The X-Men Episode Guide 3×1: Out Of The Past, 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: Season 3 kicks off with "Out of the Past, Part One!"
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, Season 2 came to a close and we were pretty much right back where we started. The team is reunited, Professor X is back in his hover-chair, and Cyclops and Jean remain whiny and unmarried. The only real differences are that Mr. Sinister has been turned into a beach (seriously) and Magneto, after being stuck in a season-long plotline where they stomped around a jungle together, seems to have mostly forgiven Professor X for making him relive his memories of the Holocaust back in Season 1. In other words, the status quo is right back where you left it.
In our discussion of the second season's high and low points, most readers seemed to agree with me -- that's something I don't think I've ever typed before -- on both counts. The ambition of throwing in cameos and full appearances by other Marvel Universe characters and trying to translate the X-Men of the '90s directly from comics to screen actually is pretty commendable, and so is trying to focus on individual characters to make sure that everyone gets the spotlight that was mostly on Wolverine in Season 1. The problem is that spotlight shifted so much that everything felt fragmented, like Beast meeting, falling in love with, and curing a blind girl, mostly offscreen, in the span of 20 minutes, all while never acknowledging that Professor X was missing. Everything involving Mr. Sinister was tiresome, and the two-part finale was just frustratingly bad. So here's hoping things smooth out a little here in Season 3!
Just from this episode, though.. well, it's not looking good.
We're kicking things off with a two-parter called "Out of the Past," because apparently last season didn't feature enough flashbacks. Seriously, do the X-Men ever start meeting any new people? Was Mojo the last character that didn't have a mysterious connection to Gambit's childhood girlfriend or whatever? Anyway, this time it's coming courtesy of our old pals, writer Michael Edens and producer/director Larry Houston, and it's a story of Wolverine's love life. You may want to start drinking now.
It opens on someone running down a flight of stairs, and really, the imagery of things quickly going downhill is not exactly something we need at this point in the show. Turns out that someone is none other than Leech from the Morlocks, making a return from Season One, and as the hail of laser fire that he dodges will attest, he's not alone, either. He is, in fact, being chased down by these dudes:
Ah yes, the Reavers, a gang of cyborg toughs that were all the rage in a bunch of comics I didn't read circa 1988. To be honest, I'm only really familiar with them from their brief appearance in Punisher, where they were notably some of the only enemies that Frank the Tank didn't manage to put a permanent end to, with the others being Kingpin and, of course, Jigsaw. Sadly, we seem to have left the Punisher back in Season 1, and these dudes are roaming free, causing all kinds of ruckus.
Leech manages to escape into the sewer, and it turns out that they're chasing him because he stole something from the Reavers' leader: Lady Deathstrike!
Here's a question I've always had about Lady Deathstrike: That red stuff on her head, that's hair, right? I mean, I always thought it was and she just had a thing for wearing weird little caps like Elektra, but from the looks of this show, it seems like it might be aluminum siding. Feel free to illuminate me in the comments.
After running through some super gross bright green sewer sludge that sticks to him through the next few scenes and is a thoroughly unpleasant reminder of how much it must suck to be a Morlock, Ninja Turtle or mid-80s Ron Perlman, Leech finally reaches Morlock HQ:
As it turns out, he was on a mission to recover a "device" -- which looks like a gun -- so that Callisto could "unlock our alien treasure" and use it to beat Storm in a knife fight and regain her position as Morlock Prime. Unfortunately for her, Leech was followed, and even more unfortunately for me, Lady Deathstrike makes her entrance by walking as slow as she can through a waterfall of used toilet water.
Apparently Lady Deathstrike is not concerned about dysentery. Also, New Yorkers, maybe lay off the Mountain Dew. That liquid is not a healthy color, even for the sewers.
The Morlocks put up a fight against the invading cyborgs, but surprising no one, it turns out that hi-top fades and second-place knife-fighting skills are no match for guns that shoot what appear to be nets made of mucus. For his part, Leech flips like a pancake, immediately ratting out the rest of his crew and pointing Lady D directly to the "buried treasure" that Callisto was trying to break into. She heads into a nearby cavern to check it out, and sure enough, there's a spaceship up in there.
You know, in the system of natural caves beneath Manhattan. The one that connects to the sewers. You've seen that, right? It's off the N train, I believe.
Lady Deathstrike is pretty stoked about this find, because of course this ship will give her "the means to exact my revenge." This seems like a pretty big assumption to me, since it could just be an empty ship, but to be fair, she is living in (a version of) the Marvel Universe. If alien spaceships stopped giving people unfathomable and revenge-based powers, they wouldn't have about 30% of their superheroes. Lookin' at you here, Darkhawk.
Alas, much like OPP, it's not that simple. Deathstrike takes a swipe at the hull with her giant hands, only to have it explode into various lightning and energy beams, which is standard behavior for inanimate objects on this show. This time, though, there's a giant explosion of green energy that erupts through Manhattan, heading north to Westchester and landing squarely on one Professor Charles Francis Xavier, giving him a bad case of Liefeld teeth:
Thankfully, there are no thick strands of spit, which means it hasn't progressed to Stage 2.
Chuck screams about this being "incredible power!" until we go to a commercial break, and when we get back, he floats over to Cerebro to try and find out more about it. And, you know, maybe coming back from an act break to intense Alta-Vista action wasn't a good idea. It's not the choice I would've made, anyway.
Back in the sewer, Deathstrike talks about how she was only able to touch the spaceship with her adamantium fingernails, so clearly, they need someone with a full set of adamantium claws to get in there. This is a pretty weird leap of logic, what with the whole thing starting because Callisto thought a big laser rifle would do the job, but nobody ever accused Callisto of being the sharpest knife in the sewer, so I guess it makes as much sense as anything else.
So what's everyone's favorite Canadian samurai up to while all this is going on? Basketball!
Yes, in a scene lifted straight from X-Men #7, Wolverine and Gambit have hit the court for some one-on-one hoops. Personally, I'm more a fan of their Claremont-era practice of softball games, but there are a few things that are notable about this scene. First is that Wolverine's very first move in the game is to stab the basketball with his claws, thus popping it and ruining everyone's fun because he is a complete and utter a-hole.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that scumbag Gambit, whose muscles are so horrifyingly defined that there is no way that he has not shaded them in with a sharpie, Strong Bad style:
The game is interrupted when Leech calls up on the X-Men's outdoor video phone -- well, Wolverine says the game is interrupted, because I guess he was going to keep playing with a deflated basketball? -- and tells them that someone named Yuriko is waiting for Wolverine down in the sewer. Wolverine immediately realizes that this is his cue to have a solo adventure and heads off, but Jubilee wants to get the whole team in on the action, peer pressuring Gambit into following him because "you know he'd help you!" Apparently neither one of them remember that when Gambit actually was having some trouble with his own ex-girlfriend, Wolverine was nowhere to be found. Sorry, Jubes, but he is kind of a s**tty dude.
Wolverine, in full costume, drives into Manhattan and runs down into the subway, where he cuts his way into the sewers, and it's at this point that the difference in animation between the two seasons becomes really noticeable. The motion actually looks a lot better in a few spots, more reminiscent of mid-'80s anime than anything else, but the tradeoff is that the designs have been simplified wherever possible, and everyone looks like a bootleg action figure:
And yet, they're still weirdly shiny and overdefined. This show can't win for losing sometimes.
While he's walking through the sewers, Wolverine has a flashback to explain just who this Yuriko character is. Turns out she's an ex from when he was in Japan, and he had to break up with her because the Canadian government had recruited him for the Weapon X Program, and as he says, the Canadians "aren't the kind of people you say no to." One assumes you say "no, thank you," but that's neither here nor there. She gets teary-eyed, and he bids her a fond farewell, going off to get some adamantium claws.
Two things about this. One, I think we can all be glad that we are no longer living in a time when Asian characters were portrayed as having skin the color of Big Bird, but the crazy thing is that this wasn't really on that long ago. This episode aired in 1994, and she looks like she's about to pop over to Sin City and fight Hartigan. Pretty shameful.
Second, if she's someone he was with before Weapon X, then shouldn't Wolverine not remember her at all? Like, isn't that where his memory loss stems from? It was only last season where they did an entire episode about that where Heather Hudson had to teach him how to read again, and I'm pretty sure you're more likely to forget an ex-girlfriend more than, say, the building blocks of language. And it's not like they could've forgotten that episode, either, because the next two and a half minutes of footage are directly lifted from it to pad out the episode.
While Wolverine's brooding, the Reavers are given the word to attack and bring him back alive, and we get one of the best things that's ever happened in the show when Wolverine fights back:
Dude just straight up starts chopping off arms, and the great thing is that it's only after he does this that he realizes they're cyborgs. Wolverine's first instinct, even a version of Wolverine meant for tiny little children, is to cold dismember his foes. Fantastic.
After he disposes of the Reavers Lady Deathstrike shows up, and Wolverine instantly recognizes her as Yuriko, even though she no longer appears to be critically jaundiced.
Wolverine is pretty freaked out about her gigantic new hands, and Lady D explains that she did it for him -- specifically to get revenge -- through a process that looks an awful lot like those playsets where you would mold hunks of Play-Doh into Draculas or whatever. She actually goes as far as saying "I decided to change my outer form to match the darkness inside me," which means that her reasoning for transforming herself into a cyborg is exactly the same as a teenage goth's for wearing black.
Oh man. Can you imagine the world we'd be living in if teenage goths could just go become cyborg killing machines? Where's that episode?
Anyway, when Wolverine asks what she's so cheesed off about, she explains it's because he killed Professor Oyama when he escaped from the Weapon X program, and when he responds to that with a blank stare, she further explains that her name is Yuriko Oyama. This news is shocking, which means that the entire premise of this episode is that Wolverine cannot remember his ex-girlfriend's last name. Apparently that was the one thing he actually did forget when he lost his memory.
While they're fighting it out, the Reavers zap Wolverine with their snot net and drag him off so that they can make him cut open their spaceship. Meanwhile, Gambit and Jubilee have watched this whole thing happen, and when Jubilee tries to go rescue him, Gambit goes full scumbag Yoda and tells here "they are many and we are two." In other words, go ahead and let him go, I'm sure he'll be fine.
Once everyone gets to the spaceship, they untie Wolverine, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. He responds by just going back to chopping up everyone's arms, which is when Gambit and Jubilee decide that it's finally time to intervene. The theme song kicks in and we get a fight scene that, considering it's juggling seven or eight characters with different powers and weapons, actually isn't bad. Gambit's briefly caught by one of the slime nets but uses his powers to explode it right off his body, Jubilee reveals that she wears those goofy Bret Hart shades so that she won't be blinded by her own fireworks, and there's even a nice headscissor takedown thrown in.
And then Gambit gets electrocuted and Deathstrike gets thrown into the spaceship where she gets electrocuted too:
The unexpected side effect of all this is that once again, Professor X gets zapped back at the mansion, only this time he realizes that it's a message telling them not to open the ship. Fat lot of good it does him from the mansion rather than warning the people that are actually there, but that's what you get when you tailor your warnings to bald telepaths, I suppose.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Yuriko has somehow caused the ship to open, bathing everything in the light of a big green smile.
Discussion Question: So "Lady Deathstrike" has to be one of the most '90s names of all time, right? The only one that I can think of that really beats it is "Deathstroke the Terminator" -- and yes, I know that one's actually from 1980, but you people are always telling me Wolfman and Perez were ahead of their time, so I'm counting it anyway. But that doesn't mean there's not room for debate, so this week, what are the most '90s names of all time? (Spoiler Warning: #1 is Adam X, THE X-TREME.)
Next Week: "Out of the Past, Part 2" brings us into spacefaring adventure with the Shi'ar, which I hope means this is about to turn into a romance story between an old bald creep and a sexy young bird lady.