Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Avengers - Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (Season One)

If you have been to this website with any frequency you may have noticed that I have been following the recent Avengers cartoon “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” for over a year now.  I’ve talked about it a lot in reactions to the brilliantly produced preview shorts and the initial two-part opener so I think we are mostly aware of the premise of the show by now.

The show premiered on Disney XD in October of 2010 to a lot of fanfare and the season being stretched longer than was originally meant because Disney wanted the last round of episodes to coincide with the Thor movie (Meaning that outside of the US countries got to see the end of the season months before we did).  The show finally wrapped up its first season last month and, after repeatedly missing its initial run due to not always living in a place where Disney XD was available (And Disney XD deciding to change its broadcast time of the show), I finally was able to finish watching the whole run just recently.  Now I would prefer to review the series as a whole as opposed to just one season but seeing as it took this long for 26-epsiodes to come out it seems a little dumb to wait at least another year for the completed series.  So today we’ll be reviewing Season One of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The head writer of this show is comic/cartoon writer Christopher Yost.  Yost has written for shows like X-Men: Evolution, The Batman, Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes, Wolverine and the X-Men (GODDAMN IT!!!!!) and was the head writer for Iron Man: Armored Adventures…you know, the cartoon where Tony Stark is f**king teenager for some reason.  So with a resume like this I have to assume that he and I are actually archenemies as he has been involved in a long string of cartoons that have made me want to hide in a cave and wait out the Cartoon Apocalypse.  Does he redeem himself with EMH?

Full review after the jump.

(Captain) America...F**K YEAH!
After having several adventures on their own Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Wasp and Ant-Man are all suddenly drawn together when all four highly secured S.H.I.E.L.D. super villain prisons suddenly experience a mass break out releasing over 70 deadly super criminals on an unsuspecting world.  One of the most powerful of which, a man now known as Graviton, immediately attempts to destroy New York City upon his escape.  After a hard fought battle the heroes save the city and decide to join forces to capture the remaining villains in order to avenge their wrong doings.   Thus the “Avengers” are born.

So I said a lot of good things about the “Breakout” two-parter back in October.  At this point I can readily claim that the show maintains its high level action and its great characters.  At the end of the day these two aspects are the most important element a show like this and EMH does both very well.   In addition to the half hour slugfest the initial episode provided the Avengers would square off in some truly epic battles with several major villains over the course of the show, the battle against Kang the Conqueror and the final battle featured in the season finale “A Day Unlike Any Other” come to mind as the best examples.   As for the characters the show does an extremely good job at making the viewer like the cast while always giving everyone their own unique voice and personality.  The best superhero teams are a collection of people who get along as well as any other group of folk (That is sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t) and this cartoon really seems to understand that.  I’m particularly invested in the hostile relationship between Tony Stark and Ant-Man (Who takes just about every opportunity he can to yell at Stark for being an asshole).  Anyway every single member of the team gets a moment to shine and is mostly well developed.

Obviously Captain America is awesome because it’s really hard to screw him up.  Though what I liked the most about him was that he starts off as a time displaced soldier who is just trying to follow orders but as time goes on he comes off more and more like a natural leader in direct opposition to Iron Man, the actual team leader, who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing at all.   Thor is always great, of course.  Despite the fact that’s she’s considered the “Kid Appeal” character, ala Bumblebee from Transformers, but I fund the Wasp very charming and easily the most fun of the ensemble cast.  Normally I find the Wasp extremely dull at best but for the first time I actually found her to to be entertaining. I think I’d be more interested in seeing more of her in the comic-OOPS SHE’S DEAD IN THE COMIC BOOKS OH WELL!

Pictured: Hank Pym wearing his dead wife's clothes.  Basically
My favorite character of the team is, surprisingly, Incompetent Scientist Supreme Hank Pym.  I know, right?    That doofus who everything he touches turns to shit, who I mercilessly insult on this blog, somehow became my favorite addition of the team?  Insanity!  The interpretation of Ant-Man in this show is that of a brilliant scientist (Who isn’t actually dangerously inept) but is also vocal pacifist.  Hank has no interest in fighting crime; rather he wants to spend his days conducting science and rehabilitating imprisoned super criminals.  He struck a counter balance to his more violent teammates and throughout the series he visibly becomes less comfortable with the way the Avengers operate (With their fists) before it all comes to a head in the episode “Ultron-5”.  He’s simply a really well thought out character.

The villains are pretty cool as well.  Some are not super great but certain key enemies are either insanely badass, creepy or hilarious.  The Grim Reaper, Baron Zemo, The Leader, and Kang the Conqueror are my favorites due to how well and different they came off from each other.  But the greatest villain featured was, of course, the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing Conquest better known as M.O.D.O.C.  A combination with his obvious bizarre character design combined with his own hammy acting, his mad scientist status and the fact that’s he’s legitimately dangerous I was always excited to see him show up, especially since he IS science!  HE IS GENIUS!!!!

The writing is pretty damn solid as well.  Perhaps things were not as emotionally charged as they could be and at the end of the day things were considerably more lighthearted than, say, Justice League/Unlimited.  I suspect this is why some people have said this show isn’t as good as some others. Regardless the show is clever enough on its own without talking down to its audience while also being very good at setting up its main plot bit by bit through the show and still managing pretty fun stand alone tales and multi-part episodes. Maybe these weren’t the best told stories ever of this genre but it was exciting and it kept me interested in seeing what coming next. Combined the strong characters this all makes for an extremely entertaining show.

Not all the characters were great.  I’m normally not a fan of Iron Man and this show did nothing to change that.  He comes off as an egomaniacal showoff that’s way in over his head leading a superhero team, although it’s pretty clear that this was done on purpose.   Still it was hard for me not to want him to be beaten to a pulp after the events in “Everything is Wonderful”, not to mention his constant inept leadership.  Worse than Stark though is Black Panther who, if you recall, I feel is an underrated character who should be one of Marvel Comics top five characters. Well obviously someone during the production of this cartoon felt the same way because he is OVER POWERED LIKE CRAZY.  Yeah sure, T’Challa is often thought of as being the Marvel equivalent of Batman so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but even so Panther had a goddamned answer to every single problem.  He’s apparently smarter than the other characters, but is just humble about it.  He is able to outfight most of the team single handedly.  He suit can apparently do ANYTHING THE PLOT SAYS including being immune to radiation and energy blasts!  And Wakanda science allows him to have the answers to everything, including allowing him to detect magic something that none of the other non-Thor characters could do.  He comes off like a Mary Sue in a lot of ways.  I honestly thought he was too good for the Avengers and hanging with them was actually cramping his style…which is the worst thing a single character can do when they are part of an ensemble!

A huge problem I had with this show was the lack of diversity on the team. The Avengers in this cartoon are by far mainly made up of white men, which is pretty goddamned boring.  Even if we ignore the one person of color on the team (Not counting the Hulk, of course) how the hell could they justify only having ONE woman as part of the main cast.  Yeah, there’s some female supporting cast members but that’s not the same as being on the team.  Some characters I can understand not being around, such as She-Hulk who may be redundant on a team also featuring her cousin, or the Scarlet Witch who is heavily tied in with Wolverine and the X-Men (Which according to Christopher Yost takes place in the same universe as that show) so I’m not sure how able they are to use her.  But why in the world did they not add the Black Widow, or to a lesser extent Mockingbird, to the roster when they literally had all season to do so?  To be perfectly frank if it meant we had another lady on the team I would have preferred Hawkeye and Widow’s role in the show be reversed where he was the SHIELD traitor and she was the one framed.  Now as I understand it Ms. Marvel is supposed to join the team next season so that will be awesome but having the Wasp being the only lady on hand for twenty-six episodes is messed up.

Sorry, Black Widow, but America hates Russians and women
Speaking of Black Widow why did they do away with her Russian accent about a third of the way through the show?   In fact why did she lack a Russian accent in Iron Man 2 while I’m thinking about it?   She’s a former Russian spy who defected to the USA as an adult, so why wouldn’t she still have her goddamn accent?!  Anyway some people have said the artwork on this show is terrible.  Now I agree that it’s not the best animation I’ve ever seen but it’s not like it was bad. It’s perfectly serviceable and only the biggest nitpickers should have a real problem with it.

Bottom line this show is really good, but I think that it suffers from a few minor glitches and more importantly doesn’t fully reach its potential.  However naysayers of this show who sing the praises of Justice League should be reminded that that show didn’t reach its potential until its second season so the best may yet be still to come for EMH.  I can say right now that it is better cartoon than damn near every Marvel cartoon ever produced by far and personal think it can be compared to the usually better DC cartoons.  If you’re a Marvel fan you will love this show and will have a lot of fun with the large amount of cameos and nods to the various source materials.
The Avengers, right before Black Panther ditches them to save the day
This score may change once I watch season two but for now I give Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes 4 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


-Great action

-Great characters and villains

-Well written plot


-Offensive lack of females Avengers and Avengers of color

-Black Panther IS Mary Sue

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