The X-Men Episode Guide 1×07: ‘Slave Island’
Hitting at the height of the franchise’s popularity, the 1992 X-Men animated series 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: "Slave Island," in which the X-Men are enslaved and forced to build something that looks like a giant pyramid, just in case the metaphor wasn't quite clear enough.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, Wolverine hung out with some Canadians who desperately wanted snowmobiles while the rest of the team decided that visiting a potentially hostile island nation without any backup whatsoever was better than hanging around listening to Cyclops whine about how nobody respects my authority as team leader Professsorrrrrrrrrrr. They ended up getting captured by what appeared to be the dollar store version of Cobra Command and thrown in prison, which is probably still better than being around Cyclops. Beast (or possibly the Beast's twin brother, Oscar) remained in jail where he's been since the pilot. This doesn't seem to particularly bother anyone enough that they feel the need to, you know, mention it.
As for our discussion of our favorite exotic locations for the X-Men to adventure in, the response overwhelmingly picked The Savage Land, and it's easy to see why. Apparently all of you prefer those stories of Wolverine battling it out with actual living dinosaurs and Rogue chilling in a loincloth to, say, the Outer Space issues where Kitty Pryde begs Colossus to take her virginity before she turns into a man-eating lizard and Professor X makes out with his half-bird girlfriend.
For the record, this is a choice I agree with. Now let's see how Week 2 of National Lampoon's Genoshan Vacation works out.
We open in a cellblock at the Genoshan Mutant Prison, where our heroes are being ordered out onto work detail. You may notice that they've chosen to accessorize with gigantic glowing collars. These are, of course, designed to suppress their mutant abilities, but considering that it perfectly matches her trenchcoat and sunglasses, it actually sort of works as a fashion accessory.
Also sporting an inhibitor collar? A metric ton of truly hilarious guest stars, featuring the best (well, the "best") that '90s X-Men comics had to offer. And by that, I mean
Wolfsbane Feral is in the house:
Please note that I have been corrected: Things are actually even more '90s than I thought.
She's not alone, either. By the time they get outside, we've seen Domino, Mystique, the Blob, Pyro, Warpath, Northstar and Aurora, Sunfire, Avalanche and a couple of other people that I don't recognize and can't be bothered to look up:
This continues the show's bizarre trend of giving cameo appearances to characters like Maverick, but to be fair, it was the '90s. We were all blitzed out of our mind on belt pouches and foot-obscuring fog.
The reason for all the collaring is that nobody's favorite X-Men have been enlisted to build a dam, creating a lake that I assume will be used as a water hazard on one of Genosha's many golf courses. The Genoshans explain that they'll turn off the collars so they can use their powers to get the job done, and even though they have the ability to turn them back on if the mutants start attacking, this seems like an amazingly terrible idea. Like, Northstar is super fast, Sunfire can set you on fire by pointing at you, and like half of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is just standing around. I'm pretty sure they could deal with the overseers before they could type in the security code.
Storm seems to be thinking along the same lines, because as soon as the collars turn off, she starts flying around zapping dudes with lightning. This, you would think, would be the signal for everyone to jump in the action, but when Jubilee goes for it, Gambit holds her back so that she can't. It's just as well, because a Sentinel that was hidden at the bottom of the river for just such an occasion pops up, and Gambit informs Jubilee that "there's always another gator in the bayou." I think we can all use that advice.
To make matters worse, Gambit then starts telling the Genoshans all about Storm's powers and how useful she can be for filling up the lake, which leads them to throw the extremely claustrophobic Storm into the same box that I think they put Batman into in that one episode where he pretended to be a hobo and got amnesia.
The difference, of course, is that Batman wasn't thrown into it by a giant purple robot, so I guess X-Men wins this round.
From there, labor continues until there's an explosive disturbance in the woods, and the Genoshans decide to just call it off for the day. While everyone's distracted, though, Jubilee manages to pocket a piece of wire that she can use to pick a lock. This would probably be a little more difficult if she hadn't been wearing a gigantic yellow trenchcoat while laboring in the sun on a tropical island, but hey, if you're going to have cheap animation that doesn't allow for multiple character models, you might as well use it as a plot point.
Back at the mansion, Wolverine shows up while Cyclops is in the middle of complaining about the phone company -- I swear to God that is not a joke -- and announces he's back. He sneezes, and tells them he was "somewhere cold," which isn't exactly the best way to cement your mysterious badass status, but is still better than yammering about a busy signal.
As night falls on the island, there's suddenly a power outage, and Jubilee decides that this is a good time to make her escape. She picks the lock and heads over to Gambit's cell to recruit him for the jailbreak, but he tells her he's not going and sends a fifteen year-old girl off by herself to go negotiate murders with actual mutant terrorists.
Listen, Gambit: I appreciate the effort, but your'e going to have to try a lot harder if you want to be worse than Cyclops.
Jubilee gives a shot at playing Colonel Hogan, but none of the other mutants seem to want to escape either. Sunfire even goes as far as begging off because "they say they'll set us free when the work is done," which doesn't seem all that superheroic. The next morning, though, they seem to have changed their minds for absolutely no reason. The closest they get to explaining it is mentioning that Gambit was taken somewhere in the middle of the night, but again, it's not like anyone there has any connection or concern for Gambit at all, so who knows? Either way, they go for it, and it starts with Jubilee delivering a classic kick to the face:
She also tells the other prisoners to "use your mutant powers!" because that is apparently something they need to be told. There's only one problem: Even though she gets the controller for the collars, it doesn't work. The whole thing was a setup designed to break the prisoners' spirits. And what's more, they were warned about the attempted escape by Gambit, who ratted them out.
Form there, we cut to the Genoshan Sentinel factory, which is in full swing after the President ended the program in America. And that means that it's time for Master Mold.
Master Mold, a giant robot that sits in a giant chair making smaller but still giant robots in its giant robot tummy, may in fact be the single dumbest thing that has ever appeared in an X-Men comic. Needless to say, I think it's fantastic.
Of lesser importance are our other new cast members: Henry Peter Gyrich, Cameron Hodge and Bolivar Trasks, all characters from the comics in that era when the X-Men just started fighting dudes with real names instead of catchy villainous sobriquets like or The Juggernaut! or Krakoa, the Living Island! or... Wait, was "Count Nefaria" that dude's real name? Huh.
We're also introduced to Genosha's leader, Leader, who has just arrived from his part-time job at Colonial Williamsburg:
They spend a little time interrogating Gambit, who say's he going to guide them to the X-Men's headquarters because he doesn't really consider them to be his friends. I'm pretty sure this was all done so that we'll believe that Gambit has actually betrayed Jubilee and Storm and that it's not just part of a needlessly complicated ruse, but c'mon, who really needs help believing that dude's kind of a sketchy scumbag?
They don't let the doubt marinate that long, though. On the way back to the prison in a hoverconvertible (?!) Gambit pulls out a deck of cards and asks the guards if they want to see a magic trick.
He flips the cards into the air, then, while they're distracted, elbows them in the gut and jumps out of the car. It's not exactly The Dark Knight's disappearing pencil, but imitable eye trauma was probably something BS&P would've cut out anyway.
Unfortunately for Gambit, he's quickly outnumbered and outgunned by the rest of the guards, but then, out of nowhere, IT'S MOTHERF**KING CABLE, Y'ALL.
I had no idea that Cable was going to show up in this episode -- largely because I did not expect anyone to think seven episodes in was a good time to introduce Cable -- and I hope that you all feel at least some fraction of the utter delight that I did when he appears. For the record, he is completely unexplained, outside of some talk about him being part of the Leader's rebellion, and that they think he might be a mutant. That glowing eye might've been a tipoff.
He frees Gambit and gives him a key to the collars, because they decided 12 minutes into this episode that the collars also have a key in addition to the electronic controls, and they part ways so that Gambit can go rescue his pals while Cable runs off to shoot people. And so they do! Gambit, free of his collar, makes for The Boxes, where he frees Jubilee and Storm by slipping a kinetically charged playing card into the door:
Because really, the best way to free someone from a tight, enclosed space is to set off an explosion.
Everyone readily accepts that Gambit was just pretending to sell them out -- which is pretty weird since they should probably remember that they could've solved this entire problem with a rebellion 15 minutes ago -- and after a crack about Jubilee's weight, they're back in action, rescuing the other captives.
For his part, Cable starts shooting up the entire island, alerting Master Mold and leaving it with no choice but to unveil its secret weapon, a super-sentinel. And we know it's a step above the other sentinels because its face has been upgraded from :( to D:<.
The Super Sentinel goes to fight Cable, but the only way to truly stop Master Mold is to bring down the dam that's feeding it hydroelectric power. Naturally, with Gambit's ability to make anything he touches explode, Sunfire's ability to generate intense heat, and Cable's gigantic gun, this falls to Storm. And just as naturally, she decides that a good way to do this is by standing directly on top of the dam that she's trying to collapse.
Guys, I'm stating to think that the Xavier School might not be an accredited learning institution.
The Dam comes down and Storm, exhausted from the effort, tumbles along with it, but she's saved at the last minute by a deus ex Blackbird in the form of Rogue.
The resulting flood sweeps over the island, smashing things up but good, leaving the fate of Hodge, Leader and Cable a mystery, but the best part is when it gets to Master Mold's robot bachelor pad. Master Mold realizes what's coming, stands up, then looks down and deliver a flat, monotone "I AM STILL PLUGGED IN."
Then he's destroyed. It's great.
With all that taken care of, the X-Men return victoriously to their home, but there's one last twist to keep things going. When they land, they find that the Mansion has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
Since this episode featured so many weird cameos, who's your favorite mutant who's not an X-Man? And yes, that includes Factors, Forces, Statix and Calibres.
In Two Weeks: We find out who destroyed the mansion and I try not to make a bunch of jokes from a video everyone loved in 2005 as we watch "The Unstoppable Juggernaut."