The X-Men Episode Guide 3×16: ‘Cold Comfort’
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, Iceman returns and finds a...chilly reception.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, the Dark Phoenix Saga ended with absolutely no consequences for anyone involved. The Phoenix Force cheerily went off into space on its own and no one was concerned about this at all, the Shi'ar Empire shrugged and said "my bad" for trying ot murder the X-Men, and Jean... Well, Jean died, but only for about two minutes before she was brought back by the X-Men each giving up a 14% of their personal "flames."
The whole thing led us to a discussion of how we could remove the violence from other famous comic book stories. Here are a few of my favorites:
"The Green Goblin scares Gwen Stacy so much that she bumps her head on the Brooklyn Bridge and gets amnesia, completely forgetting her relationship with Peter Parker." -- Adam Bujas
"Secret Wars, but by Wars, I mean pillow fights." -- Charles T. Arthur
"The conflict of "Watchmen" begins when a mysterious figure throws an old man out of his window and into a bouncy castle." == Brandon "Zak" Zachary
"Green Lantern comes home to find his girlfriend hidden in a refrigerator box fort. They spend the afternoon playing." -- Jason Harris
It's worth noting that someone also brought up the Conan the Adventurer cartoon, which I only found out about a few years ago and which is BONKERS. I'm going to end up having to cover it one of these days. For now though, it's time for "Cold Comfort."
In case you couldn't tell from the "hilarious" punny title, this episode, brought to you by writer Len Uhley and producer/director Larry Houston, is about Iceman. I'm sure is going to be good news to all of you Iceman fans out there, assuming that any of you actually exist. I would doubt it, since I've never met or heard of anyone who was really super into Bobby Drake, but then again, someone once yelled at me because I made fun of Golden Glider, a figure skating bank robber who used to fight the Flash, so I don't even know anymore.
But we're already off track and it's only one paragraph into this mess. We open on a secure government compound that bears a striking resemblance to a trailer park, looking at a couple of security guards that I am almost certain are meant to look like Jackie Gleason and Art Carney from The Honeymooners, a reference that was sure to delight the show's audience of 8-to-12 year-olds.
Also, congratulations to the Cincinnati Reds, I guess.
As Ralph and Norton are bickering about the heat and humidity, the temperature suddenly drops. O, sweet irony! But it's not just a cold front moving in, as the door to their mobile home freezes over and gets smashed by Iceman. It actually looks really cool -- visually, this episode is a huge step up from the dodgy animation we got in the "Dark Phoenix Saga," which is weird when you consider that it's a rando one-off following up an adaptation of one of the most important X-Men stories of all time -- with Iceman busting in with a giant Jack Kirby fist.
Dude looks like a chilly Dolemite.
Back at the mansion, Professor X and Jubilee are arguing about whether Jubes is ready to fly around in the "mini-jets" (finally, three and a half seasons into this, we know what those flying Formula One racecars are supposed to be) when Cerebro pipes up to tell them that it has detected "violent mutant activity." It is amazing that there has never been, at the very least, a miniseries with that title. Xavier asks Cerebro to narrow things down a little, and when the computer reveals that they're dealing with "formation and manipulation of ice," he's shocked to discover that it's his former student, Iceman!
Obviously, this is a situation that can only be solved by the involvement of a paramilitary strike force that hasn't even had its coffee yet, so the alarm goes out to the dozing X-Men, and we get one of the most famous shots of the series:
And when I say "famous," I mostly mean that it has been captioned with "gpoy" and "same" and "me" over sixteen million times on Tumblr.
And again, it looks really good. I know that different episodes of Batman: The Animated Series were done by different teams of animators overseas, and that the producers have pointed out certain episodes (like the otherwise amazing "The Man Who Killed Batman") for being slightly off-model, and that that's one of the reasons for the simplified designs and lighting when they moved to The New Batman Adventures, so I assume that's what's going on here. Still, it's crazy how much better this episode looks than the last round.
Also worth noting: Wolverine is asleep at 12:07, and it's clearly night time when Bobby's attacking the secret government mobile home park, so this is clearly seven past midnight. If that's the case, then a) why is Jubilee still awake, and b) are we really meant to believe that Wolverine is in bed before 2 AM? I'd buy that he sleeps past noon -- like all true heroes do -- but calling it a night that early seems a bit odd. Especially since he's sleeping with the lights on.
The X-Men head off to see what's up with Bobby, but Professor X refuses to let Jubilee come along, telling her to stay at the mansion and prep the infirmary. Jubilee's response to this is "what am I, a candy-striper?" but really, it probably should've been "hey jackass, remember the last time you left me alone here while you went on a mission, when I was almost 100% murdered and possibly eaten by Sabretooth?" Sadly, there is no sass to be found.
At least, until we get on a plane, at which time Cyclops goes on a major smack-talking spree about how much he hates Iceman and how much Iceman sucks and how they should probably just leave him there to die while Professor X makes a total dadface.
It's the most I've liked Cyclops all year.
Beast fills Wolverine in on the backstory here, which is that Bobby was, of course one of the original X-Men before he "left" the team. Wolverine is inordinately amused by the idea that someone got fired from being the X-Men (and that Cyclops is so mad about it), and to be honest, so am I. Like, they haven't gotten rid of Gambit, the pickup artist who once put himself in a coma by making out with Rogue while she was asleep. What exactly did Iceman have to do, make a hat out of skinned kittens?
After they land, Beast catches up with Iceman, who immediately gets testy about Professor X sending them and starts throwing around freeze blasts and skating around on big ice slides. That actually ends up looking really good, too -- I mean, it ain't The Incredibles or nothin', but for Fox Kids in 1994, it's pretty darn smooth.
Not smooth? Iceman freezing Wolverine and literally telling him "you're skating on THIN ICE!"
A bucketload of G-Men show up to cut off their escape, but Professor X makes them all hallucinate a giant Kirby monster in the sky, covering the X-Men as they reach the Blackbird and head back to the mansion. They try to find out what was going on with Bobby and why he's attacking government installations, and the voice acting (and staging) here is really great at capturing their mentor/student (or even surrogate father/son) relationship. It's well done, but kind of undercut when Beast shows up to say THEY ARE ARGUING BECAUSE THEY HAVE A SURROGATE FATHER-SON RELATIONSHIP while doing an impression of a "rage comic."
Iceman refuses to spill the reason for his multiple felonies, referring to the school as a "loony bin" (accurate) and prompting Cyclops to pretend to be a tough guy by snarling "Don't push me, Drake -- I push back!" When Iceman refuses to agree to not go back and assault a military base again -- which seems like a reasonable request until you remember that the X-Men have done that four or five times over the course of three seasons -- they put him "in detention," in the form of a force field built from the technology they recovered from the crashed spaceship in the Morlock tunnels. It's a nice bit of continuity, even if it is throwing back to one of the worst episodes of the series.
Jubilee is concerned about all this, so she heads down to the basement to find out just what the conflict is, and ends up sitting there watching footage of the X-Men in their original uniforms, with narration about how he's a loose cannon troublemaker.
Not pictured: Cyclops standing at attention and doing a military salute, because of course he does.
While she's watching this, Jubilee starts talking out loud about how hot she thinks Bobby is, to herself, prompting Wolverine to casually stroll in and drop a life lesson: "gotta be careful about pretty packages. What's inside is usually trouble." Very country music of you, Logan. Very Merle Haggard.
With her search for hottt pixxx on the computer denied, Jubilee sneaks back upstairs to listen to a conversation between Beast and Iceman that reveals the source of all of Bobby's trouble. Surprise! It's a woman! Wouldn't be the X-Men cartoon if it wasn't.
The woman in question is Lorna Dane, alias Polaris, and since we have no idea who that is, we're then treated to another pretty awesome sequence, flashing back to the early days of the X-Men. There's a fight against the Super-Adaptoid, and while we've seen that before in a reference to X-Men #29, but here, it's all new footage. It's a nice callback, and again, it looks great. It seems Lorna got hurt fighting the Super Adaptoid, so Bobby retired from the X-Men and became a certified public accountant (seriously), living happily until Lorna started insisting that they use their powers to protect a world that hates and fears them. After one of their fights, Bobby went to her apartment, only to find the place ransacked, with the only clue to her whereabouts being the name of the military base he attacked earlier.
After hearing the sob story, Jubilee shuts down the force field and busts Iceman out, accompanying him to base. Once they get there, though, they're immediately taken out by a bunch of new characters, KOed and captured as the rest of the X-Men rush to the base to retrieve them. And that is when we meet our antagonists:
Oh crumbs, it's X-Factor. I was not prepared to have to deal with this when I woke up this morning.
In accordance with superhero story by-laws, the two teams immediately break into a fight, and again, it's one of the better action sequences in the show. I can't remember the last time there was actually a fight this good -- Cassidy Keep, I guess? That was a good one -- and there's a lot worth mentioning.
For starters, Quicksilver is immediately taken out by Jubilee, who doesn't even bother to hit him. She just makes some fireworks int he air and he faceplants on the concrete, and it's great, because haha, f**k you, Quicksilver. Then, Havok and Cyclops square off, and each one is surprised to learn that their powers can't affect the other:
See, on the show, Cyclops and Havok don't know they're brothers yet, but you'd have to think this would be a pretty big clue. It's already been established that close relatives with energy-based powers can't hurt each other with them in the big fight between Banshee and Black Tom back at Cassidy Keep, though, so you'd think this might be the clue that something was up. If nothing else, maybe Cyclops could've said "Hey, you look a lot like that space pirate I saw a couple weeks ago, and also a lot like me."
The stuff with Strong Guy and Iceman is actually really great, too, with the former shattering all of his ice slides and leaving the latter to recover in mid-air -- really innovative stuff that holds up, even today. Unfortunately, it's a little marred by the bit with Wolverine and Multiple Man, where Wolverine asks "what's this, a two-for-one sale?!" and Madrox replies with "More like a Baker's Dozen!"
There are eleven of him. That is not a Baker's Dozen. This would be a very simple thing to correct. Then again, they had no way of knowing that some jerk would be pausing it and taking a screenshot so he could count and check their accuracy 20 years later, so who's the real winner here?
The new kids completely trounce the X-Men, until Professor X reveals that he's been studying up on Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky issues of Justice League and advises them to make use of the radical tactic of switching opponents. They do, and -- again, superhero fight by-laws -- it works immediately. But what's this!? No sooner have they won the fight than Forge shows up, and he has Polaris with him!
There's a quick reunion between Bobby and Lorna, but it's cut short -- like two seconds short -- when she notices that Havok has been knocked out by a bunch of conveniently placed crates collapsing on him, and straight up shoves her ex-boyfriend out of the way to go check on her current beau. Bobby, understandably, is all "WTF?" but before his concerns can be addressed, Forge has to pop up with the backstory: They're X-Factor, a governmentally sanctioned team of mutants formed behind X's back, even though Xavier works with the government. This is their training camp, and Forge wanted a "friendly skirmish" to test out his team.
Please note that if only one side thinks it's a friendly skirmish and the other side has a dude with knife hands who has been known to stab people in the face, it is not a friendly skirmish. It is actually a fight to the death.
As for Bobby and Lorna, it turns out that she bailed on him because she was tired of him sitting around not using his mutant powers to be a superhero. That's a good explanation for the breakup, but it is a terrible explanation for why they decided that she should just vanish, leaving behind an apartment that looked like someone had broken in and straight up murdered her, and also she is in love with Havok now. So, she literally faked her death and is now dating the much cooler brother of a dude he hates. It is the worst possible way to be dumped, and believe me, I can say that with authority.
Still, that's a pretty minor flaw that's more due to the ongoing melodrama of the seires than anything about this particular story. Who would've thought that we'd get Iceman and X-Factor, and it would give us one of the single best episodes of the series?
Discussion Question: X-Factor, huh? They made it onto TV, and there's nothing we can do to change that. But it does raise an interesting question: Which unlikely team would you like to see make a major appearance on a superhero show? I mean, hell, we're getting an entire movie about the Guardians of the Galaxy, so anything's possible.
Next Week: Get ready for CYCLOPS BABY DADDY DRAMA as Corsair returns in "Orphan's End!"