Wednesday, January 22, 2014

X-MEN Episode Forty-One - November 12, 1994


The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 2): The Inner Circle
Written by Steven Levi


Summary:  The X-Men are taken captive by the Inner Circle, except for Wolverine, who was dropped into the sewers by Leland.  When Mastermind tries to coerce Phoenix into killing Cyclops, she finally breaks free of his psychic controls and releases her teammates.  Wolverine fights his way back to the mansion’s top floor and joins the X-Men in battle.  Phoenix confronts Mastermind on the roof, revealing that he’s unleashed her dark side.  She leaves him in a stupor after exposing him to cosmic secrets.  When the X-Men are reunited with Phoenix, she proclaims that Dark Phoenix has been born.


“Um, Actually…”:  Although the art from the cliffhanger before the “Wolverine Alone!” issue is rather faithfully recreated, Wolverine’s brief monologue that ends with “…now it’s my turn!” has been omitted.


Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Cyclops is stabbed off-camera by Mastermind during their psychic duel.  Phoenix’s outfit as the Black Queen has also been toned down, giving her blue leggings.  The White Queen’s legs remain bare, though.


Review:  While the opening chapter felt like an exercise in moving characters from Point A to Point B, this works much better.  The X-Men vs. Hellfire Club fight was always one of my favorites as a kid, and seeing it recreated on the animated series was a huge deal for me at the time.  (In retrospect, it might be the last time I felt genuinely excited watching the show, which was probably a combination of the series running out of “classic” stories to adapt and the sheer novelty of seeing the X-Men on TV wearing off.)  The story manages to take advantage of one continuity break from the source material and create a new wrinkle for this chapter.  In the comics, Emma Frost was already “dead” at this point, following her battle with Phoenix in Chicago.  Since the policy of the ‘90s cartoon was always “Kitty who?” that means the X-Men never traveled to the windy city to recruit that particular mutant.  This leaves Frost available for the big X-Men vs. Hellfire fight, and to Levi’s credit, he makes use of her.  Frost might seem redundant given that another telepath is joining the Inner Circle, but this becomes a plot point, as Shaw makes it clear that Phoenix is now the Club’s premiere telepath.  His arrogant dismissal of Frost is paid back before the next commercial break, however, after Mastermind makes his play to become the new leader of the Inner Circle.  Frost casts the deciding vote for Shaw to be eliminated, which doesn’t amount to much since Dark Phoenix isn’t going to play along with their club anyway, but it’s a nice reminder of the Inner Circle’s relentless bickering and backstabbing.  I like the idea that these people could potentially rule the world, but they’re so petulant they spend most of their time just plotting against each other.


What is there from the comics is a welcome gift to fans of the original story.  Wolverine fighting solo (along with his Dirty Harry riff), Pierce’s cyborg arm getting ripped out, Mastermind and Cyclops’ psychic duel, Shaw getting juggled by Beast’s feet (replacing Nightcrawler), Leland getting zapped all the way down to the next floor…large portions of this episode are taken directly from Byrne’s artwork.  My favorite scene is another one lifted directly from the comics -- Phoenix giving Mastermind just a glimpse into how she sees the world, an acid trip that leaves him in a coma.  The animation is far from perfect, it’s just as clunky as ever in places, but there are brief moments that evoke the spirit of the comic perfectly.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

1 comment:

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

In retrospect, it might be the last time I felt genuinely excited watching the show, which was probably a combination of the series running out of “classic” stories to adapt and the sheer novelty of seeing the X-Men on TV wearing off.

Yeah, I'm right there with you.

I know I've seen everything that follows, but from this point on, my memory of the show gets a lot hazier, and I remember being far less captivated by the show.