The ‘X-Men’ Episode Guide 1×06: Cold Vengeance
1992 was a pretty good year to be a kid who loved comics. The reason that holds up best is probably — and by that I mean definitely — Batman: The Animated Series, but there was another show that had just as big an influence on my childhood: the 1992 X-Men cartoon.
Hitting at the height of the franchise’s popularity, X-Men translated all the action and melodrama that made the comic such a success to the world of Saturday morning cartoons, and it got its hooks into me like almost nothing else. That’s why ComicsAlliance is heading back through the archives for an in-depth look at every single episode of X-Men. This week: “Cold Vengeance,” in which the X-Men journey to two foreign lands. One is the exotic and dangerous island of Genosha, a site full of hidden schemes and an ominous future for the entire mutant race. The other is Canada.
Previously, on X-Men:
When we last left off, Wolverine had bailed on the X-Men after helping to rescue Cyclops from the Morlocks, presumably because he felt guilty about making sure that Cyclops wasn’t left in a sewer far, far away from this show. And possibly because of his unrequited love for Jean Grey, but it’s hard to tell with how subtle the show’s been in getting that point across.
Also, in our discussion about who has the best costume, Rogue ended up being the overwhelming crowd favorite. Truly, she is up there with ’90s Superboy for having one of the most iconic jackets in superhero history, but it actually is a pretty solid outfit for the era. The full-body suit and the jacket do a nice job of suggesting her powers by putting layers between her and the other X-Men, and the color scheme is nice and simple.
Incidentally, some of you may have noticed that since our last episode, the show has vanished from Netflix Streaming. I mention this because readers being able to watch along was a big part why I wanted to do a series on X-Men to begin with. Fortunately, if you’re a Prime member, the series is still available to stream for free at Amazon. And if you’re not, uh… well, the DVDs are cheap. Now let’s get to it!
We pick up this week right where we left off, with Cyclops and Jean discovering that Wolverine has mysteriously vanished into the night. Rather than acknowledging that Wolverine is, you know, an adult, Cyclops wastes no time turning this into something he can whine about for the next five minutes, complaining nasally about how Wolverine ran out on his teammates and we can never depend on him!
For the record, he is yelling about this maybe two hours after Wolverine saved him from being sewer murdered. Let it never be said that my burning hatred for Cyclops isn’t something that he earned every bit of.
Also, not to open two recaps in a row by critiquing Jean Grey’s fashion choices, but she is rocking some bizarrely high waisted (yet insanely baggy) pants in this scene:
Grampa Cyclops has his hitched up to an alarming height too (and he is also wearing cowboy boots, what the f**k), but Jean’s waistline looks like she just arrived from a sack race, plus she has ass pleats and since her shoes are the same color as the pants, I think it might be some kind of bizarre set of footie pajamas. What is even happening with the clothes on this show?
Rather than answering that important question, the show instead wants to focus on where Wolverine has wandered off to in order to deal with his ~complex feelings~. Turns out, he’s wandered up to Canada, where he is spending his time shaking out his hair like an ad for Herbal Essences:
Sadly, he doesn’t get the chance to deal with his emotions — or at least, the emotions that aren’t related to stabbing someone in the face — because he’s been tracked down by Sabretooth. Considering that he was last seen getting blasted through a brick wall by Jubilee, Sabretooth seems like more of an inconvenience to Wolverine’s vacation at this point than an actual threat, but there’s a really nice bit in here where he laments how far Wolverine has fallen from his glory days as a knife-fisted killing machine. It’s a subtle change to the setup of a grinning psychopath that we’ve seen so far that casts Sabretooth as some kind of bizarre friend who just wants Wolverine to live up to his potential, and wants to get him there by blowing up large pieces of Canada that he happens to be skiing on.
Then again, this fight basically ends with Sabretooth punting Wolverine off a glacier, so I might be reading a little too much into the relationship. For a dude with a gigantic mane of platinum blonde back hair, ‘Tooth does get weirdly eloquent about it, though, shouting “Let the ice be a tombstone! Here lies Wolverine! Alone and defeated!”
With Wolverine heading rapidly towards a chilly death and Sabretooth debating the existential dread of loneliness, it’s time to kick into this episode’s b-plot. Surprise, surprise, it opens with Cyclops being a massive tool!
This time, his unbelivable hissyfit has been brought on by Gambit “spreading rumors,” because Cyclops is apparently one of the mean cheerleaders from Glee. This leads Gambit to almost blow Cyclops up right there in the conference room, and folks, I’m not even going to lie: As much as hate Cartoon Cyclops, that is how much I love Cartoon Gambit. More on that in a minute.
The rumor in question concerns the island nation of Genosha, and whether they’re actually welcoming mutants rather than trying to murder them with gigantic purple robots. This is something Gambit has mentioned once, prompting Cyclops to tell him to shut up and take orders, and that he just wants to go to the beach instead of doing important work.
Cyclops and Jean spent the last episode out on a date, by the way.
After Professor X enters and prompts Cyclops to emit a shrill, skin-crawling “but Professsorrrrrr,” it’s decided that maybe instead of hanging around obsessing over the number of pouches on one’s costume, a covert investigation to a tropical paradise is probably a good idea. Gambit, Storm and Jubilee get assigned to the investigation, prompting Gambit to respond with the Definitely Actual Cajun expression “formidable!”
Back in Canada, Wolverine is found by a bunch of local fishermen, including this baseball-capped troublemaker who wants to turn him over to the government in exchange for a new snowmobile:
This, I assume, is an accurate representation of Canadian desires.
The elder fisherman, though, wants to help Wolverine recover, so they take him back to their village on a route that drives right past Sabretooth and his snowmobile. That’s gonna cause a few problems. For now, though, we cut back to the airport for the journey to Genosha.
The X-Men are traveling on a commercial flight and their cover is that they’re tourists, so let’s see how they choose to go incognito. First up, Storm, in a tank top and loose-fitting pants in various shades of pink:
It’s a good choice. Casual, perfect for someone who’s meant to be heading to the beach for a vacation, but also the kind of outfit that won’t restrict her movement if things hit the fan and she has to start fighting.
Note that she’s kept her Bret Hart shades and her London Underground earrings, but has swapped out her eye-searing lemon yellow trenchcoat for a brown patterned sweater and a pair of teal shorts. Subtlety is not her forté, but at least she’s making the effort.
So how does Gambit dress for an undercover mission? Boom:
FULL COSTUME. HOT PINK SIX-PACK. 90S HEADGEAR. ACTUAL ARMORED BOOTS AND METAL COLLAR PIPING, IN A DAMN AIRPORT. Total amount of f**ks given by Gambit:Zero. Point. Zero.
The trend continues when they land in Genosha, to the point where I’m not sure if he even understands what an undercover mission actually is. When a cabbie welcomes them to Genosha, Gambit casually asks “do you think he’d be so friendly if he knew we were mutants?” while the guy is standing right there. Then, when they get to the hotel, we are treated to my single favorite Gambit moment of all time.
When they’re getting their room, Gambit notices a sign on the hotel’s front desk that reads “Ask about our mutant discount.”
This by itself would be one of my favorite things in X-Men history, but Gambit’s reaction is to pick it up, show it to Storm, and say “what do you think? We save maybe 10%.” This dude is on an undercover mission to determine whether or not an offer of sanctuary for a persecuted race is genuine, and he is willing to sell out the entire thing for like forty dollars. That is literally the Gambitest move of all time, and I love it beyond all reason.
Storm shuts him down, but she needn’t have bothered. The guy at the front desk has some kind of retinal scanning technology that zooms in on Storm’s eyes and then shows him footage from the first episode of her using her powers in a mall, a scene that I don’t think any television cameras were actually present for. But, you know, whatever. Point is, things are starting to get shady for reasons that are only slightly Gambit-related.
Back at the fishing village, a bunch of stuff happened that I skipped over because it was boring as all hell, but the gist of it is that Wolverine had some fun on a trampoline while that dude with the baseball cap wandered off and almost got hacked up by Sabretooth, only to agree to sell Wolverine out because he’s jealous of how many fish he pulled in. This is seriously the plot.
To that end, Cap Dude convinces Wolverine to go out fishing with him, alone. Thing is, this ain’t Wolverine’s first rodeo, so he knows something’s up from the very first minute and is having none of it.
This leads to what I truly believe is the first kayak-based fight scene in cartoon history — which I’m surprised they didn’t repeat throughout the series, as they only have to animate the characters’ upper bodies — before the sounds of destruction lead them back to the village. Sure enough, Sabretooth has smashed up the entire place, prompting Wolverine to shout “there’s no peace for me!” Such is the price of mutant popularity.
Cap Dude regrets his actions, and they head out for a long scene where the animators can’t decide whether Wolverine’s costume includes long sleeves that feature their own arm hair.
They find Sabretooth, who has rigged up all the villagers with explosives, giving Wolverine a one-minute time limit to get through him and save them before the bombs go off. What’s really interesting about this scene, though, is that Wolverine wearily pleads with Sabretooth to let them go because he doesn’t want to fight anymore. It’s a really nice underscoring of the idea that Wolverine just wants to be at peace and not have people he cares about in danger, which really sets him apart from his enemies without sacrificing his role as the team badass. Of course it also makes it sound like he’s already tired of fighting with Sabretooth after only six episodes, in which case I have some pretty bad news for him.
Sabretooth attempts the ol’ pitch-him-off-a-glacier move, but Cap Dude bum-rushes him from behind, providing a distraction that allows Wolverine to turn the tables and deliver his own Wile E. Coyote-esque vengeance. Thus, the villagers are saved.
On Genosha, the vacation is going pretty well a bunch of knockout gas starts to flood out of the air conditioning. The good guys bust out of their bungalow, only to find themselves surrounded by what appears to be a bunch of Televipers riding around on Serpentor’s air chariots.
Gambit, continuing his trend of not even giving half a damn, whips out a bunch of charged cards, but Storm, for some reason, tries to stop him by telling him that the X-Men can’t endanger human life. Gambit’s response: “Maybe you can’t,” after which he blows up a robot. Guys. Cartoon Gambit is awesome. What is even happening.
Sadly, a handful of explosive cards aren’t enough to stop the Genoshans, especially once they call in an actual sentinel to finish off the team.
Since this episode kicks off the start of the Genosha arc, let’s talk about your favorite exotic locations that the X-Men have been to! Muir Island? Madripoor? Outer space to chill with the Shi’ar Empire? List ‘em off, whether it’s from the comics or the cartoon.
Next Week: Wolverine returns from Canada and we’re introduced to the Inhibitor Collars, a plot device that literally everyone chose to ignore for like 20 years so that Rogue could keep having soliloquies about how ah cain’t touch yuh, Remy!