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X-Men ’97: Episode – “Earth is Ghetto, but Storm is a Goddess”

Last week’s “Remember It” episode left “X-Men ’97” fans heartbroken and soul-weary. In contrast, this week’s offering, “Lifedeath Part 2”, provided a much-needed healing balm, showcasing the unparalleled skills of the show’s creators and their knack for poignant storytelling.

The Shi’ar Empire Unveiled

The episode kicks off with the usual stellar opening, replete with nods to the fans in the form of a Nightcrawler place card, glimpses of Nimrod and Master Mold, and the much-anticipated return of Charles Xavier alongside the Shi’ar. These intros alone are mini-masterpieces, but the episode quickly transitions to heavier themes.

We are introduced to Deathbird and the violent, conquering nature of the Shi’ar Empire as they clash with the Kree. Deathbird, a character defined by her ruthless ambition and complex family dynamics, catalyzes revealing the darker aspects of the Shi’Ar. Amidst this chaos, we see a different kind of ‘Lifedeath’—Charles Xavier’s moral and emotional dilemma: choosing between the love of his life and his duty to the X-Men.

Charles and the Shi’ar Conundrum

Fully healed and using Shi’ar technology to walk, Charles is on the brink of becoming Emperor as consort to Lilandra. This arc exposes the Shi’ar not as the benevolent rulers we thought of but as xenophobic conquerors. A pivotal moment occurs when Deathbird, in a dramatic fashion, dismisses Earth as a ‘ghetto’ and challenges Charles to erase his memories of Earth if he wishes to stay. This sequence solidifies Deathbird’s disdain and sets the stage for the birth of Xandra, Charles’ omega-level telepathic daughter, with Lilandra with her backhanded comment about her sister mixing genes with a “Terran”.

Surprisingly, Deathbird mentions Lilandra’s telepathic prowess being on par with Charles’, a significant departure from original lore where Lilandra was never known for her psychic strength. The arc concludes with Charles sensing the psychic death knell of Gambit and the Genoshan mutants, compelling him to return to his ‘Children of the Atom’ and forsake his love.

Storm’s Transformation and Redemption

Alongside this, we return to Storm, who is trapped between reality and the spiritual manipulations of the Adversary. The narrative could have benefited from more context about their ethereal battleground, yet the focus on spirituality and self-acceptance is beautifully executed.

Storm and Forge face their demons—literally and figuratively. Storm realizes that her powers are not a curse but a blessing, which she can fully harness only through self-love and acceptance. Forge reconciles his past and heritage, tapping into his spiritual energy as a First Nations man and hinting that his magical potential could match Doctor Strange’s magical realm – given that their magic signatures are similar.

Storm’s transformation, culminating in reclaiming her original costume from her first appearance in “Giant Size X-Men” (1975), is visually and emotionally striking. Her triumph over the Adversary using newly embraced powers is a testament to her inner strength—and, quite frankly, why Mother Storm is a Goddess in her own right.

Vocal Performances that Resonate

Alison Sealy-Smith delivers a riveting dual performance as both Storm and the Adversary. Her vocal range adds depth to the intense confrontation for Storm’s soul. A standout line, “If they thunder, I will be lightning!” perfectly encapsulates Storm’s resilience.

Looking Ahead

The episode ends with a foreboding appearance by Sinister and Trask, setting the stage for an upcoming episode likely centred on Cable. With the season building towards a climactic finish, it’s clear that fans should brace themselves for more twists and emotional rollercoasters.

Why “Lifedeath Part 2” Matters in “X-Men ’97”

The episode “Lifedeath Part 2” in “X-Men ’97” continues to unravel complex themes of love, colonialism, and decolonization, making it a poignant reflection of real-world issues through the lens of its mutant protagonists. Following the harrowing events of last week’s “Remember It” episode, which depicted a gut-wrenching genocide, this episode compels viewers to grapple with the emotional and ethical aftermath of such devastation.

In “Lifedeath Part 2”, the storytelling juxtaposes the colonial tendencies of Charles Xavier and Lilandra, who embody the power dynamics and moral ambiguities of empire, against the personal trials of Storm and Forge, who each face their own oppression. Charles and Lilandra’s narrative challenges viewers to rethink the implications of imperial rule and its impact on indigenous cultures, highlighting themes of xenophobia and the erasure of native histories. Their storyline critically examines how ostensibly benevolent intentions can mask more profound, more destructive motives.

Meanwhile, Storm and Forge’s struggles offer a narrative of resistance and healing. Storm, a Black woman, and Forge, a Native American man, fight against external enemies and confront their internal battles with identity and acceptance. Their journey symbolizes the decolonization of the spirit, advocating for a self-embracement that defies the societal and systemic limitations imposed on them. This representation is particularly significant as it mirrors the real-world challenges faced by marginalized communities, emphasizing resilience and the pursuit of authenticity.

The ramifications of the previous episode’s genocide are felt deeply in “Lifedeath Part 2”, forcing viewers to confront the consequences of such violence and loss. This narrative choice reflects the complex feelings stirring in today’s global climate, where issues of racial injustice, displacement, and human rights violations continue to dominate discussions. By portraying these struggles through the experiences of its characters, “X-Men ’97” not only entertains but also engages its audience in critical reflections on these pressing issues.

As a queer Black man, the representation and themes in “X-Men ’97” resonate on a personal level. The series’ exploration of bigotry, exclusion, and the quest for rights and acceptance echoes the foundational aspects of the X-Men comics, which have long served as metaphors for social and political activism. “Lifedeath Part 2” extends this tradition by offering a narrative that is not only relevant but also validating for those who see their own experiences reflected in the struggles of its characters.

Therefore, this episode serves as more than just entertainment; it is a vital, reflective work that addresses the anxieties and challenges marginalized groups face. It highlights the importance of storytelling in animation as a powerful tool for discussion and awareness of societal issues, providing both a mirror to our world and a beacon of hope for change.

Final Verdict: Omega Level Entertainment

This episode of “X-Men ’97” advances the narrative with complex character development and thrilling plot twists. It reinforces the show’s overarching themes of love’s transformative power and the sacrifices it necessitates—an absolute must-watch for fans and newcomers alike.

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