Wednesday, July 16, 2014

X-MEN Episode Sixty-Nine - November 2, 1996

Storm Front (Part One)
Written by Mirith Colao

Summary:  The X-Men fly to Washington, DC, which is experiencing the worst storm in its history.  Storm uses her powers to restore the weather to normal.  The mysterious Arkon emerges and presses Storm into following him to his home planet, which is experiencing an even worse meteorological crisis.  Storm leaves one of Arkon’s teleportation pellets behind for the X-Men to discover.  Soon, the X-Men follow Storm to Polemachus.  Storm has saved Polemachus’ environment and is hailed as a goddess.  Arkon proposes to Storm and she accepts.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This episode is loosely based on Uncanny X-Men Annual #3.
  • The X-Men this episode are comprised of Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Storm, and Jubilee.  Xavier appears at the mansion, but doesn’t follow to Polemachus.
  • Arkon goes out of his way to draw attention to Polemachus’ “Central Energy Transmitter,” which allegedly keeps the planet alive.

Production Note:  The original opening is still being used, along with the standard montage closing credits.  Again, I’m blaming the DVD, because I don’t think the episodes aired like this.

Um, Actually…”:  Arkon teleports with the lightning bolt-shaped devices he keeps in his quiver.  The cartoon has him using tiny little balls that Wolverine compares to golf balls, even though they’re drawn closer to the size of a gumball.

Review:  Out of the entire X-Men canon, it’s hard to imagine why anyone thought Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 was a great place to find an adaptation for the cartoon.  UXM Annual #3 isn’t necessarily a bad comic, but its main selling points would seem to be the novelty of having the X-Men face a traditional Avengers foe, and the George Perez art.  Since Classic X-Men always skipped the annuals, I came into this episode cold when it first aired, not knowing that Arkon is an established Marvel character, let alone one that fought the X-Men.  I’m sure that influenced my initial bias that this two-parter is a waste of time.  Today, I understand the history behind the story, but that doesn’t make these episodes any more tolerable.

As a Storm spotlight episode, we’re left with the dubious premise that all she’s wanted throughout the years is for a man to pay her attention, and once she receives said attention, she’d be more than willing to marry the stranger.  When has Storm ever been portrayed as man-hungry?  I guess there’s a precedent in the comics now for Storm to marry a virtual stranger, but that was done as a rather obvious marketing ploy to save a title Marvel stubbornly refused to cancel.  There’s no interpretation of the character circa 1996 that’s ever come across so needy, as far as I remember.  Storm isn’t an easy character to write, as the series has made obvious in the past, but she deserves better than this.

More annoyingly, this episode is absolutely packed with filler.  The story opens in Washington, DC for no discernible reason, as the episode spends around ten minutes getting to a point that Claremont accomplished in just a few pages in the comics.  Before the X-Men ever get a chance to find Storm, they must crash-land the Blackbird, hitchhike in a stranger’s station wagon (sporadically drawn to resemble some kind of military Humvee whenever the model abruptly changes), find the clue Storm left behind, somehow make it back to New York, consult with Xavier, and finally teleport to Polemachus.  Then, more time is killed as they fight peasants and robot guards, then get arrested.  And there’s more time to kill after that, so Wolverine has a fight with Arkon that has him extracting and sheathing his claws at random intervals to appease the censors.  The fight unnerves Storm, which causes the chaotic weather to return, so she ends up fixing Polemachus’ environment for the second time in five minutes after she regains her composure.  The amount of effort spent on wasting time is just breathtaking.  Perhaps I wouldn’t mind all of this padding if the animation wasn’t utterly wretched.  The human figures seem paper thin, the backgrounds are dull, and the fight scenes are extremely clunky.  Unfortunately, the run of the series is almost over and we’re still getting some incredibly ugly episodes.

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