Wednesday, January 29, 2014

X-MEN Episode Forty-Six - May 6, 1995

The Juggernaut Returns
Written by Julianne Klemm

Summary:  The Crimson Gem of Cyttorak is discovered in Asia by a researcher named Eugene.  He is granted the Juggernaut’s powers, just as Juggernaut breaks into the X-Men’s mansion.  Juggernaut falls ill as Eugene uses his newfound powers to impress women.  Wolverine and Cyclops retrieve the Gem from Eugene, while Xavier gives Juggernaut psychic therapy.  When the Gem is returned to Juggernaut, his powers return.  He throws the Gem into space and then peacefully leaves the X-Men.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This is the first episode to feature new material in the “Previously…” opening segment.  New animation shows the Juggernaut landing in a body of water, and then walking across the bottom of the ocean, after being thrown over the horizon by Gladiator in “The Phoenix Saga Part III.”
  • The X-Men featured this episode are Xavier, Beast, Rogue, Storm, Cyclops, and Wolverine.  Gambit briefly appears, ignoring his priority alert as he fixes a school bus, apparently in order to impress a woman.  
  • The Hulk makes an appearance in the Danger Room, as Xavier uses its robots against Juggernaut.
  • Storm is wearing the civilian outfit she wore circa Uncanny X-Men #312, the first Phalanx storyline.
  • Morph makes a brief cameo.  Moira is escorting him in a wheelchair as he waves goodbye to Cyclops and Wolverine, who were on Muir Island for an unknown reason.

"Actiiing!":  Cyclops’ delivery of “Women like guys to be themselves…” while lecturing Eugene has always made my skin crawl.  And I think we all learned years ago that women really want guys to act like Mystery from VH1’s The Pick-Up Artist.

I Love the '90s:  Wolverine and Cyclops’ battle with Nerd Juggernaut in Asia leads to them disrupting a parody of Saban’s studios, where obvious Power Ranger doppelgangers appear.

Review:  I’ve always regarded this episode as the absolute worst of the series’ run.  And there are certainly moments of it that I still hate, i.e. any second featuring Eugene the Nerd Juggernaut, but I’m not sure now that “The Juggernaut Returns” is the show’s lowest point.  To its credit, this is the first episode of the show’s run to even attempt to flesh Juggernaut out as a character, with numerous flashback scenes taken directly from the comics.  While the story of Xavier and his abusive stepbrother Cain is certainly lacking any subtlety, the original comics being adapted weren’t exactly nuanced, either.  Young Juggernaut is a bully and his dad is a gold-digger (An atomic scientist gold-digger, right?).  When Cain bullies Xavier a bit too much, he discovers Xavier can somehow read his thoughts; which only leads to him hating Xavier even more.  The script actually has Xavier acknowledge that Juggernaut had a right to feel violated as a teenager, and the rather simplistic dynamic between the characters is given another layer as the audience learns that Cain, on some level, feared his stepbrother and his strange powers.  The execution is flawed, largely due to the Juggernaut’s relentlessly buffoonish voice acting, but there is a solid idea in there.  

What kills the episode is the sad attempt at humor, as Eugene, a nerd so hackneyed and stereotypical it’s shocking he wasn’t created by Chuck Lorre, kills the momentum of the episode every second he’s on the air.  I’ve heard this series criticized for being humorless before, but if this is what was going to pass for humor, I’m glad most episodes didn’t even try.

Credit to for the screencaps.

1 comment:

cyke68 said...

Oh, I don't know. If this is the series' worst episode, then I guess I find it enjoyable in the sense of "so bad it's good." The focus on Xavier's background is also appreciated, as his character never got much of a spotlight in the show's run.

That creepy Cyclops line stuck with me too. I would also like to nominate, "You don't have to make it that hard." Someone really ought to isolate that, context-free. Norm Spencer had a real knack for melodramatically capturing that way '90s comics word balloons would place emphasis on arbitrary words.

The characters' civilian garb on this series rarely matched anything readily identifiable from the comics, but Madureira's style was so distinctive that it really shows here. Adam Kubert had been hanging around for awhile, but Uncanny X-Men's lack of a long-term penciller after Portacio's departure meant that the Jim Lee house style reigned supreme well into the mid-1990s. With Madureira making the book his own, Lee and co. felt decidedly old hat. Would've been interesting to see if that influence further trickled down to the animated series, had it gone on longer (or started a year later).

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