Well, while I still want to grumble about these paltry single disc releases for the cartoon series Wolverine and the X-Men, at least they are getting better. This second volume, Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies, released three months after the first, has upped the episode count to five rather than the three that made the first disc seem so slim. At this rate, we now have only 18 episodes left before a complete season 1. Any chance of doing that on three discs of six, instead of four of varying numbers?
Okay, that's out of the way...Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies (a.k.a. Season 1, volume 2) features episodes 4 through 8 of the most recent animated X-Men television show. This particular series has put Logan front and center, making him X-Men team leader during a time of crisis. At the start of the show, an attack on the Xavier mansion has left the team in ruins. The explosion has somehow propelled Charles Xavier into a dismal future where mutants are hunted, imprisoned, and killed, and no one knows what happened to Jean Grey. Wolverine has picked up the pieces, forming a new team with Beast, Cyclops, Kitty, Iceman, Forge, and Emma Frost. Rogue has betrayed the team, and various others are scattered across the world. While the Heroes Return Trilogy (disc 1 - review here) contained a three-part story that set up the overall arc of this first season, Deadly Enemies is a selection of one-off episodes, and as the title implies, each featuring some kind of central villain.
Episode 4: Overflow - Now that Logan (voiced by Steve Blum) has an established link with Xavier (Jim Ward) through Cerebro, Professor X is starting to show him events from Wolverine's present that will lead to the apocalyptic future so the X-Men can take steps to prevent it. First mission: stop Storm (Susan Dalian) from destroying Africa. The psionic Shadow King (Kevin Michael Richardson) has preyed on the weather master and made her think she is a benevolent queen, when really she is tearing her nation apart. Wolverine has to put a stop to this before it can start. Like a lot of episodes of this go-around, "Overflow" should have specific appeal for fans of the comics; in this case, for the animated version of Storm's origins as a childhood pickpocket.
Episode 5: Thieves' Gambit - Obviously, this introduces the Cajun thief Gambit (Phil LaMarr) to this continuity. He and Wolverine clash after Gambit steals an invention created by Forge (Roger Craig Smith), a collar that stifles mutant powers. Gambit steals it for the Mutant Control Unit, the government body that is imprisoning mutants under the guise of keeping the country safe. They fight, they team-up, there is a double cross, yada yada. One of my least favorite episodes, largely because I really don't understand the appeal of the Gambit character. His Southern-fried dandyism and stupid costume (why were jackets such the rage in the 1990s X-Men comics?) annoys me. Granted, fans of his would have my hide for saying so and will probably like this show a lot more.
Episode 6: X-Calibre - Largely a solo Nightcrawler adventure. The teleporter (voiced by Liam O'Brien) has caught wind of a smuggling operation that takes mutants to Genosha, the island haven set up by Magneto. Not trusting the pirates to see their cargo to its destination safely, Nightcrawler tags along, only to have to contend with Spiral (Grey DeLisle), who wants to kidnap the wayward muties for Mojoworld. Wolverine and his crew eventually help out.
Episode 7: Wolverine vs. Hulk - Comics fans know that Wolverine's first appearance as a character was in an issue of The Incredible Hulk and in that story, the two bruisers clashed. This makes every subsequent fight between the two a big draw for fans of our hero, and this episode of the cartoon is no exception. (This show is also seen as a follow-up to the direct-to-DVD Hulk vs. movie.) Essentially, it is what it sounds like: the two fight, are then distracted by the Wendigo (think "Abominable Snow Man"), and then go on their way. Good action. A definite no-nonsense installment in the series.
Episode 8: Time Bomb - Nitro (O'Brien, again) is the villain here. He is busted out of prison by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in order to take him to Genosha and use his powers to destroy the island kingdom. The plan is that they will then blame the devastation on the humans and use it as a flashpoint to inspire the mutant population to rise up. Naturally, the X-Men cannot let this happen.
Wolverine and the X-Men is a pretty straightforward kind of show. It doesn't seek to reinvent the wheel, but rather sticks to the basics. It was angsty adventure that made the X-Men comics so popular, and that's what is required here, too. In addition to the usual mutant persecution subplots, the ongoing story of the X-Men's missing comrades adds to the sturm und drang. Each show works as an individual unit, and at th same time, quite a few of them build on the larger story; all of them are fun, with good adventure, plenty of fight scenes, and awesome displays of power. The animation fits the bill nicely, combining modern comic book style with a slight anime influence for a slick, clean look. There are occasionally places that one might find fault, where the drawing is not as stellar or the movements rickety, but compared to the limited-budget hand-drawn aesthetic of the 1990s X-toons or the overly digital style of a lot of current Saturday morning fare, it's a level or two above. Though the show is building to a cumulative effect, you could easily pop in Deadly Enemies without seeing the rest and enjoy it for the action. It's also the kind of entertainment that transcends age, and the young and old alike should be able to watch it together; not too violent for small kids, not too wimpy for us big ones.
Again, I'd prefer these would come out another way, I prefer better-priced full-season sets, and whether you want to gamble on that coming out after you've bought the expensive single discs is up to you. The material is worth it regardless of the format.
A Spanish 2.0 dub is also available, as is English Closed Captioning.
There is a "play all" option for the episodes, or you can choose them one by one; however, the audio defaults back to the main English track when you change to the next episode during "play all," and you'll have to toggle back to the commentary track if that's what you're watching.
Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies comes in standard-sized keep case with a cardboard outer sleeve. A paper insert in the case advertises the first volume in the series as well as action figures.