A couple weeks ago I sought to validate, or invalidate, the enjoyment I got from the animated X-Men series as a kid. I decided to watch three random episodes to see how it held up. I did something similar with Batman: the Animated Series and had fun, but it didn’t take long to realize that there was something more to explore in X-Men that extends well beyond three episodes and “Is it still good?”
I split the idea into three posts, one for each episode. The third and final random episode was episode 13 from season 4, “Lotus and the Steel.” Wolverine is overwhelmed by his inability to distinguish which of his memories are real or fake. He seeks peace not by destroying the nearest object but by going to Japan, where there are two antagonists: himself, and Silver Samurai. Both reminded me of the Will to Power, though they’re certainly on trains going in opposite directions.
This episode ended up being more philosophical than the first two. Wolverine being his own antagonist is different from the others in that they focused on morals and a different kind of acceptance. His pursuit might be more fairly represented as one of enlightenment. He’s told to “try looking at yourself through new eyes,” and he does. He puts himself into the service of others by building things for and protecting the village he’s in. That’s not the big point, though. The big point is that he was in a place – a headspace – to hear it, to process it with his mind so he can think it and with his heart so he can feel it.
This is one of those moments where we see why Wolverine is regularly endearing. He shows so many versions of himself and as the exposed nerve of the X-Men we get to see how he feels during every single one. There’s something terrifically pure about it.
Finding his own inner peace is what allows Wolverine to re-enter the world. It’s what enables him to face Silver Samurai, who has essentially been levying “safety” on the village with the Goodfellas method. Wolverine even calls it “the old protection racket, Samurai style.” In a true Hero’s Journey ordeal, Wolverine fights to drive him away for good, and wins. This is the traditional story to tell, the one that’s probably easiest to digest, particularly for little kids watching. But the fact that they set it up by digging into the ethos of Wolverine, an ethos that revolves on the concept of a person’s thoughts repelling inside them like the matching poles of magnets, is remarkable.
My overall thoughts on revisiting the series after all these years is that it does hold up, but certainly not in the way I anticipated. At times, it drags because of its weightiness. As a kid I assume it went unnoticed; as an adult I want to thank it for deliberately lingering. It’s often rooted in love and embracing a greater responsibility than the one exclusive to ourselves.