Our Complete Comics Guide to 'X-Men: The Animated Series’ S1 on Disney+
The first part to our Season 1 breakdown! Watch the X-Men cartoon that shaped a generation of comic fans.
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It could’ve been you. You may have been one of those kids, teens, or cartoon-loving adults, eagerly awaiting your Saturday morning fix. For a half hour, it became ritual. And part of that ritual was waiting an entire week for last episode’s cliffhanger to drop.
For those of you fans who were sucked into ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ from Day 1, this Reading Guide is for you. And for those of you who have never watched a single episode, this is also for you. Except this time, Original Crew, you won’t have to wait until next Saturday for your fix.
The entire 76-episode run of ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ is up on streaming hub Disney+, so you can revisit, re-enjoy, or watch this influential cartoon for the very first time. Running from 1992-1997, X-Men: ‘TAS’ now spans the globe with billions of views, cementing its status as something truly remarkable—a cartoon that doesn’t wear kid gloves. And for the big kid in all of us, it stands on its own nearly 30 years later.
Under the residence and tutelage of telepath Professor Charles Xavier: Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Jean Grey and youngest member Jubilee, devote their lives as X-Men. Beings born with remarkable power within and outside their control, they protect a world that hates and fears their existence. They are our underdogs, committed to peace despite humanity’s growing intolerance.
With multi-part storytelling, this show juggles comic book dazzle with complex themes. Much like the comics from which so many of its storylines are drawn, (see: the Phoenix Saga, X-Tinction Agenda, Days of Future Past), the look and voice of the X-Men rings true to their characters off the page. And of course, ‘TAS’ brings its own special something.
The voice cast is golden. The characters, rich yet full of fun. The costumes, still cosplayed today.
And the show’s still touted as paving the way for the X-Men’s cinematic age. And for some of us? That dang theme song defined a childhood.
Now, we’ve done the work so you don’t have to. Across 76 episodes and 5 seasons, we’ve chosen companion comics to accompany your binge watch, all available to read in Marvel Unlimited. But this is only the first part of our epic Season 1 crawl, so stay tuned for the next two parts, as well as our article series breaking down Seasons 2-5.
Also, we’re not kidding about that theme song.
EPISODES 1-2: NIGHT OF THE SENTINELS, PARTS 1-2
Jubilee is our lens into the X-Men, the team and found family she stumbles into accidentally. Through her, we learn all about the players we’ll come to know and understand: our team leaders, optic-blasting Cyclops, and Storm, who commands the weather at her beck and call. Jubilee will also meet Wolverine, a superhealer with an adamantium skeleton, keen senses, claws, and a swimming pool of secrets. There is also the warm and Southern Rogue, able to siphon another person’s powers and memories, coupled with strength, flight, and the invulnerability of Carol Danvers. We also have the bio-kinetic charger Gambit, the agile and intellectually impressive Beast, shapeshifter Morph, and Jean Grey, a telepath and telekinetic, whose full scope barely scratches the surface in Season 1.
Our opening two-parter lays down the primary “Big Bads” who will stick around in the worst way—the Mutant Control Agency (MCA), supported by Senator Robert Kelly and headed by federal go-getter Henry Peter Gyrich, and the Sentinel Program, funded by the MCA, and operated by engineer, Dr. Bolivar Trask. Both agencies have tapped into the public’s hysteria surrounding mutants, established from our opening news roll cameoing Sabretooth.
Trask is the one building the massive, mutant-hunting robots… the likes of which Jubilee encounters at her local mall when she’s arcade-ing away the blues. It’s still pretty fresh, it seems—Jubilee’s ability to manipulate light into explosive, firework grenades. It's scared the you-know-what out of her foster parents, and now she’s the very real target of a very real threat. When a Sentinel trails and nearly kidnaps her, off-duty Gambit, Rogue and Storm, are in the right place at the wrong time.
Jubilee gets to see two dazzling X-Women toss and electrocute the Sentinel like it’s a plastic toy. It’s an inspiring display of badassery, and an easy sell for Storm to recruit her into their fold. Once she’s awake. Jubilee recovers dazed and confused at the X-Men’s HQ, Professor Xavier’s mansion that is both their home and mission base.
It’s when the X-Men decide to infiltrate the Mutant Control Agency that our full stakes sink in. Obligated to destroy the registration files that could endanger so many other mutants, Professor X has little choice but to send off his team towards imminent disaster.
It’s at the battle for the MCA base, where Wolverine secures first place as Team Rebel. There’s some unspoken tension between “Logan” and Cyke, and we’re not sure where that’s stemming from yet...
Then, our first tragedy. Morph is killed by a Sentinel’s blast, and the team’s left reeling. Beast, a core member, is also apprehended and imprisoned—and he’ll remain that way for almost an entire season. With Beast benched, we get a further sense of loss, that the X-Men are now grieving and down a central member.
Jubilee’s rescued and “adopted” by the team, but there’s little resolution, or even hope. Gyrich and Trask will continue their Sentinel Program, bucking Presidential orders. And Morph’s death still looms largely, sharpening the X-Men’s purpose against the MCA.
This is their livelihood. On the daily, the X-Men face external challenges, always felt on a personal scale. Their world is an emotional and private one, rooted in shared freakishness and sacrifice.
COMICS TO READ:
Jubilee’s first appearance! Sparky mall-punk Jubilation Lee is tracked by the “M-Squad” following an impromptu fireworks show. Rogue, Storm, plus Dazzler and Psylocke intervene, and Jubilee follows these intriguing women back to their Australian base.
EPISODE 3: ENTER MAGNETO
The title says it all. Here, we’re introduced to Professor Xavier’s reverse mirror and the X-Men’s Day 1 enemy. Magneto gets the attention of the team when he carries out a terror attack at the detention center holding Beast. You see, up until this point we’ve only seen mutant vs. human. Now, we get to see a battle of ideologies when Magneto tempts the X-Men with an alternate path...
The cherry on top to this stuffed episode? The introduction of Sabretooth, the feral Weapon X washout who shares a shadowy past with Wolverine, and whose own relationship to Logan parallels whatever’s going on between Xavier and Magneto.
The depth of these characters is plucked from decades of comic history, all apparent in the backstory Xavier lays out. After Beast elucidates on why he must remain in custody, Magneto lets him be, but cripples the prison on his way out.
As Xavier tells Jubilee, Magneto and Charles were once colleagues. And what’s more, friends. Without either knowing the other was mutant, the two worked side by side at a mental hospital, where Charles used his “gifts” to heal patients with PTSD. But when a post-war uprising inspires “Magnus” to use his powers lethally, Xavier becomes a friend-in-arms. And “Magneto” the revolutionary is born.
Meanwhile, it’s the day of Beast’s trial. Our defendant makes an opening statement, quoting a little Bard and calling out the Mutant Control Agency, but it’s not enough. Beast is denied bail, and just as he’s quipping about Dostoyevsky, we meet the episode’s second Big Bad, the sadistic Sabretooth.
There is NO order in the court, as Wolverine immediately thrashes out, but conveniently, Sabretooth's taken down by laser gun-wielding bailiffs . The wildman's in rough shape, and Cyclops is pressed to bring Sabretooth back to the mansion. This leads to the Prof and Logan having a stern, grumbly stare-off, scored by a sick guitar riff.
The final act of our episode hearkens back to the X-Men’s debut issue, UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #1. It has many of the same trappings—Magneto’s hijacking of a missile base, his doom and gloom prophecies. Magneto, in all his glory, is righteous, even though the means don’t justify the cause. And after hurling Cyclops, Storm and Wolverine around like playthings, “Magnus” is gone in a flash, leaving the senior members to deactivate three nuclear warheads that are now beginning to launch...
COMICS TO READ:
The X-Men, and Magneto's, debut. Mutantkind’s ideological war was the X-Men’s leading conflict from the get-go.
Xavier and Magneto’s first meeting at the mental hospital in Haifa, Israel. We begin to see why these idealists are drawn to each other. Here, the two reveal that they are both mutants while rescuing a young patient named Gabrielle Haller from Nazi Hydra commandos.
Charles and Magnus’ history is further fleshed out. Take a peek twenty years in their past, as we see a deep cut of their memories from Haifa. Considered a prelude to the Age of Apocalypse event, curated here.
EPISODE 4: DEADLY REUNIONS
Now under Xavier’s care, Sabretooth is mentally poked and prodded as part of his “rehabilitation”. By living through his torment as Victor Creed, Xavier hopes to understand the trauma that’s behind the rage. Unsurprisingly, Wolverine’s having none of this. It’s true that Xavier may have been able to bring Logan back to humanity, but Creed’s a whole ‘nother animal.
Meanwhile, Magneto’s plotting his second blow to humanity, this time choosing a chemical plant as the battleground. Storm, Cyclops and Rogue are off in response, leaving Jubilee alone with Sabretooth. It’s not an ideal setup, sure, but they’re short-staffed tonight.
The stand down at Metro Chem is the centerpiece. Magneto all but wipes the floor with the X-Men, and a combustible playing field really ups the drama. Storm is crushed by rubble, Cyclops is knocked out, and after resuscitating him, Rogue’s absorbed Cyke’s eye beams and is now flying blind. In short, it’s a mess.
Back at the mansion, Jubilee’s watching the news. Senator Kelly has just declared his candidacy for President, mongering fear through Magneto’s attacks. Sabretooth’s been garnering her sympathy this entire time. Once he’s freed from restraints, Creed’s psycho nature can’t be contained. There is no progress for a man like him, and Wolverine’s only too happy to throw in for another round, although he’s shredded to ribbons. And still manages to squeeze out prime smack talk…
Professor X is forced to acknowledge two things by episode’s end: that today he has failed, and that Magneto’s blunt power may be too much for his X-Men alone.
COMICS TO READ:
After losing total control of his senses (X-MEN UNLIMITED #3), Sabretooth’s imprisoned at the mansion for a good chunk of time, (continued in UNCANNY X-MEN #311-317). Want a bonus story? Try #33 for Gambit’s first run-in with Sabretooth.
See whether a monster is born or created in Creed’s definitive origin. Here, Sabretooth pulls off his first birthday “party” for Logan, and the Weapon X organization enters its earliest days...
A comic series based off the animated show! Jubilee earns her stripes when she takes on an unhinged Sabretooth solo. And, just like the episode, she gets in some great swipes.
That’s a wrap on the first part to Season 1, folks! So, get watching/reading, and in the meantime, stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3, coming this week.
We’ll play you out with some mind-blowingly 90s graphics…
CONTINUE WITH PART 2 OF OUR SEASON 1 GUIDE!
Read these uncanny tales and other essential X-Men stories in Marvel Unlimited today, along with thousands of other comics starring favorite mutants and more. Stay tuned for our Season 2 Reading Guide, and in the meantime, tell us which of these X-Men comics you’ll be reading with #MarvelUnlimited. And remember to stay posted to Marvel’s Twitter and Facebook for more weekly announcements and updates!
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