There are few cartoon shows as fondly remembered as the early 1990s’ X-Men: The Animated Series. along with Batman: The Animated SeriesX-Men: The Animated Series, based on Marvel’s X-Men comic book, ushered in a new era of high-quality, small-screen fantasy offerings, including Gargoyles, The Tickand Animaniacs. The series first went to air on the Fox Network in October 1992. Stretching for five seasons and 76 episodes, X-Men: The Animated Series consistently provided fans of all ages with outstanding entertainment.
Given the recent announcement of X Men ’97 to air on Disney+, and the impending entry of mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is time to revisit the ten best episodes of the original animated series.
“Night of the Sentinels Part I” S.1 Ep.1
Foster child Jubilation Lee (Jubilee), fearful of being captured by the Mutant Control Agency, flees home. At the local shopping mall, a nightmarish Sentinel appears, searching for the young mutant. A group of super-powered characters, each with distinct abilities and appearances, swoops in to save the day. Jubilee is subsequently taken to Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
Having been awaiting a new animated Marvel series for years, viewers were blessed with this first episode. The soon-to-be iconic music and action-packed opening credits were a portent of things to come. Characters synonymous with the early-1990s comic storylines by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee were made real. Storm was a force of nature personified; Gambit exuded charm; Cyclops was the general; Wolverine displayed signs of why he is the best there is at what he does. A central theme of the X-Men mythos also became apparent early on: mutants, victims of prejudice, fought to save those who hated them.
“Deadly Reunions” S.1 Ep.4
Professor Xavier is committed to aiding Sabretooth, probing the villain’s mind in a quest to address his immense rage. Wolverine declares his opposition to Sabretooth’s presence, but the threat of Magneto takes the team to a chemical plant. The ‘Master of Magnetism’ easily handles the X-Men. The heroism and tragedy of Rogue is seen as she rescues Storm and Cyclops, struggling when taking the male X-Man’s power in the process. Xavier confronts Magneto and refuses to join his old friend’s destructive campaign.
Infamous X-Men adversaries and extensive untold histories between characters make Deadly Reunions an episode worth revisiting. A connection between Wolverine and Sabretooth is revealed, with the latter suggesting a past personal and professional relationship and the former accusing Sabretooth of murder. The links between Xavier and Magneto are addressed. Despite having known each other for years, their missions could not be more different. Xavier, the pacifist, hopes for coexistence between mutant and human; Magneto, the aggressor, believes mutants are the next step in human evolution.
“The Cure” S.1 Ep.9
Rogue is simultaneously blessed and cursed. While gifted superhuman strength, the ability to fly, and the capacity to take another’s traits through mere contact, she is emotionally isolated. Thus, Rogue decides to travel to Muir Island where a cure for the mutant gene is seemingly on offer. However, all is not as it appears.
One of the beauties of the X-Men story is the vulnerability, insecurities, and indeed humanity of the characters. Rogue’s internal struggle is a constant one and the viewer is compelled to sympathize with her. While she has extreme power, she cannot enjoy the simple pleasure of human touch.
“Days of Future Past Part I” S.1 Ep.11
In the future, Bishop is a tracker working for the Sentinels. He comes across Wolverine and apprehends him and his allies. The rebels are taken to a mutant termination center. Bishop, realizing his days are also numbered, decides to aid Wolverine. Having met with another rebel, Forge, Bishop travels back in time to prevent what is believed to be the cause of the dystopia, crossing paths with the X-Men.
Alternate timelines and possible futures are a key component of the current MCU; such concepts receive an early outing here. The classic Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and John Byrne heavily influences the episode. It also has traces of a 1990s Uncanny X-Men storyline penciled by Whilce Portacio. This animated tale nails the idea of a post-apocalyptic future unfolding if the events of the past are not altered. There are many interesting Easter eggs, such as future gravestones commemorating the deaths of Cyclops, Rogue, Storm, and Jubilee.
“Till Death Do Us Part Part I” S.2 Ep.1
The opening episode of the second season includes the wedding of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. Anti-mutant hysteria is rapidly growing. A former hero rises from the grave and begins his revenge.
“Till Death Do Us Part I” is a wonderful insight into the trials and tribulations of the 1990s mutants. The mysterious antagonist, Mister Sinister, makes his first full appearance. Also, heavily featured are President Robert Kelly and anti-mutant figure Graydon Creed. Morph, killed in the second episode of the first season, returns, angry his former teammates left him for dead.
“Repo Man” S.2 Ep.5
Wolverine travels to Canada, having received a message from an old friend. Once there, he finds himself embroiled in a battle with Alpha Flight, Canada’s own super team. Military figure General Chasen is intent on accessing Wolverine’s adamantium-laced skeleton.
Aspects of Wolverine’s past, the cause of fascination amongst fans, are addressed. Not only does the cult favorite Alpha Flight (including Vindicator, Puck, and Snowbird) feature heavily, there is also reference to the ‘Weapon X’ program, the subject of the Barry Windsor-Smith graphic novel.
“The Dark Phoenix Saga Part I- Dazzled” S.3 Ep.11
Following on from The Phoenix Saga Part 5- Child of Light, Professor Xavier and Moira MacTaggart treat Jean Grey. When Xavier and Jean return to the mansion, the professor reveals to a concerned Cyclops the Phoenix Force remains within Jean. Meanwhile, the Inner Circle Club (the comic’s Hellfire Club) plots to control Jean’s mind. Of concern, the Phoenix Force’s domination of Jean grows.
The Dark Phoenix Saga is regarded as a glorious achievement in the Claremont-Byrne run on Uncanny X Men. In a hugely ambitious move, the animated series adapts Jean Grey’s metamorphosis into the all-powerful Dark Phoenix. The detailed and episodic storytelling of the animated series is at its best here; there is human drama, science-fiction elements, and treats for long-term fans, including the appearances of Dazzler and Emma Frost.
“Night Crawler” S.3 Ep.18
When in Europe on a holiday, Wolverine, Rogue, and Gambit cross paths with a character of demonic appearance who is deemed a threat by locals. Nightcrawler reveals he had been abandoned as a child, but later chose to dedicate his life to God.
One of most-loved X-Men, Kurt Wagner, finally receives his onscreen due. Faith is an underlying theme of the Nightcrawler narrative and that is clearly apparent in this installation. At one point, Wolverine declares he had lost his faith in religion, but Nightcrawler assists Wolverine in seeing the light once again. At episode’s end, Wolverine prays in a cathedral, a touching moment.
“One Man’s Worth Part I” S.4 Ep.1
When Bishop and sister Shard travel back in time to seek assistance from the X-Men, they find themselves in an unfamiliar setting. Professor Xavier has been erased from the timeline. What remains is a brutal reality with extreme variations of some familiar faces.
1990s comic fans fondly remember Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse, which saw the standard X-Men books placed on hiatus, replaced with titles focusing on a world without Xavier. While not a full adaptation of the comic story, it is still a thrill to see a divided dystopia in motion. Storm with a mohawk, a bearded and heroic Magneto, and a cybernetically-enhanced Beast are just three of the highlights.
“Old Soldiers” S.5 Ep.11
During World War II, Canada’s Wolverine teams up with Captain America. The vile Red Skull has gathered a group of scientists to create an army of androids.
Loosely based on Uncanny X-Men #268, further insight into the background of Wolverine is given. One of the most thrilling scenes of the show’s entire run unfolds. Just as the bullets of an enemy soldier are about to penetrate the Canadian operative, a red, while, and blue shield blocks their path. The circular projectile also takes out three enemy soldiers before returning to the hand of the one-and-only Captain America.
NEXT: Here’s How to Watch the X-Men Movies in Order (Chronologically and By Release Date)