X-Men: Evolution is an American animated television series about the Marvel Comics superhero team, the X-Men. In this incarnation, many of the characters are teenagers rather than adults. The series ran for a total of four seasons (52 episodes) from November 2000 until October 2003 on Kids' WB, which has made it the third longest-running Marvel Comics animated series, behind only Fox Kids' X-Men: The Animated Series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series. The series then moved to Cartoon Network. In 2003 the series began airing on Cartoon Network's SVES programming block and in 2004 it began airing on Cartoon Network's Miguzi programming block. The series began running on Disney XD on June 15, 2009.
The first season introduces the core characters and lays the foundations for future story lines. Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Jean Grey make up the original X-Men. As the season develops, the ranks of the X-Men are bolstered by the appearance of Nightcrawler in the first episode, Shadowcat in the second, Spyke in the fifth and Rogue (who originally joins the Brotherhood in the third episode) in the seventh. In the later episodes of this season, Nightcrawler discovers the identity of his birth mother, Wolverine finds answers to his past, Rogue switches sides to join the X-Men and Xavier's half-brother, Juggernaut, is released from his prison.
Confrontations are typically with the Brotherhood, who vie for new recruits with the X-Men over the course of the season. Toad is the first to be introduced, followed by Avalanche, Blob and Quicksilver. The Brotherhood, led by Mystique, are in fact being directed by a higher power, the identity of whom was "revealed" in the two-part season finale as being Magneto. After Cyclops discovers that his brother Alex actually survived the plane crash that killed their parents, they are both taken by Magneto into his "sanctuary" on Asteroid M. Magneto captures several X-Men and Brotherhood members in an attempt to amplify their mutant abilities and remove their emotions. The brotherhood and X-Men show up leaving Magneto and Mystique trapped on the asteroid. Asteroid M is destroyed by Scott and Alex Summers, but not before two metal spheres fly from the exploding asteroid.
The second season sees the addition of several new mutants, including Beast, who becomes a teacher at the Xavier Institute and an X-Man, as well as a version of the New Mutants: Boom Boom, Sunspot, Iceman, Wolfsbane, Magma, Multiple, Jubilee, Berzerker and Cannonball. During the course of the season, it is revealed that the villains who supposedly perished on Asteroid M are actually alive. Sabretooth continues his pursuit of Wolverine, while Magneto continues to work on his own agenda. Mystique poses as Risty Wilde, a high school student at Bayville High who befriends Rogue and breaks into the mansion to steal Xavier's Cerebro files. Using the files, she recovers Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, Magneto's daughter and Quicksilver's sister. The mentally unstable mutant joins the Brotherhood upon Mystique's return, allowing them to defeat the X-Men in a battle at the Bayville Mall. Before the finale, a pivotal episode aired featuring the telepath Mesmero opening one of three doors that would unleash a mutant known as Apocalypse.
In the season finale, Xavier rigorously trains his X-Men to face Magneto, pairing them with the Brotherhood. Cyclops, furious with having to work with his former adversaries, leaves the team. The mansion is later set to self-destruct with Cyclops and several students still inside. Magneto, meanwhile, recruits Sabretooth, Gambit, Pyro and Colossus as his Acolytes to fight the X-Men/Brotherhood team. At the same time, Wolverine is captured by Bolivar Trask to use as a test subject for the anti-mutant weapon, the Sentinel. Magneto continues to manipulate events by unleashing the Sentinel onto the city, forcing the X-Men to use their powers in public. Wanda tracks down Magneto and attacks him while he is trying to deal with the Sentinel that is targeting him. The Sentinel is damaged and apparently crushes Magneto as it falls. When the mutants who have not been captured by the Sentinel return to the remains of the mansion, Cyclops and the students emerge from the explosion with minor injuries. Scott throws Xavier from his wheelchair and blames him for blowing up the mansion. Everyone is shocked as Xavier calmly stands up, transforming into Mystique.
In seasons three and four, the show notably begins to take a much more serious tone. After the battle with the Sentinel, the mutants are no longer a secret and public reaction is one of hostility. The show is brought into more traditional X-Men lore, dealing with themes of prejudice, public misconception, and larger threats. As the season progresses, the real Xavier is found, Mystique is defeated, the mansion is rebuilt and the X-Men allowed back into Bayville High. Wanda continues to search for Magneto (who was saved by his son, Quicksilver, at the last minute) until Magneto uses the telepathic mutant Mastermind to change her childhood memories. Scott and Jean develop a stronger and closer romantic relationship (particularly after Mystique kidnaps Scott and brings him to Mexico), and Spyke leaves the X-Men when his mutant ability becomes uncontrollable, deciding to live with the sewer-dwelling mutants, the Morlocks.
As part of the series arc, Rogue loses control of her powers, leading to her hospitalization. During this time, she learns she was the adoptive daughter of Mystique. Mystique, through the visions of the mutant Destiny, foresaw that the fate of Rogue and herself lay in the hands of an ancient mutant that would be resurrected. Apocalypse emerges in the season's final episodes. Mesmero manipulates Magneto into opening the second door, and uses Mystique and a hypnotized Rogue to open the last, turning Mystique to stone in the process. Now released, Apocalypse easily defeats the combined strength of the X-Men, Magneto, the Acolytes, and the Brotherhood before escaping.
The final season contained only nine episodes. In the season premiere, Apocalypse apparently kills Magneto while Rogue murders Mystique by pushing her petrified figure off a cliff, leaving Nightcrawler without closure. The Brotherhood become temporary do-gooders, Wolverine's teenage girl clone X-23 returns, Spyke and the Morlocks rise to the surface, Shadowcat discovers a mutant ghost who is found in an underground cave, Rogue is kidnapped by Gambit and taken to Louisiana to help free his father, and Xavier travels to Scotland in order to confront his son Lucas. The character Leech is also introduced as a young boy.
In the finale, Apocalypse defeats Xavier and Storm, transforming them, along with Magneto and Mystique, into his Four Horsemen. Apocalypse instructs his Horsemen to protect his three domes and his 'base of operations', which will turn the entire world population into mutants. In the final battle, the Horsemen are returned to normal and Apocalypse is sent through time. Rogue and Nightcrawler refuse the excuses of their mother, Shadowcat and Avalanche find love once again, Magneto is reunited with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Storm and Spyke are also reunited, and Xavier sees his students reunited as the X-Men.
- Main Article: X-Men: Evolution/Characters
Cyclops — Scott Summers is somewhat toned down from his comic book counterpart; he is less stiff and possesses a more open sense of humor. Contrasting with many other incarnations, Cyclops is not the aloof, doubtful loner, but a handsome and confident leader who exudes natural authority, although he is still somewhat standoffish. While the other students tend to look up to him, his competitive nature and closely held temper will get in the way at times. He is the most officious and rule-abiding of the X-Men and the least likely to fool around.
Jean Grey — Jean is "Miss Popular" of the X-Men: smart, athletic, beautiful, well-liked, and the second-in-command after Cyclops. However, she is more insecure than her comic book counterpart and possesses a jealous streak when it comes to Scott Summers. Unlike many mutants who began as social outcasts and came to find their horizons expanded through their association with the Institute, Jean starts out from a high position of status.
Nightcrawler — Kurt Wagner is the teleporting humorist of the team. The Evolution Nightcrawler is very similar to his comic version and has a friendly big-brother relationship with Cyclops. During his early days at the institute, he was still feeling very insecure about fitting in and compensated for it with excessive goofiness until the episode "Middleverse." Kurt is the biological son of Mystique, but was raised by kind foster parents in Germany (instead of being abandoned by Mystique, she accidentally dropped him over a bridge while escaping Magneto, and when she saw he had been taken in by foster parents, she decided to let him remain with them).
Shadowcat — Kitty Pryde possesses the mutant ability to become cognitively intangible, allowing her to pass or "phase" through solid objects at will. She is the second youngest member of the team; her culinary skills are a constant source of dismay among the others. Kitty led a very sheltered life before joining the X-Men and was initially afraid of Nightcrawler's "demonic" appearance, but she has since grown into a very open-minded and worldly young lady, and she and Kurt Wagner eventually develop a very close brother and sister friendship.
Spyke — Evan Daniels is Storm's nephew, with the ability to project bonelike spikes from his skin. He is the youngest member of the team. Spyke would much rather play basketball or skateboard than study; he has problems with authority, making him the "rebel" of the main team. Spyke and Quicksilver had an ongoing rivalry since childhood that culminated when Pietro framed Evan for robbery. Later in the series, he joins the Morlocks, but reappears as a protector of mutants.
Wolverine — Logan, though similar in most ways to the classic Wolverine, has been seriously toned down in violence, has a slightly different hairstyle, and is designed to be more of a role model for the students and appeared more as a "gruff uncle" type character. He is also in charge of the students combat and survival training and is famous among the students for his apparently difficult and challenging methods, as well as his strict and unyielding teaching manner.
Storm — Ororo Munroe, like her codename implies, is able to harness and manipulate the forces of nature. Storm can summon lightning from a benign sky, manifest violent storms, call up freezing blizzards and bring all forms of precipitation to bear. She can even harness the power of wind, allowing her to fly. Ororo is known for her calm personality and regal manner, and she was even worshipped as a Goddess in Africa due to her ability to summon the rains.
Rogue — Rogue is a reclusive, paranoid goth. She has a great deal of angst with respect to her powers, which keep her from ever safely touching anyone. Due to the machinations of Mystique, Rogue initially distrusted the X-Men, but after learning that Mystique tricked her by attacking her posing as members of the X-Men, she accepted their membership. At first annoyed by Nightcrawler's joking behavior, she becomes close to him after learning that she is his adopted sister, and both renounce Mystique for abusing them. The series established no birth name for Rogue and gave no hints to it after her introductory episode. Rogue's mutant ability allows her to draw upon the aspects of another (memories, habits, speech patterns, powers [if mutant]) through bare skin to skin contact. It is uncontrollable and possibly deadly.
The show contained various pop culture references: in episode 9 of the first season, one of Wolverine's defensive programs for the Danger Room is referred to as "Logan's Run X13", a clear reference to the novel/film Logan's Run. The Rogue/Kitty dance in "Spykecam" was modeled after a similar dance in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bad Girls". The play used in the first season episode "Spykecam", Dracula: The Musical, is a real play. The song used, however, is an original song made for the episode. The writers of the show have also admitted that they were fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Using Shadowcat as the catalyst, the two shows appear similar: a teenage girl with superpowers fights powerful villains in order to save her high school. Buffy creator Joss Whedon has openly credited his inspiration for Buffy as Kitty Pryde.
Starting with the first episode of Season 4, "Impact", the episode title was no longer aired on-screen at the beginning of the show, and X-Men: Evolution became the third longest-running Marvel cartoon, behind Spider-Man: The Animated Series (5 seasons, 65 episodes) and X-Men: The Animated Series (5 seasons, 76 episodes).
The first three seasons have been released on DVD. Season 3 was released as a two disc set, while Seasons 1 & 2 were released in 4 volumes each. The fourth season has not yet been released on DVD as of 2013.All four seasons are available for download in SD format on iTunes (Only available for America), being released in 2009 by Marvel. All 4 seasons immediately broke into the Top 10 Animation charts on iTunes, with season 4 peaking at #3. As of 2013, only Season One is currently available on Netflix in the United States. All four seasons are also currently available on Hulu.