X-Men '97 Just Flipped the Script on One of the Franchise’s Most Notorious Jokes

Animation strikes back.

Marvel Animation

X-Men ‘97 has always been about bringing the mutant supersquad back to their animated roots — its ‘90s nostalgia is literally in the name. It’s keeping the action colorful and bright to counterbalance countless grim and muddy live-action superhero projects, even in the face of its horrific onscreen events. With the three-part finale entitled “Tolerance is Extinction” beginning this week, Disney+ released a final trailer for the season, and it includes a quote that proves just how far this series is willing to go to subvert expectations.

The trailer follows the X-Men, now reunited with their founder, Charles Xavier, as they prepare for one last battle. Near the end, we see Cyclops give Cable a supersuit that matches the rest of the team. “Am I going to war or the circus?” Cable quips. “What did you expect?” Cyclops replies, “Black leather?” You can check out the full trailer below:

The joke is an obvious reference to Bryan Singer’s X-Men, a precursor to the era of “dark and gritty” superhero movies. In it, Wolverine messes with his black leather super-suit as he mutters, “You actually go outside in these?” Cyclops replies, “What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?”

It’s a fun joke, but it also shows just how much the superhero landscape has changed since 2000. When X-Men came out, the norm for superhero stories was light-hearted Saturday morning cartoons and relatively campy movies in the style of Burton and Schumacher’s Batman trilogy. The way to “disrupt” the genre was to create a serious superhero movie that was just as much a tense action thriller as a comic book adaptation.

In the year 2000, black leather was subversive, not silly.

20th Century Fox

Now, after the Nolan Batman trilogy, the Snyderverse, and 16 years of an increasingly self-serious Marvel Cinematic Universe, darkness is the norm. The MCU, for all its silliness, is a setting where half the universe can be snapped out of existence at any given moment. X-Men ‘97 is striking a balance between the two poles, bringing back the colorful animation of yesteryear while still revealing the shocking plot twists you’d find in big blockbusters. Any genre can grow stagnant with time, and X-Men ‘97 is an important reminder that superhero stories can operate in all sorts of different ways.

X-Men ‘97 is streaming on Disney+.

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