Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
The first series of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was a real knock out, featuring epic story lines as well as adventures that offered up character development while telling a continuous interlinking narrative. In other words, it was like reading a year’s worth of Avengers comics in animated format. The team is solid, consisting of Iron Man, Giant-Man/Ant-Man, Thor, the Wasp and the Hulk as the backbone and the later additions of Hawkeye, Black Panther and the star spangled Captain America filling out the roster. Occasionally there have been guest appearances from other heroes, which has given the animated series that special unified setting which makes the Marvel Comics so successful.
The previous 26 episodes have tackled a Gamma-irradiated Avengers team, the malicious mechanations of the Masters of Evil, a mind-blowing assault from Kang the Conqueror and the hostile takeover of Asgard. At the conclusion, it was revealed that the Skrulls have infiltrated the superhero community. The second series has only just started, but even so far the ideas are coming fast and furious!
“The Private War of Doctor Doom”
Transmitted April 1, 2012
The Marvel Universe is known for many things, one of them being its powerhouse teams of superheroes. The Avengers isn’t the only game in town and the Defenders, X-Men, and Fantastic Four are just some of the other major players in stable of the super-teams. The Avengers and Fantastic Four have long enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect with the healthy amount of horseplay and rabble-rousing and this episode capitalizes on that concept.
Late one night, Hawkeye answers the door and is greeted by a very serious and threatening-looking Johnny Storm (AKA The Human Torch) and Ben Grimm (AKA The Thing). He then remembers that it’s poker night, but not before the Hulk spots the Thing and the two smash into each other like runaway trains. It’s a hilarious moment that is so true to the comics in which the two behemoths often challenged each other as to who is stronger (silly question, I know).
The mixture of comedy, drama and all-out action is a tricky nut to crack and many cartoons struggle with the idea with pitiful results (witness the painful Ultimate Spider-Man series). However, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has nailed it perfectly. All of the high concept science fantasy action is there as well as the absurdity of the Hulk and the Thing playing a game of cards.
Meanwhile, the Wasp and Iron Man are visiting the Baxter Building where Reed Richards (AKA Mister Fantastic) and Sue Richards (AKA The Invisible Woman) receive their company. Sue and the Wasp chat and wander through the mansion, comparing notes on their wild lives but Iron Man finds Reed to be nearly impenetrable, as the scientist is so enthralled in his work he barely noticed Tony is even there.
The comfortable sitcom vibe is shattered when Doctor Doom’s Doombots attach the Avengers mansion and the Baxter Building simultaneously. In the ensuing carnage, the Wasp and Sue are kidnapped and taken back to Latveria, where the combined forces of the Avengers and the FF take him on.
Doom’s attack seems pretty straight-forward, but he is not a villain to be taken lightly. During the battle he gathered intel on the teams and confirmed his suspicions, the Skrull invasion has begun.
I knew of this episode’s breakdown long before it aired (I think I even reported it on this blog), but it is still exciting to see the end result. I am very satisfied with the cast of heroes that are in play, but I hope that we will continue to see guest appearances by other heroes such as the FF. Looking at the previews… I think I’ll get my wish as Red Hulk, the Vision and many more can be seen cropping up in the series trailers.
A solid opening story with some laugh-out-loud moments, such as the Hulk using the Thing as a living mace, smashing his body into the army of doombots while Grimm protests, ‘Hey! Put me down!!’ Classic.
“Alone Against AIM”
Transmitted April 8, 2012
The second episode of the new season is set almost entirely in Stark Tower. In the previous season, Stark had set himself up as an isolated one man power block. With his money and brilliance, he refused to play along with S.H.I.E.L.D. and challenged the international crime networks such as Hydra and A.I.M. In the course of events he made some big bad enemies and this episode sees the fallout of that.
S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill has arrived to discuss Stark’s place in the super hero community and to gain his support in drafting a superhero registration bill that would demand heroes to register with the government rather than act as rogue elements. Spider-Man and the X-Men are name-dropped as other super powered individuals who are unwilling to reveal their identities. Hill proposes that their power makes them far too dangerous to run around unchecked, but Stark isn’t convinced.
This is obviously a reference to the Civil War story line that ran through the Marvel family of comics a few years back and drastically altered the playing field of the entire MU. If this is a story that the animation team is thinking of taking on… in addition to the Skrull invasion… we should be in for some big events.
Rather than offer up any real argument, he toys around like the rich playboy that he is, annoying not only Maria Hill but his assistant Pepper Potts as well! Even so, he’ll probably get one of them in a sports car or swanky hotel room… he’s just that cool.
He’s even developed a replacement for Captain America’s shield, an energy gauntlet that creates a holographic version of the shield. This defensive weapon can be ‘thrown’ and reconstituted on the gauntlet’s array. It can also be made to expand, creating a greater area of defense for the wearer. It’s great that Stark made the device because A.I.M.’s unexpected attack on his building makes his repulsor tech useless.
The ‘energy shield’ is sure to make some viewers cry foul, but it was in the comics (albeit briefly). I think this is just a moment where the animators are using an idea from one medium and adapting it to theirs to pay homage to the rich history of the comic book series. I also predict that it will disappear in about two episodes.
Elsewhere in Stark Tower, unaware that the building is under attack by A.I.M. agents, Captain America, Black Panther and James Rhodes (Rhodey) are packing up a few suits of Iron Man armor for transport back to Avengers mansion. Their presence in Stark Towers makes his corporation a sitting duck for terrorist attacks. It’s a pity that Tony hadn’t realized this earlier, though.
Cap and the Black Panther hold off the cadre of A.I.M. troops armed to the teeth with cutting edge weapons while Rhodey dons a suit of armor that was in storage, War Machine. Of course in the comics, the War Machine armor was created to defend Stark from a rival businessman/armored fanatic Stane/Iron Monger. In the cartoon, it’s just another suit of armor and that’s fine. Most people are familiar with it from the Iron Man 2 anyway.
The foreshadowing of Rhodey’s character is brief here, but he did appear a lot in the early part of the first season. For anyone unfamiliar with those episodes, it might have seemed silly for Cap to suggest Rhodey take a more active role in the fight against the bad guys only to have him do just that two minutes later. But in actuality, it makes sense and isn’t over-played. It’s a kid’s show anyhow.
Stark and Hill are left to fend for themselves against a massive creature called a Technovore that is attracted to the repulsor tech in Tony’s chest. I’m a little confused about just how dangerous this monster is. In the opening part, it attacks A.I.M. agents and nearly wipes out the base. When it is let loose against Stark, it seems to ‘almost’ kill him over and over but isn’t able to finish the deed. It wasn’t damaged in transport because at the first sign of A.I.M. agents it rips them apart like fresh bread…
Maybe the Technovore loves Tony. I have no idea.
Not as strong as the first episode, this is nonetheless a good one and further pulls along the chain of events that will no doubt lead to some cataclysmic event. Hill insists that the superhero registration act will go forward with or without Stark’s approval… and Tony insists that he will take her out to dinner.
Future episodes include this week’s adventure “Acts of Vengeance” showing the Masters of Evil and the Enchantress against each other, “Welcome to the Kree Empire” (which will likely include Ms. Marvel) and “How to Steal an Ant-Man” (probably introducing Ant-Man III Eric O’Grady, the petty thief from the excellent miniseries by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester).
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is one of the best animated comic book adaptations I have seen. It rivals Justice League with its bold scope and interwoven stories. For anyone unfamiliar with the characters, this is a great way to get to know them all. For those of us who are already in the know, it’s a welcome gift that recognizes the backstories and often uses them in brand new ways.
The first series is available to watch streaming on Netflix, but I should warn you… if you start watching, be prepared to get drawn into watching all 26 in one sitting. It’s that good.
(please visit this site for plenty more images and character designs, but be prepared for plenty of spoilers!)