Monday, November 8, 2010

Correctly Assembled

Man, I am just enjoying the crap out of Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes on Disney Channel’s XD programming.

There’ve been a lot of Marvel cartoons over the years, usually either based around Spider-Man or the mutant X-men. Sometimes various Avengers, like Iron Man or Captain America would guest-star in an episode. If you were an Avengers fan these little glimpses were tantalizing, but unsatisfying because they’d always crunch the character’s narratives and appearance down to just what would fit in an episode. Most of these shows were pretty juvenile.

Fox’s Batman and Superman cartoons showed that superhero cartoons could be viable for adults again. Teen Titans and later, the awesome Justice League programs showed how great shows about the groups could be. Justice League in particular really got me to waxing nostalgic for the old comics and enjoying the old heroes… from DC anyway.

The Avengers did have an absolute crap cartoon a little ways back. Ostensibly, the big three of Cap, Iron Man, and Thor were the founders but the show itself was made up of stories about their successors, a mashup of Avenger characters from slightly different eras Ant-Man, the Wasp, The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and The Vision all wearing newfangly armor and stuff that I guess was supposed to sell toys. This show was awful.

Then there were the direct-to-video movies about the Ultimates versions of the Avengers… and these weren’t bad. It dealt with superheroes and violence in a way no cartoon really had before because they didn’t have to cater so much to a family audience.

But none of this stuff was the real deal.

Now with all the excitement over the two live-action Iron Man films, and the upcoming Thor, Cap and Avengers movies, Marvel Entertainment has pushed out a new series about the ‘true’ Avengers, and it is nearly awesome.

It has some rather obvious nods to the live-action films, like Iron Man’s voice actor sounding and acting like Robert Downey Jr, Jarvis being Stark’s computer, and a black Nick Fury (which itself comes from the Ultimates version of the Avengers). Flashbacks to Captain America show WW2 with Hydra as the enemy as opposed to the Nazis (in the comics Hydra did exist back then, but it was an underground terrorist organization separate, but associating with Nazi Germany) and preview info on the Cap movie shows that Cap will mostly be facing Hydra during that era.

My favorite old Avengers ‘event’ was always Cap’s awakening in the modern age and becoming a cornerstone of the Avengers (he wasn’t actually a founder). The new series sets this up really well. Having a few episodes with each of the founders off doing their own thing, and then coming together over a crisis they can’t handle individually… in this case a breakout of all villains from the various super-prisons in the Marvel Universe. They even have The Hulk join temporarily, as he did in the Avengers comics, and then set up future episodes with the Masters of Evil, the original Avengers first evil counter-group.

You need a scorecard if you aren’t familiar with the Marvel Universe, which I consider something of a detriment for rookie comic fans… but for old school fans this show is the bomb. Good thing my kids have me around to explain who everyone is. My son has a bit of a leg up having played the two Ultimate Alliance games! The animation is decent, the plotting okay (considering how much modern stuff they feel they need to fold in), it is quite violent, and the characterization of the heroes themselves is spot on.

I actually kinda got chills watching The Avengers find Cap, then totally underestimate him and get schooled while he thought they were Hydra agents. At one point he stuns Iron Man with his shield, grabs him out of the air, uses Iron Man’s repulsors to gun down Giant-Man, then throws Iron Man to knock Thor down. He only stops beating them up when the Wasp shows him a memorial statue of himself and the now-dead Bucky Barnes. Previous cartoon appearances had him as little more than a muscle guy who could throw a round shield. Here (and in the Ultimates cartoons) he is shown as the Marvel Universe’s ultimate combatant.

Violent as it is the show is still somewhat restrained by political correctness and considerations for the upcoming movies, but it is a thrill to finally see my favorite heroes of childhood portrayed nearly as they’ve been in the comics.

Corny but recommended.

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