X-men Episode 2: U-men… (no other letters invited)

It’s been a long week since we had our explosive start, and now the X-team is finally in Japan.  I predict much in the way of action, perhaps a little story, some pretty environments, and more of Ororo being sexy.  How many of my predictions will bear fruit?  You get to see right along with me!  Strap yourself in and come along for the ride:

The Review:
This episode picks up right where its predecessor left off!  The X-jet is arriving in Japan, and no sooner does it get within peeking distance of its objective than does the mysterious evil force notice them.  They’re a crafty bunch, these villains, for reasons I’ll get into later, but for now suffice it to say they immediately know exactly who is coming and why.  Still, they put their minds at ease, deciding they have the perfect countermeasure to combat the X-men.

What is their countermeasure you ask?  Why, faceless mook robots, of course!  Yeah!  Those’ll do something other than die by the truckload.  Anyway, they have their eerie moment of villainous gloating and the scene changes to inside the X-jet, where everyone’s preparing to land.  Beast whips out a new toy, a portable version of Cerebro that doesn’t require a psychic to power it… an invention so profound it makes the other model seem kind of obsolete, but eh, at least it doesn’t have much range.  Wolverine asks if this is Beast’s way of doubting Charles’ power, too, but Beast says he just wants to lean to the side of caution.

*sigh* No one has any faith in Chuck these days.

The jet touches down and the team heads out to meet the bereft parents of the abducted child from last episode.  Turns out she’s just one in a series of mutant abductions going on in Japan, with the police and other authority figures ignoring the problem because they assume the mutants are to blame.  Ah!  here we are, some of that anti-mutant prejudice that Xavier was on about in the last episode.  It turns out my fears for his sanity were unfounded.

Hearing that there have been multiple abductions, and that all were mutants, Wolverine deduces that it’s probably the work of a group known as the “U-men.”  An organization, as Ororo puts it, of mad scientists wanting to gather mutant power and use it to destroy the world.  I’m all for being goal oriented, but I fail to see where the margin for profit lies in destroying the world.  I guess that’s why I’ll never be a mad scientist.

There’s a moment of waxing philosophical about the persecution of mutants, and the parents break down into tears one more time before they’re interrupted by a phone call.

If only all the mutants in the world could find a boat full of jolly pirates to freeze to death... then the bigotry would end!

The phone call is even more bad news.  It turns out that a day ago the grandson of a well-off family was abducted while making a delivery for his job.  Fortunately, at least it’s a new lead to chase!  The team splits up.  Cyclops and Wolverine, being the manly men they are, decide to head to where the newly abducted fellow worked by riding on their super-modified motorcycles, Storm and Beast head to his home, riding in their equally modified but significantly less manly SUV.

The scene changes to Cyclops and Wolverine arriving at their destination, and hearing from the kidnapped mutant’s employer that it had actually been a couple weeks since his abduction.  The employer then goes on to say some terribly mean-spirited things about mutants, causing Scott to clench his fist loudly.  Apparently this alerts the boss to the fact that he was talking to a pair of mutants (apparently he believed the reason for Scott’s visor was a poorly planned Star Trek cosplay?) and when he brings it up Wolverine loses his temper, as is his dint.  Scott stops him from doing anything reckless, and the two head out on the lead the boss provided.

Though nothing violent happened, this does give Scott a moment to wonder if anything they’d been doing as X-men had accomplished anything, which lead into wondering what Jean died for, which lead into his second emo moment in as many episodes.

I warned ya last week, Scott, you're gonna feel really stupid in a couple episodes when Jean comes back... like she always does.

Fortunately, his thoughts aren’t given proper time to form, as they’re suddenly attacked by the faceless mook-robot army that U-men alluded to at the episode’s start.  Wolverine identifies them, for Scott, and the battle begins.  Meanwhile, Beast has come to the conclusion that the family of the abducted mutant had kept the entire affair quiet to save face, and thus didn’t contact anyone, meaning that the phonecall that sent the X-men out was a trap.  Naturally, this realization comes too late, and soon there are enough faceless mook-robots for the entire team to share!
I won’t bother giving you the play by play of the ensuing fight scene, but suffice it to say it’s pretty well done, both in choreography and animation.  The X-men have some fun tearing through some mooks, and Mr. Monocle-in-the-head and his cohorts watch the scene go down from some monitors.

my once-weekly screencap to remind the world that Ororo is hot in this version of X-men.

At the battle’s conclusion, Cyclops and Wolverine stand amidst a slaughtered army of mook-robots, with Wolverine chastising the group leader for losing his cool during the fight.  Cyclops blows him off, and we switch over to Beast’s group.  Storm succeeds in tracking the escaping remnants of the mook army to their hidden base, which seems to be several hundred feet beneath an abandoned hospital.

We cut to the U-men, who, far from being sad that their army was defeated, claim that it was all in the plan, and that they would use the data to create a more perfect anti x-men weapon (isn’t that what they all say?)  Beast contacts professor Xavier and gives him an update on the U-men… this wouldn’t really need much attention, in and of itself, but what professor X says about them irritates me a little bit…

It's a bad sign when your evil organization seems to want to do two different things at once...

Ole’ Charlie claims that the U-men are a human-supremacist organization that kidnaps mutants to harvest their organs, and in so doing gain the means to fight mutants on equal footing.  That’s all fine and good, I’d accept it as a part of the plot… except just a few minutes earlier in the episode we had Ororo’s exposition that they wanted to use the powers of the mutants they abducted to end mankind altogether.

I guess it’s a little early to call plot hole or anything, since maybe Storm was mistaken, or maybe they’re both right… but isn’t it a bad sign when you can’t keep what your evil organization is trying to do consistent for even one whole episode?  Granted Charles’ explanation is more sound and rational, given that I can actually see why people would want to do it.  *sigh*  I guess I’ll let the issue rest for now.

Anyway, finally free of the attack, the X-men decide to take the offensive, entering the abandoned hospital atop the enemy stronghold.  Here, they encounter the young man who had been abducted during his delivery job, now freakishly mutilated, and only recognizable by the piercing in his ear.  The modifications to his body seem excruciating, and after complaining about the terrible pain, he transmogrifies into a hideous abomination.

You have no idea how hard it was to find a scene with this creature well-lit enough to use as a screencap. >.<

The team realizes that they have no choice but to fight the creature, and put the boy out of his misery, but Cyclops is hesitant to do so, not wanting to kill an innocent person because of something others have done to him.  Beast confirms that the anatomy of the creature has been too altered for him to ever hope to be reverted, and Storm points out that killing him to end his pain is the best they can do for him.

Nevertheless, Cyclops spends most of the battle torn, the creature’s being forced to fight against his own will reminding him of Jean (much like everything else that has ever happened in the series so far.)  It isn’t until Storm is in danger of being crushed to death, and Wolverine is finished shouting swears at him that he finally, hesitantly, delivers the final blow to the creature, which reverts to its less beefy, but still quite horribly mutilated original form.

Now on the verge of death, the boy thanks the X-men for taking away his pain, and begs them to save the mutants still being kept in the back of the facility.  Cyclops is about to have yet another emotional breakdown over having killed an innocent mutant, but Wolverine decides he’s had enough of that noise, and promptly socks him in the jaw.

This is for the concussive blast last episode, bub!

Wolverine lectures Cyclops on how his personal feelings should always take a back seat to his duty, especially since he’s the group’s leader.  Cyclops contemplates this, which is a smart move, I must say.  When you’ve reached the point where WOLVERINE of all people has to give you a lecture on putting your emotions behind you and focusing on the task at hand, you know you’ve fallen pretty low.  He snaps out of his funk and starts acting like his old, leader-y self… again.  I had thought that the fact that he was finally back to his old ways was the point of the epiphany he had in the last episode.  Ah well, maybe this time it’ll stick.  After making sure everyone’s alright, they head to the back of the research facility.

here, they find many mutants contained in what look like cryogenic tanks.  unlike our poor mutant friend from earlier, none seem to have been modified by the U-men, and Beast is able to quickly find Hisato, much to the relief of all.  Cyclops stumbles across someone far more unexpected in one of the tanks, however…  The woman he saw behind Jean, controlling her actions during the battle where she lost her life.

Cyclops wonder why on earth someone like her is there, and the episode ends with that as the cliffhanger.

Holy mother of plot-twists, batman!

In Conclusion:

This isn’t setting up to be a bad series at all.  Granted, we have extended focus on drawn-out battle scenes, villains with motives no one seems to really understand, and heroes who are constantly going through angst… so, in short, we’ve got ourselves a series based on a comic book.  XD

The only problem I truly have with the episode, and it carries over from last episode as well, is the shadowing they use.  Events outside, or during the daytime are fine, but during certain situations the screen was so dark it was difficult to tell precisely what was going on.  This was especially bad during the times when the U-men were being all crafty and self-congratulatory, and during the X-men’s battle in the medical facility.

These concerns aside, I’m enjoying the series as a whole.  The pace was still a little hectic, but slower than last time, and now that the mutants have been rescued, I look forward to meeting some new characters next week.

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