Rachel Recaps X-Men: Evolution
S1E2: The X Impulse

You know how I said that X-Men: Evolution is really entertaining even when it’s really, really bad? This week, we’re gonna put that to the test. Prepare for more rock puns than you have ever heard in a single 22-minute stretch. Also, Transformers. Kinda.

In other news, I still have no idea what the titles refer to.

BUT FIRST, A PRETEND HORROR MOVIE!

We open with the Pryde home, in a fictional town in Illinois. The town has a name, but I don’t care what it is, and it’s never going to be relevant again, so I’m just gonna call it Fake Deerfield. Cool? Cool.

OH, MY GOD, IT'S CINEMATOGRAPHY!

OH, MY GOD, IT’S GRATUITOUS LIGHTNING!

Kitty dreams that she’s falling, and–spoiler–she actually falls through her bed and floor and lands in the basement. She wakes up screaming, and her parents rush down to comfort her. They think she was sleepwalking–until they look up and a PORTENTOUS FLASH OF LIGHTNING illuminates her blanket, embedded in the basement ceiling.

OH MY GOD! THAT’S–actually, wait, that’s not scary at all.

Okay, look, I get what they were shooting for here, but you know who has the least horror-movie powers of just about all the X-Men? Hint: It’s definitely Kitty, barring the stories where phased becomes her default state (which this isn’t). Framing this scene and the Prydes’ cheerfully generic suburban house like a horror movie reminds me of one of those recut trailers where you try to make a movie look like a genre it obviously isn’t; or a kid telling a shaggy-dog joke and then waiting for you to be overjoyed at the lack of punchline; or the entire movie White Noise.1 It’s all buildup, with no proportionate payoff.

NOPE!

Ew, Cerebro, no. Don’t do that.

Meanwhile, back at Stately Xavier Manor, Kitty’s late-night spill pings Cerebro. Does anyone else find it unsettling that Professor X has a psychic supercomputer that provides him with turnaround full body scans of teenagers?

Also, Cerebro accurately predicts the outfit that Kitty is going to wear to school the next day.2

“What am I?” wails Kitty. “What’s happening to me?” Just give it five seconds, kid–the credits montage identifies you quite clearly as Shadowcat.

At Bayville High, Kurt Wagner is running late because he is super into terrible fast-food breakfast sandwiches; and The Queen of Awesome Shoulder Pads Principal Evil Powerbutch Sigourney Weaver Mystique is lying in wait to, um, give him shit about being tardy?

JUDGING YOU!

Judging you so hard.

“Watch isn’t slow,” she says. “Must be you.” I love how hard they work to make her look extra supervillainous when she’s just doing asshole principal stuff. Sure, she’s being gratuitously nasty about it, but “chewing out students who are chronically tardy” does fall under the general umbrella of normal administrative behavior.3 Luckily for Kurt, Cyclops shows up with a flimsy excuse in time to rescue him from being dragged to the office or having to join Principal Darkholme’s after-school program, which I assume is just straight-up the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Of course, Kurt gets a lecture anyway, because the downside of getting rescued from an authority figure by Cyclops is that you just got rescued from an authority figure by Cyclops.

Back in Fake Deerfield, Kitty is sneaking out to school. I was briefly optimistic–I mean, that’s a very Kitty Pryde thing to do–but then she started talking.

Let me tell you about my Kitty Pryde. My Kitty Pryde is super smart and not wildly socially savvy and talks kind of like an adult and goes through phases of desperately wanting to be cool but never quite gets there. My Kitty Pryde has frizzy hair and is a little too serious but also very much a kid, and she’s a master hacker and she is not a vapid Illinois Valley Girl.4

Remember how I wrote last episode that Evolution Cyclops is kinda Cyclops distilled? Evolution Shadowcat, not so much. She’ll get more of a personality eventually, but for now, I hate her with the fire of a thousand suns; or, alternately, the rage of someone watching the first X-Men character she really identified with as a teenager stripped of every quality we had in common.

She does do great teenager facial expressions, though.

She does do great teenager facial expressions, though.

I guess she’s still supposed to be smart, or smartish–later this episode, another student teases her about getting straight As–but that’s really the only sign of it we see, ever. I suspect that they were probably trying to distinguish her from Jean, who’s a hardcore overachiever; but there are so many ways to do that5 without stripping away one of her core defining characteristics. Hell, she could be brilliant and still say “like” every third word! That would be fine! But the one without the other? Not cool, especially because later they’re going to make Iceman the computer whiz. Fucking Iceman! And Evolution gets so many of my favorite characters right that it’s extra disappointing when they drop the ball this hard.

OKAY. I WILL BE PROFESSIONAL ABOUT THIS. This bullshit fake Kitty seems like a perfectly nice young lady. And I understand that when you take teen Kitty out of the only-kid-in-a-team-of-adults context, the stories and social roles change, too. But still. SIGH.

Speaking of perfectly nice young ladies, Professor X has pulled Jean out of school to come meet the Prydes with him, and maybe to chase Kitty down with flying knives or something. Nah, Jean actually there to impress the Prydes, as a model of what the Xavier Institute is offering their daughter. Jean is not super into this idea, which foreshadows something that’s going to be a running theme with Jean: the subtle disharmony between the perfect façade people see and the fact that she’s really only got about as much of her shit worked out as the next scared teenager. I like Evolution Jean.

Jean points out that Cerebro found another kid, too–this one, in a foster home. “Let me worry about that,” says Professor X. I’m not sure how he’s planning to chase this Lance Alvers kid down with lightning without Storm there. Maybe he brought a TASER or something.

As it turns out, Xavier’s plan for impressing the Prydes involves showing up on their porch and making sinister allusions to knowing Kitty’s secret. Because they are reasonably good parents, the Prydes tell the Prof and Jean to fuck right off.

But not before they talk about mutation entirely in euphemistic terms, all of which sound like they come straight out of one of those junior-high pamphlets about menstruation. Are you there, G-d?6 It’s me, Kitty.

"Talk? No, Mr. Pryde, I expect you to enroll your daughter in my school!"

“Talk? No, Mr. Pryde, I expect you to enroll your daughter in my school!”

Of course, Professor Xavier is a telepath, so he understands how best to put concerned parents at ease: steeple your hands supervillain style, raise an eyebrow, and say, “Why don’t you tell us about… last night?” The whole scene is a great window into why Xavier’s entire student body consists of an orphan, an old family friend, and an international student whose parents have presumably never met this asshole.

It also probably doesn’t help that his model student looks roughly the same age as Kitty’s mom.

Xavier decides that the best course of action after freaking out the kid’s parents is for Jean to try to intercept Kitty at school, because that is absolutely not wildly inappropriate. But that’s going to have to wait, because guess what time it is?

Strap on your cowboy hats and rev up your choppers, kids, ‘cause IT’S WOLVERINE TIME!

LOOK AT THIS RIDICULOUSNESS LOOK AT THAT GLINT LOOK AT THOSE TEETH

LOOK AT THIS RIDICULOUSNESS LOOK AT THAT GLINT LOOK AT THOSE TEETH

Wolverine is on the Xavier’s lawn, cleaning an entirely different motorcycle from the one he had last episode, when he’s troubled by a noise from afar. Specifically, it is the noise of Sabretooth’s rad chopper, which has A HUGE CHROME VAMPIRE SKULL ON THE FRONT AND SHOOTS FIRE OUT OF ITS TAILPIPES.

Because this is a cartoon for children, and certain standards must be upheld, Sabretooth is wearing a full-face helmet, which somehow makes the whole scene even funnier.

This scene always makes me think of that Bat Manuel conversation in the first episode of The Tick: "On a roof, of course."

This scene always makes me think of that Bat Manuel bit from the first episode of The Tick: “On a roof, of course.”

In the time it takes him to wrinkle his nose and growl “Sabretooth,” Wolverine somehow manages to teleport to the roof of the school. “You can take your fancy newfangled laws of physics and stuff ‘em,” says Wolverine. “I’m old-school, and in my book, there’s only one place appropriate for posing dramatically while growling your nemesis’s name, and that’s a goddamn roof.”7

Then Wolverine suits up, and I gotta say: if Mystique wasn’t going to get the first magical-girl transformation in this show, I’m glad it went to Wolverine.8 And I’m doubly glad that it ends with him striking a dramatic pose and putting on a helmet whose visor is shaped to match his hair. Evolution Wolverine, you are a font of endless delights.

Some things cannot be done proper justice by still images.

Some things cannot be done proper justice by still images.

He tears away on his new motorcycle–which is bullshit; if you have a motorcycle with flames on the sides, and you’re going to fight Sabretooth, you obviously take the motorcycle with flames on the sides–past Scott and Kurt, who are on their way home from school.

“Whoa,” says Scott. “That man is packin’ some serious attitude.” Suddenly, Kurt’s terrible attempts at English slang make so much more sense. It’s not because English isn’t his first language. It’s because he’s been trying to learn how to talk like a teenager from Cyclops.

They decide to follow Wolverine in Cyclops fancy red sports car, which–spoiler–is super doomed.9

"Ugh, GOD, I bet she can't even pole-vault!"

“Ugh, GOD, I bet she can’t even pole-vault!”

At school, Kitty is shoved into her locker by the next-generation equivalents of the mean girls from the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode “A Firestar Is Born,” but phases out just in time to collide with a sexy vandal with a can of spraypaint. He is super psyched about the whole phasing thing, because–surprise–he is also a mutant!

I want to digress for a moment to tell you about a thing in comics10 called pornface. Pornface is generally an accidental byproduct of the general sexying-up of female characters in comics art and the fact that some facial expressions–say, screaming terror and screaming orgasm–can look awfully similar when you’re working in an already somewhat simplified style; and artists (and writers, and sometimes editors, although it’s really our job to catch that stuff) are likely to see what they know the art should convey instead of what it actually conveys.11

nope nope nope nope nope

nope nope nope nope nope

I am telling you this so that you are aware that there is an artistic precedent when I tell you that Kitty’s new friend activates his powers by arching back and making what I can only describe as a very emphatic O-face.

It’s really uncomfortable.

Spoiler: This guy is eventually going to become Avalanche. Like Toad, he’s been renamed from his comics counterpart–Dominikos Ioannis Petrakis–to Lance Alvers, and while I’m not quite as disappointed as I was to lose Mortimer Toynbee, that’s still a distinct downgrade (although it does mean that I can call him AVA-LANCE, which I am totally going to do). Anyway, Lance’s, er, personal moment generates a minor earthquake, shaking open all the locker doors. Kitty freaks out, pulls away from him, and runs off to gym class.

And then Lance, who has an accidental stripe of red spraypaint across his face, turns straight to the camera and says, “You can run, but you can’t hide. Because I’m gonna rock your world.”

This is a thing that really, actually happens.

On purpose.

It’s awesome.

It also led me to the revelation that in this episode, Lance is basically Vanilla Ice’s character from the Academy Award-winning film Cool as Ice: he speaks in terrible thematic puns and doesn’t really get either personal space or the difference between flirting and being a super creep.12 At least he doesn’t break into Kitty’s bedroom and feed her rock chips while she’s sleeping, which is definitely a thing that the protagonist of Cool as Ice does (with ice, though, not rocks). Cool as Ice is not a healthy model for relationships, kids.13

Kitty makes it to P.E., to the consternation of her bullies, who regain their composure in time to make fun of her for sucking at the long jump. Cartoon bullying is so weirdly specific. Remember that thing in “A Firestar Is Born,” where the mean girls made fun of Angelica for not knowing about the Treaty of Versailles? Same basic principle.

The Fake Deerfield High P.E. coach has an awesome 90s mullet and zero tolerance for bullshit, and I wish she were going to be a main character instead of Kitty.

Meanwhile on the roof, Lance and his no-good friends–one of whom is named Griff–are trying to figure out how to break into the office. They’re planning to steal all of the exam answers, which are–inexplicably–all being kept in the office, in one file. This school is weird.

Lance responds to any confrontation or threat to his perceived authority by grabbing people by the wrist. I thought it was a creepy psuedoromantic thing with Kitty at first, but he does it with his bro Griff, too. (That doesn’t mean it’s not a creepy psuedoromantic thing, but even if it is, I appreciate that it’s a gender-egalitarian one.)

Lance, whose first name I’m going to use as much as possible in this recap because it’s funny,14 wants to use Kitty to get the test answers.

Kitty totally fails at the long jump, but it’s okay, because Lance trips up the popular girl by opening a fault line in the middle of campus. Which no one but Kitty notices. ‘Kay.

"George! Make me a drink!"

“George! Make me a drink!”

Kitty, less than impressed, flees the scene, briefly colliding with Jean Grey en route. Kitty is a smart kid, so she knows that the theater building is always the best place to cut class, although generally kicking over the sets on the stage is frowned upon. Jeez, Kitty. Way to ruin it for the rest of the kids fleeing P.E.

Aside: I really like the way Kitty’s face is animated, with the exception of the weird streak across her nose that’s clearly supposed to be shading but actually makes it look like most of the female characters on Evolution always have dirt smudged across their noses.

"Wait, the blood comes out of where?"

“Wait, the blood comes out of where?”

But Kitty only has a moment to worry about her powers, because Jean is back for some one-on-one girl-talk about the miracle of her changing body. Seriously, this conversation could not be more about periods if it were actually about periods.

Jean appears to be starting to get through to Kitty, but then makes the mistake of playing the “I know how you feel because I can totally read your mind” card. Jean, that is literally the least reassuring thing you can ever tell anybody.

Kitty flees, and Lance shows up to be super sketchy at Jean, telling her, “I’m the only friend that girl’s gonna need, and I’ll be teaching her what’s what.”

“God damnit,” says Jean, “We’re going to have a whole show about this stalker bullshit two episodes from now. Can you just fucking give it a rest until then?”

NOPE! Lance heads to the lockers to win back Kitty’s favor “I won’t shake things up. I promise,” he tells her, which is about where I actually screamed at the television.15

“It sounds like Lance could be trouble,” Professor X tells Jean over a cell phone. “If he bonds with Kitty, we might not be able to reach her.”

WHOA WHOA WHOA WAIT A MINUTE THERE, SPARKY. Wasn’t Xavier the one who was supposed to be reaching out to Lance? What has he been doing all this time, smoking in the parking lot? I mean, yeah, we know he’s a dick now, but literally all X knew about this kid when they showed up and decided not to bother was that he was in foster care and had a goofy name; and if he’s dismissing kids on those terms at this point, he’s going to have some super awkward explaining to do when Cyclops finds out.

Also, isn’t the whole fucking point of the Xavier School to teach kids to use their powers responsibly? Who do you think needs that lesson more: a super rule-abiding kid with a stable home and a really non-destructive power, or the angry kid who can knock down buildings?

Charles.

Xavier.

Is.

The.

Worst.

“Whatever obstacles get in the way, remember, they can be overcome,” Xavier tells Jean. Is he implying that she should kill Lance if that’s what it takes to get to Kitty? It kind of sounds like it.

It’s okay, though, because it’s time to check back in with the Wolverine Show!

I LOVE HIS DOOFY POSES I LOVE THEM SO MUCH

I LOVE HIS DOOFY POSES I LOVE THEM SO MUCH

Scott and Kurt have managed to track Wolverine to a parking garage in town. He is once again posing dramatically on the roof. I guess this is Wolverine’s Thing now; and–full disclosure–I feel just fine about that.

But not nearly as fine as I feel about the best fight scene ever.

I mean: Take a second, and think of every ridiculous, over-the-top superhero fight you can think of. This is sillier. It is the Die Hard IV of superhero-cartoon fight scenes.16 It doesn’t just jump the shark, it orbits it. From space.

No, but seriously.

No, but seriously.

There aren’t adequate words in English for conveying how stupid and hilarious and awesome this fight is. There is a rooftop motorcycle-vs-claws showdown. Sabretooth THROWS CARS AT WOLVERINE THROUGH MULTIPLE LEVELS OF A PARKING GARAGE. And then Sabretooth pins Wolverine to a column with a car and proceeds to paraphrase the Optimus Prime / Megatron showdown from the Transformers movie17:

“One shall fall by the other’s hand: our destiny!”

And if, after reading that, you concluded that the only thing that the only thing that could possibly make this moment better would be Cyclops yelling “I’ve got your destiny right here!” before blasting Sabretooth, I have some excellent news for you.

Sabretooth, realizing that he can’t compete with the X-Men’s snappy battlefield patter, flees in an elevator, yelling behind him, “A taste of things to come, Wolverine!”

Overdramatic Sabretooth, you are my favorite Sabretooth. Please quote more Transformers.

D'awww. These nerds.

D’awww. These nerds.

The kids are absolutely delightful throughout this bit, even if Wolveirne totally fails to appreciate his baby-superhero tag-alongs. Also, early on in the fight, Scott’s car gets destroyed, and he and Nightcrawler cling to each other in terror before teleporting out at the last second, and it’s adorable.

Alas, the Wolverine Show is only the B-plot of this episode, so soon we’re back at Fake Deerfield High, where Kitty has finally given in to Lance’s dubious charms and even more dubious pick-up lines. Because he’s Up to No Good (as indicated by his torn jeans), Lance convinces Kitty that the best way to really own her powers is by helping him break into the office and disrupt the factory-system hegemony of public education in the U.S.

(Yeah, I know he’s being a manipulative asshole and his motives are way less honorable than that. However, as a former Angry Punk Teenager™ and current Angry Punk Adult™ who knows that the kind of standardized testing that Fake Deerfield is presumably employing if all their midterm answers are in one place is not only soul-killing but racially, culturally, and economically biased as fuck, I’m still kinda Team Lance on this one. This kid has been and will continue to be failed by the system on so many fronts that I really can’t fault his determination to get his own back however he can. Also, it still makes me really angry that Xavier is so quick to dismiss and turn his back on extra vulnerable kids who are generally also the ones who would benefit the most from his school.)

Speaking of the many bad decisions of Professor Xavier, the prof has apparently concluded that the best way to address the current Lance situation is to call Kitty’s parents to the school, and meet them with Jean in full costume, which is stupid on so many levels.

It also raises a really important question: why the hell do so few of the Evolution costumes include masks? I mean, Cyclops’s is built in, and Kurt uses an image inducer in his civilian identity, but why would Jean’s costume leave her whole face exposed? And yeah, Storm’s does, too; but Storm is also an adult. Jean may look thirty-something, but everything else in the show tells me that we are supposed to think that she is still a minor.

So: we are talking about a dude who encourages his teen charges to pursue superhero careers without taking any pains to hide their identities. I mean, I get that 2000 was basically pre-web 2.0, but that is a bad idea in any era, pretty much no matter what.

"Yeah, look, I'm not entirely sure what the hell's going on here, either."

“Yeah, look, I’m not entirely sure what the hell’s going on here, either.”

And returning to the context at hand: If you are trying to convince the already-paranoid Prydes that your school is the best place for their kid, do you really want them to see that your model pupil is a superhero? I mean, they already know it’s a school for mutants. Why not just have Jean stay in street clothes and maintain a shred of plausible deniability about the X-Men? It’s not like her costume hides her identity! The Prydes are not going to say “Oh, hi, Marvel Girl! Where did that nice Jean Grey go?” They are going to say “Why the EVERLOVING FUCK is that TEENAGER wearing A SUPERHERO COSTUME, and what kind of an IDIOT lets a teenager run around in a superhero costume WITHOUT A MASK?”

I think Evolution Xavier would bug me less if I could attribute more of his decisions to straight-up egotism or follow their twisted lines of judgment; or if every single one of them did not involve putting children at risk. Professor X running a team of mostly adults is a jerk. A similarly inflected Professor X running a team of teenagers is deeply fucking dubious at best; and even if you can stretch and justify it as a desperate-times-desperate-measures attempt to do good, not doing everything in his power to keep those kids safe–like, say, taking the most basic measures to protect their identities–is absolutely unjustifiable.

Before some smartass helpful citizen jumps in with an um, actually: I get that that’s what Xavier was doing in the Silver Age. Know what? It was fucked up then, too!18 But it’s also worth noting that both genre conventions and popular perceptions of adults’ responsibilities to the kids in their care changed pretty significantly between 1963 and 2000; and that Evolution shoots for a degree of verisimilitude that the original comics definitely did not. Those factors do–and should–considerably change both the ethical landscape Xavier is operating in and just how awful he comes across as in the respective narratives.

In other news, apparently I have fairly strong feelings about this issue.

See, comics Kitty would'a punched him out right then and there.

See, comics Kitty would’a punched him out right then and there.

Kitty is shocked when she learns Lance’s True Secret Purpose in getting her to phase into the principal’s office and let him in (as if it was a remotely good idea otherwise, either), but I don’t care because I’m too distracted by both Lance’s excellent “damn the man” speech and the fact that he appears to have put his floppy disk into the computer wrong end first.

Alas, this version of Kitty gives no fucks about proper computer use, and her suburban middle-class privilege blinds her to the fact that Lance is in fact 100% correct that the school system uses overzealous testing to keep students down and generally prepare them for life as factory drones. Maybe that’s why Xavier is so dead set against this kid: Lance is totally on to his tricks.

Or it might be the creepy sex face he pulls when he uses his powers and the fact that when he’s not taking down the establishment, he talks like the abusive boyfriend from every Very Special Episode of every high-school drama, ever. There should really be a rule against using the line “They’re just gonna confuse you” in anything that’s not intended to be shown alongside docudramas about drunk driving.19 20

Lance dumps a bookshelf on Kitty’s dad, knocks a hole in the wall, and tries to drag Kitty away with him. She is unimpressed, and after a fairly well played your-parents-are-human-after-all moment turns her allegiance, Lance decides to bring the building down.

"And always... use... protection!"

“And always… use… protection!”

“You called your gift a curse,” Jean tells Kitty. “If you go with him, I guarantee you it will be.” I don’t really see how, unless maybe the period metaphor has flowered into a teen-pregnancy metaphor. There are a lot of lines in this episode that don’t make a ton of sense–Lance’s in particular, but it’s a problem across the board–and generally give the impression that they’re in the script less because they’re narratively justified than because someone decided they should at some point be said. Kill your darlings, X-Men: Evolution writers.21 Kill them and cremate them and if anyone asks about them, deny that they ever existed.22

All of this leads to an awesome scene where Jean is singlehandedly holding a building up telekinetically while from outside, Professor Xavier exhorts her telepathically, “Jean! Your powers! Use your powers.”

NOT HELPING, DUDE.

Good thing she suddenly got precise control of her powers, or this could have ended REALLY badly.

Good thing she suddenly got precise control of her powers, or this could have ended REALLY badly.

Kitty decides that she can phase them all out, which seems awfully risky, given that she’s never phased anyone else before and has only marginal control over her powers, but–SPOILER–it works out okay, and no one has to spend the rest of their life fused with a bunch of rubble.

Well, no one who matters, anyway. Maybe the other people in the building do. I don’t know. Actually, I really want to know why we are not seeing screaming students and faculty in this scene. Maybe this school is secretly a front for something, but it doesn’t really matter, because we’re never going to see it again anyway. Bye, Fake Deerfield High.

Lance, on the other hand, chooses to stop on a cliff overlooking the school to revel in the destruction he has wrought., because Lance is bad at getaway plans. There, he’s approached by Principal Evil Powerbutch Sigourney Weaver Mystique, of whom we have seen far too little this episode. She informs Lance that she’s made an opening for him at Bayville High, then changes to blue form while telling him, “I have much to teach you, my young Avalanche.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.02.13 PMIt’s all terribly portentous, except that the implications of the code name really only make sense if you’re familiar with the original incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Otherwise it just seems like she pulled a not-that-accurately-descriptive code name out of nowhere and acted like it was a big deal for no reason.23

Luckily for Mystique, the credits roll before Lance can ask her who the hell calls someone “my young Avalanche,” anyway.

So, to recap: So far, that’s two high-risk kids Xavier has let a supervillain snap up instead of going to even a minimum of effort to get them to his school, where the could learn to use their powers constructively and also maybe to patch jeans.

Well done, Chuck. Well done.


NEXT WEEK ON X-MEN: EVOLUTION: NONE MORE GOTH!


NOTES:

1. Nah, I exaggerate. This is way better than White Noise. The only legitimately scary thing about that movie is that there are people who take EVP seriously.

2. Okay, yes, I realize that this is a cartoon and so everyone has a maximum of like two outfits per season (not counting holiday specials), BUT STILL.

3. Principal Mystique totally reminds me of this horrible interim assistant principal we had our senior year who was fairly definitely a shape-shifting supervillain. She was not, however, the assistant principal who moved to another school and was later implicated in a scandal best summed up by the actual headline “Florida High School Principal Lied About Hypnotizing Students Who Later Died.”

As a matter of fact, yes, the Florida public school system is run by actual supervillains.

4. Yes, they’re a real, even if Maggie Blue O’Hara–who otherwise does a perfectly decent job voicing Kitty–misses the actual accent by about a mile. Oh, well. I am probably one of like four non-lexicographers who actually gives a fuck about the accuracy of Midwestern-regional accents.

5. Seriously, I thought of like five fixes in roughly the time it took me to type this footnote; and they’re all super easy, too.

6. Ask a Jewish friend to explain this joke.

7. It’s also okay to growl your nemesis’s name which while tearing around a mountain road on a really ludicrous motorcycle, but you don’t get as many style points.

8. I am aware that a proper magical-girl transformation involves the costume appearing on the wearer, not the magical girl putting it on. However, Chris Sims, who is an expert in maritime lunar studies, gave me official dispensation for the sake of this joke.

9. The repeated destruction of this car is one of my favorite running gags in X-Men: Evolution.

10. Especially Greg Land.

11. While there is the occasional artist who chronically appears to be tracing directly from porn (see above), I speak from repeated experience when I say that pornface can happen even to the most experienced artists with the best and most innocent of intentions.

12. However, he lacks his Cool as Ice counterpart’s spectacular pants. Also, I don’t think he has his own name shaved into the side of his head, which I’m pretty sure Vanilla Ice did in Cool as Ice, and look, you should really just watch that movie, because it is just transcendently awful.

13. I have a complicated theory about how Twilight and Cool as Ice are basically the same movie. I’m not going to go into it here; but trust me, it’s airtight.

14. Sorry, real people named Lance! I respect you! And your awesome porn-star-boy-band name.

15. There is one dude on X-Men who can get away with puns of that magnitude, and that is Iceman. Is your name Iceman, Lance? No. It most certainly is not. Shut the fuck up.

16. Yeah, I know. Think about that.

17. The original one, obviously. The only Michael Bay version of Transformers I am willing to recognize is the ride, and that’s just because Optimus Prime told me that I did a good job at the end.

18. Also, Silver-Age Xavier was super paranoid about maintaining the X-Men’s anonymity. So there.

19. Other memorable lines include “We’re in control now! We make our own way!”

20. I don’t want to diminish the fact that the tactics Lance is employing here are textbook abusive. However, he also talks exactly like the bad guy in a really awkward conflict-resolution role-play-scenario script, which somewhat dilutes the impact.

21. Except in the Wolverine Show, where every forced one-liner seems completely natural. Such is its magic.

22. Basically just do Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in reverse.

23. This is totally my headcanon now.

49 comments

  1. QuintessentialDefenestration says:

    “George! Make me a drink!”
    Oh my goodness. Who’s Afraid of Bane, Wolf’s?

  2. Philip Lopez says:

    Another great recap. My only complaint is that you didn’t mention that Griff and one of the Mean Girls are voiced by Cyclops and Jean and it’s VERY confusing. They don’t even try to change their voices very much.

  3. Rachel says:

    I have to say these reviews make me laugh, but man there goes a chunk of my childhood. This is the show that introduced me to the X-men and Kitty was always my favorite, partially because of her optimism and partially because I was like five when this aired and to little girl me Kitty was the best name ever (it still kind of is). When I recently got into reading comics I found that every possible version of Kitty is amazing.

    I have to point out though that although in X-men Evolution Kitty’s powers are awesome and not scary in the comics Kitty can be pretty scary at times. Correct me if I’m wrong, but comics Kitty was not only trained by Wolverine, but in the Storm and Illyana Miniseries didn’t she phase Kurt halfway through the ground and I believe that somewhere she also threatened to phase someone’s heart out of their body.

    As for Lance I used to think that the rock puns were funny, partially because they are so predictable.

  4. justin says:

    Kitty’s family lives in Northbrook, an non-fictional, non-Deerfield north shore suburb of Chicago.

    • Rachel says:

      I stand by my entirely pointless and unfounded (aside from comics continuity) claim that the Northbrook of Earth-11052 is Fake Deerfield.

  5. Ron says:

    Wow.

    WOW.

    I never noticed before how fucked up the class dynamics are in X-Men: Evolution. Gee, Charles, do you want to, maybe, oh, I dunno, help the somewhat creepy, emotionally unstable foster kid with the rebellious streak and the DANGEROUS power learn to channel his anger into healthy outlets such as, say, saving the world from masked supervillains? No? You’d rather focus on recruiting a relatively well-adjusted girl from a nice upper middle-class family who has, on occasion, been known to walk through walls?

    You are absolutely right, Rachel. Charles Xavier is. The. Worst.

    Seriously, we know nothing about Lance except that he is in the foster care system. It’s entirely possible that he has been either abused or neglected at some point in his life (NOTE: this is not to say that all kids in foster care are abused/neglected; just that it does happen sometimes). For all we know, his creepiness and his Angry Punk Teenager attitude are coping mechanisms he’s developed in order to deal with an incredibly crappy home life. I cannot think of a single reason why a compassionate, *responsible* headmaster of a school for young mutants would refuse to admit someone like Lance.

    Oh, wait. Yes I can: money. Kitty’s parents can pay her tuition plus room, board, and any additional superhero-related costume and/or supersonic jet fuel fees. Lance? Not so much, presumably.

    Fuck you, Charles Xavier. Fuck you and your classist bullshit.

    (Apparently I, too, feel strongly about this issue.)

    Also, I just realized that Mystique is totally the Emma Frost of this series.

  6. Kate says:

    ngl as a poor teen from a dysfunctional home going to a school of rich white-picket fence kids, I completely overlooked Lance’s creeper moments in favor of the unfairness of it all. Evolution Xavier has so many unfortunate implications.

  7. DanicusRex says:

    “Maritime Lunar Studies.”

    Bra. Vo.

    That’s the best description of that particular podcast EVER. 😀

  8. Nevanna says:

    I like Kitty all right in this episode. She’s sympathetic and believable as a sheltered young girl whose life has changed dramatically and who’s trying to hold onto some semblance of normalcy. And I grew quite fond of her over the course of the series. That said, I won’t deny that her Valley Girl mannerisms are grating, and I absolutely understand how she might be completely off-putting to someone who has a strong connection to her comics incarnation. (Comics Kitty is AWESOME; I won’t argue with you there.)

    I am glad that you like XME Jean! I’ve heard people complain about her being “too perfect,” and I kind of get it, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that perfection and competence are part of a front that she herself aggressively maintains.

    Xavier is completely terrible in the episode, isn’t he? His first interaction with Kitty’s parents was creepy; his making absolutely no effort to recruit Lance (who is absolutely a jerk in this episode but, like many of the characters, becomes more interesting as time passes) was even worse. I really have nothing to add here, since your rant was perfect. 🙂

    Thanks for another great recap; I’m looking forward to your reaction to Rogue (and her guardian, who deserved more screen time).

  9. Nebs says:

    I think all of these recaps are going to make me think about things could’ve been done better in the show.

    One thing that bothers me about the weird classism about the Brotherhood not being invited to be X-Men is that the writers could’ve avoided it by having them join and then leave, which would’ve also been more interesting. I don’t know if it would’ve necessarily been good writing, but it would provide interesting contrast for when Rogue eventually joins the X-Men. They could’ve had the Brotherhood leave because, in order of appearance:
    Didn’t accept the offer after fighting Kurt because the X-Men are weird
    Left to join the Brotherhood because they have less rules
    Was asked to leave for being creepy and terrible and not caring about consent or boundaries, was asked to join the Brotherhood by Mystique

    Like I said before, I don’t know if this would necessarily be good writing, but it would be interesting. Also, I completely agree that they shouldn’t have made Bobby really good with computers instead of Kitty. They should’ve had Kitty be good with computers like she is in the comics, and Bobby could’ve been into video games or something.

    On a final note, while Scott’s weird choices of words might have something to do with why Kurt tries to talk like a Totally Radical 90’s X-Treme Dude Yo, I don’t think it’s enteriely his fault. Kurt’s weird speech patterns are basically late 90s American teen-speak as written by adults who’re trying to make something for kids, filtered through someone whose first language isn’t English. I know that’s because the show was made by middle-aged people who were mostly working on season 1 during the late 90s, but I’d always assumed he probably grew up watching a lot of American TV shows and movies aimed at kids and teenagers, and that affected his idea of how Americans talk and act. For once, adult writers trying to figure out what kids these days are like actually went okay. It’s still embarrassing, but at least it kind of makes sense in the context of the story.

  10. WizarDru says:

    Have to revisit this series, I guess. I recall it being cromulent; not great but still one of the better takes on the X-men for a while. I was too old by the time of the 1992 series to view it with the nostalgia many view it with; the animation and hamfisted storytelling were too grating to me when I had decades of anime viewing under my belt at that point.

    Wolverine and the X-men, IMHO, was a far better series. But this show was pretty good, excepting the fact that it suffered from being a Saturday Morning Cartoon that was clearly meant to evoke some of the feel of the movies a bit too much.

    • Rachel says:

      WatXM is build pretty directly on the foundation of Evolution; it’s basically an unofficial (Or semi-official? I can never remember.) sequel.

      • Ian says:

        I remember several people, myself included, trying to see if they could make the two series fit together in the run-up to the latter’s debut. There’s various reasons why they can’t, though, the first and most obvious being that Amara is white again in Wolverine and the X-Men. That doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be a spiritual sequel to Evolution, but it seems to me that the creators weren’t exactly trying to connect them in any explicit manner.

        • David says:

          I actually think the hardest thing to reconcile between the two shows is the relationships between Wolverine and Rogue, and Wolverine and Jean.

          The Wolverine-Rogue relationship in WatXM is CLEARLY based on their relationship in the movies. They’re just not close enough in Evolution for the WatXM relationship to make sense.

          The Wolverine-Jean relationship in WatXM restores the love interest between the two, and is TRULY disturbing if we think of him meeting Jean as a high schooler.

          I think there are similarities, but I don’t really see any continuity between the two shows, in terms of plot or characterization (at least beyond those elements shared by many versions of those characters).

          • Blurr says:

            WatXM was a very average show in my opinion, i found a lot of characterizations to be really off and unlikable especially WatXM Cyclops who was probably the most pathetic version of the character ever and WatXM Wolverine was basically a Marty stu Mr Perfect and his episodes were really boring, the only decent parts of the show were the Nightcrawler stuff and the Magneto stuff.

  11. Kelvin says:

    Rachel-
    Your insights, as always, are godamn delightful. I have had more explaining-raucous-outburst-of-laughter-to-concerned-passers-by moments in relation to this podcast than anything else in years. In fairness tho, equal opportunity and all that, will we have “Miles reviews the Longshot limited series AND Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe” to look forward to?

    • Rachel says:

      Probably not. I think we’ve talked about this before (maybe?), but R&MXtXM is my job-job to a far greater extent than it is Miles’s–the stuff he does here, he does around being a full-time sysadmin.

      (We will definitely be covering both of those series on the podcast, though!)

      • Kelvin says:

        Wow. Your job-job? Another of the myriad of reasons why you’re my hero. I printed out your reply and mailed it to my mother who told me when I was a kid “There’s no such thing as a job where you sit around reading comic books.” In my young mind I just No Prized it out as my loving mom had been replaced by a sinister, shape-changing Skrull, but principal shoulderpads Mystique works too…

        • Rachel says:

          Well, you don’t *just* sit around reading comic books…

          But there are a lot of career paths that being able to read and discuss comics and other pop media critically can contribute to. Before going freelance, I spent seven years editing at a comics publisher, and these days I split time between podcast work and freelance writing and editing–in all of which fields experience reading and deconstructing comic books has been a very direct professional asset.

          If there’s anything I’ve learned from my weirdo career trajectory, it’s that someone can–in theory, at least–build a field and specialization out of any passion. You just have to find or create a point of intersection between what you care about and what’s practically necessary, relevant, or in demand; and develop and refine a skill set versatile enough to adapt as the latter changes.

          (That said: If you’re interested in how we’ve/I’ve made this work so far; or in arts-and-pop-culture journalism; I can elaborate more on this.)

  12. Justin says:

    “There is one dude on X-Men who can get away with puns of that magnitude,”

    That’s a bad pun in and of itself there.

  13. David says:

    In addition to the crappy implications of Xavier not even trying to recruit Lance, does Xavier’s comment to Jean about Lance and Kitty basically boil down to “We can’t let her develop any other meaningful relationships, or she won’t come to depend on us!”? Dynamite stuff, Chuck.

    • Seth says:

      Yeah that felt REALLY cult-like.

      Which goes nicely with the whole “recruit the less confident girl with no real understanding of her powers over recruiting the aggressive, self-confident boy who’s already pretty good with his powers.”

  14. Gary says:

    The rationale of who Charles goes after for the X-Men and who he doesn’t is best summed up by Alexandra Cabot in the amazing “Josie and the Pussycats” motion picture: “I’m here because I was in the comic book.”

    • Rachel says:

      Spyke kinda throws a wrench into that theory, but bonus points for referencing what may be the best comic-book movie ever made.

  15. Cecilia says:

    With the whole extended “changes” metaphor you were talking about–it makes Mystiques “I have so much to teach you, my young Avalanche” really really creepy.

    Like…eww.

  16. Gary says:

    Spyke is made for TV. He’s new for this iteration of the X-Men. Anybody pre-existing is selected or de-selected based on whether they’re an X-Man in the comics, with a minor exemption for Pietro, who was a short term Brotherhood, long term hero, non-member affiliate of the X-Men in the comics. I am only maybe 6 episodes in, so if there are changes to this later, I don’t know about them. But at this point, Missy Pyle remains correct.

  17. Gary says:

    Cool Fact: Avalanche’s real name means something in the comics. Petrakis is derived from Petros, meaning “stone” or “rock”. I was all ready to vent my spleen here when I learned that Lance means “land”.

    Perhaps Iceman was made a computer whiz because Nightcrawler is the class clown?

  18. Ani says:

    Thanks for the recap! I remember really liking Kitty in the cartoon, perhaps because I did not know about comics Kitty, so I could not compare them.

    Lance’s behavior towards Kitty always bothered me, and that’s why I could never like him, even if I agree about the many problems with standardized tests. I do think that the Brotherhood and Morlocks were characters who show that most mutants don’t get to have the advantages that the X-Men have in terms of socioeconomic status/living with a really rich dude. I wish more had been done with that concept. Also, with the character Tabitha/Boom Boom and her dealing with her family situation/trying to figure out what to do.

    (I now have a headcanon/fanon that AU Scott Summers becomes the headmaster of the Xavier School after Xavier’s death and makes a point of helping others kids who are orphans and/or in foster care and/or disadvantages situations.)

    Logan is awesome as per usual. I just love Scott and Kurt enthusiastically following him and trying to help. It is so sweet.

    You make an excellent point about the masks. Why, Xavier, why?

  19. Scott Bennie says:

    I look at the mean girls in this episode and I shake my head. They’re clearly falling short of the lofty standards set by Bonnie.

  20. David says:

    Oh my GOD. The Wolverine transformation sequence…with the music…and then he reaches over and pulls a motorcycle helmet over his weird spiky superhero mask….it’s…there are no words.

    I am dead. X-Men Evolution has killed me. It’s probably better than I deserved.

  21. Kate N says:

    Thank you so much for putting what I feel about evolution!Kitty (especially early her) into words. Even though I wasn’t consistently into X-Men when I was younger, I always loved Kitty, as both an extremely relatable character (especially the maturity and feeling separated from peers parts :/ ) and a role model (because what 8 year old doesn’t want to be a genius superhero ninja with a dragon sidekick?). In fact, when I first tried to watch this show, I didn’t get too much further than this episode, mainly because of how off-putting I found this adaptation of her.

    Sorry for the word-vomit comment; frizzy haired, brainiac, dorky, so overly mature that she really finds it difficult to connect with her age group kitty pryde is so important to me and it’s always really nice to find people that feel similarly.

  22. STomboy says:

    What really bothers me in this episode is how did Scott Summers managed to pass the vision exam required for getting a driving license?

    Somehow, this Kitty still manages to be identifiable for nerdy girls – straight A’s, bad at P.E, she is bullied, and biased against popular girls.

    And yeah, this Xavier just does not want to bother with problematic kids (with one notable exception)

    • Rachel says:

      I’d assume that for school, the DMV, &c., he’s probably got a fake doctor’s note saying he’s got achromatopsia or another optical disorder standardly corrected with colored lenses.

      It’s not like colorblindness is a disqualifying factor in getting a driver’s license–the test is really just for visual acuity at a distance. That’s (part of) why most color-coded road signals have other identifying features, like distinct shapes or–in the case of traffic lights–specific orders.

      *shrug*

      Kitty has those external trappings, yeah, but nothing really backs them up. It’s like the show telling us “she’s smart” without actually showing her being smart, pretty much ever. Doesn’t fly.

  23. Britt says:

    I forgot that in the early 2000s everybody wore baggy trousers and sandals. They were pretty much standard issue.

  24. ray says:

    Oh, man. This was painful to watch. Other then Lance’s one liner: “I’ll rock your world” I didn’t find nothing good in this episode. Nothing.
    I guess I just have hard time in enjoying bad things. 🙁

  25. PharaohKatt says:

    Your comments about Kitty sum up SO WELL how I felt about her in this, especially in the first season (2nd season gets better, but it still isn’t quite *my* Kitty).

    Kitty was always my favourite character in the comics because I strongly identified with her (and not just because we have the same name). But this weird valley-girl Kitty is just… not. She’s not savvy and trying too hard to fit in and constantly having identity crises. *sigh*

    A thing that really bothered me about the ending. When X and her parents show up, they keep talking to her as if they’re trying to convince her to change her mind, all while Lance is PHYSICALLY DRAGGING HER AWAY WHERE SHE CLEARLY DOES NOT WANT TO GO!! She’s desperately trying to get out of his grip and escape, and they’re acting like she’s going along willingly! That made me so fucking angry I ranted about it for hours. And then when I showed it to my wife, ranted about it all over again.

  26. Ramsey says:

    Keep these up! They are so enjoyable to read! I’ve been lol in a quiet office environment throughout out this whole read.

    You’re great!

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