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A Beginner's Guide to X-Men ‘97

Here's what you need to know before the epic, three-episode finale.

The trailer from X-Men '97 depicts the mutants in the blackbird jet
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  • Photo Credit: Marvel Entertainment / YouTube

At long last, an animated version of the X-Men has returned to TV. (And don't worry: The incredible theme song is back, too.)

If you grew up in the ‘80s or ’90s, you might already be familiar with X-Men: The Animated Series. Released on Fox and directed by Larry Houston, the animated series ran for five seasons and 76 episodes from October 31, 1992 until September 20, 1997. X-Men featured some of our favorites in the Marvel universe, from Wolverine to Madame Web and Spider-Man, while focusing primarily on characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, Storm, Beast, and Professor X. 

While X-Men: The Animated Series was created for children, it had no shortage of high drama, self-sacrifice, and emotional stakes that can make a grown man cry. 

Now, the mutants are back with X-Men ‘97. The Disney+ revival debuted on March 20 to a warm reception, including a 98% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Alex Abad-Santos at Vox writes in his glowing review, “Everything about '97 reflects an affection and thoughtfulness, not just for the Saturday morning cartoon but for the X-Men, too.” 

As Season 1 reaches its long-awaited three-episode finale, this quick guide can help you get up to speed faster than old Quicksilver himself.

How Does X-Men '97 Relate to X-Men: The Animated Series?

The Disney+ revival acts as a direct sequel, which begins one year after the conclusion of The Animated Series. If you're a fan of the MCU, you might think of X-Men ‘97 like a new phase of the X-Men’s story, where some characters have moved on and those who remain must form their own identity. 

Some of the actors have even returned to the project, as contributors like Alison Sealy-Smith (Storm), Cal Dodd (Wolverine), Lenore Zann (Rogue), George Buza (Beast), and Adrian Hough (Nightcrawler) all reprised their roles. There are plenty of other familiar voices, too, as previous vocal actors like Catherine Disher and Chris Potter returned to give life to new characters.

Astonishing X-Men

Astonishing X-Men

By Peter David

Looking for more X-Men content? Try Gifted by Peter David. The novel is adapted from a graphic novel by Joss Whedon and John Cassady, bringing fresh life to a story about Cyclops and Emma Frost as they try to reunite their team of mutants. 

Unfortunately, before they can even begin, news about the mutant gene spreads across the world and the demand for a mutant cure turns into riots. Battling public perception and fearsome enemies like the enigmatic Ord, the X-Men find themselves pushed to the limit.

X-Men '97 Episode List (Spoiler Warning)

Season 1

Episode 1: “To Me, My X-Men”

One year after Professor Charles Xavier left Earth with the alien Shi'ar, the X-Men continue the professor's mission despite UN sanctions. They save a young mutant named Roberto da Costa and seek supervillain Bolivar Trask, who created anti-mutant tech called Sentinel. 

A pregnant Jean Grey receives a premonition that pushes her to leave the X-Men along with Cyclops, but their plans are cut short when Magneto arrives and reveals that Professor Xavier gave him control of the mutants.

IMDb rating: 8.4

Episode 2: “Mutant Liberation Begins”

Though Magneto appears to be on good behavior, even submitting to a UN arrest, Cyclops and Jean decide to stay to keep an eye on him. During Magneto's trial, a terrorist attack by the Friends of Humanity leave Storm permanently without her power.

Meanwhile, Jean goes into labor. The only problem? Their obstetrician refuses to deliver a mutant's child. Rogue absorbs the doctor's knowledge with her gift and delivers baby Nathan herself. 

Magneto is pardoned when he stops the terrorist, and Storm chooses to leave the team. Then, a woman who seems identical to Jean arrives.

IMDb rating: 9.1

Episode 3: “Fire Made Flesh”

It turns out that the woman Cyclops believed to be his wife is actually a clone, made by Mister Sinister to access her and Cyclops's DNA. When Sinister takes control of the clone's mind, she gives Nathan to him and the X-Men are forced to seek the baby in one of Sinister's labs.

They manage to recover Nathan, but not before he's infected with a virus. Nathan is given to a time-traveler named Bishop in the hope that he can find a cure.

The clone, once free of Sinister's mind control, changes her name to Madelyne Pryor and leaves, while Storm is given an opportunity to reclaim her power. 

IMDb rating: 8.6

Episode 4: “Motendo/Lifedeath - Part 1” 

Split into two arcs, Episode 4 follows Jubilee on her 18th birthday as she celebrates with Roberto. They're pulled into a video game by the alien slave-master Mojo. When they manage to free themselves, Jubilee kisses Roberto.

Meanwhile, in the other arc, Storm is taken to a strange machine that seems to fail in restoring her power. However, when Storm tries to leave, a demon called the Adversary arrives and brings her back. 

IMDb rating: 7.1

Episode 5: “Remember It”

After the ordeal with Nathan and the clone, Jean struggles with her identity. She kisses Wolverine, but he rejects her. 

Meanwhile, Magneto, Rogue, and Gambit go to Genosha, where Rogue reveals that she had a secret relationship with Magneto. However, after kissing Magneto, she realizes her mistake in choosing him over Gambit.

When the time-traveling Cable arrives, Madelyne (the Jean clone) realizes that it's acctually Nathan as an adult. Cable offers a grave warning about the danger to come. In order to save them from the danger, Gambit sacrifices himself. 

IMDb rating: 9.8

Episode 6: “Lifedeath - Part 2”

It's revealed that Professor Xavier has been healed and is now engaged to Shi'ar empress Lilandra Neramani. When he learns of Gambit's death, however, Xavier decides he will soon return to Earth.

Storm manages to regain her powers and fight off the demon. She, too, learns about the attack, which was carried out by Mister Sinister. He warns fellow villain Bolivar Trask that this is all just the beginning.

IMDb rating: 8.0

Episode 7: “Bright Eyes”

After Gambit's funeral, Rogue gets information from Captain America that leads her to Mexico. She manages to collect valuable intel before joining the rest of the X-Men in Madripoor, where they hunt for Trask. Rogue finds him and drops to his death, which sets off a chain reaction that forces Cable to arrive again and save the day.

Cable reveals that Sinister is working with Bastion, and that Bastion has captured Magneto.

IMDb rating: 8.8

Episode 8: “Tolerance Is Extinction - Part 1”

Cable has one more warning: Bastion will soon start a 300-year war that will leave the mutants as slaves. In order to stop it, Xavier returns to Earth and Magneto finds himself freed as the X-Men are reunited at long last. 

IMDb rating: 9.1

Now you're all caught up. With the release of Episode 8, there are only two more entries in the 10-episode arc. It should be a helluva ride.

Will There Be More X-Men After Season 1?

Don't you worry: There's more action to come! Season 2 has already been confirmed, and we can't wait to see what's next.

Featured image: Marvel Entertainment / YouTube