Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes on Disney XD

Disney’s ownership of Marvel has recently distressed me (see, Drop That Shield!). I’ve feared that my beloved heroes would be watered down into characters I barely recognize whose main purpose is to hock mouse-ear hats and encourage you subliminally to become a fan of Hannah Montana.

I apologize, Disney.

I apologize because Disney XD now has the two best cartoons currently running on television. The delightfully geeky Phineas and Ferb have rocked that network for a few years now. And just last week, they added the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

I was worried when I heard an Avengers cartoon was going to be released. When Fox tried it in the nineties. The show was terrible. Sure, Vision (one of my all time favorite Avengers) was in it, but that hardly made up for the terrible mistake of placing Hank Pym as Ant Man at the helm. I seriously doubted anyone at Marvel had input over that decision, but if anyone did, I hope they have long since been fired.

But the creators of this new series have stepped up. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America are featured. The new writers had enough sense in their heads to realize that the Avengers begin and end with those characters. If they aren’t included, it’s not worth trying.

And I’ve got to hand it to the series producers for the micro–series concept. I, personally have never seen anything like this done before. Prior to the full episode series premier, Disney XD ran seventeen micro-episodes, each only about six minutes long, each setting up the various characters that are to appear regularly in the series. There was Iron Man (with an obvious Robert Downey Jr. sound-alike voice but, whatever, it works) worried about theft of his tech, Nick Fury imploring him to work with S.H.I.E.L.D., Thor arguing with Odin over his want to protect Midgard, Bruce Banner being chased by Thunderbolt Ross, Hank Pym telling Janet Van Dyne they should stay out of crime fighting and Captain America and Bucky fighting side by side in WWII.

The story was so much closer to the original than I had expected, relying mostly upon the initial comic version, borrowing some points from the Ultimates series and tossing in a few new twists. So what if Hawkeye is already working for S.H.I.E.L.D.? Who cares if the Red Skull is piloting the rocket that results in Captain America’s plunge into the frozen depths when it was supposed to be unmanned and launched by Baron Zemo? What do I care that they introduced Man-Ape and a new version of Claw into the Black Panther story line? Is it that big a deal that I noticed Wolverine as part of the Howling Commandos circa the mid-1940s?

All of this is forgivable because the series treats each individual character with the respect they deserve. That was always the great thing about the Avengers, anyway. Each character had their own back story. Most of them had their own comics where they handled their own issues. Yet, here they were, working together to solve problems that none of them could solve alone.

If you want your kids to see the Avengers done the right way, watch this show with them. Hell, if you like the Avengers, watch this show by yourself. The animation isn’t mind blowing, but it’s made up for by strong story telling, good action sequences and the bad-ass characters you want to see in an Avengers series.

Tune in to Disney XD on Wednesday nights at 8:30PM Eastern, 7:30 Central, and tell me if I’m wrong.

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