New on DVD: Iron Man the Complete 1994 Animated Series/Marvel X-Men: Volume 5

So Marvel has released the final volume of the 90’s “X-men” cartoon as well as finally releasing the 90’s “Iron Man” series to coincide with the release of the theatrical “Iron Man 2,” which is currently mopping the floor with its box-office competition. I’m going to briefly review these two collections, but first I’ll say that they will be mostly about the quality of the transfers and such, with a little elaboration on the “Iron Man” series.

In the 90’s Marvel had a slew of cartoons to hit the small screen, much as they do movies hitting the big screen now. Beginning with “X-men,” and followed by “Spider-man,” “Fantastic Four,” “Incredible Hulk,” and “Iron Man,” Saturday morning became the home to many of Marvel’s shows. With “X-men” leading the pack it’s only fair I start with the fifth and final volume of what many count to be the beginning of the Marvel Animated renaissance. This volume contains the final 13 episodes of the show, and an extra held over from the 3rd season (“No Mutant is an Island”), completing the entire run of the show on disc.

As with the rest of the series release there are no special features to be found, and the disc themselves are minimalistic. There’s a menu and chapters and such but that’s about it. The aspect ratio 1.33:1so you’re watching it just like you did way back in 1996. Other than that you get what you pay for. Disney/Buena Vista could’ve really gone all out and packed some special features on here like interviews or something but it’s very bare bones.

There are some great episodes in this collection including the two-part “Phalanx Covenant,” “Bloodlines” which explores Nightcrawler’s lineage, and “Old Soldiers” featuring Captain America. This set is a must have for the completionist. I was excited when the first volumes started hitting the shelves, and I’m glad it got it’s final volume, as Disney stopped putting out “Gargoyles” on dvd due to low sales, and I would’ve hated to see that happen here.

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Moving on we come to “Iron Man” the Complete 1994 series. It was part of the Marvel Action Hour with “Fantastic Four,” and like that show got off to a rocky and watered down start. Both series debuted in 1994 but there was a very big difference between the two. Where “Fantastic Four” had lackluster animation and bad attempts at humor, it still followed the comics rather closely, and was even narrated by Stan “The Man” Lee himself. After the first season it was retooled a bit with better animation and more mature writing, but still followed the comics.

“Iron Man” however got it ALL wrong in the beginning. It was very childish, pretty much a good guys vs. bad guys show where Iron Man and his crew (Force Works, the remnants of West Coast Avengers in the comics) would face The Mandarin and his forces. There were no real story arcs save for a few two-part episodes, and they radically changed characters and origins. The Mandarin for one had green skin (something that was done to many Asian villains on TV to not seem racist), and Iron Man himself was injured in an accident caused by the Mandarin. He didn’t have shrapnel near his heart but near his spine, and no mention of the armor being needed to keep him alive. Even his suit was altered to be more recognizable with a mouth slit being added, while his current armor in comics had none.

This lasted 13 episodes until the second season came with a studio change. Like the FF cartoon, the art style changed and got darker and the writing matured. A new opening sequence was created showing Tony Stark (now with long hair and a tech patch over his heart) hammering something on an anvil with images of his previous armors showing on the wall with each strike. The show began to feature storylines adapted from the comics like the two-part “Armor Wars” episode, and also featured some guest stars like The Hulk, The Leader, Nick Fury and S.H.E.I.L.D. and more. All in all the second season was a blast and is what I remember fondly about the show.

Like the “X-Men” collections Disney/Buena Vista omitted any special features. A shame because an interview with Iron Man voice actor Robert Hays (best known as Ted Striker from the “Airplane!” franchise) would have been great. He to me is the best Iron Man other than Robert Downey Jr.. It’s the equivalent of having Christian Bale as the live Batman/Bruce Wayne (with the Begins voice not the Dark Knight roar) and Kevin Conroy as the animated one.

Bottom line is Disney/Buena Vista is giving us our childhood/teen/geek years back in complete collections, and we should get them so they can keep putting them out. We still need “Spider-man” and “The Incredible Hulk,” both of which were great shows.

Both titles are currently available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on DVD. Click on the images below to order them now.