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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy
Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // April 21, 2009
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jamie S. Rich | posted April 18, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE SHOW:

Wolverine and the X-Men is the first of the X-Men cartoons I've actually watched. The vintage series debuted right around the time I had temporarily fallen off the superhero comics bandwagon, and since I had also developed a prejudice against Saturday morning cartoons produced in America around then, I probably wouldn't have watched it anyway. Give me a break. I was young and full of stubborn notions.

Though I still don't get up on Saturday mornings to overdose on Sugar Bombs and over-extended toy commercials masquerading as entertainment, from what I can tell the cartoons are hard to find anyway. Not to mention that Wolverine and the X-Men would not be among them, but rather airing at different times on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon (with Friday nights being its regular slot). Which may be why I caught it, but then, maybe not. I tend to seek out what I want, and I peeked in on the series when it began showing in the U.S. this past January. Much to my surprise, it was quite good, enough to keep me tuning in and enough to make me raise my hand when this DVD was offered up for grabs.

This first home video salvo, Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy, combines the three-opening episodes and thus functions as an intro to the 26-episode season; given what a small slice it is, however, most DVD and animation fans will likely look at this disc as merely a tease. Is there a complete first season coming to disc? Not as of yet. Nor is there a second disc announced, and I am not sure anyone would want the studio to take the route of splitting the complete season up over eight separate releases. Given there is a season 2 scheduled for broadcast sometime in the future, no one would blame interested parties who decide to wait until that is going to hit the air and see if there is something better coming along.

Of course, I am not here to review what might be, but what is, and thus I must look at Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy as a complete entity. These three episodes, originally titled "Hindsight," form a single unit of sorts. It begins with Logan (voiced by Steven Blum) on his way out the door to continue his personal wanderings just as the X-Men are attacked. Professor X (Jim Ward) and Jean Grey (Jennifer Hale) end up missing as a result of the battle, and it also leaves the Xavier Institute mansion in ruins. As a result of both of these things, the team disbands. Time passes, and the rise of a government-sponsored agency called the Mutant Response Division and the way they are brutally rounding up unsuspecting mutants lures Wolverine back into the fight. Realizing that there is something bigger going on than anyone has anticipated, Logan brings the team back together, recruiting Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, and their one-time nemesis, Emma Frost (Kari Wahlgren). There are also appearances by old favorites like Rogue, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, and Angel, whose father turns out to be a financial supporter of the MRD, which of course causes much drama between papa and his baby boy. Now in charge of the team, Wolverine uses Emma to find Xavier, with the hope of eventually finding Jean, stopping the MRD, and keeping Magneto from causing too much trouble from his mutant haven, the island of Genosha.

All of which is the focus of the rest of the season. Not that the three-episode "Hindsight" isn't entertaining by itself, but it's really a piece of a larger whole. Other episodes in season 1, such as the show where Wolverine does battle with the Hulk, stand on their own, but cycles like this one contribute to the greater story. (Think of the old X-Files model: "mythology" episodes vs. stand-alone episodes.) Part of getting addicted to this show is how it replicates the feeling of reading the serialized X-Men comics, the fact that the saga is ongoing and ever evolving. As Wolverine leads the team through various missions, he learns more about what is happening, uncovers a great danger that he must stop, and also interacts with a large supporting cast that eventually splinters into various other subplots. The full season unit is better than its pieces.

But again, what is here? Well, that's easy: some solid superhero adventure stories, pretty good animation that combines a Western comic book style with a Japanese anime aesthetic, mostly good voice actors (Blum as Wolverine is actually my least favorite choice, though), and overall, some fun entertainment. The character designs and the action sequences are top notch. For those hungering for a Wolverine fix prior to the Hugh Jackman movie, Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy is not a bad way to go. The cartoon basically has the same feel as the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, just dialed down to fit episodic television and to be a tad more safe for kids (but don't worry, some of the heavier themes and the action are still generally there). Not as good as those films, nor the best comics, but likely to please anyone who likes this kind of thing.

THE DVD

Video:
The widescreen picture looks really sharp, full of vibrant colors and reflecting the relatively young age of the production. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1, enhanced for 16X9 screens. The only complaint I would have is some slight digital combing.

There is a "play all" option for the episodes, or you can choose them one by one.

Sound:
Audio is presented in Dolby with the original English mixed in 5.1. The show has awesome sound, with big sound effects and dramatic music. All of it sounds great here.

Spanish speakers also have the choice of a 2.0 dub, and there is also an English Closed Captioning option.

Extras:
The DVD comes in a standard plastic keep case with a cardboard outer slipcover.

All three shows have a total of two alternate audio commentaries each: one with supervising producer Craig Kyle and head writer Greg Johnson, the other with directors Boyd Kirkland and Steven Gordon. Between the two tracks, a pretty detailed picture of the production is created. There is some repetition, especially since it sounds like the participants recorded each episode as a stand-alone unit rather than one long track, but it's not enough to worry about. There are also some gaps in the directors commentary that drags the discussion down a tad, they don't stay as lively as the other pair.

Two promotional featurettes give a look behind the scenes. The two-and-a-half-minute "Nicktoons Network Going InScene" is a fast-paced promo piece made for airing on television, featuring creators and voice actors. The five-minutes-fifteen-second "Making of Wolverine and the X-Men" goes a little deeper into the story, why the show is set up the way it is, and different choices that were made, including the controversial choice to push Wolverine into the leadership position. This also covers the whole of the series, not just these episodes, but no need to worry about spoilers.

"Character Profiles" are eight thirty-second spots, narrated by Xavier, detailing who each X-Man is and explaining his her or her powers.

There are also trailers for other DVDs, movies, and programs. These play upon the disc loading, and when selected in the menu, as one linked piece rather than a pick-and-choose option.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
A mixed Recommended. I like Wolverine and the X-Men a whole lot, and I enjoyed watching the three episodes here again; that said, Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy is only the first three episodes of a full twenty-six episode story arc. Will there be more volumes? Will there be a better, comprehensive set in the future? No one knows, and so I can understand anyone being shy on the trigger. Still, good times are to be had for anyone wanting to get their superhero swerve on. Wolverine and the X-Men is an excellent production, a worthy addition to the X-canon.

Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.

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