X-Men ’97 1×04 Review: “Motendo / Lifedeath – Part 1”

X-Men 97 season 1 episode 4 review Motendo Lifedeath Part 1
Jubilee vs Mojo in ‘Motendo / Lifedeath – Part 1’ (Screengrab: X-Men 97 Season 1 Episode 4)

X-Men 97 season 1 episode 4, titled ‘Motendo / Lifedeath – Part 1’, decided to feature two storylines with one focusing on Jubilee getting a dangerous surprise for her 18th birthday and the second kickstarting the iconic ‘Lifedeath’ arc for Storm.

Let’s begin by talking about ‘Motendo’. With Jubilee excited about celebrating her 18th birthday, Magneto put a downer on her plans by wanting the X-Men to go through Danger Room exercises instead. However, Jubilee still got a surprise via a gaming console placed in her room by Mojo.

I liked how the virtual world of the video game connected to Jubilee’s origin as a gamer. She’s all about the action arcade games. And while I do feel she should have been a bit suspicious about the strange gaming console popping up in her room, I understand why she turned it on because hey! We have a story to tell here. Just enjoy the ride.

The video game segments were filled with nostalgia, with a large chuck of Jubilee and Sunspot’s adventure taking place in, basically, the retro X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse video game from 1994. Of course, with it being created by Mojo, if Jubilee and Roberto died in the game, they would die in real life, too.

The missions they faced allowed Sunspot to share a bit more of his feelings with Jubilee. From my understanding, he kept his mutation a secret because of some kind of internal shame. Apparently, Roberto’s mother was empathic enough to realize that not every single mutant was bad. However, due to the mutant-related destruction and anti-mutant propaganda being shown on TV, Roberto doubled down and went along with the narrative of mutants being bad people.

For some viewers, Roberto’s shame mirrored the internalized homophobia queer individuals experience, with some of them going as far as trying to pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation while staying in the closet.

Mojo wanting to play with Jubilee linked to him trying to reach a younger audience because according to him, the rest of the X-Men were a bit too old and had drama that wasn’t enticing enough. His reasoning also related to Jubilee’s 18th birthday and how the video game world was a way for her to not worry about growing older.

The lesson Jubilee learned about the importance of living in the real world and allowing herself to age and experience life wasn’t a unique one. But I still enjoyed what ‘Motendo’ had to offer, especially when it was revealed that the “bug” helping Jubilee and Roberto was an older version of Jubilee (one of many that Mojo created to beta test the game).

Frankly, Jubilee’s never been considered one of the most powerful X-Men by the fandom at large. However, that’s been slowly changing with recent comic book stories diving more into her ability to generate pyrotechnic energy plasmoids. She’s more than just sparkly fireworks. Given the circumstances, she’s a walking talking atomic bomb. We have already seen Jubilee create an atomic explosion in the comics. So, it was nice to see her get a much-needed upgrade in the animated series as well.

The older Jubilee was able to skate across the ground by generating “fireworks” from her feet. She could also create energy discs that were sharp enough to slice through Mojo’s tech-legs. And, by joining forces, the younger Jubilee created a big explosion to defeat Mojo.

I’m not the biggest Jubilee fan out there, but I greatly enjoyed seeing her tap into her potential and showcase what she could really do if she continued to test the limits of her powers. Those Danger Room exercises really came through.

With Jubilee and Sunspot escaping the video game and deciding to make out in Jubilee’s room, the episode then switched gears and dropped us in with Storm and Forge. For people familiar with the comic book story, you could tell that Forge’s connection to the development of the mutation-suppressing tech was going to come up. And it sure did.

X-Men 97 Season 1 Episode 4 review
The Adversary captures Storm in ‘Motendo / Lifedeath – Part 1’ (Screengrab: X-men 97 Season 1 Episode 4)

Even though Forge stated he loved Ororo, her reaction to such a horrible revelation was understandable. Like she said, how could someone like Forge trust the government? And again, Forge saying he loved Storm was a bit too quick considering they haven’t spent much time together. In Ororo’s eyes, Forge was trying to help her regain her powers as some sort of way to redeem himself. And Ororo wasn’t going to be played with like that.

The episode took a creepy turn when the demonic Adversary showed up. I liked how the writers hinted at something not being right with the place Ororo and Forge were staying at. Kudos to the animation team for making the Adversary’s entrance (resembling a demonic owl) feel sinister.

According to the Adversary, he fed on despair and Ororo (due to struggling with her feelings after losing her powers) made for a very delicious meal he didn’t want to waste. Forge is clearly familiar with the Adversary. So, it will be interesting to see the backstory Forge will provide and how Ororo will be able to defeat such a dark being.

Forge did make Storm stand inside a machine to try and reverse the anti-mutation inside her body. However, it didn’t work. And because X-Men 97 has had Magneto and Forge call Storm a Goddess, I’m hoping that the narrative will push Ororo to tap into her Godhead (her birthright) and realize that her mutant powers never left her. She just needed to find a different route to access them. Storm needed to accept her divinity.

I mean, if that actually happened come ‘Lifedeath – Part 2’ (episode 6), I won’t be able to contain myself!

Some other thoughts:

  • Apparently, Scott and Jean were busy giving a speech in front of the UN due to Genosha entering the political worldscape. With all of the drama the two went through due to the Goblin Queen, I want to see the two interact. Hopefully, we will get that in the upcoming episode.
  • Yes, I clocked The Matrix reference with Jubilee and Sunspot using a telephone to travel inside the video game.
  • Storm not being able to connect with the weather after testing out Forge’s machine made for a well-animated emotional sequence. Due to the nature of her powers, Storm doesn’t feel whole anymore.
  • Magneto’s being a bit too sassy toward Gambit. I really want Rogue to talk to Gambit and clear the air when it comes to her past with Magneto. Again, I don’t think Rogue will rekindle her romance with Mags. But Gambit might need some reassurance.

What did you think of X-Men 97 season one episode 4 ‘Motendo / Lifedeath – Part 1’?

Let us know.

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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