Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Binge-Watching Avengers Cartoons

Finished watching Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes late last week, so here are some thoughts, in no particular order (probably be some spoilers):

- I didn't like the shift in season 2 away from the full theme song to a spoken intro by Nick Fury, followed by just the last few seconds of the theme song.

- I did notice that in Fury's voiceover, he refers to Thor as "Prince of Thunder", not "God of Thunder". Trying to avoid the wrath of irritating, whiny Christian parent groups, no doubt.

- They pulled out pretty much every big Avengers threat. Kang, Loki, the Masters of Evil, Ultron, the Kree/Skrull War, even Galactus. Really, the amount they get in, even just as nods or references, is pretty impressive. Beta Ray Bill shows up, Malekith, Jimmy Woo and Clay Quartermain, Jocasta gets referenced, Annihilus, freaking Air-Walker and Firelord show up (sort of).

- The interesting thing is the varied approaches they take to the stories. They use the mass super-villain breakout Bendis kicked off New Avengers with, but put the Enchantress (working with Loki) behind it all. The Kree are presented in more or less their classic form, of a vast militaristic empire that claims whatever they see is theirs. But the Skrulls are in their Secret Invasion status of a people without a home (thanks to Big G), trying to take Earth because a prophecy says they will. It better plays to their strengths as a race of shape-shifters relying on deception, but it never gives much sense of them as a rival empire at war with the Kree.

- They do change the hero the Skrull Queen poses as, since Spider-Woman doesn't show up in this universe.

- Watching the Avengers fall apart because of mistrust over the Skrull presence got tedious after awhile. I was ready for them to stop squabbling and start punching bumpy-chinned aliens. I much prefer stories where the heroes are caught between squabbling villains, rather than the heroes hampering themselves because they can't get along. The Enchantress' war of revenge on her mortal allies, with the Avengers trying to corral all of them before Amora can kill them, that was fun.

- The one outcome of all the Skrull-induced dissension I did enjoy was the brief Kooky Quartet that gets formed. Captain America, Hawkeye, the Wasp, and the Hulk. You'd expect the Hulk to be a real cause of strife, but it's actually a case of pairing him up with the characters that were most likely to give him benefit of the doubt, or just be friends. The Wasp and Hawkeye pretty consistently get along with old Jade Jaws. and Captain America has made his feelings on the Hulk quite clear to the big fella.

- Then that got broken up by the appearance of, sigh, the Red Hulk. He and Adam Warlock were my two least favorite characters to show up in this series. I was so excited for a Guardians of the Galaxy/Avengers team-up, and then there's Adam Warlock and his stupid Soul Gem. Booo, boooooo, Adam Warlock.

- I liked pretty much everyone on the show, even Stark, whose arrogance annoys all the others just enough they enjoy poking at him whenever possible (the first time the Avengers go to Wakanda is almost one long stretch of Stark getting egg on his face at seeing an entire country that's years ahead of him technologically).

- Hawkeye, unsurprisingly, was my favorite. He just seemed perfect. Brash, smart-mouthed, arrogant enough you enjoy the times he gets egg on his face, but good enough to come up big and show the ego is justified. He and the Hulk make a pretty good duo, because Clint's confidence in himself is so great he thinks nothing of threatening the Hulk to his face (and that amuses/impresses the Hulk he doesn't pop Clint's head like a grape). They did make him a SHIELD agent, but they let him keep his traditional costume (as opposed to the current Avengers Assemble cartoon, which has him in that stupid ass movie/Ultimate universe inspired thing with the sunglasses), and they at least kept the time in the circus as part of his backstory.

- Spider-Man gets to show up a few times, and his interaction with Captain America in the first appearance is pretty good. It's very much Peter in his early stages as a super-hero, still a kid, and this is at a point when Cap's standing with the public is pretty low, something Spidey can relate to, and struggles with. It even makes pretty good use of the Serpent Society, who get a fair amount of respect in this series overall. Whirlwind seems to be the stock "loser" villain, or maybe Blizzard. Thor did refer to MODOK as 'the head of a frost giant on an infant's body', but he at least gets to be a credible threat sometimes.

- I can't decide if I wish Galactus had more build-up or not. He's referenced once by the Skrulls prior to the last episode, when he shows up on Earth, looking for dinner. It works in a sense, because it's a big universe, and the Avengers are still learning how big, but it kind of blunted the impact to have it all in one episode. But it was the final episode, so maybe they'd have built it up more if they had a 3rd season. The Surtur Saga was going on all through season 2, but never got a payoff.

- I never was quite clear on why the Enchantress would work with Loki. I understood her working with the mortal villains, because she was always going to betray them, because she thinks them inferior to her. But she really ought to know better than to trust Loki, or to work with him even if you don't trust him. I mean, he was taking Odin's power for himself and was going to conquer all the Realms. How did she think that was going to work well for her? He'd just give her Thor, his hated brother, and let them go live happily ever after somewhere?

- I like the idea of different super-villain prisons for different types of villains. If nothing else, it reduces how many dangerous beings you have stored in one place, though it also disperses your forces for controlling them.

 - Hank Pym gets characterized as a pacifist, committed to rehabilitating the villains while they're confined. Which is not a characterization I've seen for him previously, but I thought it made sense. Hank has historically struggled with feelings of inadequacy about being Ant-Man, which has led to him either trying to be big strong heroes (Giant-Man and Goliath), or one that's really cocky and violent (Yellowjacket). But those are usually roles he's shown as not being comfortable in, or come about because he has a nervous breakdown. He's seemed most natural to me in roles that emphasize his mind, either Ant-Man or that Dr. Henry Pym stint (his time as the Wasp would probably also count, but I haven't read much of it). Being a superhero who relies on punching isn't his strong suit, so take it to an extreme conclusion and make him a pacifist, who then struggles with the fact that being an Avenger means punching, and means he's always putting out a new fire, but never dealing with the aftermath of the last one.

- Then you contrast that with Jan, who loves the adventure and the fighting. She understands it isn't Hank's cup of tea, but I think she fools herself into thinking he's at least adjusting to the idea. Also, Hank's bad at feelings, which annoys Jan, and then there's a lot of confusion and awkwardness in how they feel about each other. On the plus side, she does not try to marry him after he has a breakdown, but she does try to help him. Come to think of it, they never really resolved that plot thread either. Hank had an almost complete personality shift, and it just kind of stuck. Ran out of time, I guess.

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