Wednesday, September 10, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-One - February 8, 1997


The Fifth Horseman
Written by Steven Melching & David McDermott

Summary:  Jubilee joins Beast for an exploration of the Andes.  They discover evidence of a Mayan Temple, three thousand miles from where it should be.  Meanwhile, Fabian Cortez leads the new Four Horsemen on a search to find a young host body for Apocalypse.  After their first target escapes, Cortez discovers Jubilee is nearby.  Jubilee is kidnapped by the Horsemen and brought to the temple, although new member Caliban is reluctant to harm her due to her past with the Morlocks.  Eventually, Caliban turns on Cortez and escapes the temple with Jubilee and Beast.  Cortez is left alone in the collapsing temple, as Apocalypse enters this reality and steals his body.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Beast and Jubilee are the only X-Men appearing this episode.
  • Fabian Cortez was rescued by Apocalypse at the end of “Sanctuary Part Two.”  Apocalypse has amplified his powers, giving him the ability to power up mutants and turn them into Hounds.  “Hounds” and “Horsemen” are used interchangeably in the episode.
  • Apocalypse was trapped outside of time following the “Beyond Good and Evil” serial.
  • The Four Horsemen, with the exception of Caliban, are wearing the red bodysuits with spikes that Phoenix II wore as a costume.  

“Um, Actually…”:  Kitty Pryde’s friendship with Caliban has been transposed on to Jubilee.  Also, those spiked bodysuits belong to the Hounds, not Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen.  In the comics, those outfits are worn by the slaves of Ahab and the Shadow King (I’m not sure if the connection between those two villains was ever revealed).  

Review:  A vast improvement over “Jubilee’s Fairytale Theatre,” this episode has many of the elements that made X-Men unique in its early seasons.  Old storylines are resolved, continuity from past episodes is built upon, and the leads are given distinct personalities and opportunities to play off each other.  The Melching/McDermott scripts tend to be more loyal to the comics, giving the episodes less of a generic superhero feel and more of the qualities that distinguished X-Men from most kid’s cartoons.  Jubilee and Beast actually make for an entertaining pairing, and it’s a relief to see Jubilee given more of her true personality this episode, as opposed to the annoying kid sidekick role she was forced into in the past.  There is yet another example of Jubilee working as a Kitty surrogate, as Caliban is now her pity-friend even though they’ve never really met in the show before, but this isn’t nearly as annoying as the previous episode’s premise.  

As a fan of the Simonson/Simonson X-Factor run, I was also glad to see Caliban brought into his ‘roided-out servant role, but I do question why there are now three utterly generic Horsemen saddled with him.  Once again, we’ve missed a chance to see the Dark Riders brought into animation.  Even the Alliance of Evil would’ve been more intimidating than these losers; Whip Guy, Boomerang Girl, and Big Guy with Muttonchops.  While this episode is a better showcase of how the new designs can work (the character movements are noticeably smoother and the overall look is less cluttered), it also provides a clear example of how tricky “cartoony” can be.  None of the villains are even slightly threatening; even Apocalypse looks like a leftover Pokemon in certain scenes.  I don’t know if this decision was consciously made to make the show less intimidating for younger viewers, but the toothless villains undermine any attempt to make the stories genuinely dramatic.

Credit to for the screencaps.

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