Thursday, July 25, 2013

X-Men (1992-1997)

SPOILER WARNING!!! This post spoils Dark Phoenix Saga as it was in Uncanny X-Men comics and animated X-Men series.

This could be named as Dark Phoenix Saga too. But I am not planning to write anything else about animated X-Men. X-Men is five seasons long animated series. Series takes characters and stories from comics, but put stories different order than in comics and have different characters in stories. Some stories are more faithful to source material than others. Problem of the series is that it is meant for kids. Meant for kids aspect grows as series goes on. Meant for kids problem is shown best in Dark Phoenix Saga. Dark Phoenix Saga was four episodes long and it was shown on third season. It followed source material so closely that they even added Chris Claremont's name to opening credits.

Little bit background for the story. Main character of story is Jean Grey. She had been in X-Men from the beginning and was sole female of original line-up. She became member of the "all-new, all-different" X-Men quite early on. That version of X-Men was the one that made X-Men popular. Series has almost that version of X-Men. Jean Grey had become powerful Phoenix. Professor X had added blocks to Jean Grey's head that prevented her to use all of her Phoenix powers. Comic didn't made it clear if Phoenix was different entity inside Jean Grey or was it just part of Jean Grey. Chris Claremont said later that he hadn't decided which was the case. Series made it clear that Phoenix was different entity.

Dark Phoenix Saga starts when Hellfire Club tries to brainwash Phoenix to join them. In series Hellfire Club was named Inner Circle. In comics Hellfire club removes block that prevented Phoenix to use all her powers. In series it was just brainwashing. Hellfire club wins X-Men, but Phoenix breaks free from brainwashing. X-Men wins following fight. In comic Phoenix make guy, that brainwashed her, insane. In series she changed that guys powers so that everyone sees him as he really is. In comics Hellfire Club stages it like X-Men are real bad guys and they are victims. Series never mention that angle.

After X-Men escape from Hellfire club, Phoenix turns into Dark Phoenix and starts fighting X-Men. In comic she did this because she wanted to cut ties to life she led as Jean Grey. In series it is more like Dark Phoenix is evil and It and Jean Grey fight for the control of Jean's body. After Dark Phoenix beat X-Men easily she goes outer space where she feeds on sun of another solar system. In comic inhabited planet orbits that sun. In series they make sure we understand that there are no inhabited planets. In comic she destroys Shi'ar spaceship after eating the sun. In series she just damages it.

Start to see pattern? It is understandable that they can't be as edgy on kid's animated tv series as in comics. Problem is that they changed the ending. To be fair ending of series is closer to original ending than actual ending Dark Phoenix Saga has. Destroying inhabited planet caused editorial controversy which meant that they couldn't use original ending. The changed ending is reason why this is one of the best known X-Men stories. After seeing ending that this series have, it is clearly better than original ending.

Fast forward to ending. After Phoenix ate sun, Professor X restores blocks in Jean's head. Shi'ar didn't like Phoenix destroying the sun. They want to kill her. Professor X challenges Shi'ar empire to duel for Jean Grey's life. Duel is between X-Men and Shi'ar empires superhero group in ruins of ancient civilization in moon. X-Men are about to lose the duel. But then Jean's love interest Cyclops falls and all blocks in her head are off. She becomes Dark Phoenix again. X-Men join the fight against Dark Phoenix. For a moment Dark Phoenix returns to Jean Grey. In series Phoenix leaves Jean Grey's body and everything is forgotten. They get back to their normal lives. In original ending Shi'ar empire took all powers from Jean Grey and she became normal human. Some of editorial team didn't like that ending after she destroyed inhabited planet.

In comic Jean Grey as other X-Men to kill her. They can't do that. So she kills herself with laser cannon she found from ruins. Jean Grey was important character in X-Men and in the end of this story she kills herself because she doesn't want to become Dark Phoenix again. That is what made this story so memorable. That doesn't everyday. In this case it required editorial controversy to happen. Without sacrifice this would have been just another cosmic comic story. Jean losing powers would not have made such impact. We know that because Storm lost her power later and it was not as big deal as Jean's sacrifice.

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