I can remember being fourteen in a Meijer grocery store and strolling down the "Movies" aisle, trying to ignore my family behind me because I was too cool for that. As I walked, something caught my eye. A name I had become all too familiar with spotting in the recent months since I had discovered it. "X-Men" was emblazoned across a DVD case with cartoon figures I recognized instantly. I couldn't believe it! I had only seen two episodes of this show from an old VHS my dad had collected. I was so excited about my discovery that I rushed back to my parents, the same ones I had been trying to avoid, and they bought me the DVD as a belated birthday gift.

It was the first volume of X-Men: The Animated Series, and would serve to fuel the obsessed fire burning through my veins. I remember after collecting each new volume in the coming year and a half that I would consistently be impressed, not just by what the DVD cases contained, but by the artwork on the front. It was beautiful and those images have come to mean a lot more to me than just pretty covers on the front of a cartoon.

So, I would like to honor those covers by ranking them from my least favorite to my favorite of the covers. I won't be discussing the cartoon that is contained within the DVDs, as that is a list for another day. This is solely about the cover art on those DVD cases.

#5 - Volume 4

This is the most simplistic of the covers on our list, featuring Wolverine, Sabretooth, Rogue, Mister Sinister, Gambit, and Mystique. It shows the three heroes facing off against the three villains in a head to head battle. The action is felt through the characters, especially Wolverine and Sabretooth who you just know are going to rip each other apart. The characters seen farthest away, Gambit and Mystique, are still detailed and visible, not blurred like one would expect. Overall, I like the look of this cover. It would be featured at #4, if not for one detail I just can't overlook.

It's complete lack of creativity. All four of the other covers on this list did something different. They didn't pull straight from the cartoon and throw it on the cover.
Volume 4 DVD Cover
The opening theme song to this cartoon is one of the most famous cartoon theme songs from the 90's, and absolutely beloved by X-Men fans. At the end of the theme, the X-Men charge straight at a line of their enemies, who are charging straight at them. It's an almost iconic image.

The cover for this DVD is almost an exact repeat of that scene. Wolverine and Sabretooth faced off in both, and Rogue and Mystique were prominently featured in that scene too, though they faced each other in the theme and don't on the cover. Instead Rogue is fighting Mister Sinister (who was never in the theme song) and Gambit is fighting Mystique. Not only is this different from the theme, but it angers me because it was done only to make it different from the theme. Rogue and Mystique have a complicated history as a mother and adopted daughter. Rogue was a villain before she was an X-Man; in fact, she fought the X-Men beside her mommie-dearest before joining them. Also, Mister Sinister used and abused Gambit in the comics, something that was never touched upon in the cartoon. They have reason to be fighting. If they're as they appear on the cover, they have no reason to be fighting each other and it just seems silly to me.

However, that's not why it got dinged. That's just my mini-rant. It got dinged for stealing from the series directly. The part I loved about these covers the most is they took the characters from the cartoons to use on the front in new ways. They didn't take screenshots from it and feature that instead. That's laziness.

Sequence of the fight that was copied from the title


#4 - Volume 5

Though vibrant and eye-catching with its toxic green colored background, the color doesn't seem to work with the crowded cast of characters featured on the front cover. Featured there we see Red Skull, Wolverine, Captain America, Omega Red, Mojo, Longshot, and Professor Xavier.
Volume 5 DVD Cover
The color green chosen seems to dull the vibrancy of the characters themselves, making them less attractive.

The layout of the cover tries to achieve what another cover on this list did, but is unable to do so due to the poor placement and sizing of characters, seeming more like a collage than a piece of cohesive artwork. The characters aren't working together in any sort of action that could help to drawn and keep attention any further. Each one seems caught up either in their own thoughts or own universe, captured in a moment unflattering to the big picture.

#3 - Volume 1

This cover features Magneto, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Gambit, Beast, Rogue, Storm, and Cyclops. The characters are all set on a saffron colored background, giving a warm tone to the picture. I like that is seems to add extra fire to the actions of our heroes featured front and center. Magneto is lovely in the background, looking at our heroes furiously, standing resolutely while his cape billows in the wind sweeping across the back of the picture.
Volume 1 DVD Cover
How he is colored but left translucent allows his menace to shine through, but not overshadow the X-Men.

Speaking of the X-Men, they make a wonderful team at the front. Wolverine charging headfirst into battle with a battle-cry is exactly to be expected. The eagerness on the faces of Rogue and Gambit are perfectly in character, with Rogue smirking and Gambit's shadowed, eluding to mystery. As beautiful as Storm is at the top, I feel she could have either been detailed more intricately or made a bit bigger to fit with the rest. Beast looks almost like an outlier down in the bottom right corner, and the faces of Jean and Cyclops are awkward, though I do like that they're both executing their powers rather than just standing there. A nice entry, but with enough flaws to push it down.

#2 - Volume 3

Another cover with a large cast of characters, this cover features Dark Phoenix, Apocalypse, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Beast, and Nightcrawler. The color scheme for this cover seems to be prominently red, with yellow and blue being used to highlight other characters. The red is done beautifully and works well with the yellow, but seems to contrast poorly with the blue, somehow muddling the right side of the piece. I love how Storm's lightning is illuminating the X-Men, providing the center for the piece. All the players on this cover are nicely placed in proportion to each other.

I enjoy what they have going on with the characters, how the good X-Men are in the palm of Apocalypse's hand, literally, with Dark Phoenix to the left menacingly, highlighting two of the biggest foes the X-Men have faced. Dark Phoenix is done beautifully, and is actually my favorite part of this cover.
Volume 3 DVD Cover
I love how her right hand is clawed, like she's about to reach into Apocalypse's hand and choose one of the X-Men for a snack. The only flaw I could see with Dark Phoenix is the black behind the Phoenix emblem on her chest. It shouldn't be there for a representation of Dark Phoenix. It belongs with Phoenix. Though personally I'm not taking points away for this because it doesn't bother me (I believe people who panic this much about a costume need to sort out their priorities), it's worth mentioning since so many people I've seen on Facebook, Tumblr, and devianART will panic if the costume isn't perfect.

Apocalypse is also done nicely, looking equal parts menacing and conceited. He has the X-Men, and you don't know what he's going to do with them, but from that evil gleam in his eyes, you know it won't be good.

The X-Men in the center are wonderfully detailed. I can clearly feel the emotions of four of the five X-Men in the center. The only one who doesn't seem to be reacting to their current predicament is Beast, who almost looks like he's hiding behind the Wolverine. The fear on the faces of Storm, Nightcrawler, and Cyclops is done so that I feel it with them, and the rage on Wolverine's fits the character like a glove.

All in all, I really love this cover, but there can only be one, and that is...

#1 - Volume 2

Honestly, this cover is a masterpiece. Even the parts I would think awkward if they were by themselves work seamlessly with the whole piece.

This time, I'm going to start with the centerpiece. Dark Phoenix's costume is flawless, from the large Phoenix emblem on the chest without the black background to the gloves, boots, and the sash (oh God, the sash!). Her face is stunningly evil with the dramatic eye liner and small, heart shaped face. Even her hair is magnificent. I love how the fire matches the 'Y' shape of her body, effectively sectioning the rest of the canvas for us, leaving room for the title and other characters up the sides.
Volume 2 DVD Cover


On the left there are three, each sized similarly with varying expressions of emotion. Cyclops looks rightfully horrified and heartbroken. It's done so masterfully that even though you can't see his eyes, you know exactly what they would look like. Cable is intense and even a little hateful of this violent, fiery goddess in front of him with his gun extending behind the lady of cosmic fire. The young Jubilee on the bottom looks absolutely awestruck and even a little scared, fitting perfectly for the youngest and most naive member of the team.

On the right, there are only two, but the artist uses Wolverine's fists with extended claws to take up some of the room, making up for the lack of a third person. Wolverine's anger radiates through his body, capturing his willingness to end the problem. Nightcrawler's expression is similar to that of Cyclops' intake of breath when being shocked, but while Nightcrawler still holds the horror that Cyclops does, his heartbreak is instead replaced with terror, especially evident with his defensively raised hand.

I love the way that all five of the side characters are allowed to have their own colors, but muted by the glory of Phoenix's fire. They're all illuminated, but have enough shadows on their faces to show that they're secondary when compared to what Jean has become. Definitely my favorite of the bunch.

Fun side note : Aside from appearing on the cover with Dark Phoenix, Cable and Nightcrawler played absolutely no part in the Dark Phoenix saga in the cartoon. If I remember correctly, the number of episodes each character appeared in throughout the five seasons couldn't even fill the five fingers of a hand.

What did you all think of the covers? Did they have the same impact on you? Let me know in the comments below!