I can summarize most episodes of X-Men: Evolution from memory, in a fair degree of detail; so it surprised me when, in reviewing the Season 1 roster, I realized I recalled almost nothing of “Survival of the Fittest” beyond the fact that it involved some kind of summer camp scenario. When I started to watch, I realized why: in a season where even the bad episodes are usually entertaining, this one is just boring as all hell.
On my first pass, I stopped taking notes five minutes in, because nothing was happening. By the halfway mark, I was actively fantasizing about watching paint dry.1But I am nothing if not committed, readers. I promised you a recap, and a recap you would have, come hell or high water.
Ah, well. At least I get to judge cartoon teenagers for their fashion choices.
Oh, THERE’S the Apocalypse we know and love! (X-Factor #6)
Even your villains are fed up with your angst, X-Factor. (X-Factor #6)
Ladies and gentlemen: the world’s oldest and most powerful mutant. (X-Factor #6)
Phoenix flare or pareidolia? YOU BE THE JUDGE! (X-Factor #6)
The Saddest Mutants (TM). (X-Factor #7)
“Look! A distraction!” Cyclops, we love you, but sometimes you really are the worst. (X-Factor #7)
These guys. (X-Factor #7)
SERIOUSLY WHY ARE YOU NOT ALREADY COSPLAYING SKIDS GO COSPLAY SKIDS (X-Factor #7)
Valid. (X-Factor #7)
This is almost embarrassing to read. (X-Factor #7)
X-Factor: fighting themselves metaphorically AND literally! Side note: This scene is funny until you realize X-Factor is turning Bulk and Glow Worm’s last desperate attempt to make a difference before their inevitable death into a farce. (X-Factor #7)
What. (X-Factor #8)
Aw, man. Right in the feels. (X-Factor #8)
Jean Was Right. (X-Factor #8)
VERA. (X-Factor #8)
Freedom Force briefings are so weird. (X-Factor #8)
“An invitation to a crossover? Hot dog!” (X-Factor #8)
I don’t know why I find Spiral just taking off mid-fight for a different comic so funny, but GOD, I do. (X-Factor #8)
“Come with me if you want to be FABULOUS!” (X-Factor #8)
NEXT WEEK: The Mutant Massacre begins!
LINKS & FURTHER READING:
We’ve linked before to Chris Claremont’s X-Men, but we’re doing it again, because it’s fascinating and you should all go watch it.
If you are fond of loving snark and deep dives into Marvel continuity, you should really already be reading Max Carleton’s Waiting for the Trade. (If you’re not fond of those things, why are you here?)
In which Louise Simonson saves X-Factor; Apocalypse gets off to a rough start; Cyclops is bad at people; Apocalypse should be the Kingpin of X-Men; Jean Grey is sick of your bullshit; you should totally cosplay Skids; and Mystique fundamentally misunderstands branding.
The last thing you see before you die. (Uncanny X-Men #206)
Do you ‘ship Storm and Bree Morrell now? You probably should. (Uncanny X-Men #206)
The outfits in this arc are just 100% amazing. (Uncanny X-Men #206)
Damnit, Rachel. This is why we can’t have nice things. (Uncanny X-Men #206)
“Teamwork! Our only weakness!” (Uncanny X-Men #206)
“It’s Madelyne! They’ve shot her! And dyed her hair! And given her fairly extensive cosmetic surgery!” (Uncanny X-Men #206)
Wolverine hates Arizona. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
We were going to make up a drinking game based around how many times Wolverine really or metaphorically kills Rachel in this story, but you would die of alcohol poisoning by the end of the first issue. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
Spoiler: It’s a metaphor. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
THE OUTFITS, THO. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
…And again. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
Same song, different issue. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
Neither of you is wrong. You’re just both assholes. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
Well, that escalated quickly. (Uncanny X-Men #207)
THOSE. OUTFITS. THO. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
Kitty tells it like it is. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
Damnit, Selene. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
Feelings are boring. Murder is awesome. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
It really sucks to be a mortally wounded telepath, y’all. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
Oh, SNAP. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
What. Selene. No. What are you even doing. No, Selene. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
No, but seriously: costume satin, right? (Uncanny X-Men #208)
Well, then. (Uncanny X-Men #208)
Never not funny. (Uncanny X-Men #209)
And then, it got weird. Weirder. (Uncanny X-Men #209)
‘Kay. (Uncanny X-Men #209)
That one time a member of the Inner Circle wore a costume so bad it actually killed him. (Uncanny X-Men #209)
Fun fact: this is the second time they’ve pulled this particular move. (Uncanny X-Men #209)
In which Rachel Summers went to sleep with Wolverine’s claws in her dreams and now there’s claws in her lungs and when she got out of bed this morning she tripped on her traumatic backstory and by mistake she dropped the Phoenix Force in the sink while the water was running and she could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Supervillains’ day jobs
Uncanny X-Men #206-209
The X-Men’s first brief tenure in San Francisco
Terrible house guests
A metaphorical ghost story
Lycanthropy, but dumber
The crossing of several ethical lines
Death by narrative stasis (and also impaling)
Craft night at the Hellfire Club
Death by costume satin (and also heart failure)
One way to write someone out of a book
Our favorite Summers kids
Special thanks to Elle Collins
NEXT WEEK: The New Mutants break your heart.
You can find a visual companion to this episode on our blog!
I like this episode, because this is where Evolution starts to catch its stride and find its voice. “Middleverse” is kind of a mess animation-wise, but it’s also a one-off, a lighthearted breath of fresh air before we dive headfirst into the Big Ongoing Story next episode.
It also gets bonus points for being a Forge episode, which is almost always a plus. Comics Forge tends to be dark and brooding and at the center of convoluted storylines and soap opera, but two out of three animated Forges are uncomplicatedly delightful. The best animated Forge, of course, is Wolverine and the X-Men Forge, who just straight-up is Miles to the extent that we had his action figure in college and more than one person assumed it was a custom portrait. But Evolution Forge is pretty great, too.
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 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.
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 turnaroundfull 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.
In which we more or less prepare you for the upcoming feature film; Rachel Summers is a black hole of continuity; Kitty Pryde breaks the Danger Room; Earth 200500 is clearly the best earth; even the X-Men have no idea what’s going on; First Class Emma Frost is so boring that we forget she exists; wolverines are definitely not wolves; and you can have Rachel’s Community references when you pry them from her cold, dead hands.
“Days of Future Past”
Gravestone engraving standards of 2013
The Mostly-New, Mostly-Different Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
Another unfortunate hat
Causality in the Marvel Multiverse
Earths 811, 1191, 295, 311, and 200500
Hall monitors with laser rifles
How to fix a broken timeline
The X-Men cinematic universe, and points of divergence from the comics
The one thing X-Men: The Last Stand does right
The Xavier Index of Cinematic Continuity
The difference between Canis lupus and Gulo gulo
A Days of Future Past cinematic cram course
Blink, Bishop, and dark-future mash-ups
The enduring appeal of Earth-811
The significantly less enduring appeal of Earth-242
The Nazi Excalibur of Earth-597
You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.