Monday, August 15, 2011

'The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes' Season One (2010)

Starring Eric Loomis, Chris Cox and Phil LaMarr
Developed by Ciro Nieli, Joshua Fine and Christopher Yost
Based on Marvel Comics characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Y'know, I've rarely dug deep into the pantheon of Marvel Comics characters... or really even DC.  For the most part, my interests are fairly mainstream, and fairly limited.  I find the decades of dense continuity to be intimidating and the shared universes have gotten so interwoven that at times its impossible to simply read a good Spider-Man story or a good Batman story without it being related to some huge, company-wide crossover that's going on.

So, I tend to find film and animated versions of these characters far easier to digest and enjoy. 

After a massive break-out of supervillains from the various prison complexes created by SHIELD, superheroes Iron Man (Eric Loomis), Ant-Man/Giant Man (Wally Wingert), Wasp (Colleen O'Shaughnessy), Hulk (Fred Tatiascore), Thor (Rick D. Wasserman) and the legendary Captain America (Brian Bloom) team up to create a vigilante team to track them all down.  They're soon joined by the Wakandan king, Black Panther (James C. Mathis III) and the archer Hawkeye (Chris Cox).

The Avengers, as they are called, are based out of a mansion in New York City provided by Iron Man's alter ego, Tony Stark.  They are called upon to save the city and the world from various super-powered threats, including alien conquerors from the future, the terrorist forces AIM and Hydra, Frost Giants of Jotunheim and evil Asgardian gods, and their own inabilities to work together as a team.

The first season of "The Avengers" is actually rather entertaining, despite some problems.  The first problem is relatively minor: the theme song sucks.  It sounds like a cheap Linkin Park knock-off, and since Linkin Park sucks to begin with, who wants to hear the basement version?  But again, that's a minor complaint.

More importantly is that the animation is somewhat lacking, as well.  While the character designs are all nice and clean, and the colors suitably bold, the frame rate isn't high enough to support such an action-oriented show.  As a result, super-heroic fights often feel chunky and stilted, and not up to the rather impressive heights that Warner Bros. managed in their similar "Justice League" shows.

Fortunately, the writing on the show makes up for it with lots of entertaining plots and well-written characters.  What's really fascinating is that the show takes so much time putting itself together.  For example, the first batch of episodes of the season are dedicated to introducing the myriad heroes and villains that will play parts in the show.  The first episode is based around Tony Stark and his world, the second episode features the Hulk, the third episode Ant-Man and so on until the entire team has been revealed.  At the same time, we also slowly see the formation of a group of supervillains including the Enchantress and Executioner, Baron Zemo, Crimson Dynamo, Abomination and Wonder Man. 

Additionally, the show goes to great pains to lay the seeds of later stories into earlier episodes.  Little scenes, usually in the episode's coda, allude to the next adventure, or to one several episodes down the line.  For example, Kang the Conqueror is introduced in an earlier episode featuring the backstory of Captain America, only to later appear as the main villain in a three-part adventure towards the end of the season.  There are also hints of coming invasions by the alien menace known as the Skrulls, especially in the season-ending cliffhanger.

If the show's second season, apparently debuting this fall, can keep up the kind of fun, well-plotted storytelling shown here as well as throw a little extra cash at the animation, then Marvel would have a seriously awesome show on its hands. 

See Also
Captain America
Iron Man 2