A Marvellous Merry Marvel Christmas!

Seeing as we had three DC Christmas episodes, only fair to redress the balance with some Marvel equivalents.

Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

Nearing the end of X-Men, starting off with one of the worst renditions of Jingle Bells you’ll hear courtesy of Cyclops, everyone at the mansion is ready for Christmas except for Wolverine, would you believe? It’s Jubilee’s first Christmas there, so everyone is putting the effort in for her. Jean Grey and Gambit get to have a funny fallout in the kitchen over their different ideas of what makes the best Christmas dinner (more cayenne, if Gambit has anything to say about it). In the city, it seems like the Morlocks have hijacked an ambulance, but it’s actually because their young member Leech is severely ill, so spiritual leader Storm is pressed into service to save him.

Very melodramatic, going for an easy push of the emotional buttons (Jubilee: “Leech can’t die… it’s CHRISTMAS EVE!”) with lots of arguing and squabbling, plus Wolverine going into monologue mode while the kid fades away. It’s pretty unrelenting, with constant festive incidental music, when it could be given a rest from time to time. There’s also griping between Storm and Caliban about the former’s absence as leader until she just passes it on to the latter. Really bad script, a real lump of coal.

On Angel’s Wings

For the uninitiated, the X-Men were aged down as high school students for this series, with Magneto a malevolent force in the background for a long time. This is their Christmas episode from the second season of the show, aired on December 15th, 2001. A mysterious angel, actually wealthy young mutant Warren Worthington, saves a disabled woman from a house fire and returns a stolen briefcase to a man after hanging a mugger off a flagpole, becoming a local legend, but gaining the attention of Magneto. With everyone else heading home for the holidays, there’s only Xavier, Beast, Cyclops and Rogue at the mansion, so the Professor sends the youngsters to investigate. The show had set up an interesting crush for Rogue on Cyclops, not unnoticed by Jean in some good facial expression and writing, and Meghan Black was great at portraying her awkwardness.

Magneto manufactures an event to turn popular opinion against Angel, culminating in a battle in a church, which I’ve always thought was really cool because it feels like a forbidden place to set action. I really like the incidental music too, which seems like it’s cut from Twin Peaks. Magneto’s leitmotif, with piano music against an electrical hum, is very creepy too.

This show had big shoes to fill and did a great job of doing so. One of the first shows to reinvent rather than redo. This episode pretty clearly goes for and presses certain emotional buttons, but does so without being too schmaltzy. Time has passed, so I don’t think the show needs to be brought back, but certainly some representation in the Marvel Legends toyline would be fair to commemorate it.

Reinforcement

From the awesome Spectacular Spider-Man, one of my favourite Marvel shows, and one that didn’t run half as long as it should have due to political reasons. Air date: June 29th, 2009(!). Great writers, great actors, lots of thought put into it and a tremendous level of detail. Spidey is looking for the Master Planner, the mysterious crime boss of the moment, so he sics the Sinister Six on him at Christmastime. This iteration consists of Vulture, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Sandman and Rhino, later joined by new villain Electro.

It’s hard to do justice to how good the series is overall by just looking at one episode out of context because there are so many different ongoing plot points maturing during it. Great action with Spidey working through battles with each of the villains, including a great bit where he traps Electro in rubber. Kraven is by this point a feline mutant. I’d forgotten as well that the melodramatic Mysterio is played by Xander Berkeley, who knows when to switch it on and switch it off.

Again, hard to review it as it’s a good part of a greater whole. Guess I’ll be looking at this series again some time soon for a longer review!

The Bottom Line: I could actually return to all three of the series, but Spectacular Spidey is to me the strongest of the three overall. On Angel’s Wings is the best episode of this selection, though.