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: It turns out that orbital totalitarian governments run by unstable individuals with superpowers are actually... a bad thing?!

Previously, on X-Men:

In the first part of "Sanctuary," Magneto made what was -- for his situation -- the perfectly rational decision to throw a giant rock out into space and build a little town on it so that he could live without fear of being murdered by giant racist robots and the people who build them. He also announced his intentions to do this peacefully and then singlehandedly liberated a concentration camp while our heroes stood around and watched, and for some reason, everyone got super pissed off about this. In the case of Fabian Cortez, it was because Magneto wasn't killing enough humans, leading Cortez to blast Magneto's apartment off into space, apparently killing him and pinning the blame on the X-Men.

In our talk about moments where Magneto has been 100%, unequivocally correct, a lot of great moments in X-Men history were brought up, but I think Commenteer Harry Jenkinson put it best when he described Magneto's finest hour: "It's got to be in Acts of Vengeance when he just cold beat the s**t out of the Red Skull and locked him in an underground chamber to die."

If y'all have never read that issue, go get it. It's amazing.



As we rejoin our story already in progress, thanks to writer Jeff Saylor and producer/director Larry Houston, the X-Men are facing down the misguided mutants of Asteroid M, a hostile crowd that as the odds stacked against them. Naturally, like all of the greatest heroes, they decide that they should just straight up run away. Good hustle out there, guys.

Okay, admittedly, they are up against the entire pissed-off population of what basically amounts to a small town with superpowers, but let's not oversell things here. They've got two stalwart X-Men (well, one stalwart X-Men and one complete scumbag) and the most powerful telepath on the planet. Their opponents are Random and that one Morlock who looks like a 2-dimensional Princess Celestia cosplayer. I think they probably could've won the fight.

To its credit, the show actually does do a pretty decent job of setting up this whole thing where there are Han-Solo-on-the-Death-Star odds against our heroes, though, and in a move that I don't think any of us expected, it's actually that scumbag Gambit who decides to stay behind and hold off the assembled forces, a truly uncharacteristic act of self-sacrifice.



For his part, Professor X is playing things thoroughly in character, quickly agreeing to let Gambit be beaten to death by an angry mob in order to cover his escape, and then giving him about two seconds before giving him up for dead and blasting back to Earth on a stolen space shuttle.

It's at this point that you're going to realize that they have stretched this thing about two episodes while only having about an episode and a half of material to work with. As a result, the landing back on Earth is a drawn out and overdramatic affair, with the space shuttle being damaged in the takeoff and having a rough crash landing. There are two problems with this.

First, they're kind of already done this whole "doomed shuttle landing" thing back in Season 3 when they kicked off the Phoenix Saga, and once you have someone actually die, come back, and go on space-trial for genocide destruction of private property, you can't really go back ot htat same well and have it end with a mildly bumpy ending. Second, while the show actually does remember that Rogue has super-powers like flight and super-strength that would help the shuttle land... conveniently forgets that she also has the power of invulnerability, which becomes abundantly clear when she tries to grab the ship and goes "Ah! Man that's hot!" and starts waving her hands around while plummeting to the ground.

Rogue's biggest problem in this scene, however, isn't becasuse of a pair of scorched mitts. Instead, she's freaking out because Gambit, her... love... interest? didn't make it back to Earth, and she assumes, in order, that he has a) defected from the X-Men to go hang out with Magneto or b) is dead. Fortunately, Professor X is there to smooth things over by telling Rogue that Gambit "still lives," and that he's just being held prisoner in space and being tortured by Fabian Cortez.

As you might imagine, this does not really help her mood.



Beast has slightly better luck with calming her down when he tells her that they can go back up there and get him just as soon as they finish welding a bunch of alien engine parts to their jet plane, though, but I suspect that's because Rogue isn't quite clear on the logistics of space travel and thinks that sounds like a good plan.

Back on the asteroid, things have gone from utopia to dystopia in record time.



Seriously, it has been like two hours, max, since Magneto "died," and everyone on the asteroid has just pretty much decided to hand complete totalitarian control of their lives over to Fabian Cortez, with exactly zero questions about it. Guys. For real. That dude doesn't even have a codename. You can't just go around handing control of your society to whoever has the biggest shoulderpads and the longest ponytail. That's exactly how the Roman Empire collapsed.

Also of note: They have Gambit locked up in one of those Genoshan slave collars that suppresses mutant powers, and while I guess it makes sense that they'd have those, given that it would kind of be the only viable solution for dealing with criminals in an entirely mutant society, it's kind of completely bonkers that they would just be throwing those around, having just liberated a good chunk of said society from Genoshan concentration camps like yesterday. You'd think someone would go "hey, that's kind of an on-the-nose metaphor for becoming the thing we hate, isn't it?" but I guess Random was too busy being caught up in the thrill of mob justice.



Oh, Random.

So remember how the X-Men have left a man behind in space and need to go rescue him before he's literally tortured to death for a crime he didn't commit? Well, back on Earth, everyone's making sure to work on that problem as fast as they can. Oh, no, wait. They're all getting dressed up in their Sunday best and having a funeral for Magneto.


What makes this weird isn't just that Magneto will be returning by the end of the episode, although that certainly takes the fun out of a funeral, but that Xavier refers to him as "our most intractable opponent," which is pretty weird when you consider that they actually only fought him once, and every other appearance involved either teaming up or hanging out in the Jungle for about eighteen months. Also pretty weird? Xavier having flashbacks to just straight up Nazi soldiers, a way more explicit reference to Magneto's origin in the Holocaust than when he first shows up in Season 1 with just some vague talk about "a war."

Weirdest of all, though? Rogue's Scarlett O'Hara funeral dress.



Please take note: This is not the strangest thing Rogue is going to be wearing in this episode.

Eventually, the X-Men get their junk together enough that they can head up to the Asteroid on that rescue mission they've been trying to get off the ground, but not before Cortez issues an ultimatum to the governments of the world, claiming that he will unleash nuclear destruction upon them unless they free all the members of the Asian Dawn (he read about them in Time magazine). This seems like a pretty extreme position even to the rest of the Acolytes, so Amelia Voght starts poking around, trying to figure out whether Gambit really is innocent.

To that end, she sneaks around in her gaseous form, searching through the archives of the base's security tapes, only to find that the crucial one is missing. No joke: I love that Magneto built an entire super-advanced, self-sufficient space station armed with 250 nuclear warheads, but that they're still keeping everything stored on a library of VHS tapes.

None of that matters though, because now we need to talk about the X-Men's SPACE ADVENTURE OUTFITS.


X-Men cartoon screenshot


Oh. My God. I want to never not be talking about these costumes. I mean, Wolverine looks all right considering that they just gave him a black and grey costume that looks like the Uncanny X-Force suit that he'd be sporting twenty years later, and Rogue is basically just wearing '90s Havok's costume in a palette swapped green, but what in the blue hell is going on with Professor X. Is he a Tron now? Is he... wearing Cerebro? Has he decide that his most effective course of action when going into a battle would be to just armor the living hell out of his cheekbones and let the rest of his head take care of itself? I need -- I demand to see the documents that led to these design decisions. I mean, they look for all the world like they were made to be action figures, but I was buying a lot of X-Men figures in 1996 and I have never seen Purple Robot Professor X.

I could talk about these monstrosities all day, but sadly, we have the rest of the episode to get through. After using the SHI'AR SHIELD and the SHI'AR CLOAK, handily labeled on their dashboard for convenience, to get through the force field protecting Asteroid M -- a force field that I am 90% sure has NEVER BEEN MENTIONED ON THIS SHOW -- Beast sets about disabling all the nukes while Rogue and Wolverine see to rescuing Gambit.


X-Men cartoon screenshot


Professor X and his TechnoPrince outfit stay on the Blackbird.

At the same time, Amelia has located the VHS tape that reveals that it was actually Fabian Cortez that killed -- er, destroyed Magneto, and we get the classic projecting-the-truth-on-a-screen-in-front-of-a-crowd moment, which is convenient since the entire population of Asteroid M can fit in a single room. But is Magneto really dead?

No. Of course he isn't. In fact, his bedroom just crashed into the desert, where he appears as a ghost in front of two extremely terrified people:



Shortly after that, he returns to the asteroid just in time to prevent Cortez from nuking the Earth, disabling all the missiles and claiming that "The Earth's magnetic field has healed me, as a mother nourishes her son!" and that's... that's got some really weird implications. Like, Magneto was essentially incorporeal the last time we saw him, and now he's back to normal. Is the implication here that Magneto is actually held together physically by magnetism? Is that one of those weird Silver Age things like how he used to be able to brainwash people with his "magnetic personality?"

Either way, Cortez gets straight up revenge murdered, which is surprising considering that this is the same show where BS&P wouldn't let Amelia Voght carry a suitcase out of Professor X's giant mansion where six people were residing because it might imply that they were living in sin, and then Magneto blows up his own asteroid because his plan of peaceful isolation from the racist humans has been FUBARed.



Good job, X-Men!

Oh, also Apocalypse shows up and reveals that Cortez didn't actually die in the explosion, so I guess we have THAT to look forward to.

Discussion Question: Fabian Cortez, like Jean Grey, has no codename. Clearly, this is an oversight that needs to be corrected, so what should his codename be? Keep in mind that, according to Wikipedia, he "possesses the ability to bolster another mutant’s power. He could enhance a mutant’s abilities to occasionally dangerous limits beyond their control (temporarily powering them up at the expense of burning out their bodies)."

Next Week: More motherf**king time travel with Apocalypse and Cable show up for A FOUR-PART STORY (jeez louise) called "Beyond Good And Evil!"