My first introduction to Wolverine and the new X-Men occurred in June 1978 when they were the prisoners of Mesmero at a Texas circus in X-Men Issue #111. Back then they were dubbed the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men. During the 1980s, The X-Men became Marvel Comics' biggest-selling title and Wolverine was their breakout star. The character's gruff attitude and mutant abilities made him utterly engaging, but I didn't understand why he stood out and soaked up most of the spotlight over what I saw as numerous other equally interesting characters.
I was slightly disappointed when I first heard the title of the third X-Men animated television series, 'Wolverine and the X-Men', because it separated him from the pack as if they were his back-up. Obviously there are business reasons for featuring a very popular character in the lead, and the creators reveal in the extras that this series was intended to tie-in with 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine,' but after not liking the first episode of 'X-Men: Evolution' because of its 'Muppet Babies' feel, and the concern of what this new series would be, I decided to pass when the 26 episodes aired on Nicktoons.
However, I am very glad to have given it a second chance with this Blu-ray release, because supervising producer Craig Kyle and head writer Greg Johnson have created one of the better-written Marvel Comics animated adaptations. Characters and storylines from the X-Men comics are used, although fans will find their histories and relationships are occasionally altered. A story arc runs through what the creative team thought was going to be the first season and ends it with an unexpected cliffhanger that had great potential. Naturally, the series is filled with action and fight scenes, yet they don't seem repetitive. Amidst the drama, there are also moments of humor.
In the opening episode, "Hindsight (Part 1)", Professor Xavier and Jean Grey feel some sort of psychic presence just before an explosion destroys Xavier's mansion and leaves no trace of Xavier or Jean. The titles reveal a jump forward of a year. Without Xavier's guidance, the X-Men have disbanded. Wolverine and Beast begin reforming the team with varying degrees of success to stand up against a government agency known as the Mutant Response Division and its most vocal supporter Senator Kelly. Iceman, Shadowcat, Forge, and Cyclops, who is very distraught over the loss of his love Jean, join their fellow mutants. The villain Emma Frost, a telepath, shows up to assist with Cerebro, a device that can track mutants. Wolverine doesn't trust her, but has to take a chance since there is no one with her abilities to assist him. The gamble pays off as she finds Xavier on the island of Genosha where Xavier's main rival Magneto resides.
Xavier is in a coma, and when they bring his body home to the mansion, they receive a telepathic message from him 20 years in the future when he has finally awoken. He tells them they need to avert the apocalyptic future he finds himself in, one in which they are all dead. It's not clear how Xavier can communicate telepathically through time, and it raises a few questions, but if viewers accept this concept, the most outlandish idea of the series, then they shouldn’t have a problem with any other story elements as Xavier sends Wolverine and the team on missions.
The writers increase the conflict by using a number of characters from the books and allowing their relationships to play out. The X-Men's fight against the government is complicated by The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, whose actions are more sinister and only serve to foment more division between man and mutants. Former X-Man Rogue joins them. On the human side, the mutant Angel has to deal with his father funding the MRD, working to "cure" mutants, and helping to create the Sentinels, robots to round up mutants.
The producers allow for a few standalone episodes that provide more information about the characters, who are not simply good and evil but display a believable array of emotions and motivations, which sometimes result in changing allegiances. For those who saw 'Hulk Vs,' "Wolverine vs. the Hulk" is a reimaging of the comic book "Hulk" #181 and makes brief reference to that previous direct-to-video release.
Fans of the X-Men should enjoy what in essence is a 26-issue maxiseries because all the good qualities of the books have been transferred to the TV series.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Wolverine and the X-Men – The Complete Series' is a three-disc set of 50GB Blu-ray discs housed in a blue keepcase. Disc 1 offers trailers of the animated features 'Thor: Tales of Asgard', 'Planet Hulk', 'Next Avengers', and 'Battle for Terra'. It is locked for Region A and B.
The video is presented with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and looks good for the most part. The hand-drawn animation blends well with the computer graphics. There's a very good effect that simulates distortion when their plane, Blackbird, uses its cloaking device. The characters are created through a lot of thin lines that are well defined.
Colors are strong and vibrant, mostly with objects in the foreground that move. The yellow of Wolverine's costume is bright and the blue of Beast's hair and Nightcrawler's skin is rich. Backgrounds have a softer, watercolor look with very little detail created. In the future setting, red, orange, and pink help to create the devastated landscape. Blacks are solid and consistent.
There are brief instances of banding that seem to increase as the series progresses, usually occurring in the sky. There is also one horrendous-looking shot during the final episode, "Foresight (Part 3)" where Magneto stands atop a Sentinel's shoulder and the picture is so unstable that numerous segments of the frame fluctuate, it looks like it is raining.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is much better than I expected for an animated TV series and it's obvious the sound design put in a lot of work. The cast's dialogue is always understandable, even amidst the chaos, but it's the action scenes where the track really excels.
There's good positioning of objects within the soundfield and they can be heard moving about, particularly objects that are thrown around. The subwoofer delivers a solid bottom end on the explosions and the items that get smashed. Even on subtler moments, such as the footsteps of the Blob as he walks around. The surrounds are very good as crickets can be heard in a quieter, outdoor scene. A wide dynamic range is evident as softer sounds of fire cracking and ice forming can clearly be heard.
'Wolverine and the X-Men' delivers a fun, action-packed superhero series built on engaging characters and well-plotted stories. Other than some minor video issues, the Blu-ray offers a very good high-definition experience throughout the over 10 hours of material, which is augmented by solid sound and thorough commentaries. To quote Stan Lee, "'Nuff Said."