There’s one major thing that must be accepted before considering the quality of this new Avengers television series; the show is on Disney XD, a network for young kids. So any expectations for deep storytelling and complex characters should be thrown out the window. Now that doesn’t mean this series couldn’t feature those elements. It just means that you shouldn’t expect them. The best of these types of animated shows give up the goods for young fans but tell stories that the parents can at a minimum tolerate and at best actually enjoy. Batman, the animated series from the 90’s, is one of the best examples of this sort of show. Some people may argue that Batman was a little to mature for young viewers, but the show was on at prime time cartoon time for kids. Other good examples were the X-Men series from the 90’s and the Spider-Man series from the 90’s.
Disney XD has been airing 8 minute shorts leading up to the Avengers premiere that introduced the heroes and many of the villains. Not only did these shorts build hype for the series, but they also did a great job of introducing members of the Avengers team that haven’t been featured in a film. So if you watched these shorts, you’d be firmly entrenched in this version of the Marvel Universe for the launch of the series. It’s a good thing these shorts were done too because this version of the Avengers deviates from the version being set up in the Marvel films. The obvious question is: why not build the animated series as an extension of the universe being set up for the films? The reason is that this series is working ahead of the Avengers that will be on the big screen. It’s possible that if this animated series were too similar to the films and the films deviate from the world of the cartoon some fans might get confused. So, this series features an odd hybrid of the new and old Nick Fury and a Black Widow with the proper Russian accent.
It’s actually good that Disney decided to air the first two episodes of this series back to back. The reason is that this episode is mostly set up for the second episode and the rest of the series presumably. Henry Pym works for S.H.I.E.L.D. in a research and development capacity creating hi tech prisons for the various villains that heroes such as Iron Man and Thor have put away. Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. wants Pym and Janet aka “The Wasp” to join his team but Henry doesn’t trust S.H.I.E.L.D. enough to fully be a part of the team. His instincts appear to be correct because one of these hi tech prisons holds Bruce Banner who believes that S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to create their own super soldiers similar to one particular hero that doesn’t even get featured in the two episode premiere.
Something mysterious happens that was predicted by one of the villains that shut the security down to all four of the super prisons releasing nearly every Marvel villain you could think of. One villain in particular, Graviton, knows the truth about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s motives and he has the power to destroy everything. As his name implies Graviton can control gravity. The episode features a good bit of action that culminates with Graviton looking to destroy the man he believes responsible for his incarceration, Nick Fury.
This episode is a light weight introduction to some of the main characters and a simple but effective set up for the creation of the Avengers. This story is written by comic book writer Christopher Yost who is a regular writer for Marvel Comics. Seeing Yost’s name is a good sign for this series because that means at least there’s someone behind the pen that knows these characters inside and out and respects their history and their stories. Yost seems to be riffing on another writer’s story from the comics. Brian Michael Bendis started a new comic book called The New Avengers. A series of tragedies found the classic Mighty Avengers “Disassembled” and each of them doing their own thing. The New Avengers came together in a very similar way to the characters in this series. A super prison known as “The Raft” (also featured on the show) shut down freeing a bevy of super villains. Any hero that happened to be in the area came to the raft to try and stop the escaping villains. At the end of the story arc, this random group of heroes which included Spider-Man and Wolverine decided to stick together as “The New Avengers” and recapture all of the escaped villains. This episode stopped short of forming a team but it was a Part 1….
Part two of the premiere is balls to the wall epic fighting including one major nearly 10 minute long battle between Iron Man, The Wasp, Antman/Giant Man, Thor, The Hulk, and the villain Graviton. The animation and art style of this show are good but not great. The anime inspired style works for some characters and doesn’t for others. Iron Man’s helmet for example often looks extremely weird. While it’s all passable it just doesn’t have the fit and polish of the DC Universe shows and direct to DVD films. This has been the case with all of Marvel’s animated movies of late too. It would really be nice to see Marvel Entertainment, and Disney, invest some time and money into crafting a truly unique art style and animation but it’s just not going to happen.
The set up finished in this episode is actually quite brilliantly executed. Yost and the producers have taken a great Marvel story and trimmed it down to the minimum so that young viewers won’t get bored but left enough of what made that story so cool to keep fans of the comic books watching. General fans of cartoons should enjoy this one too because it manages to balance enough character, however simply developed, with action to make it palpable for all ages. One quirk that doesn’t work, and honestly, seldom works in the comic books too, is making The Hulk slightly smart. Yost did this in order to make Hulk work as a member of the Avengers but he just doesn’t belong on the team and he never did. Making him even mildly intelligent detracts from the unique relationship between him and his alter ego Bruce Banner. He should never get beyond “Hulk smash” but in this premiere he actually had a conversation with Banner and made a deal with him.
By the end of the episode, the team formed to go after the villains that escaped from the prison, simple and fun. The team that formed doesn’t feature all of the heroes that were in the two premiere episodes and in the preview shorts. Most notably missing from the team is Captain America. His back-story will probably get a full episode of the series. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes doesn’t compare to something like Justice League in animation or in story, but it is a step in the right direction for a Marvel animated product and it did end up being really entertaining.