Wednesday, January 30, 2013

X-MEN Episode Eighteen - November 20, 1993

Repo Man
Written by Len Wein

Summary:  Wolverine is kidnapped by Alpha Flight at the bequest of General Chasen, who wants to study Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton.  Wolverine appeals to his former friend Vindicator, and his wife Heather Hudson, for freedom.  Heather refuses to continue the invasive tests, but Chasen ignores her objections.  Alpha Flight reacts to Wolverine’s cries of pain and disobeys Chasen’s orders.  They fight Chasen’s android guards as Wolverine defeats Vindicator and escapes.  Meanwhile, Magneto and Xavier are ambushed by Vertigo of the Savage Land Mutates.

Continuity Notes
  • This is the “classic” interpretation of Alpha Flight:  Vindicator, Shaman, Sasquatch, Snowbird, Northstar, Aurora, and Puck.
  • Wolverine flashes back to the Weapon X project.  The Professor from Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X serial appears, taunting Wolverine as adamantium is bonded to his skeleton.  Wolverine escapes, and is later rescued in the wilderness by the Hudsons, in a scene virtually identical to his origin story in the comics.
  • Domino, Nightcrawler, Archangel, Cannonball, Psylocke, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch (the last two together) all make brief cameos as Jean uses Cerebro to search for Professor X.  Domino is wearing the outfit Greg Capullo designed for her, circa X-Force #23, which is surprising when you consider the issue was only a few months old when this episode aired.  Cannonball is also seen in his current X-Force costume, and with blond hair.  When he appears years later in one of the final episodes, he has brown hair and is a neophyte mutant with no connections to any X-team.

“Um, Actually…”:  Wolverine implies that Alpha Flight is a mutant team, when only two of these members (Northstar and Aurora) are mutants.

Saban Quality:  The animators seem simply unable to draw the maple leaf on Vindicator’s costume correctly.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Wolverine’s adamantium bonding process is completely bloodless, as opposed to the Weapon X serial.  No bears are killed, either.

Review:  Isn’t it cool that Wolverine’s creator got to write his origin story in the cartoon?  Of course, the origin we’re actually seeing is a combination of stories by Chris Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith, but it’s nice to know that Hollywood offered Len Wein some recognition for creating/co-creating Wolverine and the New X-Men.  (Perhaps a better plot would’ve been a flashback story retelling the events of Giant-Sized X-Men #1, since Wein did write that one, and this is an era of the X-Men’s past the cartoon usually ignored.)  Even if Wein isn’t writing “his” Wolverine, the punk teenager with claw-gloves, he still has a grasp on the character Wolverine evolved into.  This is easily one of the better Wolverine episodes, if not the best.

And for fans of the comics, it’s a huge thrill to see Alpha Flight make an appearance.  Readers were still getting over the excitement of seeing a faithful X-Men adaptation on television; seeing obscure characters like Alpha Flight reenacting a story from the Claremont/Byrne days was more than many of us would’ve ever expected.  Looking back, there isn’t a lot of time spent exploring Wolverine’s relationship with the team, and Vindicator comes across as a bigger jerk than he ever did in his initial appearances, but Wolverine’s connection with Heather remains unchanged.  The conflict of a scientist who’s loyal to her country but also to her friend is another example of the show going where kids’ TV normally wouldn’t, and the voice acting benefits the material by remaining fairly restrained and natural.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the show utilizes Alpha Flight again, although I think this episode created enough of an impression to help convince Toy Biz that a market existed for Alpha Flight toys.  Again, something that just seemed unthinkable at the time.

Having Len Wein as a writer on the series introduces the possibility of other comics writers contributing to the show.  Both Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway have written for television.  So has Marv Wolfman.  (Conway and Wolfman both wrote early episodes of the FOX Spider-Man series, and a few Batman episodes.)  And I recently discovered that Larry Hama was writing for the revamped Jonny Quest during this era.  Surely he would’ve been an easy fit for any Wolverine-centric episode of the show.  I wonder…what if one of the producers contacted Chris Claremont about writing for the series?  He was on the outs with Marvel at the time, and numerous fans were still anxious for him to one day return to the X-Men.  What if he made his grand return to the X-Men via the cartoon show?  Did Marvel have veto power over the writers?  Would Bob Harras have objected?  What if Claremont orchestrated a season-long arc similar to the “Shattered Star” era of Uncanny X-Men #249-269?  What if he used the cartoon as his chance to finish the 1991 Shadow King storyline with his original ending that left Xavier and Wolverine dead?  Just imagine if he used the cartoon to introduce the Neo?  Could you imagine that as a third season premiere, right after Eek the Cat?


Anonymous said...

I could image ALL of that. And it would be good.

Dan Lichtenberg said...

The Neo, geez. At least the censors might have spared us Claremont's obsession with bondage costumes.

Mark my words, had this show continued for one or two more years, we would have had some representation of the Onslaught saga. And you know, I'd actually be damn curious to see how that would have turned out. Nowhere to go but up, really.

Matt said...

Wein did get to work in one tiny bit of "his" Wolverine -- General Chasin is the guy whose necktie Wolverine slices apart in Giant Size X-Men #1.

Teebore said...

I had no idea until now that this episode was written by Wein. That's pretty awesome.

although I think this episode created enough of an impression to help convince Toy Biz that a market existed for Alpha Flight toys.

And frankly, the X-Men toy line is almost as worthy of accolades for introducing obscure and/or fan favorite characters you'd never expect to see as the cartoon. There were a ton of ultimately one-note 90s villains (Killjoy, anyone?), but the depth and breadth of the line was staggering.

Just imagine if he used the cartoon to introduce the Neo?

Maybe then he would have spared the comics from using them! ;)

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