Friday, September 12, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Three - February 22, 1997



Old Soldiers
Written by Len Wein

Summary:  Wolverine visits the grave of scientist Andre Cocteau in Paris.  He flashes back to his adventure in World War II as an OSS agent.  Accompanied by his back-up, Captain America, Wolverine rescued Cocteau from the Red Skull, only to discover that Cocteau double-crossed him by giving the Nazis their location.  Although Wolverine and Captain America defeated the Red Skull and his Sleeper robot, losing Cocteau to the Nazis lead Wolverine to view the mission as a failure.  In the present day, Cocteau’s daughter Justine appears at the graveside.  She explains that Cocteau never betrayed the Allies; he was a double agent.  Wolverine and Captain America were supposed to fail in order to sell his defection.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Wolverine doesn’t have bone claws or adamantium claws in the flashback story, staying consistent with Marvel’s rule at the time that Wolverine should only have claws in flashbacks to recent times.  He does use a pair of rock climbing claws, however, which he decides to keep throughout the adventure.
  • Characters with a strong resemblance to Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos make a cameo appearance at the end of the flashback.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  The word “Nazi” never appears in the episode, nor are there any swastikas.  Wolverine’s references to “Uncle Adolf,” and the scenes depicting German soldiers occupying Paris, are used to make it clear to older viewers that the characters are Nazis.

Review:  A WWII-era Captain America series was in development for FOX at the time this episode aired, making me wonder if "Old Soldiers" was commissioned as a backdoor pilot.  I’m not sure how kids ignorant of the comics felt about the episode, but seeing Wolverine team up with Captain America gave me a bit of a fanboy thrill at the time, and the episode holds up quite well today.  The major failing would be the animation, which has yet to adjust to the show’s “cartoony” makeover, and is suffering from some extremely stiff action and awkward walk cycles.  The episode grows more fluid in the final act, making me wonder if Philippines Animation Studio assigned a better team on the climax.  If only all of the episodes from this final batch looked as good as PAS’s work earlier in the show’s run.  I’d love to see a Wolverine/Captain America WWII adventure animated as well as “Cold Comfort” was.

The plot is reminiscent of many of Wolverine’s flashback adventures in the comics.  The action is set in WWII-era Paris, Wolverine teams up with an established Marvel Universe figure, there’s a hint of romantic tension between him and Justine, and there’s even a present day framing sequence that has an “old friend” from his past recognizing him.  The idea that Wolverine is just as old as a WWII vet hasn’t been broached on the show before, and even though it’s taken the series forever to get there, I’m glad this area of continuity has finally been acknowledged.  Wein seems to be intentionally evoking the feel of old serials during the adventure, but he gives the story enough personality to avoiding the feeling that it’s pastiche and only pastiche.  If only this had aired years earlier in the show’s run; Captain America and the Red Skull’s designs are an awkward fit for the show’s new look, and this is the kind of story the series needed as it descended into a succession of forgettable one-offs.

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

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