X-Men ’97 1×01 and 1×02 Review: “To Me, My X-Men” and “Mutant Liberation Begins”

X-Men 97 episode 1 and episode 2 review
The X-Men in “To Me, My X-Men” (Image: Screengrab from X-Men ’97 Season 1 Episode 1)

Picking up a few months after the finale of X-Men ’92, the two-episode premiere of X-Men ’97 served as a highly enjoyable return to the OG animated world after more than two decades.

With how things usually go when creating sequels and reboots of fan-favorite content that don’t necessarily respect the OG fandom, I was a bit worried about X-Men ’97 flopping right out of the gate. The show’s already faced a bunch of controversy, with the biggest one having to do with showrunner Beau DeMayo being fired from the project a week before the premiere without any explanation from Disney.

Also, Storm fans continue to be vocal about the type of mohawk being worn by the Omega-Level Weather Goddess. And there’s still backlash concerning the depiction of Sunspot.

Putting these (understandable) issues aside for a moment, I have to say that I enjoyed watching ‘To Me, My X-Men’ as well as ‘Mutant Liberation Begins’. The narrative tried to keep true to the X-Men ’92 characters the fans grew up with while continuing to address certain sociopolitical arguments that will resonate with audiences new and old.

Charles Xavier’s presumed death led to humans feeling sympathy for the mutant cause. The United Nations has been helping the mutants against the threat posed by the anti-mutant group Friends of Humanity (FoH) and others. However, the X-Men’s work isn’t done (is it ever?). The FoH has been kidnapping mutants and selling them off for target practice sessions and other sinister reasons. Not only that, but the group has gained access to Sentinel technology.

I liked how worried Cyclops was about the future of mutantkind because of the upgrades FoH got their hands on and immediately came up with a plan to locate Boliver Trask even though UN spokesperson Valerie Cooper assured him her team was looking into it. I agree with Cyclops’ argument against Cooper. The X-Men needed to quickly find Trask because mutants across the globe were being hunted, unlike humans, mutants didn’t have the privilege of taking things slow.

The first two episodes did a lot to portray Cyclops as a capable leader who was clearly feeling the burden of continuing Xavier’s dream. The fact he was having a baby with Jean complicated his situation. Scott was stuck between being a leader and choosing to live a more peaceful life to help raise their son away from the X-Mansion.

I enjoyed seeing Scott opt for the more offensive option against Henry Gyrich by having Jean probe his mind. Again, Cyclops not playing around. He doesn’t have the patience to be diplomatic with people like Gyrich and other anti-mutant supporters.

Jean’s probe led her to see a scary vision inside Gyrich’s mind. With how much foreshadowing was present in the first two chapters, I think the threat Jean saw in her vision still exists even though the X-Men were able to destroy the Master Mold in the Sahara Desert.

The major action sequence in ‘To Me, My X-Men’ was all about showcasing the team’s powers against a bunch of Sentinels. Also, Storm’s entrance to put an end to their battle… chef’s kiss! I’ve relayed that sequence way too many times now!

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Though the animation style will take some getting used to for certain viewers, I think X-Men ’97 will continue to knock it out of the park with the action sequences as the series continues.

‘To Me, My X-Men’ concluded with Magneto entering the X-Mansion to announce Xavier left everything to him, with ‘Mutant Liberation Begins’ highlighting Cyclops’ insecurities regarding Xavier not trusting him as a leader and the rest of the team wanting Magneto to prove himself.

The second episode took some time to show Magneto saving humans from tragedies as well as reaching out to the Morlocks. Apparantly, he’s created some kind of haven in Genosha where mutants can live without judgment. The entire thing gave me Krakoa vibes. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how Genosha will operate on a global political scale and face incoming attacks.

With the X-Men franchise having soap opera elements, the latest animated series didn’t shy away from that at all. In just two episodes, we got family drama via a pregnant Jean Grey, a budding romance between Jubilee and Sunspot, and Rogue possibly rekindling her past romance with Magneto. Not only that, the major cliffhanger was a Jean Grey doppelganger showing up at the X-Mansion and fainting in Morph’s arms.

I can’t wait to see the drama that will arise due to the X-Men trying to figure out who the real Jean Grey is and the complexities of Scott trying to manage his romantic feelings now that he’s had a son (Nathan Charles Summers/Cable) with a woman who might be a “fake” Jean (Madelyne Pryor Nation, stand up!)

As for some of the sociopolitical commentary, the scene where a human doctor refused to perform a C-section on a pregnant Jean felt very real. Health workers withholding necessary aid to certain people because of their “beliefs” is very real, with the queer community experiencing quite a lot of such discrimination.

The scene where the X-Cutioner beat up Cyclops while wailing about how humans had it hard too, also felt real. Leave it to bigots to only focus on themselves and cry about being ignored and left behind when minorities stand up for equal rights.

Magneto’s speech to the UN and the rest of the world during his trial was powerful and, for some, will resonate with what’s currently going on concerning Palestine. I liked the stand that Magneto took after X-Cutioner’s attack. Even though Charles wanted Erik to continue his dream, I think it made sense for Erik to go about things differently. He’s done with asking for tolerance from humanity. It’s high time humans realized that mutants weren’t going anywhere. They needed to get with the program and think of ways to co-exist with mutantkind. Fighting mutants was only going to lead to more tragedy.

The only interaction I didn’t like was the one between Jean and Storm. I understand Jean not wanting to bring a child into a world that hates their kind, but I think the writers could have handled the scene a lot better considering Jean was talking to a Black woman. Even if you took away Storm’s mutant gift, she was still a Black woman living in 90s America. The discrimination and racism Ororo will face won’t simply go away even if she is only “human”, it will only change its form.

Speaking of making Ororo “human”, I get that certain fans didn’t like her losing her powers after taking the attack that was meant for Magneto. However, with how the X-Men ’92 tried to remain true to comic book lore, X-Men ’97 was bound to adapt the iconic Storm-centric ‘Lifedeath’ arc. Ororo needs to go on her upcoming journey to not only meet Forge but to also learn more about herself. Remember, in the comics, Storm’s more than just her mutation. She was able to lead the X-Men while powerless.

Now, whether or not Storm regaining her powers will be via Forge’s “cure” to counter the cellular-level impact of X-Cutioner’s attack or it will also tap into her Godhead (Magneto did bring up her Goddess title during the second episode) remains to be seen.

As a Storm fan, of course, I want to see her showcase more of her weather manipulation powers. But, again, narratively, Ororo has to go through the ‘Lifedeath’ ordeal to come back with an even bigger bang.

Some other thoughts and questions:

  • It felt like the writers were going to use Sunspot as an audience surrogate similar to how Jubilee was one during the OG series. But weirdly, they kind of dropped that aspect. At least, we got to know that Sunspot’s ashamed of being a mutant. He quickly learned that being rich wouldn’t save him from the FoH.
  • Jubilee using her powers while dancing looked nice.
  • With how much attention Wolverine tends to get, I’m kind of okay with him getting less screen time during the two-episode premiere. I want the writers to flesh out other characters instead of everything always being about Logan.
  • There’s a fan theory about Cooper being Mystique. Let’s see if that ends up being true.
  • Cyclops using his optic blast for a safe landing was cool as heck! The live-action Fox X-Men films did a lot of damage to Scott. Here’s to hoping the animated series and his inevitable inclusion in the MCU redeems him.

Did you watch X-Men ’97 season one Episodes 1 and 2?

What did you think of them?

Let us know.

X-Men ’97 Season One consists of 10 episodes (approximately 30 minutes each). The first two episodes were released on Disney+ on March 20, 2024. A second season is in development with a third season being in planning stages.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.


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