"Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda" DVD Review
May 07, 2008 by James Harvey
Arguably the highest-profile and biggest Marvel animated crossover of the 1990s, Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda finally arrives on DVD! Now, I'll come right out and say it! The 1990s Spider-Man: The Animated Series did have a fair share of problems. Whether it was a the constant re-use of animation and music cues, the occasional rushed dialogue and heavy exposition, or the sometimes questionable designs or voice acting, this show did have a lot of problems. However, despite all of that, this series does remain a favorite for Spider-Man fans, and for obvious reasons. It's loyal to the comic series to an extent, features a host of fan-favorite characters, and can be pretty engaging at times. And Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda is no different. Now, let's get the synopsis out of the way and onto the review.
Spider-Manís neogenic mutation is making him ill so he seeks the aid of Dr. Charles Xavier, a scientist known to help MutantsÖ But Xavier does not "cure" mutantcy, only helps people like the X-Men to accept themselves and control their abilities. Disappointed, Spider-Man takes off with Hank McCoy (known as The Beast) who while in pursuit suggests Spidey seek out Harold Landon, a man he once worked with who continues to look for a cure. When Beast does not return, Wolverine decides to track down Spider-Man. Meanwhile, inside his laboratory, Landon is about to dip The Beast in a strange chemical stew. Spider-Man and Wolverine crash through the lab wall in the nick of time, but the Hobgoblin attacks and Landon accidentally falls into his own vat of chemicals, metamorphosing into a monster that Wolverine, Beast and Spider-Man cannot stop.
The story itself is fairly basic and pretty fun, all things considered. Spider-Man is basically sick and goes to the X-Men for help. The usual fight occurs, then everyone makes up and teams-up for the big battle at the end. What I did like is the extra pathos this story throws in. I like the reference to Beast's early pre-blue days, as a scientist working to cure his mutation and, later, I like the revelation Spidey comes to, that he's not alone in this battle of his. The extended epilogue to this story, "Morbius," doesn't hold up all that well in explaining this, and actually leaves the viewer on a sort of unresolved cliffhanger which will never get resolved due to the nature of this release and the series it was taken from.
Let me quickly explain. The second season of the series was a season long arc called "Neogenic Nightmare," a little sub-header you'll see at the top of each screen at the start of each episode. So, the entire season was basically one long arc and every episode was a part of it. True, some episodes can be watched on their own, but, still, plotlines and references are still there, and we see it here. It's something that will undoubtedly confuse the viewer who's unfamiliar with the series. So the three Spider-Man: The Animated Series episodes you see on this release are part of a bigger arc, hence why there's a lot of references to stuff that we don't really see. A nitpick in terms of storytelling, but something that can't be avoided with this release.
It's a fun story, don't get me wrong. It's a cool little story but really doesn't aspire to be anything but a reason to get Spider-Man and the X-Men together and, for that, it works. And, for the most part, each X-Man (even Jubilee) gets a moment to shine and show off some powers. As you can expect, Wolverine gets the most screen time, as does Beast. The rest of the X-Men get nice small roles, but nothing really substantial. All the voice actors from the X-Men: The Animated Series of the 1990s, also a Fox show like Spider-Man: The Animated Series reprise their roles here, and itís a welcome nod to cartoon, comic, and continuity fans.
Again, for fans of Marvel animation and Spider-Man, this is a no-brainer pick-up. It's a fun way to spend an hour and it's a well done story. Again, it's nothing overly special, just a nice little mash-up of Marvel's biggest characters. The animation, for the most part, is good, save for a few of the standard money-saving measures the series took (reused scenes, slowing/speeding up animation, fast cuts and editing), and the story and dialogue would fit right in for any 1990's comic book series, meaning tons of exposition and inner monologues. The series is definitely a product of its time and it shows. But, still, it's a fun jump back to a popular series from the 1990s and comes Recommended. Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda was one of the biggest arcs from the 1990's Spider-Man: The Animated Series cartoons, and fans should be able to snatch this up for a really good price.
Before I go any further, I need to clarify something. This is a Morningstar Entertainment release, not a Buena Vista Home Entertainment release. Buena Vista previously released a series of Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVDs over the past few years before certain legalities put a stop to that. Morningstar Entertainment, a Canadian company, obtained the rights to a series of Marvel videos released in the 1990s and this is the first of nearly a dozen releases. And given that this is a Canadian release, through a Canadian company, you'll likely need to hop on Amazon.ca to get a copy if you live outside of the Canadian region. For Canadian residents, this should be available in nearly every major department or video store as well as online.
The DVD comes in a red-colored Amaray case, with an insert but no cardboard slipcase. The insert is an advertisement for the next Morningstar Marvel-themed release, The Incredible Hulk: When Monsters Meet, and a rundown of the other nine remaining titles set to be releases. The DVD itself is very basic. There are no pre-menu trailers of any kind. After the company logo and a quick warning, the main menu boots up and we are off. The extras are light, just two bonus episodes from the horrible first season of the 1990's Iron Man: The Animated Series. There are no chapter stops, no language menus, no subtitles, nothing. The DVD release is very, very bare.
The audio and video is a shade or two above VHS-quality, which makes sense given the nature of this release. Don't expect anything on par with the Buena Vista Home Entertainment releases, but it's not too bad by any means. The quality is still watchable and is much better than the previous VHS releases of these particular episodes. I am sure some will be disappointed by this. Regardless, the audio and video quality is slightly above average and on par with the transfer quality we've seen on DVD releases for other 1990's animated series.
Overall, despite what sounds like a damning review, I'd certainly Recommend this release to comic book fans, animation fans, and Spider-Man fans. It's a shame that it is another single volume releases, but this is out of the hands of Morningstar Entertainment and since it seems like we may never get a season collection here in Region 1,Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda is a title that fans should consider picking up, especially since the price on this release should make it affordable to pretty much everyone. I remember this two-part episode was a big deal when it premiered back in 1995, and I can still see why. Its fun to see Spider-Man and Wolverine duke it out while Hobgoblin stands over them, cackling away. It's a fun Spider-Man tale that doesn't aspire to be anything more than way to bring together Spider-Man and the X-Men, and is worth checking out.
Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda is now available on DVD.
The Incredible Hulk will be available to own on DVD June 10th, 2008.