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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.

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2 – Sentinels in the Mist

In which we introduce the villains of the Silver Age: Magneto makes some valid points, Mastermind is a Nice Guy of OkCupid, the Scarlet Witch predicts Cat Breading, the Trasks should really have known better, and the Comics Code Authority is down with pterosaurs.

X-Plained:

  • Common characteristics of enduring X-villains
  • Mutant identity politics and moral relativism
  • Context-agnostic Juggernaut flashbacks
  • An unorthodox approach to anthropology
  • Cyclops’s greatest diplomatic achievement
  • Silver-Age haberdashery
  • An innovative modification to vampire mythology
  • Cultural assimilation
  • The propaganda-and-sweater-vest machine
  • Hex bolts
  • Supplemental reading

You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.

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