X-Men ’97 Recap Guide: Everything You Need To Remember From The Animated Series

X-Men 97

by David Opie |
Published on

Superheroes never really die, and that's especially true of the X-Men. Across multiple comics, films, and cartoons, Marvel's merry band of mutants have been resurrected time and time again in various forms and protocols. Yet, for fans of a certain age, the only adaptation that really matters is X-Men: The Animated Series, a beloved cartoon that took on mammoth storylines such as the Dark Phoenix saga and Days Of Future Past with impressive comic book accuracy. In fact, an entire generation was raised on nothing more than those original five seasons and a bowl of cereal every Saturday morning from 1992 to 1997 (not counting reruns). But now, three decades on, the series that started it all — and that theme tune, of course — is rising like a phoenix of its own with a new sequel show from none other than Marvel Studios.

Being a direct continuation of The Best X-Men Adaptation Ever Made™, X-Men '97 has a lot to live up to – the kind of pressure that even an omega-level mutant like Jean Grey might struggle to manage to bear without losing consciousness. But thankfully, it's not the ‘90s anymore, Marvel Girl no longer faints every ten seconds, and plenty else has changed too – especially in the aftermath of the original series finale.

Previously, on X-Men, a dying Charles Xavier left his team and planet Earth itself behind to seek treatment on the Shi’ar homeworld, forcing Cyclops to step up and take his place as team leader – a major shift heading into X-Men ’97. But that's not all that happened. Even if you've been rewatching the original animated series on Disney+ — or better yet, you've already worn out your beloved VHS collection at home — there's still plenty you'll need to remember before stepping back into the X-Mansion again after all these years.

That's where we come in. Slip on some yellow spandex, charge up your CD walkman as we da-na-na-na-NAAAA DUN-DUN our way into the past and reveal everything you need to know before starting X-Men '97.

1) Charles Xavier is gone

In the very last episode of the original series, titled ‘Graduation Day’, known "mutie" hater Henry Gyrich attacked Xavier in public with a device that overloaded his psychic powers, exposing Charles's mutant identity to the world. The resulting anti-mutant hysteria amongst humans riled up troubled mutants in turn who united with Magneto – Xavier's ex-bestie – to start a war against non-powered people.

With the X-Men's headmaster in a coma, the team realised that the key to Xavier's survival might lie beyond the stars with a little help from Lilandra, his lover – who just so happens to be Empress of the Shi’ar Empire. With no time to physically fly out and reach her, Jean, Cyclops, and Wolverine headed to the mutant nation of Genosha to enlist Magneto's help instead. Using his powers, the Master of Magnetism was able to augment Xavier's telepathy enough to reach Lilandra so that she could come and rescue him before he died. In doing so, Magneto had to give up on his fight against humanity, choosing his old friend over the victory he'd longed for all those years.

An emotional goodbye ensued as the team said farewell to their mentor, and audiences said goodbye to the show. X-Men '97 picks up directly from where that episode left off, with Cyclops now in charge. But this being the X-Men, things don't stay that way for long…

2) Magneto has a major new responsibility

X-Men 97

Despite Magneto largely causing headaches for the X-Men, he and Xavier always had a long-standing respect for each other, despite their differences – stemming from their once-strong friendship, which broke when they couldn't agree on how mutants should exist alongside humans. While Charles believed peaceful co-existence was possible, and vital even, Magneto saw war as inevitable, and he wasn't going to wait around to let the "flatscans" (humans) win.

That all changed, though, in the aftermath of the original ‘90s show. Following Magneto's team-up with the X-Men in the series finale, it's not long until they're faced with the idea of working together again in X-Men '97 since Charles asked the metal-manipulator to take over the school in his absence (as seen in the first full-length trailer). This probably won't go down well, surprisingly enough, given the whole "mastermind supervillain" schtick — especially for Cyclops, as he was the one supposed to be left in charge. So did the Professor really leave the school and his entire fortune to his arch nemesis?

In the comics, Magneto did once upon a time run the Academy in Xavier's absence, wearing the same outfit he dons here. That didn't end too well, but that's not to say history will repeat itself in X-Men '97. Still, it's not easy leading Xavier's mutants at the best of times, and Magneto isn't exactly the most easygoing guy in the world.

3) Morph is officially part of the X-Team now

X-Men 97

When it comes to easygoing, the non-binary shape-shifting Morph (a longstanding member of the team who goes by they/them pronouns) is probably the chillest hero in the X-Men. Well, until they're reminded of that time they were almost killed by giant killer robots, the Sentinels, in the very first episode of the ‘90s ‘toon. Or when Mister Sinister turned Morph against the X-Men and basically ruined everyone's lives in Season 2. Or how about when Morph finally returned to the team, but was paralysed by fear again when their first mission back involved those pesky Sentinels? To be fair to the team's resident shape-shifter, they did manage to overcome their PTSD long enough to destroy the remains of the chief Sentinel named Master Mold.

After that, Morph left the X-Men again, unsure whether they were fit to fight alongside the team – but they're back in the new series as a fully-fledged member, now with a bit of a facelift, swapping out that lanky hair and baggy eyes for a smoother, clay-like face. While Morph looks more comfortable than ever in their shape-shifting skin, some of their old insecurities will likely play a big role again in X-Men '97, especially as we already know that a familiar, sinister figure is set to return as the new Big Bad…

4) Mister Sinister is on the rise

X-Men: The Animated Series

Now that Magneto has his very own suite in the X-Mansion — and probably a regular spot in the X-Gym too, if those X-Guns are anything to go by — a new Big Bad will take centre stage, and this time around, it's Mister Sinister. The evil geneticist — a mad genius from the Victorian era with a penchant for cloning, who wields an impressive set of psionic powers — has plagued the team for years already, especially back in Season 2 of the original show. But Nathaniel Essex, as he's also known, will step things up big time in X-Men '97.

The last time we saw Mister Sinister, he was running off after reluctantly teaming up with the X-Men and Magneto to fight off the Phalanx alien invasion. With that truce now over, the red-eyed geneticist is determined to continue his research into the mutant gene and reignite his obsession with the Summers' bloodline, specifically. That means Jean Grey and Scott Summers will need to keep their eyes — and visor — open at all times if they're to fend off his sinister ways and protect the baby bump we've already seen Jean carry in the trailer.

5) There’s Fleetwood Mac levels of coupling-up

X-Men 97

With all that physical training and skintight spandex on display, it's only natural that the X-Men would pair off and find love within the team. It's not like they're going to meet anyone well-adjusted enough to settle down with from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, is it?

Jean Grey and Scott Summers are the pinup couple, and always have been – although Wolverine's unrequited love for Jean (aka Marvel Girl) has often complicated things somewhat, and fans can expect the same again this time around too. Jean loves the attention, and honestly, good for her. Who wouldn't want two superheroes pining after you, staring endlessly at a memeable framed photo of your face?

Then there's Rogue and Gambit, whose connection is stronger even than Rogue herself. The only problem is that the pair can never physically touch each other without Rogue's abilities automatically sucking away Gambit's life force. That's not ideal at the best of times, and while it seems as though the pair have come to terms with this obstacle, you never know what could happen in the future… (Well, Rogue's foster mother Destiny would, thanks to her precognitive abilities – but she’s saying nothing.)

6) Bishop is back, back, back

X-Men 97

When the team returns in X-Men '97, they're joined by a new member: the time travelling mutant code-named Bishop. Well, he's not new new. As longtime fans might recall, Bishop did pop up occasionally in the 90s cartoon, most notably in the Days of Future Past storyline where he travelled back from a dystopian future to prevent the Sentinels from murdering the mutant population in his timeline. After that, Bishop would show up again sporadically, using his energy absorption powers to kick ass and take names, yet he was never given the full time spot on the team that he deserved.

Bringing Bishop in now as a key player for the new series makes a lot of sense. He has a lot of history with the original series, but his addition here still adds some new blood to the team. And make no mistake – Bishop will spill blood if anyone like Apocalypse rocks up to try and kick-start another dystopian future for mutant-kind.

X-Men ‘97 streams on Disney+ from 20 March

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