X-Men ’97’s Episode Titles Tease Some Intriguing Comics Pulls

In a few weeks, the ‘90s are back in style—well, if you’re a fan of Marvel’s merry mutants, that is. It’s not too much longer until X-Men ‘97, the new continuation of the iconic X-Men: The Animated Series hits Disney+, and Marvel has now dropped the titles for all 10 episodes of season one… including a few that will raise the eyebrows of comics fans.

In a suitably retro style, a new poster done in the vein of a TV Guide cover reveals that ‘97 will debut with a two-episode premiere on March 20, before rolling out its remaining eight episodes weekly—including a three-part finale collectively titled “Tolerance Is Extinction.”

That’s not the only provocative title. But it has big “E is for Extinction” vibes, the name given to the opening arc of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s run on New X-Men, which introduced the villainous twin of Charles Xavier, Cassandra Nova, and saw the slaughter of the mutant island haven Genosha—a place in X-Men animated continuity that has only recently been carved out from under its oppressive human regime by Magneto. The two-episode premiere’s second half, “Mutant Liberation Begins,” certainly sounds like it could be a nod to the Mutant Liberation Front, the radical terrorist group that rose as an ideological foil to the X-Men and Xavier’s dream of mutant integration—interestingly at one point fronted by the villainous Reignfire, a brainwashed version of the New Mutant leader Sunspot, who we know will appear in X-Men ‘97.

Perhaps the most interesting title however is the one most explicit in its reference to the comics: “Motendo/Lifedeath Part 1,” and its follow up “Lifedeath Part 2.” The title given to 1984’s bumper-sized Uncanny X-Men #186, “Lifedeath: A Love Story” is a major character exploration piece for Storm, and a hallmark issue that connects the character’s various searches for identity over the ‘80s. Set after she has been depowered by an anti-mutant weapon called the Neutralizer—taking a shot intended for Rogue—Storm finds herself crossing paths with the mysterious, isolated inventor Forge. Unaware that he is both a mutant himself and the developer of the Neutralizer that took her powers while she recuperates at his lavish tech lab and home, “Lifedeath” introduces Forge as one of Storm’s earliest and most intriguing romantic interests (although it never really blossoms into a full relationship). It also steels Storm for the dilemma of finding out who she is without her mutant powers, and the identity she wishes to make for herself—as she bitterly and proudly declares to Forge at the end of the issue, having seen how his own isolation has put him on the path he’s taken working with the U.S. government’s anti-Mutant fringes, “My feet may never leave the ground… but someday, I shall fly again!”

Image for article titled X-Men '97's Episode Titles Tease Some Intriguing Comics Pulls

Image: Barry Windsor-Smith, Terry Austin, Glynis Wein, Christie Scheele, and Tom Orzechowski/Marvel Comics

“Lifedeath” comes at the apex of what has been a very tumultuous time for Storm in the comics throughout the early ‘80s, as Uncanny scribe Chris Claremont (for whom Storm is arguably the main character of the X-Men, much of the time) examines the various identities Storm has tried to take on for herself beyond the serene weather witch most people are used to. This is the era of the “Punk Storm” look with the leather jackets and mohawk, where she has tried—and largely failed—to adapt to being the leader of the underground mutant outcasts known as the Morlocks after dueling their former head, Callisto. It’s also after she’s had a not-explicitly-textual but Very Obvious Bisexual Awakening with her dalliances with Yukio while the X-Men were in Japan. As Storm wrestles with all this while getting to know Forge over the course of “Lifedeath,” it’s a period of her life where the one thing she thought defined her for so long, her abilities, has gone, and she is sifting through the remains—culminating in her return to the X-Men 15 issues later, to successfully challenge Cyclops for leadership of the team, even without her powers.

Suffice to say, it’s a monumentally important moment for Storm as a character, and one of the standout single issues of Chris Claremont’s entire run on Uncanny X-Men. Just how X-Men ‘97 will weave it into the animated series’ continuity, and all its build-up, remains to be seen (we know from the trailer Callisto at the least will have some role in the show, and of course in ‘97 Storm has kept her white costume from the comics and original cartoon, but traded in for her mohawk look), but even that it’s going to tackle such a special story is intriguing enough.

X-Men ‘97 begins streaming on Disney+ March 20.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.