X-Men Vol 1 and 2 DVD Review

X-MEN DVD Cover

On April 28, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment releases the first two seasons of the 90’s X-Men cartoon on DVD. Each two-disc volume contains sixteen episodes of snikity goodness. Your friendly neighborhood Angry Zen Master was sent review copies of both volumes. So how does the series hold up after all this time?

I was in high school when Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 hit shelves in 1991 and was completely blown away. I loved how his character designs reflected each X-Man’s personality. And of course, the artwork was phenomenal. Needless to say, when the cartoon premiered on Halloween 1992 with Jim Lee’s character designs running around, I was instantly hooked!

With so much nostalgia associated with my early days of fandom, it’s difficult to watch the show again with fresh eyes so my review will probably be a bit biased. But you can’t deny how cool it is to see Jim Lee’s costumes animated. I forgot just how steeped in continuity the series was. Every single episode picks up threads from the previous and leads into the next. Even when they do multiple part stories like the two-part Days of Future Past, events within the story directly pick up from previous episodes. There haven’t been many western cartoons that have been serialized in that manner. Gargoyles comes to mind. But usually, you find this kind of story-telling in anime. Even today’s comic book inspired cartoons like Teen Titans run stand-alone episodes. It’s actually quite refreshing to see such serialized continuity.

The voice acting is still as impressive as it ever was. Each character is expertly cast. My favorites are Storm, Gambit, and Wolverine. Storm’s commanding voice as she calls out her attacks like a Japanese tokusatsu hero never came off as corny. She should have been the leader of the cartoon X-Men. So much power in her voice. So much better than movie Storm. Gambit came off so much more suave in the cartoon than in the comic. His smooth voice was the definition of cool. Wolverine was just great. Totally snarky, totally sarcastic, totally badass. Every now and then he’d say something like, “Well, that sounds about as crazy as anything else we do,” as if he knew he was in a comic book. So great!

In terms of story lines, the series does a good job of getting fairly close to comic book continuity. Things are changed around a bit. Bishop was the focus of the cartoon version of Days of Future Past most likely because Bishop was kind of popular back then. But overall, I’d say the cartoon X-Men universe is pretty darn close to the comics of the time.

The animation itself is a bit dated. There are points where they use solid blacks to define shadows on characters which is an odd choice. I guess they wanted to give it a real comic book feel. Sometimes it works, sometimes it gets distracting. But I think overall, it’s still enjoyable to watch. The action scenes are fun to watch and it’s still impressive to see how much detail they put into the characters themselves. I think if it were done today, the character designs would be simplified and the line quality would be razor thin, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

Each volume retails for $23.99 and goes on sale April 28. Each box contains two discs with sixteen episodes. Volume 1 starts off with “Night of the Sentinels” and has “Days of Future Past.” Volume 2 ends with the five-part “The Phoenix Saga.” There are no special features in either volume, but sixteen episodes for twenty-four bucks is a pretty good value.