Rachel Recaps X-Men: Evolution
S1E1: Strategy X

I was a little too old to catch X-Men: Evolution the first time around. It debuted my freshman year of college, corresponding with the peak of my nerd pretension—that larval-geek phase where you insist on calling all comics graphic novels—and like the arch little fucker I was, I dismissed it sight-unseen as X-Men dumbed down.

A few years ago, I finally sat down and watched my way through X-Men: Evolution and came away with two conclusions: teenage Rachel was kind of a dolt; and X-Men: Evolution is delightful.

Not only is Evolution not X-Men dumbed down, it’s a really clever, appealing reinvention. In fact, Evolution accomplishes what the Ultimate universe never quite could: shaking off years of continuity and attracting an entirely new audience with a distilled version of one of Marvel’s most convoluted lines.

groupshotIf you’re not familiar with X-Men: Evolution, the premise is roughly thus: The Xavier Institute is an extracurricular boarding school of sorts, whose students are mainstreamed into their district school—Bayville High—for academics. Some of the characters—Storm, Wolverine, and Professor Xavier on the side of the angels; Mystique, Magneto, and a few others on the other end of the moral spectrum—stay adults; everyone else is aged down to teenagers. Evolution draws characters and some story hooks from the comics, but for the most part, it occupies its own discrete continuity.

And as continuities go, it’s a good one. It’s clever and fun, it’s got a ton of heart, and it stays true to the core themes and characters of the source material without becoming overly beholden to the letter of the text. By the end, it’ll become a really, really good show; but even when it’s bad, X-Men: Evolution is bad in really entertaining ways.

Which is important, because X-Men: Evolution gets off to a pretty rocky start.

Here’s what you need to understand if you start at the beginning of X-Men: Evolution: for the first season, what you’re watching is mostly potential. There’s good stuff in there—expect regular glimpses of the seeds of what will eventually grow into an excellent show—but it starts out rough. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and there’s enough to hook viewers, but it’s not good—at least, not yet.

So: what works? Well, the premise—although more in theory than in practice, at least at first. The idea of the Xavier school as an extracurricular boarding school makes a lot of sense, and the setup makes for some really interesting stories and conversations around the idea of mainstreaming mutant kids.

The characters—at least at the beginning—are a mixed bag. The ones who work—most notably Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Rogue (we’ll meet her in episode 3)—really work. Again, you can see the raw material of what’s going to become a really great ensemble cast, but they’re not quite there yet.

From the start, X-Men: Evolution has a distinct visual style—something previous X-toons notably lacked, especially compared to the ultra-stylish DCAU. It’s rough around the edges right now—there are a lot of places where you can pretty clearly make out what they were shooting for, and where they missed the mark—but, again, that’s going to improve with time—but it’s distinctive, and a good fit for the premise.

So, the first episode of X-Men: Evolution is a mess, if a fairly charming one. The animation is inconsistent in ways that give the impression of too many hands and not enough time. The writing is badly uneven, and while some of the actors—most notably Kirby Morrow (Cyclops) and Scott McNeil (Wolverine)—hit the ground running, most of them take longer to hit their stride. The pacing is jerky, and it’s distractingly difficult to keep track of the (uneven and often contradictory) passage of time.

Let’s take a look.


We open with a high-school football game, in which some dudes in blue and white are squared off against some dudes in red and gold. “Blue-twenty-two,” shouts one of the guys in red, activating hundreds of Soviet sleeper agents in the stands initiating an elaborately choreographed dance sequence and then everyone does some sports stuff.

"Okay, roll over juuuust a little, and--no, can you put your hand back, so it looks like you guys are about to make out?"

“Okay, roll over juuuust a little, and–no, can you put your hand back, so it looks like you guys are about to make out?”

Red Team scores a touchdown, and its QB is immediately cornered by a tall redhead with a fancy camera. This is Jean Grey, who is abusing her position as yearbook photographer to get sexy photos for her “personal collection.” Evolution Jean is a boss.

Evolution Jean also looks like she’s in her mid-twenties, and speaks in weird sexual innuendo, often backed by smooth guitar riffs; which combined give the impression that she’s strolled over from a slightly creepy fake-high-school porno. That’s pretty much confined to this episode, thank god. She’s voiced by Venus Terzo, the Princess Regent of Videoland, who’ll do better at it once she’s got more to work with.

Look at this asshole. Is that not the most punchable face ever? So punchable.

Look at this asshole. Is that not the most punchable face ever? So punchable.

The fellow on the other end of Jean’s lens is Duncan Matthews, douchebro extraordinaire. Duncan is basically the Flash Thompson of X-Men: Evolution, in that his job is to be a stereotypical jerk jock and to stand in for Wolverine as the guy who gets between Scott and Jean. (Evolution Wolverine is a teacher, and while Evolution does feature the occasional high-schooler-who-looks-thirty, it is generally pretty savvy about things like power differentials in relationships.)

Duncan’s douchebrohood is established straight out the gate, when he and two of his football bros get their coach’s permission to leave the field during a game to go beat a dude up under the bleachers. I did not attend a high school with a sports program,1 so I do not know if this is the kind of shit that actually happens at football games, but it strikes me as pretty dubious coaching. Your mileage may vary.

The kid Dunc and co. are off to beat up is Todd Tolensky. Todd is Evolution’s Toad, which is a damn shame, because how much more awesome a name is Mortimer Toynbee? So much more awesome. Not only is this Toad saddled with a bargain-bin name, but he’s basically gonna be the punching bag of this episode, and pretty much every scene he’s in for the next four seasons.

Toad's facial expressions are my hands-down favorite thing about the animation in this episode.

Toad’s facial expressions are my hands-down favorite thing about the animation in this episode.

Toad isn’t entirely blameless—we first meet him while he’s emptying spectators’ wallets from under the bleachers at the big game—but his primary crime is being a poor kid with dubious social skills and terrible hygiene; which latter literally everyone he talks to feels the need to bring up, including teachers. Evolution deals with class in some seriously fucked up ways, especially this season—we’ll see a lot more of that next episode—but no one gets the brunt of it as badly as poor Toad.

He also frog-hops everywhere, but no one ever seems to comment on that. Maybe they’re used to it. Maybe it’s just a thing people in Bayville sometimes do. Maybe “the kid who hops everywhere” is one of those nigh-universal normal-high-school archetypes I missed out on along with football culture. Who knows? Probably not Toad, who seems a little oblivious.

Luckily for Toad, one of the people on the bleachers is Scott Summers, who is trying really hard to be a noir protagonist and failing miserably because, well, he’s Scott Summers. Don’t try to do noir, Cyclops. You are a lot of things, but noir is not one of them.2 Also, you’re cribbing Multiple Man’s bit.

Scott and Surrogate Alex. I like to imagine that they coordinate their outfits over the phone every morning.

I like to imagine that they coordinate their outfits over the phone every morning.

Scott is hanging out with a random guy, who is not—as I first assumed—Iceman. Dude is in fact named Paul, but we won’t officially learn that for several more episodes, so for now, I’m just gonna call him Surrogate Alex, since he’s blonde and shorter and pretty much spends the show in Scott’s shadow. Also, their outfits coordinate, which raises a number of questions. Did they go shopping together? Does Scott know that they match, given that he presumably can’t see color, or is Surrogate Alex pulling a Single White Female? Leave your theories in the comments. Leave no stone unturned.

Nah, I kid. Surrogate Alex is a good kid. He’s basically the Harvey and/or Janet of X-Men: Evolution. Maybe he’s their nephew or something.

SO ANYWAY, Scott fumbles the quarter he’s flipping around, and with a hilariously plaintive cry of “Aw, my cash!” heads under the bleachers to look for it, where he discovers Toad about to get his ass handed to him by three football players.

I want to stop for a moment to talk about Evolution Cyclops, because, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the scales by which I measure X-media is how well it handles Cyclops. The Cyclops of X-Men: Evolution is both one of my favorite versions of the character and one of my favorite characters in the show. Alternate settings and universes highlight the characteristics that really define characters—or that the creators involved see as defining them—and for me, Evolution Cyclops is very much Scott Summers distilled. He’s not exactly nice—he’s prickly, difficult, uptight, and kind of passive-aggressive—but he’s also a very fundamentally decent person: quick to help; immediately protective of anyone abandoned, alone, or at a disadvantage; and reluctant to dismiss or give up on anybody, even nominal bad guys. He’s a believably uncool and too-serious sixteen. (Or seventeen? I’m not actually sure how old Scott and Jean are supposed to be. They both look way too old to be in high school.) He’s also one of the characters who benefits most from the age shift of Evolution: making Cyclops a teenager prevents him from sliding into the exaggerated martinet role he occupied in the original X-Men ‘toon. As a kid struggling to come into his own as a leader, Cyclops gets to keep a lot of those core traits while remaining a lot more sympathetic.

He is the night. Or something.

He is the night. Or something.

In this scene, though, he seems to be trying his best to be Batman; although given what Batman does to petty criminals, I’m not sure he’d actually intervene if he saw three football players about to beat up a thief under some bleachers.3

Toad takes the chance to hop away, and Scott holds his own admirably until he’s distracted by Jean, who has presumably come in search of some more titillating photo opportunities. Duncan seizes the moment and knocks off Scott’s glasses, which goes about as well as you’d expect, given that they’re at a crowded sporting event and Bayville High stores its propane tanks right next to the football field.

CUE THE OPENING CREDITS! There are a lot of gradients, because this show was made in the early aughts; some very snazzy electric guitar riffs; and a bunch of characters we will not actually meet until later episodes.

SEE? TOTALLY A SUPERVILLAIN INTRO.

Could this possibly be a more supervillain intro shot? Hint: NO.

Back at Bayville High, a classy and vaguely sinister Rolls Royce has pulled up. A classy and vaguely sinister back window drops, revealing a classy and vaguely sinister face shrouded in classy and vaguely sinister shadow.

It’s almost like they want us to think of Professor Xavier as a supervillain.4 Especially since he’s here to wipe everyone’s minds.

While the firefighters are putting out fires, Jean heads back to the bleachers to retrieve Scott’s glasses, aided by a bit of exposition that I’m 90% sure was added in post-script: “It’s too hot to touch… at least with my hands.” Jean. Sweetheart. No.

Duncan, meanwhile, has a head injury with convenient retrograde amnesia. Jean swings by for a quick “poor baby” as Duncan is loaded into an ambulance for what the soundtrack implies is going to be some very sexy first aid.5

Xavier wipes a cop’s mind; Toad eats a fly, because, Toad; and X and his driver—presumably Storm, since it’s a woman with long, white hair—head off to catch a train.

At the train station, we discover that the driver is indeed Storm, and that she is wearing make-up in a palette and concentration that I have literally only seen on Barbie dolls. But she only gets the spotlight for a moment, because they’re there to pick up Kurt Wagner, who has been traveling cleverly disguised as a Jawa.

But don’t get too used to that, because it’s Wolverine Time!

If you haven’t worked this out already, X-Men: Evolution jumps between characters and plotlines fast enough to give you whiplash, especially in the first few episodes. And every time it jumps to Wolverine, it is hilarious, because—again, for several episodes—Wolverine appears to be hanging out in an entirely different show. “Fuck your teen superhero drama,” says Wolverine. “I’m gonna go be the protagonist of a biker Western!”

LOOK AT THIS GLORIOUS MOTHERFUCKER

LOOK AT THIS GLORIOUS MOTHERFUCKER

It is absolutely delightful. Especially the part where he parks his ridiculous motorcycle, moseys into a mom ‘n’ pop gas station—having exchanged his helmet for a cowboy hat6—and demands a “bottle o’ water. Cold.”

And then he slices the bottle in half with his claws, chugs it, slams it back down, and growls at the shocked station attendant, “Recycle that, willya?”7

God, I love this show.

Seriously, though, Evolution Wolverine is great, and making him one of the adults in the series was a really clever move. Over the course of the series, it’s going to let him grow really well into the mentor role the character has always leaned towards, while setting up some pretty well-developed tension between that and his violent past. As a bonus, it also completely obviates the generally odious and overdone Scott/Jean/Wolverine love triangle.

Also, he drives a bright red motorcycle with flames painted on the sides. Of course he does.

This man could not be more anime if he were standing in a shower of cherry blossoms and white feathers.

Evolution Sabretooth, on the other hand, looks like he’s escaped from an anime, or possibly a Wild A.R.M.S. game8; and I, for one, am just fine with that. He is stalking Wolverine from the top of one of New York’s signature mesas, because, Sabretooth.

Back at the mansion, Scott and Jean are off to school? A party? Work? College? The moon? The timeline is incredibly unclear. Maybe it’s that night. Maybe it’s the next morning. Maybe it’s a year later. Or maybe they’re all ghosts, doomed to relive the same day over and over and over; which would also explain why Scott is banging on the bathroom door and telling Jean, “Give it up. It’s hopeless.” He’s right, Jean. You’ll never get out. Never. Resign yourself to an eternity of floating hand mirrors and cavernous, windowless hallways whose dim lighting does not provide any useful clues about the passage of time.

UTINNI!

UTINNI!

Nah, it’s the next morning, but we only know this because the Professor describes Kurt as having arrived “late last night.” It’s worth noting that Kurt is still decked out in his Jawa coat. Did he sleep in it?

Introductions commence. Scott gets a lecture about control, because Evolution Professor X is even more of a tool than Xavier 616. Everybody bonds over their cool superpowers.

Know who doesn’t have particularly cool powers? Toad. (Actually, that’s not entirely true—Toad has really useful powers; he’s just bad at making them look not horribly unappealing.) Toad is at the principal’s office, because the principal wants to talk to him about his burgeoning kinda-friendship with Scott Summers.

If shoulder pads could kill.

If shoulder pads could kill.

Also, the principal is basically evil 90s powerbutch Sigourney Weaver, and I am so into that.

In addition to being kind of a jerk, Principal Evil Sigourney is obviously more than she seems. She knows Scott has powers, and orders Toad to spy on him. Toad is reluctant—Scott is literally the only person who has been nice to him, in this show and possibly ever. BAD MOVE, TOAD. You’ve made Principal Evil Sigourney angry, and apparently when Principal Evil Sigourney is angry, she straight-up transforms into the fucking Shadow King.9 We cut away as she is apparently about to devour Toad.

WELL, THEN.

Back at the Xavier Institute, Kurt gets a present: an image inducer. This fancy gadget make him appear human, but that’s not all! It also changes his clothes into what I initially assumed to be Professor Charles Xavier’s dubious interpretation of what the kids are wearing these days.

NOPE

“So… I push the button, and it makes me look like a complete tool?”

It is not. As it turns out, in the world of X-Men: Evolution, the cool kids wear their pants at the waist and tuck their shirts into their boxers, which are pulled up suuuuuuper high. This is a thing; and it will continue to be a thing through the entire series; and I will continue to make fun of it for the entire series, because it is terrible; and if you disagree, you can get the fuck off my lawn.

Xavier also gives Kurt a superhero costume, because, what the else are you going to give a fourteen-year-old whose parents have entrusted to your care?

GOOD NEWS! Toad has not actually been devoured by Principal Evil Shadow King Sigourney, because he shows up by the lockers for a kinda creepy attempt to bond with Scott. PRO TIP, TOAD: If you’ve seen someone level an athletic stadium in the last 24 hours with force beams from their eyes, playfully stealing their sunglasses may not be the best way to initiate a friendship.

Look at Surrogate Alex, waving in the background, all "DUDE DUDE DUDE OVER HERE," like he thinks maybe Scott is calling to ask for directions to their table.

Look at Surrogate Alex, waving in the background, all “DUDE DUDE DUDE OVER HERE,” like he thinks maybe Scott is calling to ask for directions to their table.

Fortunately for Toad, Scott is a total sucker for hard-luck cases, so once he’s got his shades back, he goes straight to the payphones (remember those?) and calls Xavier to encourage him to give the weird, smelly, hopping kid a chance.

Xavier is already aware of Toad, because his use of his powers in the hall set off Cerebro’s alarm; which is weird, since Toad was already hopping around all the time. Why is this time different? Did he hop extra high?

“Is he one of us?” asks Kurt.

“That remains to be seen,” says the Professor, who literally seconds ago told Scott that they couldn’t turn anyone away. Spoiler: Professor Xavier is the worst.

“Sure, Rachel,” you say, “but we all know you already think Xavier is a dick. You’re just letting your biases influence your interpretation.”

And you are so very wrong, because Evolution Charles Xavier is so much worse than Xavier 616.

Don’t believe me? Let’s play a game:

Pretend you run a school for at-risk teenagers: ones who are especially vulnerable and potentially dangerous because of their powers. Let’s say one of your two senior students has called to let you know that another kid may be in need of your help, and you’ve subsequently discovered that the kid is trying to sneak on to your property. How do you respond?

A) Call the authorities and report the kid for trespassing. He’s got to learn to follow rules.

B) Welcome the kid into your home. He’s had a rough time, and you’re not there to judge.

C) Let the kid in, but give him a stern talking-to about respect and private property.

Also, Toad is randomly wearing a sorta carapace-y costume? There's a lot I don't understand in this scene.

Also, Toad has for some reason changed into a sorta carapace-y costume? Sure. Why the hell not?

Fuck, no. You’re Charles Fucking Xavier. You send Storm10 outside to zap the kid with lightning.

So, yeah: Evolution Xavier is the fucking worst.

Also, it’s randomly night now, because time passes completely differently at the Xavier School than the entire rest of Bayville.

Toad survives the lightning gauntlet and makes it into the foyer, where he immediately makes fun of Kurt for looking funny, because, again, Evolution Toad lacks both rudimentary social skills and a sense of irony.

Kurt—who already has a codename—responds by accusing Toad of “reek[ing] like unwashed lederhosen.” I guess on Earth-11052, German insults plateaued around the year 1900.

What follows is a fairly charming fight scene in which two ultra-agile teenagers wreck a lot of priceless antiques and absolutely suck at trash-talk, while Professor X and Storm hang out and make arch comments in the background.

“This test if over,” Professor X finally declares. “Todd Tolensky does have the special gift of the X-gene. He is welcome to join us if he so desires.”

WHOA WHOA WHOA BACK UP A MINUTE THERE PROFESSOR

You already knew this kid has an X-gene, because he set off Cerebro. (Also, because he bounds around like a frog and catches flies with his six-foot tongue, but that’s kind of secondary at this point.) Which means this entire exercise was—what? A bizarre hazing ritual? Proof of concept?

Seriously, why would you do that? What could possibly make Professor X and Storm think this was a good plan? How are these people allowed to be responsible for minors?

Good god.

Toad will have none of this bullshit, so he attacks Kurt again. Kurt teleports blind,11 landing them both in a wall as a brutal object lesson to future generations of students.

HOPE YOU SURVIVE THE EXPERIENCE!

HOPE YOU SURVIVE THE EXPERIENCE!

Nah, just kidding. They end up in the Danger Room, as a brutal object lesson to future generations of students.

And that’s when we learn that there is no way to shut off the Danger Room from anywhere else in the mansion. This seems like a fairly serious design flaw, considering that the Danger Room is tucked away deep in the subbasement, and the dude running the show has mobility issues.

Luckily, Scott12 and Jean happen to be suiting up in a random hallway, oblivious to the chaos, so Professor X sends them in to keep the Danger Room from killing the new kids while he and Storm make their way downstairs.

"Think there's time for some exposition before we rescue 'em?" "Don't be silly, Jean. There's ALWAYS time for exposition!"

“Think there’s time for some exposition before we rescue ’em?” “Don’t be silly, Jean. There’s ALWAYS time for exposition!”

“I’ve got the cannons,” Cyclops tells Jean, who does not have a code name. “Keep them clear of the tentacles.” This is the worst school ever.

The Professor and Storm finally get to the Danger Room control booth and shut down the program, although for some reason there’s a delay on it, giving Kurt just enough time to accidentally wreck everything even more. Toad runs the fuck away.

Just in case you needed an illustration of how thoroughly spending your formative years with Charles Xavier will fuck you up, Cyclops immediately apologizes for having failed to stop Toad, having been irresponsible enough to get himself knocked out while attempting to defend a hapless peer from his insane guardian’s murder playground. Run while you can, Toad. Run while you can.

“It’s all right, Scott,” the Professor says, magnanimously. “He wasn’t ready to be one of us.” I mean, who could possibly have predicted that this kid would react badly to being attacked by superheroes and then teleported into a room full of laser cannons and bladed tentacles?

Worst. Xavier. Ever.

The hapless Toad, for his part, catapults through a window and lands smack dab in the middle of Wolverine’s biker Western. Wolverine immediately pops his claws. I assume based on what we’ve seen so far that official Xavier policy is for Wolverine to immediately eviscerate any children he finds on the lawn, but Xavier is feeling merciful today, so he appears in an upstairs window in time to tell Logan to let the kid go. Wolverine reluctantly does, but not before calling Toad “stink boy.”

Inside, Kurt is concerned that laying waste to half the mansion probably means he’s about to get expelled and/or murdered by the faculty. Faced with adversity, Kurt blindly teleports away. Again. You’d think he’d have learned his lesson when he ended up in the room full of murderbots, but Evolution Kurt is not the brightest blue crayon in the box.

"Don't worry--before you know it, your priorities will be as skewed as mine!"

“Don’t worry–before you know it, your priorities will be as skewed as mine!”

He is, however, super lucky, because he once again manages to avoid telefragging himself, this time landing in the Blackbird hangar. Scott shows up a minute later and convinces Kurt to stay with what would be a more reassuring pep talk if it weren’t clearly coming from a place of severe Stockholm Syndrome.

It’s light out in the next scene, but Toad is still wearing his weird costume, which means that either it’s the next morning or it has somehow magically become day again; and either way, I have officially given up on keeping track of the passage of time in this episode.

Inside Bayville High, Principal Evil Sigourney is chewing Toad out for his failure to effectively infiltrated the Xavier School. Outside, we linger on the scene of a bunch of bikes falling over in their rack. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to foreshadow Magneto’s arrival a few minutes later, but what it actually looks like is that Principal Evil Sigourney has at Toad hard enough to knock over a bunch of bikes two stories away.

Have I mentioned that it sucks to be Toad? It sucks to be Toad. Not only did he spent his brief stint at the Xavier School fleeing for his life, but apparently Xavier wiped all of the details out of his mind on his way out the door, rendering him incapable of defending himself from Principal Evil Sigourney, who kicks him out of his office and then yells so hard that she transforms into classic Mystique.

If I were Mystique, I would totally do goofy magical-girl transformations when no one was looking. I mean, come on. Why would you not, amirite?

"OFFICE SUPPLIES! MY ONLY WEAKNESS!"

“OFFICE SUPPLIES! MY ONLY WEAKNESS!”

But Mystique doesn’t have time for any Moon Revenge Heartflower Sexy Beam Whatevers, because suddenly all the metal stuff falls off her desk, and we hear the disembodied voice of Magneto, whose powers in this show apparently include a very heavy foot on the reverb pedal. I guess this is supposed to be scary, because Mystique quails in fear as Magneto menaces her.

With a cloud of floating paperclips.

As he hovers outside her window.

In broad daylight.

Which, honestly, is a pretty fitting ending beat for the first episode of X-Men: Evolution.


NEXT WEEK ON X-MEN: EVOLUTION: Avalanche has a good attitude towards menstruation.


NOTES:

1. I did, however, attend an actual School for the Gifted, so I can say with reasonable authority that the Xavier Institute is pretty accurate.

2. I guess Wolverine and the X-Men Cyclops is pretty noir. But he’s earned it. Also, when you’re voiced by Nolan North, genre restrictions no longer apply to you.

3. Cyclops > Batman, forever. Suck it, Sims.

4. I genuinely can’t tell if Professor X is intentionally set up as the worst person ever in this show, or if it just sort of happened by accident; but he really, really seems to be coded as a bad guy in this episode (and a lot of others).

5. In general, the first season of X-Men: Evolution gives the impression of being a TV show set among a lot of other adjoining shows. Sometimes characters wander between them, and it is delightful.

6. Consider the logistics of this for a moment. He pulls up to the gas station, turns off his bike, loses the helmet, digs out the cowboy hat, straightens it out—because even if it’s one of those crushable ones, which it has to be, it’ll at least need to be shaken out—and then puts it on and moseys in.

7. It’s worth noting that Wolverine’s voice actor, Scott McNeil, is good enough to 100% sell this ridiculousness.

8. If you’ve played Wild A.R.M.S., you now have the opening theme stuck in your head. You’re welcome. If you haven’t played Wild A.R.M.S., go listen to the opening theme, because it is splendid. I can whistle it from memory.

9. I’m genuinely unsure whether we’re supposed to recognize her as Mystique at this point. I guess most people who’d only seen the movies would see a blue shapeshifter and go straight there? But we haven’t heard her name at all, and she really does just straight-up turn into the Shadow King’s astral form.

10. Storm’s hairline changes dramatically when she gets into costume. It’s disconcerting.

11. Remember how in the comics and movies, Nightcrawler was super careful about not teleporting blind? Evolution Nightcrawler has none of those qualms. It is a miracle that this kid never ended up embedded in concrete.

12. Except this takes place minutes after Scott gets off the phone with Professor Xavier, which means he should still be at school, unless the Xavier kids have some kind of half-day thing going, which I guess would make sense; but then why would he have gone to the cafeteria?

 

42 comments

  1. Zach says:

    New headcanon, Wolverine is super into recycling and preserving the environment. Since he is over 100 years old he has seen the effects of climate change first hand, and as an outdoors man he wants to preserve it. He has even gone as far as to make commercials as an avengers with the phrase “I may have a healing factor that can save my life, but Mother Earth doesn’t. So, recycle or I will pop a claw in you, bub.

    • Andrew says:

      Yesss! Vote Mother Earth Wolverine must be a thing. I imagine a PSA comic by Marvel similar to the bullying one with Wolverine wandering around National Parks and collecting trash on a beach discussing the impact of pollution he’s seen in his lifetime.

  2. Sabotflask says:

    Wild A.R.M.S.: Fastest mesas in the west!

  3. David says:

    1) ALL of the Wild ARMS opening themes are some degree of great. And the map theme from the first game! Goddamnit now the whole soundtrack is stuck in my head. CURSE YOU EDIDIN

    2) Holy crap, Evolution Xavier really is horrible. “Kind of surprised he didn’t show up in X-Treme X-Men” level horrible.

    3) A technical request: In later reviews can the footnotes link back to the point in the text that they annotate? It’s disorienting to have to keep scrolling back and find my place after each one.

  4. David says:

    Yuuuuup. That’s pretty much how I remember it.

    There are SO many problems with season one of this show. But, like you say, it becomes really good TV by the end, so it’s got that going for it.

    Like you, I considered myself too old for this show when it came out. The difference was, I was like 13 at the time. I think the animation turned me off – it looked like such a “kiddie show.” The concepts, though? Great.

    The number one thing that grates me about this show, though, is how Jean calls Scott “Scawt” all the time. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it. It sounds ALMOST like she’s saying “squat,” and it bothers me. The shirts-tucked-into-boxers thing, though, makes up for it enough that the show remains watchable.

    • Andrew says:

      Having been 12 when this show originally aired, I can attest that there were a ton of guys who dressed like this. Including the weird boxers thing. Never understood it, but it was definitely a thing.

  5. David says:

    Also, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!!!

    I look forward to the rest of the series!!!

  6. QuintessentialDefenestration says:

    I was expecting these to be way shorter and less involved. But my goodness. This was absolutely delightful. It very much turned around an awful, awful morning/week. Especially love the footnotes!

    • Rachel says:

      They’re probably (hopefully) going to be shorter from here on, but there were a lot of world-and-character intros to get through in this one.

  7. Dan says:

    In a perfect world, we’d get 5 seasons of the Wolverine biker western as a syndicated hour-long live-action show.

    Great review! I’m really looking forward to the rest of these.

  8. Zach Adams says:

    *puts Internet Geek Pedant Hat on* It’s Scott McNeil, nor O’Neil. *takes off thehat* He is neck and neck with Blum for “definitive Logan” in my head, and might actually win if he had had more than one project in the role. Super nice guy at cons and really fun.

  9. lavendernebula says:

    Next week’s going to be great, I hope you address how Kurt gets some of the worst dialogue in the entire show. He’s one of my favorite characters, but everything he says in season 1 is terrible. I haven’t finished it because it keeps killing me with secondhand embarrassment. Also, I like the episode where he decides that he and Kitty are going to be bff’s 5ever so he shoves popcorn at her and climbs on the outside of the blackbird and is basically like “are we friends now? ARE WE FRIENDS NOW I THINK WE SHOULD BE FRIENDS IMMEDIATELY andalsoikindofthinkyou’recute.” even though he’s extra embarrassing in that episode. He really wants to be friends, but he has the worst social skills in the entire world, and I think writing him like that was a pretty good idea, considering his background.

  10. Blurr says:

    Evolution Cyclops is really one of the best incarnations of the character ever. I liked how he was a bit laid back as compared to his comic counterpart and who wasn’t such a control freak that he couldn’t have some fun and i can see a lot of him in the time displaced younger Scott. I also love this version of Wolverine who acts as a mature adult who didn’t bother much with the kids and no crappy love triangle did favors for all three characters involved, and Rogue is the standout star of the show.

  11. thumb says:

    I actually really loved the way they deal with class difference in the show. Xavier’s school is for the preppy, priviledged kids and the occasional affirmative action thrown in (Nightcrawler/Rogue). And based on their treatment of Toad, you do suspect Xavier’s really . . . “picky” about the entry requirements at this point. The Brotherhood is for less priviledged (or those that life has seriously screwed over, really) and it is appropriately messed up. I mean, how many of the Brotherhood even have parents? Mentioned or otherwise!

    It makes the Brotherhood even more symmpathetic. Toad especially, despite that he’s objectively a creep. And it makes some of the things the X-Men say/do in later episodes really cringeworthy, but consistent with their established personalities and backgrounds. Seriously. It paints the X-Men as well-meaning guys, but not necessarily good guys. And you forgive it in terms of the show because they’re still kids at this point.

    Also, should we have a drinking game for everytime Wolverine could more easily punch someone and decides to throw them instead? This seems like a common thread in American cartoons of the era.

    • Mike S says:

      Xavier hand picking his students to look good on a flyer actually makes sense. There’s a scene in the kitty pryde episode where he straight up says “You and Jean are the models of what this school is offering”.

      He’s rather manipulative of everyone he meets. Which I imagine is a natural side effect of being a powerful telepath. Even if you don’t actively mind whammy everyone around you, I’d be really surprised if it didn’t color your perceptions of people all the time.

  12. Caroline says:

    So happy you’re recapping this show. I was rather young when this show first came on and it was my gateway into X-Men and the superhero genre in general, so it holds a special place in my heart.

  13. Ani says:

    This recap is absolutely hilarious; it made me literally laugh out loud, and I can’t wait wait for more. I actually re-watched this episode a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of your post, and it brought back some great/hilarious memories. I originally watched the series when I was in middle and high school, perhaps technically too old for Saturday-morning cartoons, but I didn’t care.

    This show is one of the reasons I love Cyclops so much, because even when I might not like him in some other adaptations, I’d always remember the one from this show. And I totally agree about making Logan a teacher being a good decision. We get to see both his tough attitude and his dedication to helping the kids. I remember the episodes you (Rachel) did with Chris Sims. He commented on the the scene when Logan is getting water. I’m also reminded of what you guys were talking about regarding the cartoons not being able to show violence. Maybe that’s why they feel the need to show how tough Logan is with the motorcycle/cowboy hat/asking for water in an intimidating voice, since they cannot show incredibly blood violence.

    Rogue and Kitty are two of my favorite characters because of this show as well. They are just so awesome/amazing. I love Rogue’s attitude, both her confidence and uncertainty, her dealing with her powers, etc. I love Kitty being a nerd, dealing with being a mutant, and just generally being adorable.

    As I think about your repeated point about Xavier being awful, I wonder to what degree this is Xavier and to what degree it is a necessity of the genre. I think at least some percentage of it is just due to the genre requiring the leader of the team sending the team out on missions, and if it’s a teenage team with an adult leader, it’s going to be an adult sending the teens into danger, which is dubious in the real world. Some of it, though, is definitely stuff that characters individually do that is incredibly questionable. Over the course of the podcast, you’ve made me rethink Xavier, and though I still like him generally, I’m now more in the camp of Xavier and Magneto both being wrong, which I think you’d also mentioned.

    Again, thanks and looking forward to more.

  14. pawpaw5771 says:

    Thanks for this epic undertaking. I have never seen this show before, and before listening to the podcast was completely unaware of its existence. I will be watching each episode along with the recaps.

    My favorite part so far is Toad’s theme music. I was expecting Snoop Dogg to start rapping “Who Am I (What’s My Name?)” each time that beat kicked in.

  15. John G. says:

    I love this show, the write-up, and you.

  16. Nevanna says:

    Thank you for giving us this completely delightful recap. Like you, I was dismissive of X-Men: Evolution at first, before its awesomeness snuck up on me, and since then it’s become one of my favorite versions of the X-Men.

    I especially love your assessment of Cyclops in this show: he’s not always easy to like, but he’s a work in progress as a person and a leader, and that progress is more often compelling and entertaining than not.

    Also, Xavier’s introduction is indeed very supervillainish. He has some amazingly creepy moments in this show, and I am looking forward to hearing you discuss them.

    (Also, I am a huge fan of your podcast as a whole, but I haven’t managed much in the way of commenting until now, so, hi.)

  17. Ian says:

    This is so great. I love X-Men: Evolution, and I’m so happy to see your perspective on each episode, Rachel, and for the opportunity to relive the series, from the not-good moments–season 1 is indeed super-rough–to the super-awesome ones.

  18. STomboy says:

    As a person who went to a class for the gifted in a regular school while the show was originally aired, I can say this show also has a special place in my heart.
    About Xavier being weird with “testing” Toad, all I can say is that studying in a gifted-children class requires a good measure of masochism (I know, I’m misusing the term, but you know what I mean), especially because you see that all the other classes finish a lot earlier, and know that your grades there would be higher with less effort.
    Therefore, trying to scare him away could be a personality test. Maybe later he understood that this personality test should be reduced to a personal interview or something that would not damage so much property…

  19. Rachel says:

    Thank you! This is amazing!

    I remember watching these when I was younger, back when I though that Archie was the be all and end all of comics. I never realized how horrible Xavier is, I kind of just blindly accepted it. Then again I remember Logan as the nicest adult in the series, so that’s probably saying something.

  20. Dustin Adamczyk says:

    So a few things.
    1)Great job! It was supremely entertaining and I can’t wait to see more.
    2)I’m STILL not convinced about this Xavier being the worst. Namely because of the stuff you mentioned about Xavier and Legion in the latest podcast.
    3)Here’s a quick headcanon I spun up that might make the show more enjoyable. The characters are aware or semi aware of the fact that they’re in a big studio lot combining all these different genre sets. Magneto likes to fuck around with the boom mics to make his voice sound cool. Xavier likes to fuck around with the lighting on the “outside X-mansion” and certain indoor sets to screw with everyone’s sense of time. And I’m sure you’ll be able to expand upon this in even better ways.

  21. Mike S says:

    If you want to add another level of dubious Xavier to the list I can offer this one.
    Does it seem like Storm has had the mind whammy put on her most of the time? Because for whatever reason, she seems like she’s only partly aware of what’s going on and acts like a surrogate arm of the crippled Xavier.

  22. […] been getting my nostalgia fix from these recaps of “X-Men: Evolution,” a show that eventually becomes good but starts really really terribly. Favorite quote so far: […]

  23. Remsprings says:

    i really loved the bromance between Scott and Kurt on this show. I feel that in the comics his relationship with Jean was the only friendship that resonated with Cyclops fans for years and she was his girlfriend. This added a fun new dynamic to the character while staying loyal to who he is. It’s one thing I always hoped they’d bring from the show to the comics.

  24. Aaron B says:

    Thanks for reminding me of this great show. Evo!Scott is my second favorite version of the character.

  25. ray says:

    It sure says something that this review was more entertaining to read then watching the episode itself.

    My reaction to this episode are thus:

    1. Evolution’s Toad is the best depiction of Toad in any universe. It’s much better then the ever changing Toad of the comics. It struck to my head as the definitive Toad. Also – arguably the best brotherhood of evil mutants, but this isn’t related to this episode.
    By a contrast, Evolution’s Nightcrawler is just the worst…

    2. I found the animation quite bland. I mean, even their X-uniforms looks pretty boring.

    And that is for today, kids.

  26. Ramsey says:

    First off I wanna just say thanks so much for doing this podcast (as mentions) and the X-men Evolution review/synopsis.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this at work whiles pretending to look busy. I felt your humorous sarcasm and quick wit throughout the whole thing.

    You are a great writer/editor/podcaster.You and Miles are delightful and are 2peas in a pod.

    Can Miles forever cosplay Corsair? I think it fits him great. He just needs some pirate’ earrings and hes there.

    Thanks for re-opening the X-men world to me.

    -Ram

  27. Tholomyes says:

    I’ve only been recently getting into the podcast, and as much as I absolutely adore the comics, but I’ve got to say, I’m almost more excited about these recaps. I remember this show from when it was first airing, and it was largely my first introduction to the X-men, and never seems to get the recognition it deserves (which in some ways is warranted, since, as you said, the beginning is a bit of a mixed bag, and the 90s series and the comics provide more than enough to break down).

    But there’s still a soft spot in my heart for this series, not just for nostalgia, but also because it really captured a lot of what I love about the X-men, and has a sort of blend of youthful idealism while not necessarily shying away from the social aspects that are intrinsic to the X-men comics.

    As an aside, I really can’t wait until the recap of the episode with Captain America, which, despite some of it’s flaws, is really one of my favorites. The line “A little boy in Poland thanks you” still brings tears to my eyes as a grown man.

  28. Cecil says:

    Better late than never to the party! I’ve been a fan of the podcast for six months now and I’m so glad to discover these recaps for my favourite extra-comics adaptation of the X-Men. 😀

    You’re a hilarious writer, I snickered so hard at all the insinuations about secret super-villain Charles Xavier.

    You know something that bothered me about episode 1 of this series, though? It’s such a minor nitpick but even as a kid, I wondered.

    Private schools like the Xavier Academy, especially those that take on international students have an obligation to make sure a student gets there safely. Like, meeting them at the airport or such, driving them to the school so they can get unpacked, keeping their parents informed every step of the way.

    Why on god’s green earth is Kurt forced to take a flight from Germany, across the Atlantic (I remember my trip to NYC was over five hours and I’m from England, so add another one/two hours on for Germany), and then take a train from the airport to meet Storm at the station… when Professor Xavier has a goddamn jet like the Blackbird in his possession? I mean, poor Kurt, sitting on an aircraft for seven to eight hours, underneath a thick robe to disguise his appearance, and then having to navigate an airport and a train in a new country just because Professor X couldn’t be arsed to drive out to JFK or LaGuardia.

  29. Lili says:

    Is anyone else bothered by Mystique’s face and the rest of her body’s difference in tone?

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