The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Cartoon on DVD
May 1, 2011

Now available on DVD, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! teams up Marvel’s best-known characters: Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America. The first 13 episodes (originally aired in the U.S. last fall) are collected across two DVDs, on sale separately.

Meet the Characters, Working Separately

Volume 1, “Heroes Assemble!”, contains the first seven 22-minute episodes:

  1. Iron Man Is Born!
  2. Thor the Mighty
  3. Hulk Versus the World
  4. Meet Captain America
  5. The Man in the Ant Hill
  6. Breakout Parts 1 & 2

As you can guess from the episode titles, the first five introduce key characters who will later form the team. The first title is a little misleading, since Tony is clearly comfortable being Iron Man, but there’s some suggestion that he’s revealed to the world here. We also meet Nick Fury, SHIELD, and Hydra. In fact, since this episode is cobbled together from four earlier mini-episodes, in the last part, Iron Man disappears entirely, turning the show over to a spy battle between Fury and the Grim Reaper.

All of the first five episodes are made up of shorter, previously aired segments, making their storytelling fragmented. The Hulk episode is the first with significant guest stars, as it introduces Hawkeye and the Black Widow. (I bet Hawkeye’s arrow that makes ice is a huge hit at parties.) I found myself wondering what kind of ethical training agents are given, as they seem to have no qualms shooting explosive arrows or taser stings at each other without concern for whether their target will be able to survive.

The Captain America episode is mostly a World War II-set adventure with Bucky against the Red Skull, while “The Man in the Ant Hill” introduces Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Black Panther, making use of Hank Pym’s scientific background in a storyline about discovering vibranium. Finally, the Avengers themselves come together in the last two minutes of “Breakout”. This two-parter combines plotlines from the previous episodes as they all fight Graviton, who has escaped (along with many others) from one of the four major supervillain prisons (The Cube, The Vault, The Big House, and The Raft — seriously?). At the end, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man/Giant-Man, and the Wasp team up to hunt down the remaining 74 escapees, providing the series a purpose. (One that’s promptly forgotten.)

Strengths and Weaknesses

The animation is impressive. It’s classic and effective, without heavy dependence on a particular style or cheap-looking shortcuts. Viewer expectations are high, given the technology and what other animated entertainment is available, and this won’t disappoint. There are plenty of fights, technology, explosions, and eye-catching motion. It starts off as a cartoon for young boys — while there’s snappy patter and wisecracks among the cast, there isn’t a lot of characterization, although the young-at-heart of any age will enjoy seeing favorite superheroes in action. By the second volume, though, there’s a bit more going on.

The Wasp

The voices are not star-driven, and the previous credits for much of the cast focus on other animated projects and video games. These journeymen get the job done, but they don’t stand out in significant fashion. Iron Man is Eric Loomis; Thor is Rick Wasserman, doing British; Captain America is Brian Bloom; Ant-Man is Wally Wingert; and the Wasp is Colleen O’Shaughnessey.

The voice of Tony Stark, Iron Man, is clearly based on Robert Downey’s film portrayal in tone and approach. It sounds as though Loomis is doing an impression much of the time, but since the visual design is also based on Downey’s role, I don’t mind watching the character. Influences from the successful movie also are visible in terms of the inside-the-armor head shots and other similar sequences. The other voices didn’t strike me one way or another, with the exception of the Wasp, who sounds like a teenager. However, since she’s shown as more than just Ant-Man’s sidekick, even telling him off, I’m willing to cut her some slack. It is a shame that there aren’t more significant female characters, though. (And what’s with the Wasp’s odd extension radio antennae and Phoenix-feather hair?)

The Avengers Form a Team

Unsurprisingly, both discs open with a trailer for the Thor movie that opens next weekend. It’s a big summer for Marvel entertainment, and Disney wants to be sure that everyone has plenty of tie-ins to buy for more adventures with their superhero characters. If you love the heroes on their own, get the first disc. If you’re more interested in the adventures of the team as a team, you may want to skip to Volume 2, “Captain America Reborn!”, and its six episodes:

  1. Some Assembly Required
  2. Living Legend
  3. Everything Is Wonderful
  4. Panther’s Quest
  5. Gamma World Parts 1 & 2

The first episode of Volume 2 sets up the team in Avengers Mansion, organized by Pepper Potts, and staffed by the Jarvis artificial intelligence. Thor and the Hulk fight a lot, while Hank takes snipes at Tony’s money, before the Enchantress attacks, accompanied by the Executioner. “Living Legend” reintroduces Captain America. I love Thor trying to explain the computerized Jarvis to Cap: “The building has its own voice. ‘Tis very disconcerting.” Overall, this episode has more character bits than many of the other episodes so far, which I enjoyed and appreciated. That’s a welcome trend, and it continues onward, making each episode more interesting to me than the one before.

The third, “Everything Is Wonderful”, is the story of Wonder Man, with Simon Williams starting off as a business rival of Tony Stark’s, while the next episode brings the Black Panther onto the team. He requests the Avengers’ help in rescuing his land of Wakanda from Man-Ape. The last two episodes on Volume 2 are another “big threat” story, with a deserted, gamma-irradiated Cube requiring the return of Hawkeye and the Hulk and help from the green-haired Doc Samson. The approach is something like Alien, or another monster movie, with plenty of suspense.

Special Feature: An Ad for More

The only bonus feature on Volume 1 is a 7½-minute “sneak peek” at Season 2 in which two of the producers behind the cartoon talk about what’s important and distinctive about Marvel characters. It’s content-light and features more talking heads than actual cartoon footage. I did appreciate them plugging the upcoming appearance of Ms. Marvel to add another woman to the team, though. Also promoted: The Vision, more Nick Fury and Black Widow, and some character design tweaks for existing team members.

Volume 2 has a similar six-minute piece hinting at upcoming storylines and discussing how they use the comics as inspiration, but updated with “modern sensibilities”. The next season is planned to be more cosmic, with space threats; the return of Ultron and Kang; and the Fantastic Four guest-starring to fight Doctor Doom. Additional episodes beyond those collected in these two DVDs have aired on Disney XD, so presumably, they’ll be collected later, or you can check that channel for rerun showings. I’m unclear on whether those are considered “Season 2″ or just an extension to the first season.

I haven’t seen all of the Marvel cartoon series and movies — I’m told, for example, that X-Men: Evolution was pretty good, although I didn’t watch it — but of the ones I’ve seen, this is the best.

24 Responses  
James Schee writes:  

I need to catch up on this, last episode I saw was one that introduced Captain Mar-Vel and a soon to be Ms. Marvel that was good.

Grant writes:  

Great seeing this reviewed.

” At the end, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man/Giant-Man, and the Wasp team up to hunt down the remaining 74 escapees, providing the series a purpose. (One that’s promptly forgotten.)”

I’m not too sure about that criticism. The show has a pre credit sequence and they’re more often than not a scene about catching one of the escaped villains. There’s a particularly funny one with Wasp and classic Wasp/GiantMan villain “Whirlwind”.

I think the voice talent is pretty good and better than just adequate. O’Shaughnessy as Jan is one of the best things about this show and not just comparatively speaking. She’s really good. She is a very fun character who’s even more enjoyable as the series goes on and her relationship with Hank is explored more and in future episodes, kind of touching. I think her moments with the Hulk also make for some very nice drama.

The short segments were meant as stand alone “teasers” so yeah, they don’t work well combined as a single story as each one was meant to introduce the characters (and subplots) before they join the Avengers. Individually, they work well.

And there are more female charcters coming up. Carol Danvers is featured prominantly in an episode that starts the beginning of the classic “Kree/Skrull War”. We also get great voice actress Elizabeth Daily as Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird who, along with Jan is one of the best things about the show. Her relationship with Hawkeye is a lot of fun. I think the female characters in the show have a great presence. After listening to so many complaints about the presence and portrayal of women in the gawdawful “Young Justice” I’d definitely encourage fan girls to check this series out because the women in this show are the highlights IMO.

The subplot about Widow and Hawkeye borrows much from the original Avengers stories as does the series over all. Since Widow is supposed to be a mystery to the viewers, she’s not given as much face time as the others, but that changes as the show goes on and we learn more about her motivations.

But I can’t believe how much classic and current Marvel continuity they’ve got in these episodes. They’re clearly done their Avengers homework. The “Masters of Evil” stories (Zemo, Enchantress, Executioner) are lifted almost exactly from the comics. They even adapt wholesale one of Peter David’s Hulk stories in the two parter “Gamma World”. Plus we’re already getting hints at “Secret Invasion” (which I think will be merged with the Kree Skrull War) and the negative zone prison used in Civil War.

Also, I think Iron Man sounds much more like Jack Black than Robert Downey Jr.

Johanna writes:  

Grant, it sounds like the way the show was presented on TV differs a little from this set. The Whirlwind sequence here, for example, is part of the episode introducing Ant-Man and the Wasp, so it happens before the team even forms. In the DVD set, they say “we’ll team up to catch the missing bad guys”, the beginning of the next episode shows them catching the Mandrill as part of that mission, and then it’s forgotten in all the episodes that follow. Which I’m ok with, since I don’t think those would make for great shows, but I did find it funny that their rationale was pretty much ignored.

I’m glad to hear that more women are coming, but I was still a bit disappointed that all we got in these two sets was the Wasp and a little of Black Widow as a bad guy. It sounds like, if I was recommending this for a girl, Season 2 (or whatever they call what comes after these DVDs) would be the place for her to start. It’s good to know that improves from what’s here.

Grant writes:  

” it sounds like the way the show was presented on TV differs a little from this set.”

Right. They should have left the teasers seperate as stand alones instead of recuting them as episodes.

“I’m glad to hear that more women are coming, but I was still a bit disappointed that all we got in these two sets was the Wasp and a little of Black Widow as a bad guy”

But Jan’s presence is huge. She’s not a bit player by any objective standard. In fact, next to Tony, she probably has more face time and more lines in the series than the other Avengers. She’s really the break out character of the series. I’d say she has much more presence in this show than she did in the first two decades of the comic book.

Even though the first collection only has Jan and Widow I’d think the fact that Jan standing out as one of the more dominant personalities in a group of characters much more iconic than her would be something worth recommending to girls. Or at the very least to marvel fan girls. Just sayin.

Johanna writes:  

I know Jan has a good role — it would still be nice if there was more than one woman on the team. Otherwise, she risks being seen as THE girl, the only female, and reinforcing ideas about how heroing is a mostly male effort.

Joshua writes:  

I just can’t get past that awful Wasp costume. A skirt? That + the voice makes her come off as way too young.

Grant writes:  

Actually Wasp is supposed to be young. When Hank first meets her in Tales To Astonish he comments that she’s “not much more than a child”. Hank was an “older guy”, already married once. Jan was probably just out of high school when they met. Or barely in college. Hank was always making comments about her being much younger than him.

The costume is a nod to Wasps original outfit. It’s very similar except for the colors, yellow and black instead of red and black. And they decided to lose the pointy helmet she wore.

Johanna writes:  

Yet they put in dialogue about her running the business that allows Hank to spend all his time on experiments, so she’s got to be older than they make her sound.

Jim Perreault writes:  

There’s few female characters because they are following the classic Avenger’s line up. We’ve already seen glimpses of Warbird and Black Widow.

I am very impressed with the show. I think it is a nice blend of the classic and movie continuities. Some random thoughts:

– The Ironman voice did through me for a bit. For some reason, I thought he would sound more metallic in the suite.

– Interesting that they separated Nick Fury into two characters: Jack Fury in WWII and Nick Fury in modern day. So we get both versions.

– A little surprised that the enemy in WWII was Hydra and not Nazis.

As for forgetting the premise, every once in a while they mention it. Also, the Gamma World two parter is all about capturing the escaped prisoners.

Johanna writes:  

History and source inspiration were some of the same reasons Young Justice gave for leaving out the girls, too. If we keep repeating the mistakes and omissions of the past, things won’t ever get better.

That said, I do look forward to seeing more of the show. And you’re right, they do blend the comics and the movies (which most viewers will be more familiar with) well.

Grant writes:  

“A little surprised that the enemy in WWII was Hydra and not Nazis.”

I believe they’re doing that as a nod to the upcoming Cap movie.

“History and source inspiration were some of the same reasons Young Justice gave for leaving out the girls, too.”

“Too”? By the time we get over the 5 minute “character intro” teaser episodes and actually start the show we’ve already had Black Widow, Enchantress, Maria Hill, Jane Foster, Lady Hydra and Wasp. Also, in Avengers the women actually have speaking parts, unlike the debut episode of Young Justice. Also unlike Young Justice, in Avengers we don’t get any female characters baking cookies.

Yeah, they are trying to follow cannon and Wasp was the only woman in the Avengers but it seems they’re doing a good job of keeping a female presence. A presence that gets stronger as the series goes on with the addition of Mockingbird and Carol Danvers.

Maybe instead of “Too” it should be “it’s FAR better than Young Justice BUT I would still like to see MORE female characters”.

Johanna writes:  

Also, using Nazis means certain countries won’t show your film/TV show.

Grant, I’m not disputing that there are women in the show. I said that the team has one girl member, and I would like to see more. And the reasons given for both shows doing things that way were the same. (Really? Baking cookies? Who was that?)

Grant writes:  

That would be Miss Martian.

Sorry, but any comparisons to Young Justice causes my gag reflex to kick in. And frankly, I never bought the “that’s the way it was back then” excuse for a show about a comic that’s relatively new about a team that had plenty of women in it. It did not seem “genuine” to me at all.

If they had done a cartoon on something with some history behind it like the original Teen Titans for example and started off with the original characters and Wonder Girl and said well, we’re going to add Starfire and Raven and Terra in upcoming episodes, I’d have no problem with that.

But since Avengers is a corner stone of the Marvel U going on 50 years now, I think deference to continuity is warranted and appropriate. Especially since there are other non Avenger women in the cast. So when I hear the “it happend that way in the comics” excuse for Avengers, specifically the toon and the upcoming movie, I cut them more slack than I would for Young Justice, where I don’t believe that excuse for one second.

Johanna writes:  

Fair enough. One could also say that Marvel has a history of trying to be more faithful to their source material than DC does, so they get more of an excuse. It’s all what makes sense to us as justification.

Grant writes:  

Exactly. DC always seems to be playing defense when it comes to continuity where as with Marvel it always felt like something carefully planned (for the most part). The fact that the Avengers movie and the movies in orbit around it feel like a microcosm of the comic book continuity seems to bare that out.

But as an old fangeezer who’s a month older than the Avengers, I don’t even look at it in terms of justifications or excuses. It’s just simple comic book law that you never, ever, ever break. At least not with comics I like. ;)

Fortress Guy writes:  

It was fun, at least the second half was. It is hard to under emphasize the significant difference between the first and second halves. The action was pretty well done and focus on Asgard was a good choice in our opinion.

Here is our take with lots of pics, a little wit and a touch of humor:


Music and poetry writes:  

Does anyone know when marvel will release new episodes? I have been waiting forever.

Johanna writes:  

Wikipedia suggests that season two will start in October, so a while more to wait.

Grant writes:  

If you look at wikis “episode” list… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Avengers:_Earth's_Mightiest_Heroes_episodes

they have the new episodes (and by new episodes I mean pt 2 of season 1)listed as coming out starting on May 15. The UK has already started showing them and you can see them on youtube. The episodes are numbered on youtube. Episode 20 is the first one (that debuts on May 15).

The Ultron 2 parter is awesome btw.

Music and Poetry writes:  

Thanks Johanna and Grant for the updates,they are much appreciated.

Diego writes:  

Is there any news if or when volume 3 willb be released?

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