Action Adventure

Review: ‘X-Men ’97’ is an Action-Packed Revival that Goes Beyond Nostalgia for ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’

March 20, 2024Ben MK

When it comes to Saturday morning cartoons, few series have amassed the kind of cult followings as X-Men: The Animated Series. Debuting in 1992 and running for five seasons, the show may have ended before the X-Men began to make a name for themselves on the big screen, however, that didn't stop it from becoming one of the most popular incarnations of the superhero team outside of the comics. It's a testament to the series' impact on both veteran comic book fans and younger viewers alike. And in X-Men '97, the beloved show makes its long-overdue return to television screens, as Marvel's most famous mutants are faced with a new team dynamic, new challenges, and some familiar villains.

Set a year after the fateful events of X-Men: The Animated Series' final episode, "Graduation Day," X-Men '97 finds the X-Men still struggling to deal with the departure of their founder and stalwart former leader, Professor Charles Xavier. Rising to the task of filling the void left by Professor X's absence and expecting a baby son with his wife and fellow teammate, Jean Grey (Jennifer Hale), Cyclops (Ray Chase) has been doing his best to keep up appearances, even though he and Jean have been contemplating leaving their life of superheroics behind to raise their child. However, when the X-Men step in to diffuse a dangerous hostage situation involving a rogue anti-mutant militant group calling themselves the Friends of Humanity, they inadvertently wind up having to get to the bottom of a secret plan to revive the Sentinel program — a scheme masterminded that none other than original Sentinel creator Boliver Trask himself — which will see the X-Men once again going up against the super Sentinel known as Master Mold, as well as a single-minded, new adversary calling himself the X-cutioner.

Wielding a prototype laser rifle powered by technology capable of stripping mutants of their unique abilities permanently, the X-cutioner isn't the only wrinkle in the X-Men's attempts to move forward without Professor X, however. For when their former arch nemesis, Magneto (Matthew Waterson), unexpectedly shows up at the X-mansion claiming that Charles left everything to him in his last will and testament, it threatens to upend the group’s entire belief system. Claiming that he's turned over a new leaf and that he's genuinely determined to honor Charles' final wishes, Magneto is adamant about proving his new hero status. But while Cyclops remains skeptical of Magneto's true intentions, will Wolverine (Cal Dodd), Rogue (Lenore Zann), Gambit (A.J. LoCascio), Beast (George Buza), Nightcrawler (Adrian Hough), Morph (JP Karliak), Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith), Bishop (Isaac Robinson-Smith) and Jubilee (Holly Chou) feel the same way? And will the public at large no longer deem Magneto a terrorist threat when he's put on trial for crimes against humanity by the United Nations?

Throw in an evil plot by Mr. Sinister (Chris Britton) to cause a violent rift amongst the X-Men and to use Cyclops and Jean's offspring to fulfill his own twisted ambitions, and you have the makings of an animated adventure that not only proves itself a worthy followup to X-Men: The Animated Series, but which also forges a bold new path for everyone's favorite mutant superheroes. Whether it's X-Men '97's reprisal of the original show's legendary theme song or the series' eye-catching animation style, which does a fantastic job evoking the visual aesthetic of its predecessor while subtly updating the look of the show to 2024 standards, there's plenty for longtime fans and casual newcomers to be enamored with. Above all else, though, it's the series' faithfulness to the characters themselves that makes the result the perfect nostalgic throwback that it is.

Suffice to say, admirers of the original animated show won't be disappointed. And although there are numerous examples of revival series that have attempted to recreate the magic of their namesakes only to fail miserably, X-Men '97 definitely isn't one of them. A show clearly made by creators who are fans themselves, it easily surpasses Marvel Studios Animation's previous efforts. And while only time will tell if the rest of the season lives up to the promise set forth by X-Men '97's first three episodes, it's hard to imagine future generations not looking back on it with the same degree of love as viewers today look back on X-Men: The Animated Series.

X-Men '97 begins streaming March 20th, exclusively on Disney Plus.

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