembered the stuff from the show and some of the other Sinister and Apocalypse stuff. I didn’t really know anything about the Tri-Sentinel, Krakoa, or the precursors to Bastion, the Prime Sentinels, and Operation: Zero Tolerance. So episode five seriously did a number on me not only with the gravity of the Genosha massacre, but Gambit’s sacrifice and death to defeat it, as well as Magneto’s supposed sacrifice. It was a heavy-hitting episode, and I felt amazingly emotional at both Gambit’s death, one of my favorite characters whom I cosplayed as for Halloween as a kid, and Rogue losing him. That episode deserved to be a finale-tier episode, and it was only mid-season. This show did not stop at that either, it kept going harder, and harder.


As before, I knew that Storm had many different character arcs in the shows and comics, like being the leader of the Morlocks. But I wasn’t aware of how she lost her powers and regained them. The way she lost her powers in XM97 was a bit different than the source material, as was the whole trial sequence. But how she got them back was roughly the same, minus some otherworldly-death-related nonsense. I would have liked this to have been longer though. It only ended up being about one episode’s worth of screen time, bookended by Jubilee’s Motendo adventure, and Xavier’s whereabouts in space. It was cool for Storm to get both her powers back, and her classic uniform.

You don’t want Rogue angry

Bastion, The Prime Sentinels, and Operation Zero Tolerance

I actually did think at the beginning of this show that the ending would come down to more Trask and Gyrich bullshit. Imagine my surprise when Gyrich finally gets his end, and Trask becomes a human sentinel. I had a vague recollection of the Mastermold and Nimrod business from the first show, but I did not realize how they would use that to bring in Bastion, and OZT. Not to be outdone, Mr. Sinister was also there, pulling the strings on Cable, until Jean PHOENIX DOWNED and literally burnt all of the spliced DNA largely keeping him alive for so long.

So much of the last three episodes were just bonkers to watch. Magneto coming back in his signature outfit with his signature asteroid, completely done with humanity’s bullshit after Genosha, Rogue and Sunspot defecting to his side, Xavier and Magneto going at it, and poor Wolverine getting the adamantium ripped from his bones after he straight up stabbed a bitch. All of that was some tough television to watch. A lot of discussion revolved around Val Cooper’s “Magneto is right” line along with Magneto telling Xavier to “Shut up”. Being a kid during XMTAS, you always rooted for the good guys because the show told you to. XM97 on the other hand suggests there are no good guys, or bad guys. There are just people of different circumstances, having to figure out how to deal. One thread I read even equated Xavier and Magneto to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. Certainly the show, and franchise, draws heavily on history and cultural ethos to frame humanity and mutants. That is why the show is so culturally powerful for many. It’s also why the show remains true to itself over time. Xavier’s dream is, often at times, an optimist’s delusional fantasy. Magneto on the other hand plays from a more pragmatic, or perhaps more realist approach. Both want to see the good in humanity, but humanity is always going to turn on their own whenever the chips are down.

Fatal Attractions

Bastion as the end boss felt powerful at the start, but by the end when he just gets got by Jean/Phoenix and then the rest of the team, it felt a little cheapened. I think it felt a little cheapened though not by how well they defeated him, but how the episode ended up spending so much time on Xavier’s mind-fuck with Magneto. Certainly those were some good scenes, as the bromance or whatever those two share was obviously on Beau’s hit-list, but unless they were going to do the Onslaught storyline from the onset of Xavier’s return, it would have been more badass to have had everyone come together to defeat Bastion proper, considering his OZT was the cause of Genosha and not humanity, UNLESS, they make the connection in the show as is in the comics where OZT was connected to the federal government. The show seems to just suggest it was a Bastion-Sinister teamup, and they just coaxed members of the FoH into their experiments. Yes, that exposes the number of people with anti-mutant bigotry, as seen by the massive number of Prime Sentinels, but it shouldn’t be a referendum on humanity. Mags, as usual, is always grasping for a reason to go full nuclear whenever something bad happens.

The Past and the Future

So what happens in season two with most of the team going back to the past, and Cyclops and Jean in the future? Well it’s seemingly obvious that Apocalypse is up next, or more precisely his 3000 BC form as hinted in the original animated series, as well as the comic “Cyclops and Phoenix”, depicting the far-future and who could be Nate Grey and not Cable. The real question is what happened to Wolverine, Morph, and Storm? Is this also a precursor to comics/show material with bone-feral Logan, a relationship between him and Storm, or something new? You know I am down to clown.

When in doubt, FAZE UP!

Of final note in the spoilers section, I just want to briefly touch on the relationships between Xavier and Magnus, and Wolverine and Morph. The former is a fairly well-documented relationship that often feels like one of an overt, homosexual nature, but is in fact simply a very close familial relationship, though perhaps more Xavier than Erik. Xavier had to hammer home to him that he considers the two a family, and of Magneto also family to the X-Men, because there is no one else for Magnus. They both had the same dream together, it’s just their path to that dream have diverged greatly due to the events they’ve experienced, and the kind of people they are.

With Wolverine and Morph, while depicted as a buddy-buddy relationship, I do think Morph may have genuine, non-binary feelings for Wolverine that he expresses through his shapeshifting, especially using Jean’s likeness. However, I think he knows he is not getting that back from Logan at all, and perhaps often gets upset at that.

Now, there are two reasons this is getting traction in the show and in online discussions. One is the showrunner, Beau DeMayo, is a gay man. Understandably, he is going to impart some of his own experiences into his writing and depiction of these characters. So much in the same way the Picard writers chose to make Q a little more emotional with Picard at the end of season two, Beau is most certainly applying his filter to these four male characters and their relationships with one another. I have no issue with that. I think a showrunner’s flair is something that should stand out in their creation. The other reason is that nobody is telling him not to anymore. In the 90’s and that era of television, you couldn’t do things the networks felt would be too controversial to the public. That meant a lot of homosexual relationships got nixed, and even interracial relationships. Strong women were not often depicted on television, hence Storm, Rogue, and Jubilee getting major character upgrades in this show. Disney, Marvel, Kevin Feige, and everyone are allowing DeMayo and even the original showrunners to add back in all of the things they couldn’t do before. That is the beauty of rebooting old shows now, you can restore that original vision. Anyone who comes in saying “Morph isn’t like this, he’s just good friends!” Okay, but what if that was the intention twenty years ago and the network said no? We’re supposed to stand for creators and not allow them to be censored, right? No? Your beliefs… ah, I see. Well then.

What has probably been the best part of this show and experience is seeing the fanbase coalesce around it again, especially after that initial couple weeks of hemming and hawwing over Rogue’s ass, Morph’s non-binary status, and whinging over how woke the show was going to be. Not only did most of those non-fan blowhards get BTFO’d by at least episode five, most turncoated and joined the praise for both the show and Beau, going as far as to petition Disney to bring him back. We still don’t know why he was tossed out. My personal theory is that he might’ve just been a bit of a toxic drama queen and nobody wanted to deal with that shit. They should at least retain him in some kind of advisory capacity or something for seasons three and beyond. We’ll see.

Random Fun Facts and Observations

  • As with the original animated series, other Marvel superheroes and villains make on-screen and spoken roles, including Captain America, Ironman, Black Panther (King T’Chaka), Doctor Strange, Utau the Watcher, Daredevil, Doctor Doom, Spiderman, Mary Jane, Cloak and Dagger, and Ronan the Accuser.
  • Plenty of other X-Men universe mutant cameos were also in the series, but I’ll leave you to spot those on your own.
  • Alyson Court, the original voice actress for Jubilee in XMTAS, returns as Future Jubilee in “Motendo” alongside Jubilee’s new voice actress, Holly Chou. It was a short-lived, but awesome baton-pass for the two characters.
  • Speaking of other voice actresses, if you’re a huge Trek nerd like I am and can spot any Trek actor in any other show instantly, you might’ve lit up when Mother Askani spoke in the finale. That’d be Gates McFadden, TNG’s very own Beverley Crusher. She’s been dabbling more in animated voice acting lately, also appearing in the new Masters of the Universe: Revolutions as Queen Marlena.
  • If the name En Sabah Nur jogged your memory in the finale, you may want to go back and watch XMTAS S3E9 “Obsession”, which offers a brief glimpse at what is probably in store for the next season of XM97.
  • In one of Beau’s many tweets, he hinted that his original plan for XM97 was five seasons. If this season’s blockbuster performance was an indication of what Marvel Animation Studio has in mind, we’re down for a good five years of prime rib, with hopefully more in the forms of a rebooted Spiderman TAS, and maybe more series. DC used to own the block on animated superhero content, it’s time Marvel stepped up.

Final Score: 9 sweet buttered biscuits of Rogue’s behind out of ten Prime Sentinels.

They never took this away from us. They merely waited for the right moment.

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