|X-Men: The Animated Series - Volumes 3 and 4|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Wednesday, 23 September 2009|
"X-Men" is noted as being one of the first animated cartoons to have a continuing storyline from episode to episode. However, these began to drop a about season three. Therefore these two volumes of "X-Men" contain more one-off episodes. Nevertheless, these episodes are terrific. It is hard to find fault in the entire series, as it is so entertaining. The characters are emotionally deep for a cartoon. The only real issue is that the episodes become more loosely based on the comic book as the seasons progress. For example, "Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas" is a simply thrown in for fun.
The first two volumes of this series contain 33 of the 76 episodes. These next two volumes contain another 29 episodes, bringing the total among the four volumes to 62 episodes. That means, with any luck, there will be one more volume with the final 14 episodes, which would be all of season five and one episode considered to be season four.
Volume three of "X-Men" contains two discs with the first disc containing the acclaimed Dark Phoenix saga. This is one of the sagas that was nicely adapted from the comic book and later butchered by the feature films. The second disc in the third volume contains more random episodes, but some good ones at that. "Nightcrawler" and "The Juggernaut Returns" are exciting episodes.
The forth volume contains the remaining 14 episodes of the 29 present. Disc one of this volume contains the Beyond Good and Evil saga as well as the Proteus and Sanctuary two-parters. Once again the second disc has more random episodes.
So here has been the problem with these releases. "X-Men" always had one of the most confusion episode orders of all time. There were three orders to the episodes: The production order, script order and aired order. It seems that the studio is going off the production order, which is a real shame. The best order to follow is the script order. This was the order intended to be followed by the writers. Therefore the storylines are more aligned in the script order. The production order is different, based on the order in which the studio put them to the animation team. The airdate is yet another order in which the studio received the finished episodes. That is why there are some episodes that belong in season three that weren't aired until an entire season later. So, if you want to experience the order in which the writers intended, you are going to have to do some jumping around. Wikipedia has a great page devoted to the script order of the X-Men episodes.
Sadly, the video presentation of these two volumes are nearly identical to the previous two volumes. The transfers seem to have gone uncorrected. The color palette is still washed out. The black levels don't help to provide any pop to the image. There seems to be a layer of fuzz across the screen. I know that these episodes can look much better. I wish the studio used the transfer streams that have been supplied to Disney for the Disney XD channel. Those airings look much sharper and more impressive. So while the image quality is roughly the same for all four volumes I will have to ding the rating score for this second set as they had to opportunity to fix the quality.
The audio is presented in Dolby Stereo Surround encoded streams. I found that playing them back as stereo is much better than processing them with Dolby ProLogic. The dialogue is weak but slightly better than in the previous volumes. The overall audio track is very dull, missing that high-end crispness. I would like to say that this track is faithful to the original airing of the episodes back in the mid-90s. However, alas, I cannot. Back in the original airings of the episodes television was still broadcast using analog technology. Therefore the audio came to us as a raw data stream. On the DVD the audio has been muxed together and allocated a tiny amount of data space as compared with an analog broadcast. Therefore the data compression done to the audio track on these DVDs all by destroys the original audio experience. Again, the rating gets dinged because the studio could have spent time to clean this up.
There are no special features for either volume. The packaging comes with a shiny slipcover and there are a few subtitles, but that is all.
The "X-Men" animated series is arguably one of the best ever since the start of the 90s. While the quality is not up to par, it is still nice to have these episodes archived. The source material may not have been in the best shape to begin with, but I'm betting the studio could have done more for this series. Nevertheless, it goes without question that fans must own this collection.