The X-Men Episode Guide 2×12: The Reunion, Part One
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: The second season finale begins with "Reunion, Part One!"
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, we took a short break from this season's focus on telling stories of individual X-Men so that we could spend an episode getting interdimensionally bonkers with Mojo, Longshot and Spiral. Cyclops rode around in a flying speedboat, a robot's dream of becoming the Punisher was thwarted, and we all got to see Mojo's nose hair whether we liked it or not. It was a weird time.
In our discussion of favorite cameos, there were a lot of good ones brought up, but several people -- including reader Brian Lord -- brought up one of my all-time favorites, that episode where the Punisher, a traumatized vigilante with a body count in the low four figures, showed up on Super-Hero Squad, a cartoon for three year-olds to compare crime to Brussels sprouts. It was one thing when they were doing those happy, kid-friendly action figures of the Punisher (including one explicitly based on Garth Ennis and Gorlan Parlov's Punisher MAX), but actually seeing him on the show is a delight. The single best thing about this appearance is that the Punisher is actually voiced by Ray Stevenson, who played him in Punisher War Zone as well. The worst thing is that it sets a bad example for the kids watching the show. Even if you need a ride, you should never, ever get into a van with the Punisher, or anyone who even likes the Punisher.
Now let's see what other dubious lessons we can learn from Marvel animation in "The Reunion, Part One!"
After wearing out its welcome for the entire second season, it looks like we're finally going to be getting somewhere with this Savage Land story thanks to writer Len Wein and supervising producer Scott Thomas. Specifically, we're getting to the top of a mountain, as Professor X and Magneto are climbing back up the cliff they fell off of when all this started, roughly six years ago. So why are they climbing the mountain? To hug the mountain. To envelop the mountain.
Wait, no. they're climbing up there because that's where Professor X's flying racecar was before it was buried by an avalanche. And really, you have to give it to Professor X here: For a dude who could not walk when all this started, he has proved to be remarkably athletic, nimbly running away from dinosaurs and now just scrambling up the side of a sheer cliff. Of course, there's no real telling how long they've been down there, either. Given that they've been gone for the entire duration of Beast's relationship with Carly (including her surgery and recovery to overcome blindness), Rogue breaking through her mental blocks, Gambit's trip back home for da tithe and the discovery of and cure for a "mutant plague," they've had to have been there for a while, right? At the very least, we're looking at a jam-packed month, during which they appear to have neither slept, eaten or changed clothes. That's plenty of time to develop Assassins Creed level wall-climbing skills, right? Right.
Eventually, they get to the top and find not only the flying racecar, perfectly fine and only lightly dusted by the antarctic snow, but also the same gang of Savage Land mutates that have been menacing them for the entire season:
At this point, I really have to start questioning the fashion trends of the Savage Land. Putting aside for the moment that none of these people are wearing anything even remotely appropriate for Antarctic mountain climbing, why exactly are all the dudes wearing loincloths and Conan bracelets while the one lady is in a minidress and go-go boots. Like, guys, if you want to stick with this whole Eternian furry loincloth thing, that's fine, but if they have go-go dancers, I'm pretty sure they also have pants. That's just the way society goes.
On the bright side, we get to see what Magneto's sex face looks like.
So there's that.
Without their powers, Professor X and Magneto are overcome pretty easily, and Vertigo and her vertigo-go boots knock them out so that they can be transported to their mysterious overlord, "The Master." They're building this up like it's a huge revelation, which is pretty weird since we've all known it's Mr. Sinister since this whole rigamarole started, but to be fair, Professor X and Magneto haven't been watching the show. Or maybe they have -- if they have go-go dresses in the Savage Land, they might have streaming video down there too.
Meanwhile, it's casual day for the X-Men, who are flying around using the cassette deck in the dashboard of their SR-71 Blackbird stealth fighter jet:
But this isn't just the latest hot cassingle from Salt-n-Pepa. No, this is a clue, and its arrival is something that, like a lot of things, should maybe have been shown in the actual show so that the viewers would know what exactly was supposed to be happening. Specifically, it's a recording of a voice crying out for help from the X-Men and giving a location, and since Wolverine's heightened senses have apparently given him the power of cassette tape voice analysis (what, are you gonna argue that point with Len Wein?), he has positively identified it as being Morph!
So just where has Morph been since that time he fought Wolverine in a minehsaft and yelled "I HAVE TO GET THROUGH THIS BY MYSELLLLLLLLLFFF" in one of the show's most hilarious moments?
At the "Branston Theatre," which is literally a circus tent in a dirt lot, performing a one-man version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde under the name "Xavier Murphy." Get it?
The X-Men arrive just in time to see the climax of the show, which, as you might expect, it involves Morph using his powers to transform from Jekyll to Hide live on stage, which also seems to be the end of the show. This is neither particularly satisfying from a theatrical standpoint nor a good way for a shapeshifter to keep a low profile, but the audience, primarily made up of men with inadvisable hair situations, seems to be enjoying it:
Oh, Jean. We have got to talk about your wardrobe one of these days. And don't think that flesh-colored t-shirt is doing you any favors either, Cyclops.
Anyway, Mr. Sinister is also standing there watching everything go down, and when I say he's standing there, I mean, right there, in full costume, right next to the stage. The X-Men, one of whom has heightened senses honed by years of training to identify threats, do not notice him. Nobody seems to, not even the guy above who looks like Ed Asner. And if that wasn't enough, the X-Men head backstage to harass Murphy into admitting he's Morphy, and we are once again reminded that they are, quite literally, the absolute worst superheroes of all time.
When Wolverine confronts Morph about the cassette tape that he sent, Morph looks around worriedly and then makes a shushing motion before telling them he doesn't know what they're talking about or who this "Morph" character is.
To anyone with a functioning brain, this indicates that they shouldn't be so loud because someone is or might be listening. To The X-Men, this is a cue for Jean to step up and say "MORPH! WHAT'S WRONG??"
Good call, Jean. Good work out there today.
Needless to say, Morph flips right the heck out, turns back into his usual form and starts babbling about how "he" has Professor X and wants Scott and Jean. And then his head explodes.
Poor Morph. Dude just cannot catch a break. And neither, it seems, can the X-Men: No sooner have they promised not to abandon Morph than the Nasty Boys (remember them?) show up and start tearing up the circus tent "theatre" and swinging Wolverine around like Antonio Cesaro.
Back in the Savage Land, it turns out that I was wrong last week! We actually do get Ka-Zar in this episode!
And Zabu, too!
Turns out he's been stalking Sinister's cronies since Shana the She-Devil (alias Mrs. Ka-Zar) was kidnapped in the last episode, and has designs on freeing Professor X and Magneto from them and dragging out this conflict from reaching its logical conclusion for another eighty years or so. I sincerely hope he fails, but I can't fault his methods, because they're about as awesome as you would expect from a dude who has never worn a shirt in his life: He and Zabu head over to a nearby field and start herding triceratops before he just jumps on one and leads a dinosaur stampede:
This is something the bad guys probably should've expected when they set up a headquarters in the Savage Land, and yet they have been taken by surprise. They scatter, and Professor X and Magneto head off into the woods, only to have Ka-Zar angrily demand to know why Charles has brought "the devil Magneto" back to the Savage Land. It seems Big Mags is not all that popular down there, largely because he created the Mutates who have now enslaved all the regular folks down there, under orders from Sauron.
Xavier convinces them to put their differences aside and team up, and Ka-Zar agrees to lead them back to bad guy HQ. Everyone is friends now, except for the part where Ka-Zar promises to stab them both in the face if anything happens to Shana, which is slightly frowned upon among friends in areas that are not the Savage Land or South Carolina.
Speaking of being stabbed, the X-Men are back at the theatre dealing with Mr. Sinister, that one guy who looks like Gender-Swapped Jem and the rest of the Nasty Boys...
...when Sinister's monologue goes on just a little too long and Wolverine starts slashing up his spine.
This gives the X-Men a chance to go back on the attack, starting with a pretty nifty move where Jean pulls off Scott's sunglasses with her powers so that he can blast the guy who has them both pinned in his oversized hands. Unfortunately, their escape is in the hands of Cyclops, and, well, he can only accomplish so much before inevitably screwing it up. To be fair, though, despite my biases, it's actually Wolverine who makes the crucial mistake while Cyclops is knocked out flat on his back. He tries to rescue Jean, only to discover that Jean was actually a shape-shifted Morph, reaffirming that he's back under Sinister's control.
And he figures this out when Morph knocks him out -- and remember, this is Wolverine, with his adamantium skeleton and healing factor -- by hitting him with a stick.
Again, you wanna take that up with Len Wein, go right ahead. To be fair, it's a big stick.
With that, Sinister absconds with Jean, and only Jean, leaving Cyclops and Wolverine knocked out while he flies off. Wolverine, I understand, but I'm pretty sure that dude's entire deal as stated by this show is that he wants Cyclops and Jean to have kids so he can take over the world, and I am equally sure that they need to be in the same room to make a baby. Mr. Sinister do you even know what you are doing.
In the Savage Land, Ka-Zar and the Grampas are trying to cross a river when they get capsized by an allosaurus, and Ka-Zar reveals that he can talk to dinosaurs, thus officially making him my second-favorite X-Man. They get across to Magneto's citadel, head into a secret entrance, and find themselves surrounded by an army of Sinister's mutates, who have been expecting them:
So, just so we're clear on this, that entire bit where they escaped and met Ka-Zar and all that was completely pointless and only really served to add five minutes to the episode. Well, and to get us a scene where there were stampeding dinosaurs, but still.
Surrounded and outnumbered, the heroic Ka-Zar, on a mission to save the woman he loves from a horrible fate, jumps out the window and leaves X and Magneto to the mercy of the Mutates. Just great jobs all around in this episode. Before the mutates can really do anything that bad, though, they're ordered to stop by Brain Child, who, at .003 MODOKs, ranks as Marvel's absolute worst big-headed villain:
He is also the third mutant that Professor X mistakes for this mysterious "Master," on an episode that established 15 minutes ago that Mr. Sinister was behind everything. Finally, finally, Sinister shows up to unite our two plot threads, and Magneto sums up my emotions exactly with the line "I've heard the name. I'm not impressed."
Jean is relieved to see the Professor alive and tells him so, but before she can follow that up with "oh, by the way, we found out time travel definitely exists," Sinister interrupts and explains that he has a machine that can draw out mutant energy and leave its victims powerless, which means that a) this show is definitely confirming that it thinks paralysis is Professor X's mutant power, and b) this is the third plot device we've seen that could solve Rogue's entire problem. Magneto asks what he wants, and in a deep, breathy voice that sounds a lot like Gene Simmons and will haunt my nightmares for years to come, Sinister replies "I want.. your.. esssennnnce."
There's a little more conflict from Morph, who's trying to break out of Sinister's control, but then Sinister tells Xavier to call the X-Men so that he can bring them into his trap, and sends Sauron (a hypnotic psychic vampire pterodactyl man who is certainly not too many gimmicks at once) to make sure he does:
But wait, didn't Sinister have Wolverine and Cyclops, two of the people he is currently trying to lure into his trap right now, knocked out and in his possession before he came down to the Savage Land? WHY DID HE LEAVE THEM THERE? WHY IS THIS STORY STILL HAPPENING?
I'll be honest, folks, I've never seen the later seasons so I don't want to say this for fear of jinxing myself, but I cannot imagine a more grinding string of nonsense and plot padding than this godawful Savage Land story has been over the past season, and this episode has to be a low point for the series. Sorry, Len Wein. If it helps, I really like Swamp Thing.
Anyway. Professor X tries to resist, but it turns out that the world's most powerful psychic has very little willpower, and within ten seconds he's completely under Sinister's control. He puts the call in to the X-Men, and they decide to fly off to the Savage Land to rescue him just as Cyclops and Wolverine come home to round up the team and tell them that they need to go down to the Savage Land to rescue him (and Jean). WHY DID BOTH OF THESE THINGS HAVE TO HAPPEN. THE STORY IS MOVED ALONG THE EXACT SAME IF HALF OF THIS EPISODE IS REMOVED.
Discussion Question: Okay, seriously, this is the pits. The X-Men are inept, the plot is a mess, and Mr. Sinister's desire for "essence" is just worrisome. So what's the worst episode of a superhero show that you like otherwise? That should at least give us some fun from this, right?
Next Week: The merciful end.