Review: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Vol. 1 & 2
I wish I could put my finger on exactly why Marvel’s animated efforts leave me cold. Time and again the vocal casting, character design or animation displays cheap production values and they are far from entertaining. The latest such offering is [[[The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes]]], which has been airing on Disney XD and is now available in two DVDs released this week by parent company Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
The cartoons are based more on the feature film reality than the comic book source material the films were based on, but there’s enough material borrowed from the comics it feels like a mixed bag. We start with a cocky Tony Stark who chases Hydra for stealing Stark Industries technology, which was actually taken from S.H.I.E.L.D. Meantime, it’s a world of countless super-villains, captured somehow and locked away in one of four unique facilities – the Vault, the Cube, the Big House, and the Raft.
But it’s a world without the Avengers. Iron Man is the only established hero, while the Hulk is on the run, and Ant-Man and the Wasp focus entirely on scientific research, preferring to keep Nick Fury at arm’s length. Then there’s Thor, who loves Earth but doesn’t seem overly engaged with its super-villains. Meanwhile, in Africa, T’Challa has just assumed the Black Panther mantle and wants revenge against, Klaw, who was instrumental in his father’s death.
Beyond the Hydra conspiracy, Bruce Banner worries that General Thunderbolt Ross and maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. want to build their own army of Hulks. Then there’s Kang the Conqueror who blames Captain America for somehow destroying his timeline and wants to alter a sequence of events.
That’s about par for comic book storytelling but everything feels incredibly disjointed. Maybe that has something to do with its origins, with the show actually conceived as a 20-part microseries of animated tales that debuted online then became edited into 22-minute episodes for cable. Mimicking the 2012 feature film, now in production, the team is composed of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp with tons of other heroes working solo or for S.H.I.E.L.D. including Black Widow and Hawkeye (also because of the film series).
The first five episodes introduce the heroes one by one with the sub-plots percolating in the background. Then, a coordinated breakout occurs, events which will force the heroes to band together. Now and then, there are personal stories, notably the budding relationship between Thor and Jane Foster (here a paramedic as opposed to her cinematic astrophysicist or comic book doctor), which has irked Odin.
The dialogue is too-often hackneyed and devoid of true personality, mostly on display among the villains in their containment cells. Story logic shows the need for better editing while the sub-plots move along at a nice clip.
The character designs over-exaggerate physiques of mortal villains and the basic heroic anatomy leaves much to be desired. Nick Fury here is an odd combination of the Ultimate Universe Fury and the Marvel Universe incarnation. Most of the voices are adequate and not as grating as other series but still not as spot-on as DC manages time and again.
The first disc contains seven episodes as the team comes together at the moment of Earth’s greatest need. The second volume picks up as the team moves into the mansion HQ and more threats develop, culminating in the two-part “Gamma World” as the Leader takes over the Cube and all trapped within become gamma-irradiated monsters, including the Avengers. Cap is finally thawed and has to readjust to a world he barely recognizes despite the familiarity of the threats.
It’s entertaining enough, but should be far better given the source material and potential. The sole extra is repeated on both volumes, a preview of the second season, coming later this year. Here’s a preview: