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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Wolverine and the X-Men" Review: Radically Different Doesn't Mean Bad

When it comes to movies and TV shows, comic book fans are some of the hardest to please people in the world.

Change one hair on the head of a beloved character and they go nuts.

And I can get away with saying that because I’m one of them…

Now I don’t think I’m as hardcore as some, but I hated “X-Men 2” because of certain character changes when most critics said it was great (Don’t even get me started on “X-Men 3.”). And although some would say it was a fun movie, I’ve never seen a single second of “Batman and Robin” because of all of the ridiculous changes to the Batman mythos.

But I decided to keep an open mind about “Wolverine and the X-Men,” the new Nicktoons series produced by Marvel Animation. And that was a good idea since “Wolverine” is probably the most radically different re-telling of the X-Men story I’ve ever seen.

But radically different doesn’t mean bad. So I hope “X-Men” fans will give this one a chance, because there’s real potential for this one to be one of the best animated series based on a Marvel comic book we’ve ever seen…

As the title suggests, the show centers on Wolverine, who is out on his own after a mysterious explosion in which the Xavier Institute was destroyed and Professor Charles Xavier and Jean Grey vanished.

Anti-mutant hysteria is at an all-time high as the Mutant Response Division (MRD) is tasked with containing the mutant “threat” by apprehending and detaining mutants.

When an innocent family that helps Wolverine gets caught in the MRD crosshairs, Wolverine realizes it’s time to reunite the X-Men. But he soon discovers that’s easier said than done as not everyone wants to help. Cyclops, who was the leader, has lost his will to fight with Jean gone and Rogue seems more interested in hanging out with the Brotherhood, a destructive group of mutants fighting against the MRD.

Also not coming back to the X-Men is Warren Worthington III, aka Angel, who has decided he can do more for his fellow mutants with his family’s money. Complicating things for Warren is that his father is the biggest supporter of the anti-mutant movement’s leader, Senator Robert Kelly.

And with Senator Kelly gathering more support for his Mutant Registration Act, Wolverine realizes he has to keep fighting. Wolverine, Beast, Shadowcat and Iceman will eventually be joined by Cyclops, Storm and Emma Frost.

Previous “X-Men” cartoons have dealt with the issue of anti-mutant hysteria, but “Wolverine” paints the darkest picture yet. That gives the show a much more adult tone, a la “Justice League Unlimited,” which Marvel animation projects haven’t had in the past.

I’ve only seen the first two episodes, but the possibilities here are truly endless as familiar characters continue to come out of the woodwork in unfamiliar situations. The new takes on the characters allow non-“X-Men” fans to enjoy the action, but they won’t alienate longtime “X-Men” fans.

Hey, my favorite character disappeared in the first two minutes and I kept watching…

“Wolverine” is no “Batman: The Animated Series,” the show by which all animated superhero series must be measured, but it does get Marvel a little closer.

I’m actually sorry I don’t get Nicktoons so I can see how this one turns out. Jean’s bound to turn up again eventually…

“Wolverine and the X-Men” premieres Friday, January 23rd with back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. on Nicktoons Network…

Photo Credit: Marvel