The X-Men Episode Guide 2×04: Red Dawn
The early ’90s were spoiled for choice when it came to comic book adaptations. Not only was Batman: The Animated Series on the air, but X-Men led Marvel’s push to get on the small screen, diving right into the often convoluted continuity of everyone’s favorite mutants, luring in a generation of fans, and paving the way for cartoons to follow. That’s why we’ve set out to review every single episode of the ’90s X-Men animated series. This week: "Red Dawn," the exact episode I would've written when I was twelve. Or, you know, thirty-one.
Previously, on X-Men:
When last we left our merry mutants, Storm and Rogue had just finished an adventure in a vague and off-model cartoon version of Africa where they fought the equally vague and off-model Shadow King. We learned that Storm had a son, and then learned that Storm doesn't really have a son, she just has a friend who has a son and likes being the center of attention. Somehow, they beat the Shadow King and dropped him right back into the Astral Plane, and I wish I could tell you how this happened, but until I actually went and checked, I was convinced that the last episode involved Cyclops frowning at Mr. Sinister. That's how forgettable last week was.
In our discussion of the X-Men's relatives, the surprising crowd favorite was Captain Britain himself, Brian Braddock, brother of the X-Men's own Psylocke. I assume this was because he's the only one of the X-Men's relatives to have Dracula shoot vampires out of cannons at him from his moon castle, which is a pretty high bar for anyone else to meet. Only one of you, however -- Shane Aubain -- had the foresight to mention ADAM X THE X-TREME, the greatest of all mutants. Sadly, he isn't actually the third Summers brother, but I guess Professor X did briefly marry into the Neramani family. You know what? I'm counting it. ADAM X THE X-TREME wouldn't play by the rules so neither do I.
Now let's get to this week's episode. It's "Red Dawn" from writers Francis Moss and Ted Pedersen and supervising producer Scott Thomas. And folks... it's a good one.
Our story opens with Professor X and Magneto down in the Savage Land, staggering to shore after going over a waterfall while escaping from cavemen riding pterodactyls that they fought off with boomerangs. And look, I know that sounds amazing, but if you're temped to head back to last week's episode and check it out for yourself, just let your imagination do the heavy lifting on this one. You'll be a lot better off.
This time around, though, it actually is pretty awesome. No sooner have X and Magneto indulged in a little bit of exposition about their past relationship and their opposition to each other -- including X dropping the pretty badass line "I do not yearn for an easy life, Magneto, only a just one. I would take little satisfaction in your death." -- than they are suddenly menaced by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
At this point, the episode just becomes full-on slapstick to the point where I can only assume they were going to put "Yakety Sax" in there but couldn't get the rights. X and Magneto, stripped of their powers by unknown forces, decide to leg it to a nearby geyser, and Magneto comes up with a pretty brilliant plan: Just run around in circles until the T-Rex gets tired.
The tactical mastermind behind the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, everybody.
Shockingly, it's not long before this plan proves to be untenable, and so Magneto switches to Plan B, which is just throwing rocks at the T-Rex's face until it leans over the geyser to try and eat them. The T-Rex gets blasted with steam and runs off (I assume he's going to go complain to Dromiceiomimus and Utahraptor, and also possibly God and the Devil), and that's all we get out of the X-Men's elderly cast this week. I'm starting to get the idea that this is going to be one of those plots that's going to be running in the background for the whole season and to be honest, I'm not really looking forward to it. But on the other hand, it's old men fighting dinosaurs, and that's kind of all I want in the world.
From there, we switch to Kumudski Valley, a site that, continuing the tradition started by setting last week's adventure "in Africa," is located somewhere in the 8.6 million square miles that make up the "Former Soviet Union." A trio of Former Soviet Tanks are rolling up into the city, depositing a task force that heads into a building and activates a cryogenic holding tank that unleashes Omega Red!
Long-time CA readers will recall that I am inordinately fond of Omega Red and his MUTANT DEATH FACTOR, and while I don't remember seeing this episode as a kid, it definitely would've sold me on the character. The scene where the ex-Soviets thaw him out is actually really cool, all jump cuts, explosions and shattering glass throw together in a quick sequence makes me believe to this day that something exciting is about to happen. Then the whole place explodes, and Omega Red starts saying he's "the living weapon they had all grown to fear" and talking about The Empire.
Seriously, that how he refers to the Soviet Union: "The Empire." Just in case you didn't know those dastardly Russians are (or at least were) totally evil.
Elsewhere in the former USSR, a trio of communist generals are standing around wondering if their plan succeeded when they're joined by the first of three Marvel characters to make cameos in this epic: Darkstar, not to be confused with the Darkstars, DC's substitute Green Lantern Corps from the '90s.
Other than her appearance in the relatively obscure '70s series The Champions, I'm completely unfamiliar with Darkstar, so I went and did some research. For your benefit, I now present every piece of relevant information about the character:
Darkstar is a Russian superhero.
Well. That was surprisingly easy. Darkstar informs the generals that "Omega Red has been freed from his bondage" (uh), and then the generals immediately prove themselves to be cartoonish villains even by the standards of actual cartoon villains by declaring that "these pathetic sovereign nations will be returned where they belong -- to Mother Russia!"
Back in Westchester, Jubilee is tearing it up on her skateboard:
For real, though: T-Rexes, Omega Red and Skateboards? If a luchador shows up to stop Omega Red from reuniting the Soviet Union, this thing will have the market cornered on things I have loved for the past 20 years.
Jubilee is thrashing her way down to the convenience store to pick up some food since the X-Men -- who, if you will recall, once decided it was a good idea to leave her alone in the care of a well-known serial murderer who killed by tearing people apart with his bare hands -- apparently all left town without leaving her anything to eat. Once she gets there, though, there's anti-mutant graffiti on the walls and a handful of punks from the Friends of Humanity hassling the clerk for being a "mutant lover." She knocks a few out with her fireworks, but then one of them quite literally bonks her on the head with a spinner rack full of comic books:
Things are looking pretty grim for Ms. Lee and who I assume is either Darrel or Darrel, especially when the leader of the FOH growls out "we're gonna see you beg, mutant" (uh). But then, like a formerly communist deus ex machina, the tank-topped form of Colossus busts into the store, armors up and sets to beating down the whole passel of racists!
Colossus, it turns out, was on his way to the Mansion to get some help from the X-Men. He has learned that his "newly-freed homeland" is being menaced by an army that's driving his family from their farms, led by a "monster" named Omega Red. And really, since this is quite literally a communist army attacking sovereign nations, you'd think that maybe, just maybe, someone would've heard about this from someone who was not personally involved. It kind of seems like big news.
Alas, the X-Men aren't around to help Colossus and time is of the essence, so Jubilee decides to just head out on her own, leaving a note for the rest of the team to find:
Gone to Black Sea with Colossus to stop some guy named Omega Red. Dinner's in the freezer.
Have a nice day,
That is the actual text of the note. It is fantastic.
Thus, Jubilee and Colossus head off to Russia in the same flying F1 racer that Gambit was driving around when the team fought Apocalypse last season:
Once they get to Russia, they find that the capital -- or kepityal, as Colossus pronounces it -- has been reduced to ruins, and has been completely abandoned by its population. Colossus, as you might expect, is pretty perturbed by this, and decides to set out to find his fyemely before they come to harm.
Meanwhile, in another kepityal, Omega Red himself is demanding the surrender from the leaders of one of the unnamed (of course) republics:
You know, one would think that if they didn't want to rejoin the Soviet Union, they wouldn't have kept the Hammer and Sickle on their podium, but, you know. It's a new country and in those first few years after the fall of communism, I imagine a new set of office furniture just wasn't in the budget.
Also, Hitler is there.
That's kind of weird, right?
While Omega Red is giving a speech about ruling over a terrified populace with an iron fist (or carbonadium tentacle, as the case may be), Colossus and Jubilee make it to the fyemely farm, also in ruins. Colossus, truly proving that he has what it takes to be an X-Man, responds to the sight of such destruction by recapping his origin for the benefit of new viewers, with an accent that will envelop you like a warm blanket if you listen.
But all hope is not lost! Ilyana, Colossus's sister and the subject of the very first comic I ever hated, survived the destruction by hiding when the soldiers came. Of course, she hid in a house that also fell on her, so for the record, this was not a stellar plan. Still a better fate than being drawn by Dave Finch, though.
At the Mansion, Wolverine finally returns home from wherever he was (hanging with the Avengers, killing people with X-Force, running the game in Madripoor, any other activity that could potentially involve killing ninjas) and finds Jubilee's note on the fridge. For a second, you can actually see the text mentioned earlier, and in defiance of all expectations, she did not dot the I in "Jubilee" with a heart or a little fireworks explosion.
After reading it, Wolverine dramatically crumples up the paper and leaves, because that is the only thing any of the X-Men do after they're doing reading something. They had to buy like 40 different copies of Twilight.
Wolverine flies off in his own F1 jet while Colossus and Jubilee attack a prison camp to rescue the Rasputin Fyemely. Things go sour, though, when Omega Red snatches Ilyana and threatens her with his MUTANT DEATH FACTOR, represented here by -- you guessed it! -- Sonic the Hedgehog rings!
To be fair, though, this time they're green.
It's not looking good for our heroes, but at that exact moment, Wolverine shows up and refers to Omega Red as an octopus, thus proving that he has no idea what an octopus is. They tussle for a bit, and Wolvie manages to cut off one of Omega Red's side-ponytails, which the animators then immediately forget about amazingly manages to grow back in the very next shot. Sadly, Omega Red does not store his strength in his hair, and he gets the upper hand until Colossus throws a tank at him, which lands with a hilariously satisfying Looney Tunes splat.
The good guys get away, and because an X-Men story with only one origin flashback is hardly an X-Men story at all, Wolverine clues us in on Omega Red: Who He Is And How He Came To Be. To be fair, though, it's pretty interesting, partly because it gives us another cameo: Captain America.
Wolverine explains that Omega Red was a product of the Soviet version of the Super Soldier Program, but that the generals who created him couldn't control his destructive urges, and then Captain America's brief cameo takes a back seat to our third guest star: motherhecking MAVERICK, who has now made THREE APPEARANCES IN THIS SHOW.
WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING.
After Wolverine tells him that he only defeated Omega Red before because he was Lucky, Colossus tells him "then we will get lucky again" (uh) and rallies the peasantry to team up with Rogue, Storm and Gambit, who just arrived in the Blackbird, to settle things once and for all.
Before they can, though, some tanks show up and start exploding everything. Fortunately, Darkstar has just defected, and rescues the farmers with a pink force field while Colossus smashes up the tanks. With everyone now assembled for a team-up, they march on... Moscow, I guess? Who knows at this point.
Rogue gets into a fight with Red himself, which makes sense since she can fly and is both invulnerable and super-strong and therefore needs to be written out before anyone remembers that she could just vaporize his head at Mach 3. So it's the Death Factor for her before we move on:
Wolverine attempt to make the save, but Red stops him with a sinister "you scratch my back -- I scratch yours!" (uh) before turning his attention back to Cyclops. Fortunately, the other people are actually making a plan. Darkstar asks Storm if she can control all weather and not just wind.
Storm says "Yes."
Huh. I would've bet money that she would've had a line like "ALL OF NAYTCHA IS UNDER MY COMMAHND, INCLEWDING THE AHCTIC WINDS THAT CHILL THE BEWNES!" But no, it's just a plain "yes." Kind of disappointed.
Either way, this is where the episode gets delightfully stupid. Darkstar reasons that since "the deepest cold" was able to hold Omega Red before, they just need to create a snowstorm and that will immediately put him into a coma.
AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS.
So, just so we're all on the same page about this, the Soviet Army created a living super-weapon that could be stopped by winter, and they did this... in Russia. I cannot tell you how much I love this. Thus, Omega Red becomes a popsicle and the balance of world power is shifted back in favor of capitalism and bluejeans.
Discussion Question: Seriously, this episode has one of the best dumbest ways that a villain has ever been defeated, but I'm sure it's not at the absolute top of that list. So in all of comics -- no TV shows or movies this time -- what's the most enjoyably stupid way you've seen a supervillain be defeated? Make sure it's something that wasn't stupid on purpose.
Next Week: "Repo Man," an episode that Wikipedia summarizes as "James Hudson (comics)." That's all they wrote. How exciting.