X-Men Episode Guide 1×10: Come The Apocalypse
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: "Come The Apocalypse," in which a young man who really wanted to see the X-Men fight Ric Flair and Arn Anderson was sorely disappointed by this show's interpretation of "The Four Horsemen."
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, The X-Men finally where Professor X went, which was a little underwhelming since the viewers knew that about a month in advance. The answer: Muir Island's Mutant Research Center, where the mysterious Dr. Adler claimed to have invented a "cure" for mutation. As it turned out, however, Adler's been dead a long time, and was replaced by Mystique as part of a plot to recruit servants for Apocalypse, an evil mutant who wants to destroy the world.
In our discussion of the X-Men's romantic relationships, there was no clear favorite from the readers, which I think speaks to how engaging those romances tend to be. A few people brought up Colossus and Kitty Pryde, and if I had to pick a favorite myself, they'd definitely be up there -- if only because the issue where they break up and Wolverine wants to beat the hell out of Colossus for breaking that poor girl's heart is one of my all-time favorite issues. If it had Arcade and a couple of deathtraps, it'd be perfect.
But alas, we're in a depressingly deathtrap-free zone this week, so let's see what happens when the X-Men take on their most powerful (yet ill-defined) foe!
We open on a dark and stormy night on Muir Island, where Dr. Adler is explaining his technology to Angel, who volunteers to undergo the "Mutant Cure" procedure, ditching his wings in favor of a normazzz
Huh?! Oh! Sorry guys, fell asleep there for a second. It's been happening for the past couple of episodes, but my doctor assures me that this is a perfectly normal reaction to anything that tries to make you care about Warren Worthington III. At the risk of nodding off again, though, it's worth noting that Angel, who is not a superhero or a member of the X-Men at all, is definitely wearing a superhero costume with a logo on it. I'm willing to accept this as just something Warren does, walking up to girls with a halo screen-printed on his clothes and saying "hey, did it hurt when you fell from heaven? Oh wait... that was me."
Either way, Mystique straps him down into the machine and then reveals that she's not actually Adler at all:
Needless to say, the machine does not work as advertised. Instead of having his X-Gene removed so that he can go back to his cabin and make out with his (vaguely Nordic?) lady friend, Angel gets blasted with energy while Apocalypse himself looms over him, delivering the actually super awesome line "I want to hear the cries of a future being born!"
While all that's going on, the X-Men, a team of action-ready superheroes whose explicit goals are to help out mutants in trouble, are sitting in a nearby bar complaining about how annoying the other patrons are. To be fair, though, Jean gets to use her telekinesis to stop a flying bar stool, which I believe counts as the first time in the show that she has actually, you know, done anything.
Careful, Jean! If that had been an ottoman or slightly larger chair, you may have triggered your latent Phoenix powers!
I don't think I ever had this episode on VHS, so I can't quote it chapter and verse like I can with the pilot, but there are still weird bits and pieces of it burned into my memory. I didn't remember anything about Cable in the last episode, for instance, but this shot of a mutant lady at the bar touching a flower and then being completely shocked at her mutant powers, which she has presumably journeyed to Scotland to have removed, has stuck with me for the past 20 years.
Professor X has a brief conversation about accepting who you are and learning to deal with yourself, and of course, Cyclops is the first to smugly agree with him and condescend to Rogue about it, one episode after griping about how much it sucks to have laser vision. Or maybe he's just attempting to console her. Look, I'll admit that I might be reading a little too much into things at this point, but my hate for that dude is starting to reach Lucylanian proportions.
Before Cyclops can suck up to the Professor any harder than he already is, the door busts open and Angel runs in, cheerfully proclaiming the good news: He's been cured! No more wings! It seems a little weird that he's yelling about this while wearing a heavy jacket and makes no effort to actually prove this, but the mutants holding out hope for a "cure" are quick to believe them. It makes sense that they would, too. When was the last time a rich white dude lied to anybody?
Cyclops gets up and starts grumpily lecturing about how there's nothing wrong with being a mutant so they shouldn't be ashamed of themselves or want to remove their gifts, and Angel responds with "Look me in the eye and say that." Sadly, Bobby Drake is not there to apply ice to that sick burn.
Professor X reminds Cyclops that it's not their place to dictate how other people lead their lives, and Angel resumes spreading Apocalypse's propaganda among the bar patrons, which include Old Shang Chi, Blok from the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Total Justice Armor Joker:
The X-Men decide that they should just go ahead and bail out, which makes me wonder what they were even supposed to be doing there in the first place. I guess most of the team just showed up to rescue Rogue (although they had no real way of knowing she'd be in danger when they left), and while Professor X initially went there to talk to Adler about his cure, he never actually did. With a mentor who makes one attempt to do something and then decides he should probably just go back to bed, it's no wonder they ended up being the worst superhero team ever.
Back at the Research Center, Apocalypse reveals that it's not actually Angel who's been talking up Adler's research at the bar -- it's Mystique, luring these poor, self-loathing mutants into a trap that will end in slavery. Good thing there wasn't anyone who could actually read minds there to foil that bit of deception! Good thing there definitely weren't two people with that very power sitting three feet away from her!
As for why they're bothering with the deception at all, it's because the real Warren Worthington has recently become a little blue.
If anyone knows whether his eyebrows are supposed to be casting shadows or if Apocalypse's machine has somehow given him the rare and majestic underbrow, please let me know. Oh, and also he has metal wings that can shoot out feathery knives, presumably because eyebrow modifications don't really let you live up to your role as Death.
Apocalypse begins monologuing about how he's the instrument to purify the world of both humanity and mutantkind over a montage of mutants getting zapped by his machine. More importantly, though, is the shot that we get of his robot horses.
Those things are amazing, mostly because they prove how committed Apocalypse is to living up to his self-applied name. He's not going to let that whole "Horsemen" thing be a metaphor at all, son, we're goin' literal on this! And seriously, after this episode, my memory of the series gets pretty hazy, so I am 100% hoping that the next 40 episodes are just straight up about the X-Men battling against robot horses.
Back at the mansion, Gambit and Rogue are playing pool while Jean Grey stands around watching -- presumably that whole "catching the bar stool" thing met her quota of doing stuff for the quarter -- and of course, Gambit decides to make the whole thing hilariously sleazy. He declares that the prize for a win should be makeouts, and when Rogue pulls out her whole thing about how she cain't touch yuh Remy, he counters with "You could drain my energy anytime. Gambit has plenty."
I wish I could tell you guys that I am not thoroughly enchanted with how hilariously slimy that dude is, but here we are. Horny Gambit and his one set of clothes have somehow become my favorite part of this show.
While all this exciting billiard-based flirting is going on, there's a conference on disarmament going on in Paris, which of course the X-Men are watching on TV. And sure enough, because whatever the X-Men watch on television goes horrifyingly wrong as soon as possible, Apocalypse shows up and starts cold throwing gargoyles at people:
I've never been too clear on Apocalypse's powers -- he's a... shape... shifter... maybe? -- so from now on, I'm just going to assume they involve Mutant Gargoyle Throwing.
Les gendarmes attempt to stop Apocalypse, but he summons his Horsemen and they start causing all manner of ruckus, smashing up tanks, crashing helicopters and handing out "diseases" that look suspiciously like that time the Ultimate Warrior was the victim of a voodoo curse. Obviously, this presents a problem of sorts, so the X-Men (who are in New York) hop into their plane and fly off to Paris with what I assume is the goal of stopping Apocalypse in, oh, eight to ten hours or so.
Not all of them head off for a transatlantic flight, though. After realizing that Apocalypse's Horsemen are the same mutants that were hanging around Muir Island, he sends Rogue off to check out what Dr. Adler's machine is really up to.
In the intervening hours, Apocalypse has relocated via secret elevator to Stonehenge, which I think we can all agree is pretty badass. He has yet another monologue about purging the Earth just in case you missed it the first three times, and sends Famine off to ruin crops in England, where they are still hauled to villages on cobblestone streets in horse-drawn carts. Quick question for British readers: What year is it over there now? Have you guys had the '90s yet? If not, watch out for those Ninja Turtles. Your kids are gonna love 'em.
While the Horsemen are running roughshod on various military bases and hydroelectric plants, Rogue makes it to Muir Island and immediately starts going Bad Cop on Adler. She straps him into his own machine and threatens to use it until "he" turns back into Mystique and fesses up to the whole scheme, revealing that Apocalypse plans to destroy the world for the fourth time this episode.
Rogue tries to head off to warn the X-Men, but Mystique pulls out a laser pistol and blows up the machine so that they can't use it to un-Horsemen the Horsemen, and then escapes by walking through a door and closing it behind her. Apparently no one remembered that Rogue is both fast enough to fly across an ocean under her own steam and strong enough to rip a door off its hinges.
The X-Men finally land in London and get into a scrap with Pestilence, who's taken out when Storm blinds her with a cloud and Cyclops knocks her off her flying robot horse with an optic blast. Even I can't find any fault with that strategy, especially because she falls out of the sky and lands on top of a double decker bus (England!) with a hilariously resounding thud. There's not even a bounce! Just straight up dead on top of a bus. Hardcore, Slim.
Okay, maybe not totally dead. This is still a show for tiny children, after all. She's just KOed, and as Cyclops tries to formulate a clumsy pun about "plaguing mankind" (which is a terrible post-kill pun because it's literally what she's been doing, go watch Commando for Pete's sake), the rest of the Horsemen show up and rescue her.
Rogue makes it to Stonehenge to engage in some heavily accidented smack talk with Apocalypse. In the absence of any throwable gargoyles, he develops the entirely new power of blasting hot pink laser beams out of his fists:
It's enough to blast Rogue's jacket right off her body, but her invulnerability keeps her from being fully Lisa Franked. The Horsemen show up, followed quickly by the X-Men, and we get a climactic battle that moves with a pace resembling molasses in January. Rogue tries to tip the odds in the X-Men's favor by flying up to take out Archangel with her absorbing touch, but in the process... she blues herself.
Rogue ends up screaming and flips off into the sky like Team Rocket, but Archangel has snapped out of his Apoconditioning long enough to take out the other Horsemen. Apocalypse beats a hasty retreat back down his secret elevator, and despite Wolverine's best efforts at punching the ground (seriously), they can't get through. Apocalypse then escapes on his underground spaceship that he had all this time, leaving everyone to just stand around claiming it as a victory.
I remain dubious.
Discussion Question: When I was a kid Apocalypse seemed like a huge deal -- he was another favorite action figure -- but like I said, I was never really all that clear on what exactly he did. In retrospect, he seems like a villain they spent years (and crossovers) trying to make a big deal, but who never managed to be as compelling as, say, Magneto, the Sentinels, or even Juggernaut. So which X-Men villain most failed to live up to the hype? Mr. Sinister? Onslaught? Who looked cool that left you cold?
Next Week: As though Cable wasn't enough, Bishop and Bishop's Amazing Mullet show up for "Days of Future Past, Part 1!"