REVIEW: WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Steven Blum (Marvel Anime)
Susan Dalian (Ultimate Avengers 2)
Jennifer Hale (Biker Mouse From Mars)
Danielle Judovits  (The Batman)
Tom Kane (Spider-Man: TAS)
Yuri Lowenthal (Bleach)
Nolan North (Young Justice)
Liam O’Brien (Sailor Moon Crystal)
Roger Craig Smith (Batman Unlimited)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Kieren van den Blink (Anywhere but Here)
Kari Wahlgren (Last Exile)
Jim Ward (Wall-E)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Charlie Adler (Transformers)
Tamara Bernier Evans (As You Like It)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
A.J. Buckley (Happy Feet)
Corey Burton (Jutsice LEague Unlimited)
Grey DeLisle (Megas XLR)
Alex Désert (The Flash)
Richard Doyle (Ben 10)
Chris Edgerly (Dr. Dolittle 3)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Kate Higgins (Eureka Seven)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Gabriel Mann (Dominion)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)

The story begins with Rogue and Wolverine having an argument about him leaving. When Wolverine goes to Charles and Jean Grey get headaches. An explosion occurs, and Charles and Jean disappear. The resulting trauma caused the X-Men team to disband and go their separate ways, leaving Xavier’s once highly revered league of mutant peace preservers out of commission. Due to the loss of the Professor, Jean, and severe damage to the mansion, many of the X-Men have withered in their faith towards the stability of their former team and have since detached themselves from their former community. Some examples include Cyclops’ subsequent isolation resulting from Jean’s disappearance, Storm’s relocation back to her home continent of Africa, and Iceman’s move back into his parents’ home in the quiet suburbs.
One year later, the MRD (short for the Mutant Response Division), a government-supported organization created for the detainment and subsequent registration of existing mutants, begins capturing mutants from all over the country in response to the countless human protesters determined to protect the safety of humankind. This course of action causes Wolverine and Beast to ally and resolve to bring the once defunct X-Men team back together again. Meanwhile, Rogue is in the street and attacked by the Brotherhood of Mutants. They trick her into joining them, and she later smiles devilishly as she enters their base, appearing to have switched allegiance to become an evil mutant. Thanks to the generosity, wealth, and resourcefulness of Angel, the slowly reforming X-Men team begins to see a promising return to its former glory with the rejoining of junior members Iceman, Shadowcat and Forge along with the reconstruction of the previously demolished Xavier Institute. Unfortunately, without the necessary capabilities of a competent telepath to operate Cerebro, the possibility of locating some of the more globally scattered X-Men members along with the missing Charles Xavier and Jean seems all but a pipe dream.
Fortunately, this problem does not last for very long when Emma Frost, the beautiful former Headmistress of a now inactive mutant school of her own in Massachusetts, makes a surprising appearance on the doorstep of the Mansion with an interesting proposal: membership with the X-Men in exchange for utilizing her telepathy to pinpoint the missing Xavier’s whereabouts. Upon the team’s – and particularly Wolverine’s – reluctant acceptance of the offer, Emma’s efforts prove successful as she is able to locate a comatose Charles on the shores of Genosha in the care of Magneto. After their arrival on Genosha and a short confrontation with the Master of Magnetism himself, Magneto eventually permits the X-Men to take his old friend’s body back to the sanctity of the Mansion where he is certain that Xavier will be placed in proper care. Upon their return, Xavier telepathically contacts the X-Men twenty years from the present in an alternate dystopian future and informs Wolverine that he is to lead and reunite the X-Men if they wish to successfully prevent the inevitable war that will cause the world to fall under the domination of Master Mold and the Sentinels.
Throughout the course of the entire season, Emma’s role as the X-Men’s primary acting telepath enables the team to relocate the rest of the other members in the hopes of reforming once again and assisting in Xavier’s cause. While some were met with initial hesitancy such as with Nightcrawler, others such as Storm were more than willing to accept the offer once Xavier’s vision had been put into perspective. The X-Men overcome many hardships and obstacles along the way upon achieving their ultimate goal of relocating Jean and finally revealing the truth surrounding the mystery of the Mansion’s cause for explosion along with Xavier and Jean’s subsequent disappearances. Meanwhile, Magneto welcomes new mutants to Genosha, amongst whom is Nightcrawler. Magneto claims that Kenosha is a safe and secure area for mutants, rather than a threat. At first Nightcrawler believes this, but upon closer inspection Genosha is exposed as a method used by Magneto to use mutant’s powers. Nightcrawler escapes, but is captured by Mystique when he arrives back at the mansion.

Next, Wolverine had some sights of the past and with the help of Emma, he went to unveil the truth of his sightings. In the course, he met a lone mutant girl, and a past friend Sabretooth and finally unleash the truth of his past to a certain extent. In next, Cyclops has sad past about Jean, and he always thought that she is still alive. So, with the help of Emma, he went along Mister Sinister. The heavy fight between X-Men and Mister Sinister finished without the actual goal. Wolverine takes an oath from Cyclops to be in the X-Men and not to search for Jean. In the last scenes, Jean wakes up in a hospital after months in a coma.
It is later revealed in the three-part first season finale “Foresight” that the previously assumed attack on the Mansion was not from the efforts of a third party, but rather from the result of Jean who unwittingly releases the immense and highly destructive strength and power of the Phoenix Force, that originally lay dormant deep within her subconscious, in an attempt to halt an oncoming telepathic attack led by Emma (who was secretly working as a double agent for the Inner Circle and the Stepford Cuckoos). Along with Sebastian Shaw, Selene, Harry Leland, and Donald Pierce, it was the Inner Circle’s utmost duty to not only obtain the power of the Phoenix Force by abducting Jean from the protection of Xavier and the Mansion, but to also obliterate the ancient being’s existence before it could fully mature and consequently bring forth unparalleled destruction onto the world as it had done numerous times in the past throughout Earth’s history. However, in a move that was completely unknown to Emma at the time, the rest of the Inner Circle members all shared an entirely different and more sinister vision than Frost had initially believed: to control and manipulate the power of the Phoenix Force and have it cater to their own hidden agenda.Upon realizing the error of her ways, Emma betrays the Inner Circle and attempts to redeem herself in the eyes of the X-Men by not only rescuing Jean but, by also following through with her original plan of destroying the cosmic entity before it could mature. Unfortunately, her actions result in her apparent death. Rogue apologizes to Wolverine, and finally rejoins the X-Men for good. The now fully reformed X-Men are praised for their actions by Professor Xavier, but are warned of a new danger approaching: the Age of Apocalypse.Wolverine and the X-Men was a quite underrated animated series, which certainly deserved much more success than it got. I mean, this series at least deserved to have another season, but sadly it was cancelled too soon, despite having a high level of quality, good animation.

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REVIEW: LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES: MAXIMUM OVERLOAD

CAST

Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Laura Bailey (Justice League vs Teen Titans)
Barry Dennen (Titanic)
Steve Blum (Wolverine & The X-Men)
Greg Cipes (Teen Titans)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Troy Baker (Justice League Action)
Drake Bell (Superhero Movie)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Robin Atkins Downes (Babylon 5)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
Tom Kenny (Superhero Squad)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Roger Craig Smith (Batman Unlimited)
Travis Willingham (Sonic Boom)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

lego-marvel-super-heroes-maximum-overload-post-6The mischievous Loki challenges the Marvel Super Heroes yet again. But this time, he’s cast a snowball-themed spell that has Norn Frost in it to “Overload” various villains. At a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base in New Jersey, Doctor Octopus raids it in order to obtain the Beta Burst Missile. Using the Norn Frost obtained by his Chitauri minion, Loki “overloads” Doctor Octopus. In Manhattan, Nick Fury calls upon Spider-Man to help defeat Doctor Octopus. Before Doctor Octopus can use the Beta Burst Missile on the trapped S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, Spider-Man arrives and tricks Doctor Octopus into shocking himself on a nearby power generator. The next morning, Spider-Man brings a bound Doctor Octopus back to Manhattan in a truck upon running out of web fluid on the Garden State Parkway. Nick Fury takes Doctor Octopus to be locked up as Spider-Man is left walking back to Queens, New York. Loki is not pleased that his Doctor Octopus “Overload” was defeated and vows that it’s not over.
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Some time later, news articles are shown about the “Overloads” like the rise of the Red Skull “Overload,” the Wizard “Overload” forming the Frightful Sixteen which outnumbers the Fantastic Four, and the Green Goblin “Overload.” J. Jonah Jameson reports on the “Overloads” and claims that Spider-Man is behind this. Loki then uses the Norn Frost on Venom since he is a creature worth overloading. Appearing near the stand of the Hot Dog Vendor, Venom is overloaded as Loki commands Venom to attack Spider-Man. Their fight takes them through the Daily Bugle much to the dismay of J. Jonah Jameson. Spider-Man manages to defeat Venom by getting one of Venom’s tendrils into the Linotype machine where Venom ends up flattened onto a bunch of newspapers. Venom’s body is taken away by Nick Fury, Captain America, and Wolverine. As Spider-Man swings away from the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson rants about his newsroom getting trashed as he vows to get Spider-Man for this. Spider-Man runs out of web fluid and falls into a dumpster leaving him to walk back to Queens again.
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While reprimanding his Chitauri henchman for sitting in his chair, Loki sees a helicopter carrying Mandarin flying to Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion to attack it. Loki then throws the Norn Frost at Mandarin who then prepares to attack. Iron Man saves Pepper Potts by getting her into an Iron Man armor. Iron Man then begins to fight Mandarin. As Loki plans to overload Mandarin further, his Chitauri minion slips and causes the Norn Frosts to fall into the nearby crevices. Iron Man uses his left glove to knock Mandarin out of his helicopter as he is grabbed by Falcon who takes Mandarin to the Helicarrier. Iron Man is then helped out of the rubble by his left glove before leaving with Pepper to eat out somewhere. Spider-Man suddenly finds himself at an offshore oil platform wondering how he got there. While his Scrying Mirror is getting fixed, Loki reaches out with his mind where he finds Iron Man and Iron Fist looking for Abomination. Loki finds Abomination on top of a passing airplane as he overloads Abomination. Upon Abomination breaking the airplane, Iron Man and Iron Fist rescue the passengers and land them safely on the offshore oil platform while Hulk arrives to fight Abomination. With help from Iron Fist, Hulk knocks Abomination into the ocean. When Loki plans to overload Hulk to serve him, Hulk notices his floating eyes and punches it as Loki feels the pain while getting a black eye.
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Loki declares that his plans are almost complete as his Chitauri minions sweep the floor. On the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Wolverine, Captain America, and Black Widow do a roll-call on the captive supervillains Doctor Octopus, Venom, Abomination, Mandarin, Red Skull, and Wizard. Loki then commands the supervillains to arise as they all end up overloaded again while being ordered to hop. The constant hopping causes the Helicarrier to fall onto Tony Stark’s rebuilt mansion. The supervillains then go on a rampage as Iron Man, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Captain America, Wolverine, and Hulk fight them. Thor arrives with Spider-Man upon finding him whining outside Avengers Tower. Spider-Man claims that he was angsting. Upon taking down Doctor Octopus, Thor traces the Norn Frost back to Loki. Thor brings Iron Man and Spider-Man to Asgard to confront Loki while the others fight the supervillains.
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Upon the Chitauri minions fixing the Scrying Mirror, Loki views it and sees Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man approaching his lair. Upon the arrival of Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, Loki eats all the Norn Frost in the possession of one of his Chitauri minions and fights them. After throwing Spider-Man into a wall, Loki states to Iron Man and Thor that he is meddling in the affairs of Earth and take the throne of Asgard (Loki whispered that part which the Chitauri minion said out loud). Upon Loki slipping, Thor throws Mjolnir at Loki as he hangs over the crevasse. Thor then demands that Loki removes his enchantment and vow to never disturb the peace of Midgard under the threat of the hammer noogie. Loki surrenders where the Norn Frost’s enchantment wears off enabling the supervillains to be defeated. Thor then plans to tell Odin what Loki was doing. Loki begs for Thor not to tell their father or to tell him that he was watching the Scrying Mirror since Odin took away his scrying privelages 3 centuries ago. After Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man leave, Loki changes the channel on the Scrying Mirror before Hulk can do another attack on him.
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On the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, the supervillains are locked up as they plan their revenge. On the deck of the Helicarrier, it was mentioned that Iron Man’s mansion has been repaired and the Helicarrier is back on the air. To get the angst out of Spider-Man, Nick Fury gives Spider-Man a S.H.I.E.L.D. Security Card and a Spider-Bike. As Spider-Man rides the web line off the Helicarrier, the superheroes celebrate their victory. As the Helicarrier takes off, the web line breaks causing Spider-Man and the Spider-Bike to fall. In the post-credits, J. Jonah Jameson is visiting the Hot Dog Vendor’s cart ordering a hot dog from him. Spider-Man lands safely on the nearby streets as his Spider-Bike falls on the Hot Dog Vendor’s cart. Getting mustard on him from the resulting incident, J. Jonah Jameson states that Spider-Man must be responsible as Spider-Man sneaks away.image_39e1ade4The animation is pretty amazing and one of the best Lego films I have seen with great attention to detail the effects are pretty good as well it just nice that they took the time to make the animation work and it’s better when you watch it in High Definition to better enjoy the attention of the art work It just a good film that I think the family would enjoy and fans of Lego and Marvel

REVIEW: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)
Drake Bell (Sueprhero Movie)
Ogie Banks (Superman vs The Elite)
Greg Cipes (Teen Titans)
Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Matt Lanter (Heroes)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Caitlyn Taylor Love (I’m With The Band)
Logan Miller (Deep Powder)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Misty Lee (Killer Kids)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Tara Strong (The New Batman Adventures)
Eric Bauza (Batman: Assault on Arkam)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Kevin Michael richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Stan Lee (Spider-Man)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman: The Movie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Rob Paulsen (Teenae Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterpise)
Travis Willingham (Shelf Life)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Roger Craig Smith (Wreck-it Ralph)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Jack Coleman (Heroes)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Rose McGowan (Planet Terror)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Stan Lee (Avengers Aseesmble)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Cameron Boyce (The Descendants)
Maria Canals-Barrera (Justice League)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
James Marsters (Caprica)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Billy West (Futurama)

I recently watched  Ultimate Spider-Man and I can honestly say that I have never wanted to stop watching a Spider-Man cartoon before in my life… until now. I have been a big fan of the Spider-Man comic series for many years and have liked almost all of the cartoon iterations of him, but this one just hurts to watch. I understand that Spider-Man is supposed to be a smart-mouthed teen who likes to make jokes while fighting crime, which is my favorite part about the character, but this show just takes it to an extreme.


I think one of the biggest problems for me was how much the stories are broken up by all of the “cut away” scenes.  I understand that Spider-Man is a show made for children and I get that the characters aren’t going to be nearly as serious as they are in the comics, but I feel like this was just too far from the source material for me to enjoy it. Another thing that bothered me was how just a few years ago we had, in my opinion, one of the best Spider-Man shows to date, Spectacular Spider-Man, and it was canceled in only it’s second season. I had really high hopes for Ultimate Spider-Man to fill the void that Spectacular Spider-Man left, but it just didn’t deliver at all.

As far as the voice acting on the show goes, they all seem to have done a really good job… with what they were given to read. So much of the writing in this show just seems so forced.why was Spectacular Spider-Man so much better and the most honest answer that I can give you is that it seems as though Marvel actually put a lot of work into Spectacular Spider-Man. I’m not saying that they didn’t put a lot of work into Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s much harder to see in this one. The character designs in Spectacular Spider-Man may not have hit all of the right points for some people, but I really enjoyed it. The action in the show looked really good and it was easy to follow exactly what was happening, because you didn’t have a bunch of blur that you had to try and see everything through. The story for Spectacular Spider-Man was your standard Spider-Man fare, but while it was a show essentially for kids, it also appealed to many adults as well.


I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man, but I just didn’t. I feel like if this show was about just another teen superhero other than Spider-Man it would have been much more forgivable, but for it to take such a dump on such a beloved character, it is just really sad to see. Now all that I can do is hope that the new Spider-Man movie can really bring something good to the table.

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED

MAIN CAST

Rino Romano (The Batman)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Donovan (ReBoot)
Brian Drummond (Dragon Ball Z)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jennifer Hale (Cinderella II)
Ron Halder (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Newman (Beast Wars)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Kim Hawthrone (Lucky Louie)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)

This is such a brilliant innovation in the Spiderman story and characterisation it really is a shame that it only ran for a total of thirteen episodes. This complete series is featured on two discs and an inlay card is included which folds out to be about the size of the box itself, clips from each episode are featured alongside comics caption/dialogue boxes which provide a synopsis of the action in this episode.

What struck me watching this was the extent to which for what is pretty much a simple saturday morning kids cartoon the episodes are cerebral, there is as much serious philosophizing as wise cracking. There are not just the normal heroics, standing up to bullies and being your best content which you may associate with cartoons of this kind but morally complex dilemmas too.

Spiderman himself has been rebooted but I think the detractors of the series who suggested it was essentially Spiderman reborn go too far. In addition to the powers imparted to him by being mutated by a spider bite Peter Parker has a costume now which can be deployed from a wrist watch like device comprised of nano technology. In addition to web slinging he can fire small darts, use a kind of sonic emitting blast to repell enemies, provides a stealth camoflage and be protected against fumes and gas canisters.

These are major changes and Spiderman has become much more sophisticated but given that his major antagonists from the start of this series are Venom and Carnage I really think this is necessary because these are two of the most formidable adversaries in the Marvel universe and I always thought some of the battles in the comics when Spiderman did not have the enhanced capabilities featured here where unconvincing.While the initial conflict is with Carnage and Venom the action quickly moves to an alternate universe in which humankind are the bottom of the heap in a caste system created by a sort of Dr Moreau Nemesis, there are now humans, servitor machines and bestial masters. Enter reflections upon class struggle, insurrection, subversion, terrorism, oppression and totalitarianism. None of this is played down or presented in a simplistic fashion. For instance Peter Parker’s initial objective of simply finding a way home to MJ becomes untenable as he discovers the pilot from an earlier mission to the alternate reality is a leader of the human resistance. Peter does not wish to join the insurgents but initially fufils the role of mediator between the factions, assisted in some way by lack of assurance on the part of the bestials that he is a human at all. The villain/nemesis himself in his back story is not unambiguously evil but rather is a plausibly disillusioned utopian genuis turned bitter, like Captain Nemo. There are possibly other more down played comments on animal testing, vivisection and vigilantism too.

However, all this said, is also possible to treat it as simple entertainment. There are appearences by alternate versions of Green Goblin and Vulture, heroes rather than villains, and The Hunter.

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1994) – SEASON 1-5

 

 

CAST

Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Rodney Saulsberry (The Animatrix)
Jennifer Hale (Wreck-It Ralph)
Gary Imhoff (The Green Mile)
Sara Ballantine (Batman Year One)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Liz Georges (As Told By Ginger)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Joseph Campanella (Ben)
Patrick Labyorteaux (Yes Man)
Maxwell Caulfield (Alien Intruder)
Neil Ross (Rambo)
Roscoe Lee Brown (Babe)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
Dawnn Lewis (Futurama)
Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
George Buza (Mutant X)
Cedric Smith (Earth: Final Conflict)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (Forever Knight)
Alison Sealy-Smith (You Kill Me)
Alyson Court (Beetlejuice TV)
Chris Potter (Heartland)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek Generations)
J.D. Hall (Undercover Brother)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday the 13th – Part 8)
George Takei (Star Trek)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Courtney Peldon (Frozen)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Barbara Goodson (Power Rangers)
James Avery (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Conflict)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Jeff Corey (Conan The Destroyer)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Mira Furlan (Lost)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
David Hayter (X-Men)
Roy Dotrice (Hercules: TLJ)
Paul Winfield (Star Trek II)
Majel Barrett (Star Trek)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

The set itself is well presented, although the artwork is a little cheap, and clearly done in a way as to mimic the style of the 90s series. Anyone who has the recent X-Men Season releases will be familiar with this. Unlike those, this one also has a slipcase. A booklet with episode synopses is also included.

Spider-Man has season-long arcs, which when viewed in succession make for great television. Christopher Barnes is brilliant as Spider-Man (especially in those fleeting moments of extreme rage), and the guests were memorable too, particularly Rob Paulsen’s oafish Hydro Man and Jennifer Hale as Felicia Hardy/ Black Cat.

The music was great too, but while Spider-Man relied on several repeated  cues,  Another thing about Spider-Man is that even after all these years I find myself being surprised by some of the plot twists, which were even more abundant upon first viewing. Thankfully, John Semper (creative head of the show) was bold enough to change much of the original stories to make them worth animating in the first place. What else? A minor triumph, but the colouring on this cartoon is the best of any I’ve ever seen. A simple praise. While the show lost its way during the muddled fourth year it had some great episodes in the last series, with one of the greatest resolution-with-cliffhanger endings in animation history. A rare treat in that its much, much better than you remember it.

Some of the best episodes were – the three-parter, “The Alien Costume”- a marvellous introduction for the ultimately underused Venom (a deliciously insane Hank Azaria)- and the two-part “Hobgoblin” are among the best in the show’s five-year run. “Night of the Lizard”, a pilot of sorts, is interesting in that there’s an awful lot more effort put into the animation than in later episodes, as is often the case.

Animation from the 1990s doesn’t come much better than this, and Marvel have yet to top it.

REVIEW: IRON MAN (1994)

CAST (VOICES)

Robert Hays (Airplane)
James Avery (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Ed Gilbert (Transformers)
Robert Ito (Batman: TAS)
Dorian Harewood (Sparkle)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Matt Frewer (Taken)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Lisa Zane (Monkeybone)

Although only lasting two seasons, Iron Man was the subject of a major overhaul between seasons when its production studio was changed. The result was a massively changed premise, tone, and general approach, which left the disparate seasons scarcely recognizable as being two halves of the same series.

The first season of Iron Man featured little more than a Masters of the Universe-style battle of “good against evil”, as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark battled the evil forces of the world-conquering Mandarin as the armored superhero, Iron Man. In his evil endeavors to steal Stark’s technology and Iron Man’s armor, the Mandarin led a group of villains consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle (when it comes to fighting Iron Man and his team, he has a tendency to accidentally turn his fellow villains to stone), Hypnotia (Dreadknight and Blacklash were rivals for the affections of Hypnotia), Whirlwind, Living Laser, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom and Justin Hammer. To combat these villains, Iron Man had the help of his own team (based on Force Works, a then-current comic book team which has since faded into obscurity), including Century, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (replacing U.S. Agent from the comics) and Spider Woman.

The season consisted mostly of single-episode open-and-shut-case adventures, with two two-part stories late towards the end. Unlike many other Marvel animated series, despite featuring over-the-top titles that paid homage to the early Stan Lee written Marvel comics of the 1960s (for example, “The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat”, and “Rejoice, I am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer”), almost none of the episodes were adaptations of comic book stories, consisting instead of original stories penned by Ron Friedman, occasionally collaborated on by Stan Lee himself. The closest the season came to adapting a comic book tale was in the two-part “The Origin of Iron Man”, which recounted a (modified and modernized) version of the character’s comic book origin  just before the season concluded.

This late-run recounting of the title character’s origin is symptomatic of what is generally thought of as the season’s greatest weakness – despite (or perhaps because of) having such a large cast of characters, very few of the show’s heroes and villains were actually developed in any way, leaving viewers unaware of their personal stories and powers. The show is generally held to have been at its best when filling in these origin blanks (MODOK in “Enemy Without, Enemy Within,” Iron Man and the Mandarin in their self-titled “The Origin of…” episodes), but these were rare occasions, with virtually every other plot simply consisting of the Mandarin attempting to steal Stark’s newest invention and being bested, often through very strange and illogical means (with the nadir perhaps being Iron Man somehow using the energy of a small tape-player to restore his armor to full power in “Silence My Companion, Death My Destination”).

A small sub-plot in the first season revolves around Mandarin secretly spying on Force Works. It culminates in “The Wedding of Iron Man” when Stark realizes they have been spied on by reviewing events from previous episodes (and explaining how Mandarin’s forces always knew where they would be), realising that Mandarin has acquired enough information to potentially deduce the true identity of Iron Man. The entire episode’s plot is dedicated to resolving the problem, culminating in Iron Man and his team setting up an elaborate deception where Mandarin sees Iron Man and Tony Stark in the same place with the intention being to convince him that the two men are not the same person (The ‘Tony’ in the situation was an android).

In 1995, Marvel switched The Marvel Action Hour to a new animation studio (as previously mentioned, the animation in Season 1 was provided by the Rainbow Animation Group, while the animation in Season 2 was provided by Koko Enterprises), and with it came new writers (Ron Friedman was replaced by Tom Tataranowicz for Season 2) and new music for each sequence, coupled with a new direction for the series. The first season’s subtle keyboard theme music for Iron Man (composed by progressive rock artist Keith Emerson) was replaced by an intense electric guitar theme featuring the repeated refrain of “I am Iron Man!”, while showing Tony Stark beating red-hot iron plates into shape with a blacksmith’s hammer (possibly to mimic the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man”). Tony Stark’s longer hair style in the second season was based upon the artist Mark Bright’s depiction of Stark from the late 1980s, which is where most of the episodes from Season 2 were based upon.

The new story lines spanned multiple episodes and were no longer “open and shut” cases. They formed a linking narrative, featuring themes of duplicity, consequence, and phobias. Also, the stories were no longer centered on the Mandarin, whose rings had been scattered and whose power had been depleted. While the Mandarin did appear in these episodes, his appearances were reduced to cameos in the cliffhangers at the end of the story, as he tried to retrieve each ring.

Another change was that Force Works was mostly written out of the series, parting ways with Stark after he deceives them in order to work in secret with the Mandarin when Fin Fang Foom and his fellow Dragons were plotting to eliminate Earth. When Stark’s counter plan against Justin Hammer, which includes faking his death without the knowledge of his teammates, leads to a disbanding of Force Works, Julia Carpenter and James Rhodes are the only ones who continue to work with Stark. This split would be revisited with Stark’s ensuing conflicts with Hawkeye over the course of several episodes.

Also, War Machine develops a phobia of being trapped inside his armor (also based on a then-current comic storyline), but this is resolved before the final episode. While Rhodes was active as War Machine in Season 1, he remained out of armor for the majority of Season 2 due to reliving a tragic drowning experience while being trapped underwater in the War Machine armor in the Season 2 episode “Fire And Rain”. Rhodes eventually overcomes his fear and dons the War Machine armor once again in the episode “Distant Boundaries”.

Prior to finding his last two rings, the Mandarin claims his eighth ring from MODOK in the episode “Empowered”. “Empowered” was the clip show of the season, the purpose being that the Mandarin wanted to learn of Iron Man’s recent activities. In the finale,[9][10] the Mandarin, having regained all of his rings, unleashes a mist using the Heart of Darkness to render everything technological useless. Iron Man reunites with Force Works in order to stop him. The Mandarin unmasks Iron Man before their final showdown ends in his death. More specifically, Iron Man manages to reflect the power of Mandarin’s rings, destroying them, and ultimately leaving the Mandarin with amnesia and helpless before a band of desert bandits who likely killed him, or at least cut off his hand/fingers for the rings. After Mandarin was killed, MODOK and the rest of Mandarin’s henchmen were sent to jail. After disappointing ratings, the series was canceled.

After twenty six episodes, Iron Man the animated series remains a very mixed bag. Blame for this shows disappointing quality can be attributed to constrictions placed upon the writers to feature as many Iron Man suits as possible in each episode as free publicity for the toys. On the bright side, it got better, allowing the audience at least 13 episodes of decent animated entertainment.

REVIEW: X-MEN: EVOLUTION – SEASON 1-4

Image result for x-men evolution logo

CAST (VOICES)

David Kaye (Happy Gilmore)
Kirby Morrow (Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation)
Venus Terzo (Arrow)
Brad Swaile (Zoids)
Maggie Blue O’Hara (My Little Pony Tales)
Neil Dneis (Stargate SG.1)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Kirsten Williamson (Juno)
Meghan Black (Elf)
Michael Kopsa (Apollo 18)


RECURRING / NORABLE GUEST CAST

Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Christopher Judge (Stargate SG.1)
Alessandro Juliani(Smallville)
Michael Adamthwaite (BLack Xmas)
Megan Leitch (IT)
Mark Hildreth (V)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)

UntitledThe first season introduces the core characters and lays the foundations for future story lines. Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Jean Grey make up the original X-Men. As the season develops, the ranks of the X-Men are bolstered by the appearance of Nightcrawler in the first episode,[2] Shadowcat in the second, Spyke in the fifth, and Rogue (who originally joins the Brotherhood in the fourth episode) in the third. In the later episodes of this season, Nightcrawler discovers the identity of his birth mother, Wolverine finds answers to his past, Rogue switches sides to join the X-Men and Xavier’s half-brother, Juggernaut, is released from his prison.UntitledConfrontations are typically with the Brotherhood, who vie for new recruits with the X-Men over the course of the season. Toad is the first to be introduced, followed by Avalanche, Blob and Quicksilver. The Brotherhood, led by Mystique, are in fact being directed by a higher power, the identity of whom was “revealed” in the two-part season finale as being Magneto. After Cyclops discovers that his brother Alex actually survived the plane crash that killed their parents, they are both taken by Magneto into his “sanctuary” on Asteroid M. Magneto captures several X-Men and Brotherhood members in an attempt to amplify their mutant abilities and remove their emotions. The Brotherhood and X-Men show up leaving Magneto, Sabretooth and Mystique trapped on the asteroid. Asteroid M is destroyed by Scott and Alex Summers, but not before two metal spheres fly from the exploding asteroid.

UntitledThe second season sees the addition of several new mutants, including Beast, who becomes a teacher at the Xavier Institute and an X-Man, as well as a version of the New Mutants: Boom Boom, Sunspot, Iceman, Wolfsbane, Magma, Multiple, Jubilee, Berzerker, and Cannonball. During the course of the season, it is revealed that the villains who supposedly perished on Asteroid M are actually alive. Sabretooth continues his pursuit of Wolverine, while Magneto continues to work his own agenda. Mystique poses as Risty Wilde, a high school student at Bayville High who befriends Rogue and breaks into the mansion to steal Xavier’s Cerebro files. Using the files, she recovers Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, Magneto’s daughter and Quicksilver’s sister. The mentally unstable mutant joins the Brotherhood upon Mystique’s return, allowing them to defeat the X-Men in a battle at the Bayville Mall. Before the finale, a pivotal episode aired featuring the telepath Mesmero opening one of three doors that would unleash a mutant known as Apocalypse.

UntitledIn the season finale, Xavier rigorously trains his X-Men to face Magneto, pairing them with the Brotherhood. Cyclops, furious with having to work with his former adversaries, leaves the team. The mansion is later set to self-destruct with Cyclops and several students still inside. Magneto, meanwhile, recruits Sabretooth, Gambit, Pyro and Colossus as his Acolytes to fight the X-Men/Brotherhood team. At the same time, Wolverine is captured by Bolivar Trask to use as a test subject for the anti-mutant weapon, the Sentinel. Magneto continues to manipulate events by unleashing the Sentinel onto the city, forcing the X-Men to use their powers in public. Wanda tracks down Magneto and attacks him while he is trying to deal with the Sentinel that is targeting him. The Sentinel is damaged and apparently crushes Magneto as it falls. When the mutants who have not been captured by the Sentinel return to the remains of the mansion, Cyclops and the students emerge from the explosion with minor injuries. Scott throws Xavier from his wheelchair and blames him for blowing up the mansion. Everyone is shocked as Xavier calmly stands up, transforming into Mystique.

In seasons three and four, the show notably begins to take a much more serious tone. After the battle with the Sentinel, the mutants are no longer a secret and public reaction is one of hostility. The show is brought into more traditional X-Men lore, dealing with themes of prejudice, public misconception, and larger threats. As the season progresses, the real Xavier is found, Mystique is defeated, the mansion is rebuilt, and the X-Men allowed back into Bayville High. Wanda continues to search for Magneto, who she discovers was saved by Quicksilver at the last second, until Magneto uses the telepathic mutant Mastermind to change her childhood memories. Scott and Jean develop a stronger and closer romantic relationship (particularly after Mystique kidnaps Scott and brings him to Mexico), and Spyke leaves the X-Men when his mutant ability becomes uncontrollable, deciding to live with the sewer-dwelling mutants known as the Morlocks.

 

As part of the series arc, Rogue loses control of her powers, leading to her hospitalization. During this time, she learns that she is in fact Mystique’s adoptive daughter. Mystique, through the visions of the mutant Destiny, foresaw that the fate of Rogue and herself lay in the hands of an ancient mutant that would be resurrected. Apocalypse emerges in the season’s final episodes. Mesmero manipulates Magneto into opening the second door, and uses Mystique and a hypnotized Rogue to open the last, turning Mystique to stone in the process. Now released, Apocalypse easily defeats the combined strength of the X-Men, Magneto, the Acolytes, and the Brotherhood before escaping

The final season contained only for nine episodes. In the season premiere, Apocalypse apparently kills Magneto while Rogue murders Mystique by pushing her petrified figure off a cliff, leaving Nightcrawler without closure. The Brotherhood become temporary do-gooders, Wolverine’s teenage girl clone X-23 returns, Spyke and the Morlocks rise to the surface, Shadowcat discovers a mutant ghost who is found in an underground cave, Rogue is kidnapped by Gambit and taken to Louisiana to help free his father, and Xavier travels to Scotland in order to confront his son David. The character Leech is also introduced as a young boy named “Dorian Leach”.

In the finale, Apocalypse defeats Xavier and Storm, transforming them, along with Magneto and Mystique, into his Four Horsemen. Apocalypse instructs his Horsemen to protect his three domes and his ‘base of operations’, which will turn the majority of the world population into mutants. In the final battle, the Horsemen are returned to normal and Apocalypse is sent through time. Rogue and Nightcrawler refuse the excuses of their mother, Shadowcat and Avalanche find love once again, Magneto is reunited with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Storm and Spyke are also reunited, and Xavier sees his students reunited as the X-Men.

 

X-Men: Evolution may not hold a candle to the 90s series, but on its own merits it is decent. I can see why people dislike it as even on its own terms it does have glaring flaws, but I do think it should be judged on its own rather than being compared all the time. Okay, Season 1 wasn’t brilliant, there was a lot of cheesy dialogue, slow and melodramatic story lines, not enough Wolverine, a great character, and too much of Spike, one like Kitty that annoys me to no end, plus Rogue seems bland to me in this series. However, Season 2 onward was much stronger, the pacing is much crisper, the action scenes are exciting, the writing was a little more intelligent.