Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – Breakout
“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born — to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand! Through the years, their roster has prospered, changing many times, but their glory has never been denied! Heed the call, then — for now, the Avengers Assemble!”
In late 1930’s, comics published the adventures of strange masked men and women fighting against the forces of darkness. The genre of superhero comics became immensely popular and also acted as a morale booster to US soldiers stationed overseas. In the 50’s, comics came under attack as subversive material leading to juvenile delinquency, causing publishers to panic and attempt various different ideas, dropping the men in tights who were suspected of warping the minds of the young. Back in 1960’s, in what is regarded today as the Silver Age of comics, the publishing world found a resurgence of of superhero comics, leading Martin Goodman, publisher of what would one day be Marvel Comics, to allow his head creators free reign in developing new heroes for a sophisticated reader looking for escape. The mighty Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and the Wasp and the rampaging Hulk were immensely successful, but what if they were all in one book together?
The result was the might Avengers, a superhero team book that embraced the mood of temperament of the Marvel Universe, meaning that the members spent more time fighting amongst themselves than fighting evil doers. Tony Stark had donated a mansion to act as a headquarters along with his personal manservant, Jarvis. Few believed that Thor was actually a Norse God and Hank Pym’s ability to grow and shrink looked superfluous and absurd when compared to his teammates’ powers. The Wasp was desperate to impress her boyfriend and also operate in what was essentially a men’s club with very few special powers. The Hulk despised them all and it was only a matter of time before he exploded into a fit of rage that would bring the house down.
It was a marvelous book.
The new animated series developed by Simon Philips, Eric S. Rollman, Joshua Fine and Christopher Yost takes a few ideas from the classic 60’s comic books along with over 40 years of published history to bring what must be the most lavish depiction of the Marvel Universe ever seen before outside of the printed page. The series kicked off with a 2-part story that in many ways mimics the first adventure of Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers in 2005.
Exiled from Asgard, Thor is confronted by his brother Balder who asks that he admit humility and return to Asgard while their father takes his Odin Sleep. Thor is too proud and obstinate, however, and declares that the world of mortals needs his help. It becomes clear quite quickly that Thor is sweet on one mortal in particular, EMT Jane Foster. But he is also correct, there is far too much trouble on Earth for humanity to deal with. Not even Iron Man, the armored adventurer, can be in all places at once. He has also discovered that his own technology is being used by terrorists and cannot explain how they got their hands on it, though he suspects the global peacekeeping force S.H.I.E.L.D. who are annoyed with him for not developing weaponry for their use. Both of these plots take a back-seat to the four-way super villain breakout.
There are four separate high security prisons (The Vault, The Cube, the Big House and the Raft) where the world’s super-powered criminals are being held, with S.H.I.E.L.D. providing security for each. In the Cube, Bruce Banner tries to explain to his captor Doc Samson that the Cube is not a prison at all but a weapons development facility where gamma radiation is being studied as a tool for war. Before Samson can take the claim seriously, the Cube is shut down. The Leader takes the opportunity to gather his forces for a future plot against the planet rather than chase the Hulk who has escaped from the facility. The Mad Thinker predicted the breakout, much to Hank Pym’s confusion as the prediction comes true in short order. The prison cells in all four facilities open, giving the villains free reign to secure the gear and weapons before taking to the streets. In the Vault, Hawkeye, wrongly imprisoned as a traitor, is mistaken for a crook by Iron Man who ultimately has to destroy the building which has become over-run with super villains.
Despite all of this mayhem, Nick Fury decides to head directly for the Raft where the most dangerous villain of all is being held, Gravitron. Before he can get on site, Gravitron has freed himself from his chains and begins to unleash his awesome power on the world at large. It will take the combined might of all the various super powered humans to take down Gravitron before he lets his rage loose on his former jailers.
Iron Man is clearly over-powered but has all the smarts needed to deal with Gravitron, Thor has the raw power, but lacks the tactics to deal with the villain’s mesmerizing attacks. Hank Pym enlarges himself to take Gravitron down, but is obviously out-matched. Throughout the conflict, the Hulk looks on with conflicted emotions. He wants to pitch in, but knows that he is ‘just another monster’ in the eyes of the humans.
Then Gravitron has to go and claim to be the strongest there is… and it’s on.
It should come as no surprise that with the Marvel Entertainment machine moving towards an Avengers film in 2012, a series of tie-ins to remind those unfamiliar with the comic book series just who the characters are. For those unfamiliar with the world of the Avengers, this may all come across as a bit fast and furious with characters leaping across the screen so quickly that it’s difficult to keep track of them without a handbook. That being the case, the writing is so sharp that the heroes and villains are given just enough time on screen to get the idea across without becoming distracting from the main plot.
When the Justice League cartoon debuted back in 2004, it bore more than a striking resemblance to the Avengers. There are even specific stories that feel more like Marvel Comics tales than those published by DC (such as the union of Solomon Grundry, Doctor Fate and Aquaman that feels very like a Defenders adventure). It’s clear to me that Bruce Timm and crew were big fans of comics in general and had no qualms about using material from the other side of the street where Marvel’s offices lay. I’m happy to see that after a few false starts, Marvel finally has a cracking comic book cartoon on its hands that embraces its strengths, history and obscure characters all at once.
After following the micro-sodes week, after week, I was worrying that I was being shown all of the good material in short bursts, leaving nothing but dross for the premiere, but I could not have been more wrong. Now in its 13th episode (episodes 3-7 are compilations of the micro-series episodes), it is evident that the Avengers have finally arrived in full form. If you are unfamiliar with the team, this is a great way to catch up and see why the Avengers is such a big deal.