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Marvel’s X-Men ’97 tie-in comic answers some of the show’s burning questions

How X-Men ’97 #1 bridges the gap between the Fox Kids cartoon and the Disney+ series.

Variant cover for X-Men '97
Image credit: Marvel Comics (Russel Dauterman)

To me, my X-Men! It’s official, X-Men ’97 is a hit! According to Variety, the Disney+ streaming series hit 4 million views in its first five days. The series has also received a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is no easy feat. Not bad for a series that went off the air 27 years ago.

However, the Marvel Studios cartoon does raise some questions. Popverse has already answered some of the basic questions, but a few others remain. For example, when did Valerie Cooper enter the picture? Why did Storm change her look? When did the Jean Grey switch happen?

Thanks to X-Men ’97 #1 (written by Steve Foxe and penciled by Salva Espin), we now have those answers. Let’s dive into Marvel’s tie-in comic and see how it bridges the gap between the Fox Kids era and the new Disney+ series.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for X-Men ’97 #1 and X-Men ’97 episodes 1-3!

Why did Storm change her hair?

Storm's mohawk
Image credit: Marvel

Why did Storm change her haircut? The real world reason is because the new series wanted to pay homage to one of the heroine’s most iconic looks. Storm’s punk rock makeover was first seen in Uncanny X-Men #173 (1983). In the comics, Storm was looking inward and experimenting with self-expression.

X-Men ’97 #1 reveals that Storm’s animated counterpart changed her haircut because she was planning to attend a Dazzler concert. “It’s like, totally punk rock,” Jubilee says with excitement. “Is that not Dazzler’s vibe? I wouldn’t want to appear out of step with the culture. Besides, the dawn of a new millennium approaches. What better way to embrace that than with a new look as well,” Storm says.

Funnily enough, Storm never ends up going to the concert. Sensing that Jean Grey needs her help, Storm gives her ticket to Bishop. So, Storm changed her hairstyle for a concert that she never ended up attending. I’m not complaining, because that look is awesome.

This issue also features the X-Men’s first meeting with Dr. Valerie Cooper, U.N. liaison on mutant affairs. The character has been playing a pivotal role in the new Disney+ series, and this tie-in comic shows us how her uneasy relationship with the X-Men began. We also get a hint of her past with Charles Xavier. “I’m an old friend of Charles Xavier’s. I’d love to speak with you about his legacy one day,” Cooper tells Cyclops.

(By the way, I’ve seen all the social media posts theorizing that Cooper might be Mystique in disguise. While the character does exist in the comics, that doesn’t mean X-Men ’97 isn’t pulling a fast one on us. It’s worth noting that she claims to be a friend of Xavier’s, and she knows he isn’t around to confirm her story.)

When did Mister Sinister switch Jean Grey with Madelyne Pryor?

Jean Grey tells Scott Summers she is pregnant
Image credit: Marvel

This section covers some heavy spoilers from X-Men ’97 episode 3, so I hope all of you were paying attention to that spoiler warning at the beginning of the article. If not, then this is your last chance to turn back.

Still here? Alright, let’s continue…

The latest episode of X-Men ’97 revealed that the villainous Mister Sinister swapped Jean Grey out with a clone. Due to some psychic mind-syncing, both Jeans share the same memories, so it’s difficult to determine when the switch happened. The clone (who now calls herself Madelyne Pryor) recently gave birth to a baby named Nathan, which means that it’s been at least 9 months.

The switch could’ve happened at any point during the timeskip between the two shows, or even during the run of the original series. For all we know, Madelyne could’ve been the woman who Scott Summers married in X-Men season four. X-Men ’97 #1 doesn’t tell us when the switch happened, but it does give us some clues that narrow down the timeline.

The Jean Grey we see in X-Men ’97 #1 discovers that she’s pregnant, which immediately tells us that we’re dealing with Madelyne. Jean was unaware of her pregnancy until taking a test, and she spoke of morning sickness as if it was a recent development. From this, we can conclude that Jean/Madelyne is in the early stages of her pregnancy. Since Jean gave birth in X-Men ’97 episode 2, that places this issue around 8-9 months before the series premiere.

Where does this take place in relation to the original series? This issue gives us a few clues. Dazzler is seen headlining a memorial concert for Charles Xavier, which means this most likely takes place shortly after the original series finale. While it’s not unheard of to hold a memorial concert months or even years after someone dies, this is most likely weeks after Lilandra took Xavier off-planet.

Another clue is Jubilee’s age. In X-Men season 3, Jubilee states that she’s 15. In this comic, Jubilee proudly boasts about her learner’s permit. Giving how eager Jubilee is to drive, I have to imagine that she would get her license the moment she turned 16. Ergo, it’s safe to assume that she’s still 15, and this takes place less than a year after season 3, and most likely weeks after season 5.

This means that anytime we see Jean Grey in the weeks after the assassination attempt on Xavier, we’re really seeing Madelyne. We still don’t know when the switch happened, but we know it was before Storm’s haircut and before the X-Men met Dr. Cooper. What happened before that is anyone’s guess. Was Madelyne already in place during X-Men season 5? Perhaps future episodes will say.

This is a switch from the comics, where Madelyne Pryor was initially introduced as a separate person from Jean Grey. Pryor didn’t learn she was a clone of Jean Grey until the 1988 storyline Inferno. This storyline was partially adapted in the latest episode.

Thanks to X-Men ’97 #1, we have better insight into the world of the hit animated series. Between X-Men ’97 and Tom Brevoort’s upcoming comic revamp, it’s a great time to be an X-fan.

An advance copy of X-Men ’97 #1 was provided ahead of release by Marvel.

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Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.


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