"Wolverine And The X-Men - The Complete First Season" DVD Review
September 15, 2009 by James Harvey
For fans worried that, after following such a great set-up, the premise for the new Wolverine and The X-Men animated series would fizzle, needn't fear. After getting bits and pieces of a grander story with the previous single-disc DVD volume releases, we're now treated to the entire first season arc of the latest series to feature our favorite merry mutants in Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season. Featuring a bevy of plot twists, guest stars, and piles of mutant friends and fiends, this is one DVD collection that X-Men fans should own.
When an explosive event shatters the lives of the X-Men and takes away their mentor, the beaten heroes walk away from it all. Given a rare glimpse into the future, the X-Men see a world in utter ruin, ruled by giant destructive robots, a world that spiraled out of control because the X-Men has given up. So now the most legendary of all X-Men takes the lead - Wolverine! Reuniting these broken heroes, Wolverine embarks on the ultimate mission, to prevent the worlds destruction, in Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season. Up against the forces of fate and destiny, only together can the X-Men steer the course of history away from catastrophe and save us all.
Having the opportunity to view the entire 26-episode first season of Wolverine and The X-Men, it goes without saying that this is an ambitious series, one that the creative team behind it definitely deserve props for. They pulled if off, and quite nicely, too. After it kicks off, on quite the explosive note, viewers are treated to an ominous unraveling story, one with plenty of great twists and turns (with some of the best happening in the last quarter of the season). While there are more than a few pit-stops along the way, essentially a nice way to say "the odd filler episode," Wolverine and The X-Men rarely falters as it manages to create a solid, complete story from beginning to end (and, naturally, gives us a cliffhanger that leaves us wanting more).
Wolverine and The X-Men is a show that I'd have to call a mix of the old X-Men: The Animated Series from the 1990s and the recent X-Men: Evolution animated series. The show tries the same "inspired by the comics" take that the old cartoon draped over itself mixed with the accessibility of the recent teen-drama rendition of the merry mutants, and, to be honest, it does work. It walks a fine line between the two, though occasionally does dip into some very continuity-heavy events at time that could confuse new viewers, but things do level out quite well for the series during the first season. One thing that helps the series immensely is how it seems to grow episode to episode, with both the threats and character stakes becoming more and more dire. The impressive voice work also helps in maintaining the shows integrity, allowing even some of the more "out there" plots to come across as completely reasonable. The voice cast also helps establish the tone, as nearly each episode features a large ensemble cast.
Still, as well-executed as the Wolverine and The X-Men's debut season is, it does stumble a teeny bit. The pace is a little slow at times for the first half of the 26-episode season, which is understandable since the show is basically using the first thirteen episodes to establish its premise. The status of the X-Men, the various tie-in events past and presents, supporting characters, all of that is explained and explored in the first half. The level of dedication to setting up to the series is staggering and impressive, but it does hold the series back a little at first. The series really picks up after hitting its mid-season finale, plowing straight ahead and answering a plethora of questions. With the set-up and exposition out of the way, Wolverine and The X-Men is then able to establish a better rhythm at giving us both solid "done in one" installments while also moving ahead the overall story. Along the way we get some great twists and surprises, including the solving of two of the big mysteries from the opening arc, particularly what caused the explosion and what happened to Jean Grey.
As I said, we do get some filler episodes and some weak episodes, but both are few and far in-between. Episodes likes the Mojo-centric "Hunting Grounds" and the ninja-happy "Code of Conduct" rank as the weakest, while episodes driven by the overall story arc tend to be the strongest, with the final episodes arguably the absolute cream of the crop for the first season of Wolverine and The X-Men. Some of the one-offs, like "Wolverine Versus Hulk" are fun but nothing special.
Episodes featured in this release include "Hindsight, Part One," "Hindsight, Part Two," "Hindsight, Part Three," "Overflow," "Thievesí Gambit," "X-Calibre," "Wolverine Versus The Hulk," "Time Bomb," "Future X," "Welcome to Genosha," "Past Directions," "eXcessive Force," "Battlelines," "Stolen Lives," "Hunting Grounds," "Badlands," "Code Of Conduct," "Backlash," "Guardian Angel," "Breakdown," "Rover," "Aces And Eights," "Shades Of Grey," "Foresight, Part One," "Foresight, Part Two," and "Foresight, Part Three."
I have no doubt that the first season of Wolverine and The X-Men will definitely please many of the fans, given how it manages to play so close to the source material but, at the same time, manages to be relatively accessible. Sure, there may be a few instances where the show may be slightly confusing to new viewers to the franchise, but the quick recaps and heavy-at-times exposition is more than enough to clue anyone in. When you boil it down, Wolverine and The X-Men is a good series that gets progressively better as it frees itself up from the heavy exposition that saddles the earlier episodes. Once the show runs with the premise, it's full-on mayhem with more then a few legitimate surprises. All of that makes for a very satisfying viewing experience, especially when the series pays-off on so many of the subplots established early on, making it very easy to stamp Wolverine and The X-Men as Highly Recommended.
Liberation Entertainment has really knocked one out of the park with Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season Canadian DVD release. The five-disc DVD collection is housed in great looking Steelbook case, looking incredibly sleek and stylish. Liberation Entertainment has shown time and time again that they can make their Wolverine and The X-Men DVD collections really stand out on the shelves, and the packaging for this release is no exception. In fact, this is easily the best looking Wolverine and The X-Men release to date, both inside and out.
Digging into the audio and video transfer quality for this release, it should come as no surprise that this series looks absolutely stunning, and features only minor hints of compression issues. The colors are deep and full in all respects, giving the series the ability to just pop offscreen. Whether it's a bright explosion, a memory from the hazy past, or a peak into a dark future, everything looks beautiful. To compliment, the 5.1 audio transfer makes every little moment sound crystal clear, with nary a flaw to find. Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season also includes English 2.0 and French 5.1 audio tracks. I have no doubt viewers will be very pleased with the overall presentation of all 26 episodes included.
And, for the first time in a Wolverine and The X-Men DVD release by Liberation Entertainment, this release comes complete with bonus material. That being said, the bonus features aren't as extensive as I'm sure many are hoping for. The bonus features, all housed on the first disc in the collection, include character bios, an image gallery, and an audio commentary on the episode "Overflow." The characters bios are just that - quick bio rundowns of the main characters in the series. Moving on, the image gallery features a selection of images set to music, running well over two minutes. The last bonus feature, the audio commentary, is the same commentary for "Overflow" featured on the Lionsgate Home Entertainment release Wolverine and The X-Men: Deadly Enemies. A perplexing and somewhat random choice for a commentary, this should please those who have been unable to pick up the releases from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, but likely disappoint those who have been picking up the Wolverine and The X-Men DVDs released by both Liberation Entertainment and Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Not a knock-out for bonus features, admittedly, but it is nice to see additional content on these releases.
Taking into account the overall package, X-Men fans will not want to miss this. Not only is the show solid, but the same can also be said about DVD release. The main feature, the series itself, is a solid interpretation of Marvel's Merry Mutants, with plenty of action, great characters, and a solid story that should keep fans engaged until the very end. Liberation Entertainment has done a great job on Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season, giving the title an excellent audio and video transfer, a little helping of extras, a very stylish package, and, of course, the entire first season in one collection. For the casual or die-hard fan, there's no doubt that Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season comes Highly Recommended to own.
Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season is now available to own in Canada on DVD.
More images from the Wolverine and The X-Men - The Complete First Season Five-Disc DVD Collection are available at Marvel Animation Age.
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