Wolverine and The X-Men did things a little differently when it burst on to screen in 2008 (well, 2009 for the United States). The first episode pretty much wiped out everything we knew about the X-Men, what was common knowledge about this group of heroes, and made them a team no longer. Re-examining the opening arc, resetting the playing field was definitely a smart way to bring both newcomers and long-time fans on the same playing field for this animated series. And, thankfully, after the show’s explosive opening moments, the paced rarely let up for what would prove to be an ambitious animated series.
After a mysterious explosion at the Xavier mansion, and the resulting disappearances of Professor Xavier and Jean Grey, the distraught X-Men disband. But soon Wolverine, Storm, Beast and the others must join together again to not only battle the increasingly powerful Mutant Response Division, but also to prevent a catastrophic future that Xavier has warned Wolverine must never come to pass. With help from their allies, the heroic X-Men wage war against formidable foes as the present and future collide. But who will win? Discover for yourself as this extraordinary series is presented together in one complete collection like never before with Wolverine and The X-Men – The Complete Series.
Having the opportunity to view the entire 26-episode run of Wolverine and The X-Men, it goes without saying that this is an ambitious series, one that the creative team behind it definitely deserve props for. They pulled if off, and quite nicely, too. After it kicks off on quite the explosive note, viewers are treated to an ominous unraveling story, one with plenty of great twists and turns (with some of the best happening in the last quarter of the series). While there are more than a few pit-stops along the way, essentially a nice way to say “the odd filler episode,” Wolverine and The X-Men rarely falters as it manages to create a solid, complete story from beginning to end. Sadly, the series ends on a great cliffhanger that we’ll never see realized.
Wolverine and The X-Men is a show that I’d have to call a mix of the old X-Men: The Animated Series from the 1990s and the recent X-Men: Evolution animated series. The show tries the same “inspired by the comics” take that the old cartoon draped over itself mixed with the accessibility of the recent teen-drama rendition of the merry mutants, and, to be honest, it does work. It walks a fine line between the two, though occasionally does dip into some very continuity-heavy events at time that could confuse new viewers, but things do level out quite well for the series during the first season. One thing that helps the series immensely is how it seems to grow episode to episode, with both the threats and character stakes becoming more and more dire. The impressive voice work also helps in maintaining the shows integrity, allowing even some of the more “out there” plots to come across as completely reasonable. The voice cast also helps establish the tone, as nearly each episode features a large ensemble cast.
Still, as well-executed as Wolverine and The X-Men is, it does stumble a teeny bit. The pace is a little slow at times for the first half of the 26-episode run, which is understandable since the show is basically using the first thirteen episodes to establish its premise. The status of the X-Men, the various tie-in events past and presents, supporting characters, all of that is explained and explored in the first half. The level of dedication to setting up to the series is staggering and impressive, but it does hold the series back a little at first. The series really picks up after hitting its mid-season point, plowing straight ahead and answering a plethora of questions. With the set-up and exposition out of the way, Wolverine and The X-Men is then able to establish a better rhythm at giving us both solid “done in one” installments while also moving ahead the overall story. Along the way we get some great twists and surprises, including the solving of two of the big mysteries from the series opener, particularly what caused the explosion and what happened to Jean Grey.
As I said, we do get some filler episodes and some weak episodes, but both are few and far in-between. Episodes likes the Mojo-centric “Hunting Grounds” and the ninja-happy “Code of Conduct” rank as the weakest, while episodes driven by the overall story arc tend to be the strongest, with the final episodes arguably the absolute cream of the crop for Wolverine and The X-Men. Some of the one-offs, like “Wolverine Versus Hulk” are fun but nothing special. The action can also seem castrated at times, but that is more the fault of broadcast censors than creative choices.
Episodes featured in this release include “Hindsight, Part One,” “Hindsight, Part Two,” “Hindsight, Part Three,” “Overflow,” “Thieves’ Gambit,” “X-Calibre,” “Wolverine Versus The Hulk,” “Time Bomb,” “Future X,” “Welcome to Genosha,” “Past Directions,” “eXcessive Force,” “Battlelines,” “Stolen Lives,” “Hunting Grounds,” “Badlands,” “Code Of Conduct,” “Backlash,” “Guardian Angel,” “Breakdown,” “Rover,” “Aces And Eights,” “Shades Of Grey,” “Foresight, Part One,” “Foresight, Part Two,” and “Foresight, Part Three.”
I have no doubt that Wolverine and The X-Men- The Complete Series will definitely please many of the fans, given how it manages to play so close to the source material but, at the same time, manages to be relatively accessible to newbies. Sure, there may be a few instances where the show may be slightly confusing to new viewers of the franchise, but the quick recaps and heavy-at-times exposition is more than enough to clue anyone in. When you boil it down, Wolverine and The X-Men gets progressively better as it frees itself up from the heavy exposition that saddles the earlier episodes, resulting in a satisfying 26-episode epic. Once the show runs with the premise, it’s full-on mayhem with more than a few legitimate surprises. All of that makes for a very satisfying viewing experience, especially when the series pays-off on so many of the subplots established early on, making it very easy to stamp Wolverine and The X-Men as Highly Recommended.
Definitely a surprise, Lionsgate Home Entertainment has fit the entire Wolverine and The X-Men animated series on just three DVD discs. Three discs. Plus bonus content. All housed nicely in a standard-sized Amaray case. And, thankfully, it looks quite good.
Digging into the audio and video transfer quality for this release, viewers are in for a true surprise here. With the high amount of episodes per disc, between eight to nine per, the audio and video quality is incredibly high. In fact, comparing this release to previous single-volume releases of this title, there is very little change in the video/audio quality. There’s some noticeable interlacing, but the picture is generally crisp and shockingly clear. Those worried about any video compromise due to the amount of episodes per disc for this release can rest easy. The audio is just as crisp and clear. If you have picked up any of the previous Wolverine and The X-Men single-disc volume releases, then you know what to expect.
Moving on to the bonus content, well, there’s plenty to soak in. Commentaries, featurettes and trailer little the three disc set, providing plenty of details on the creation of this recent animated series. The biggest wealth of bonus content comes in the form of 29 audio commentaries featuring the crew behind the animated series. For those most part these tracks provide great insight into the creation of the series, occasionally falling into the trap of simply narrating what is on screen. It happens every once and awhile, but the more interesting, usually light-hearted discussion tends to win out. Show creators Craig Kyle, Greg Johnson, Boyd Kirkland, Steve Gordon and Chris Yost lend a considerable amount of time to discuss the shows and are definitely worth a listen, especially if you’ve previously seen all the episodes included here. They’re chock full of info, humor, and even point out little nods that fans may have missed the first time through. Definitely worth a listen, even a few at a time to get through all 29!
Moving on to the remaining bonus content, first up is the roughly 19-minute featurette “The Inner Circle: Reflections of Wolverine and The X-Men” looking back at the 26 episode series. A good chunk of the creative team on the series is interviewed here, all looking back very fondly on the work done on the series. Many different topics are touched upon during this brief featurette, including how the show came about, the odd difficulty they experienced, some easter eggs, and much more. An interesting factoid from featurette is that the Broadcast Standard & Practices crew came down harder on the show when it came to intimacy than violence which, as Kyle mentions, is a baffling example of what is acceptable on television today. I found that this featurette served as a nice compliment to the audio commentaries.
The disc wraps up with the promotional featurette “Making Wolverine and The X-Men,” serving as a general overview of the series, and a selection of trailers.
If you’re a fan of Wolverine and The X-Men, then you need to pick up this collection. There’s no way around it. The entire series, with bonus content, in one DVD collection, makes for an excellent overall release. Wolverine and The X-Men is a great series, packed with plenty of story, action and genuine twists. Sure, there are a couple weak episodes, but those are miniscule compared to the great stuff this show brings forth. Tack on some informative featurettes and a ridiculous amount of audio commentaries and fans will definitely get their money’s worth here, even if those fans picked up the previous single-disc volume releases. Wolverine and The X-Men – The Complete Series is a great release, a superb little package from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, that all fans should have in their collections. Highly Recommended, bub!
Wolverine and The X-Men – The Complete Series is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray.
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