X Men: Evolution (2000-2003) is the long forgotten animated series that was seen as either a hit or a miss among new and old X-Men fans alike. As the successor of the highly-rated 90’s X-Men cartoon, many people were upset at how Evolution strayed away from this series and, consequently, the original comics. Targeted towards a much younger audience, the latter show placed more focus on developing the social dynamic of the X-Men as high school youth over their lives as young adult mutant superheroes.
Despite the series’ stray from its origin, its premise was refreshing in the world of animation at the time of its broadcast. Its characterization is exceptionally strong, especially for having such a large ensemble of protagonists—each character managed to get their turn in the spotlight. And because the series focuses on the personal life of the X-Men, the characters are much more relatable and grounded (as much as superhero teenagers can be at least).
What stands out the most about X-Men: Evolution is its unexpected complexity in covering of a wide array of social issues including: anxiety, discrimination, racism, homelessness, crime, depression, and so on. The cartoon isn’t afraid to visit the nitty-gritty aspects of life, and although subtle at times, many of its messages are both powerful and relevant to this day.
The Brotherhood for example is a group of mutant delinquents who are the self-proclaimed rivals of the X-Men. The members are abandoned youth who are taken in by an antagonist, Mystique as her personal pawns to carry out seemingly sinister schemes.
From stealing test answers to actual cash, the Brotherhood members are far from heroes; however, they aren’t portrayed as villains either.
Instead the series presents them as a group of youth who have gone through various unfortunate events, so do what they can to make ends meet. Unfortunately, sometimes this just means breaking the rules. Although the series’s central focus is on the X-Men, catching up with the Brotherhood is always an insightful experiences; and although they’re far from perfect, they have plenty of subtle compassion that persuades the audience to forgive their wrongdoings.
Although social issues aren’t the central focus of the series, it definitely adds strength to its overall narrative.
As a whole, X-Men: Evolution didn’t receive nearly as much credit as it deserves, and has been forgotten in the crowded pool of cartoon classics. Animated television has been increasing in narrative quality, so we can only hope that it will reach the heights of what the late 90s and early 2000s had to offer.
A/N: X-Men: Evolution, although not the most highly-acclaimed series I’ve laid my eyes on, is my favorite television program of all time. I have a soft spot for the show and it’s multitude of characters. Despite having such a large ensemble, and no clear main character, the series manages to showcase the personalities of our core X-Men group, along with subsequent additions.
Each character feels like a real person going through realistic struggles. And unlike many superhero films and television programs, these characters are people first, while being heroes second. Their motives are very self focused: to master their abilities so that they’re capable of living normal lives.
However, these teens grow into the perspective of “with great power comes great responsibility”. They slowly learn that their abilities can be used to positively influence the world; hence, it’s their civil duty to do so. With this said, X-Men: Evolution is not a story of destiny and perseverance, it’s a story of obligation and forced growth.
The series is complex in a plethora of ways. I can only begin to unpack what the series has to offer, and perhaps one day will write an in-depth review on this gem of the animated world.