The Avengers – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Volume 1 – Heroes Assemble!
By Hervé St-Louis
May 8, 2011 - 11:15
Starring: Rick D. Wasserman, Brian Bloom, Fred Tatasciore, Wally Wingert, Colleen O'Shaughnessey, Phil Lamarr
Running Time: Approximately 154 minutes (seven 22-minute episodes)
Release Date: April 26, 2011
A series of crises occur where several super heroes are battling their regular foes on Earth and beyond. But an intricate conspiracy forces the heroes of banding together as Avengers to protect Earth. But even with allies like SHIELD, can the Avengers save the planet in time from all the various conspirators planning their destruction?
The characters depicted in the Avengers correspond to the original line up of the team unlike the 1999 Avengers United animated series that only focused a core team similar to the Westcoast Avengers. Here the Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Ant-man, the Wasp and later Captain America are each threatened by individual foes whose evil starts to branch out. Hydra, the Nazi-like organization that has plagued the Marvel Universe for decades is shown as the real cause of World War 2, minimizing the Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and imperial Japan as the real AXIS. Unlike in the real world, Hydra has survived although it lost the war. Part of me doesn’t like the minimization of the real AXIS and replacement by a fictional group as it Disneyfy in a way real history making it unbearable or too touchy to actually introduce kids to real history and getting them interested in what really caused World War 2. Could you imagine a kid telling his teacher that it’s not Hitler that was responsible for World War 2 but Hydra? Previous generations of kids never had problems with facts. So why shield them from those now?
Hydra which already had influenced G.I. Joe’s Cobra, takes more cues from the criminal and terrorist organization it inspired with foot soldiers and weapons directly spoofing the craziest contraptions ever cooked up by Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe. Iron Man, who should be the most popular character of the series and the best known starts off the series battling Hydra but also trying to retrieve his stolen technology used by the likes of Hydra and even SHIELD. I like that the series links to current concerns of the Iron Man from the comic books.
Thor is next with a battle against Loki and the Wrecking Crew which adds the super villain angle to the series quite well. While Iron Man fights international terrorists, Thor battles typical bank robbers and strong-armed villains with little brains that are manipulated by many. His origin is short but explains clearly his Asgardian background and his fight for Midgard – or Earth.
Hulk here is not given much of an origin, but is faced with his usual foes, the US military trying to hunt him and control him, while he faces off with a bunch of gamma-afflicted villains. Gamma –powered villains have been a mainstay in Hulk’s history, but the series takes this to the next level and clearly shows that they are not regular villains or even terrorists. They really are their own category, much like mutant villains could be interpreted as being their own class. The Hulk episode reinforces the underlying theme of the multiple villain prisons that have been created to contain the bad guys. However, it fails to explain how the bad guys had been put in there in the first place.
Captain America is introduced to the series through a flashback sequence involving Kang, the time travelling villain going into the past to understand how Captain America was involved in his future defeat. The episode explains Captain America’s origin and shows him being defeated at the end of the story as he falls to the waters of the North Pole while chasing the Red Skull.
The next episode is quite interesting as it shows what can be done with the Wasp and Ant-man who have never been considered as main Avengers and mostly as junior partners not on par with the other original Avengers. Here, we can see that Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne treated as decent characters and fighters. They can hold their own without any of the other Avengers. The Wasp is obviously younger and almost as annoying as a brat. Pym on the other hand is the peacemaker of the group and quite levelheaded. I really like the work done on both characters and how they are more than the weakest links of the Avengers as was mostly done in the Ultimate Avengers direct to video cartoon series.
Breakout is where the various plot points and related stories, such as the Black Panther’s infiltration of the Avengers, the Black Widow’s treachery of Hawkeye and SHIELD are all explored as the core team of Avengers minus Captain America defeats Graviton a major villain kept in one of the multiple prison facilities run by SHIELD. I really like how the different plots came together and proved explained the need for the Avengers. I also like that they are completely independent from SHIELD unlike in the Ultimate Avengers series or recent comic books.
I’ve never watched the original series on television and therefore the way some of the episodes and stories were introduced might have been different to viewers who have seen the so-called micro-episodes which were introduced before the actual series started. Putting all the episodes in the right chronological order can be challenging. However, the DVD/Blu-Ray release solves that problem and all the plots lead naturally to the Breakout two-part episodes.
I really like this series, even if I didn’t like the way Hydra replaced Nazi Germany. I like how characters like Hawkeye, the Black Widow, Doctor Samson, and Nick Fury are all interacting with the Avengers although some of them will eventually join the team in later episodes. This series showed great care to incorporate as much of the original Avengers’ history and it worked quite well. The other thing this series did was also give the 2000s Justice League series by competitor DC Comics and Warner Bros Studios a good challenger that went as far in terms of multiple episode plots and in engaging viewers. If I have one complaint, it’s that there was an opportunity to link this series with Wolverine and The X-Men that was not used. It appears to be a different continuity, based on the episodes featuring the Hulk and Nick Fury.
Animation-wise, the series is solid. The characters’ designs are not as stylized as the Justice League series, yet they are better designed for action0oriented animation than previous Marvel-based cartoon series such as Spider-man and his Amazing friends. This series will also make you forget much of the Avengers United cartoon series that had nowhere the same level of quality.
Volume 1 Episodes:
1. Iron Man Is Born!
2. Thor The Mighty
3. Hulk Versus The World
4. Meet Captain America
5. The Man in the Ant Hill
6. Breakout: Part 1
7. Breakout: Part 2
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