In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
The X-Men Animated Series “gets” the entire concept of the X-Men in several ways, but perhaps mostly through its treatment of the main “villain,” Magneto. Instead of treating him like the standard “big bad” of other animated superhero series, the X-Men Animated Series treats him as a much more complex and at times even sympathetic figure, once again using the original comics as a template. The two-part storyline “Sanctuary” again portrays this angry, vengeful, and extremely powerful mutant leader with a great deal of sympathy and complexity, even when the story revolving around him is admittedly rather broad and silly.
The first part of “Sanctuary” opens with Magneto invading a session of the United Nations in order to publicly invite any persecuted mutants to join him in escaping their human oppressors on a self-sustaining asteroid that he commands and that will finally give them a peaceful existence free of prejudice and hate. This announcement of course gains the attention of Xavier, who joins Beast and Gambit aboard the flying mutant sanctuary dubbed Asteroid M on one of its mass pickups to see exactly what it offers and hopefully ease the worries of the regular human population of Earth. As Magneto and his acolytes journey to Genosha to forcefully remove a group of persecuted mutants and running afoul of a group of Sentinels, Xavier notices that Magneto’s powers are weakening and that he relies on a fellow mutant named Fabian Cortez to recharge them. Once aboard the asteroid, they meet more of Magneto’s inner circle, including a jilted former love of Xavier’s and an acquaintance from Gambit’s past. Anxious to gain revenge over their human oppressors, Cortez goes over Magneto’s head and launches one of their purloined missiles at Earth, to his leader’s chagrin. Cortez quickly shows his true colors, luring the weakened Magneto into an escape pod and launching him into space, framing the X-Men for his leader’s disappearance and preparing to take control of Asteroid M as the episode ends.
Part two of “Sanctuary” begins with Xavier, Beast, and Gambit evading capture from Magneto’s vengeful Acolytes, with Gambit remaining on board as Xavier and Beast escape the asteroid with the team of human asteroids that Magneto kidnapped. After returning to Earth and mourning the apparent death of his former colleague, Xavier and Beast fill the rest of the team in on what happened, with Rogue especially concerned with Gambit still on the asteroid, and they use the advanced technology they gained from the Shi’ar to enable the Blackbird to travel back to Asteroid M. Aboard the asteroid, Xavier’s ex Amelia begins to doubt Cortez’s authenticity and helps him escape while the X-Men invade the asteroid to rescue Gambit and avoid a nuclear confrontation with Earth. Amelia swipes security footage that incriminates Cortez in Magneto’s disappearance while Beast begins to disarm the asteroid’s missiles and Rogue and Wolverine fight their way through those still loyal to Cortez before they turn on him once his treachery is revealed. Meanwhile, Magneto proves himself to be not quite dead and returns in time to destroy the remaining missiles launched by Cortez toward Earth and regain control of Asteroid M. Magneto destroys the asteroid after it is evacuated, once again refusing Xavier’s offer to join the X-Men and form a united front for human / mutant equality. The episode closes with Cortez waking up in the presence of Apocalypse and the Shi’ar villain known as Deathbird, whose plans for the disgraced mutant will more than likely be revealed in future episodes.
There is a lot of good within these two episodes, such as a deeper look into Magneto’s past, a somewhat decent explanation as to why both the X-Men and Magneto can now travel into space, and a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo from Black Panther, and yet somehow this two-part storyline doesn’t quite come together in a truly satisfactory way. I found the characterization and voice performance of the maniacally vengeful Cortez too comically over the top to be truly threatening, sounding at times like a bad Kirk Douglas impression, and Amelia’s sudden change of heart comes right out of left field without a great deal of nuance. The final threat of the launched missiles also could have been milked a little more for suspense and tension instead of almost immediately being neutralized by Magneto’s sudden appearance. The lack of a truly gripping narrative and the relative ease in which Cortez’s lie is exposed make this a deeply flawed storyline that pales in comparison to some of the more epic tales featured this season, despite the always welcome presence of the Master of Magnetism. Both parts of “Sanctuary” earn 3 out of 5 Groovy Space Suits.