‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ – Why You Should Give It an Honest Chance
If you read my review of the new Ultimate Spider-Man show two weeks ago, you know that I love a good Marvel animated series but judge new ones very, very honestly. In short, I had high hopes for Ultimate Spider-Man because Paul Dini was an advisor for the show and because Spectacular Spider-Man was so great; I was horribly, horribly disappointed.
And there’s my entire reason for starting this article on that note; I am a Marvel fan but I’m not a fanboy. I won’t preach to you or anyone that Daredevil was actually a fantastic film or that the Ultimate Avengers animated movies had any redeeming factors whatsoever.
I will, however, tell you why you should at least try watching Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes if you haven’t yet. A quick summary: it boldly attempts to entertain you in ways that are entirely different from the model set by DC’s animated shows. And it also totally succeeds at that attempt.
It’s Not JL or JLU… or Brave and the Bold or Batman: The Animated Series - Okay. Before you freak out, I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with any of those shows; I grew up on The Animated Series and will always absolutely love it. Brave and the Bold is also awesome and I’ve seen and enjoyed almost every DC animated feature. I’m not here to say DC sucks or makes stupid mistakes or anything. I’m just making the point I made above; despite having all of these amazing examples to fall back on, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is not like any one of them. And the fact that the team behind EMH managed that and making it enjoyable at the same time is a serious achievement.
But what’s different, right? How could it possibly not be like JL? How could that possibly be a good thing? The answer is in the pacing. JL had a very direct approach: villain shows up, assorted heroes show up to fight it, villain goes down, Batman is awesome. It was not always that simple, but usually the show stuck to formula, making episodes work on a looser timeline.
Avengers… not so much. While there is still a definite formula of fight the villain / save the day, each episode works more like an odd… super hero soap opera (without being extremely hammy about it), with character scenes and subtle clues that lead into future events. It all works well with the complexity of the Avengers series in the Marvel Universe. To put it simply (and without spoilers) we’re now at season two, and already have characters leaving the team and others rearing to join up. To get more at the heart of it though, we’ve seen a major Avenger as a villain for the entirety of the first season—an oddly patient approach to a transition (from villain to hero) that would usually take an animated show a single episode. We’ve already had an episode with one villain hunting down a team of other villains. We’ve already had crazy complexity that’s been handled with great pacing and it’s amazing.
And amazingly different.
Characters You Had No Idea Were This Awesome - Continuing on the “amazingly different” front, we come to the cast, full of characters I didn’t quite care enough about until I saw this show. I’m not talking about Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America; I’m talking about the other members of the team. I’m talking about the ones who haven’t made it to animation before (the Avengers 90′s cartoon doesn’t count). If you haven’t experienced any Clint Barton, T’Challa, or Janet and Hank Pym (even if you’ve experienced them in the Ultimate Universe), you need to watch this show that puts them in the forefront and makes them all (even Hank Pym) loveable, awesome characters. And, if only because it so dares, you need to watch this show that boldly ignores the Marvel mainstays of our entire generation (there’s no Spider-Man and no X-Men).
Particularly because the same decision was made with the villains. From Grim Reaper to Arnim Zola, the choices for villains reach deep into Marvel mythos without throwing the same, popular choices at us. There’s no Magneto here. There’s neither Doctor Octopus nor Norman Osborn. There’s no Red Skull. There is no (thankfully) oddly incongruous appearance of Venom.
But there is Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil. And the Leader! And the now super popular MODOK!
And Kang!… Kang the Conqueror!
If you know who these characters are, you need to see how well they’ve translated to TV. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to trust me—there’s an awesome universe waiting to amaze you if you’re willing to deal with a few small issues.
An On-Going Assembly Process - While the show does have issues (like an embarrassing, kid pop theme song), there are two things to keep in mind.
First, it is a kid’s show, so there will be the theme song and other kid-centric moments to deal with (between Black Panther tearing out a villain’s heart and the Reaper cutting down S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers with his scythe arm [handled in a PG way, sure, but handled well]).
Second, this show is a work in progress, like most animated shows but to a more drastic extent. If you don’t like something (even the theme song) chances are, it’s changed for season two. And even if you did like it, many good elements of the show have been tweaked anyway (including outfits—Iron Man is now rocking a much more modern, Larroca, Stark Resilient suit and Captain America is now in his Ultimate duds).
And along with this, naturally, go the smaller mishaps, like the animation. In the end, all of it is getting better, hopefully leading up to epic quality and (hopefully) more awesome Marvel animated features and shows (like the Hulk VS movies).
If you find dealing with occasional animation mishaps just too difficult, I dare you to watch “Christmas with the Joker” and preach to me about how things like animation should be absolutely perfect from the get go.
Regardless of those tweaks though, the entertainment value that EMH gives you should honestly be enough to keep you very, very entertained. The team behind it went all out to make something different; something that felt as different from DC animation as Marvel comics are from DC comics (which, I suppose means that if you’re a fanboy, totally stop right here, because there’s not going to be any pleasing you). Yes, there is a bad theme song, but there are insane two / three parters in the middle of season one that honestly make you question what they could possibly do next. Yes, the animation in season one can be a little rough around the edges at first, but there are lots of great character moments and tons of action that’s likely to blow your mind.
And in the end, there will be a solid understanding of the fantastic, odd mash of a team that the Avengers are.
And you’ll have something to tide you over until and after The Avengers on May4th.