Written by Mark Parsons, Caroline Farah
Starring Eric Loomis, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Rick D. Wasserman, Fred Tatasciore
Comic books these days are generally geared toward an older reader for one simple reason; older readers read them and young people don’t. Sure that’s quite a generalization but overall the market has shifted to an older demographic. The “cartoon” market on the other hand hasn’t shifted quite so much. Yes, there is a difference between a “cartoon” and an animated movie. There are shows that straddle the line, such as The Simpsons and South Park (although many people will tell you that South Park is simply an adult show and they may very well be right on that one), and the return of Beavis and Butthead. More often than not though, “tights and fights” cartoons are just that, shows for kids.
The problem the creators must contend with is that the older comic book fans often choose to check out these shows. So if they craft a show like Dragonball Z for example they will exclude a market that spends money. On the other hand creating a deep character driven animated series will turn off the kids which are the bread and butter of this type of television series. What the creators have attempted to do with this series is straddle the line between adult oriented animated series and kids cartoon. Successfully straddling that line is easier with comedy such as The Simpsons and Family Guy than with a dramatic action series like The Avengers. What should be drama ends up being melodrama and what should be complex storytelling is watered down to 18 minutes.
With all of those limitations in mind this series is still fairly successful at making older viewers not feel like they are childish for watching this show without the presence of a young one. For kids, there’s plenty of slam bam action to hype them up while they munch on their fruit Loops. Do kids still eat Fruit Loops? When I was growing up I was all about Fruit Loops or Count Chocula and watching The Super friends on Saturday mornings, but I digress. The stories here are overall simplistic but they are often serialized and offer some fun attempts at twists and turns to give us a little meet with our action sandwich. There are way too many food metaphors in this review. I’m getting hungry.
The first two volumes of the series were loosely based on one of the better recent story arcs from the Avengers comic book series. These two sets feature elements from past comic book story arcs but the episodes barely adhere to the continuity set up by the comic books. They tell the stories of Ultron, Kang, and the fall of Asgard, home of Thor. For a cartoon series the stories are fairly epic and stretch across several episodes. The stories all do seem to wrap up way to easily. That’s the nature of a “toon” though right? The best of the stories is the Kang episodes because there’s substantial action but also a slowly unraveling dramatic story. Don’t take this as deep though: remember it’s melodrama here. The story of the fall of Asgard is extremely sprawling but it just seems to end way too easily when time is up and the telling of the story feels a little messy and spastic. Ultron’s story doesn’t make him seem nearly as unbeatable as he was in the comics but the sci-fi elements are still there. For kids these elements do sow the seeds of some great future reading of sci-fi classics from writers such as Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. The final episode of the last volume sets the stage for the next season of the show in a surprising and dark way, good stuff. On the downside the common problems with these sorts of cartoons are all in play. The worst issue has to be robot battles. The avengers are constantly pulverizing near inanimate objects in the form of robot minions. This occurs in these sorts of shows for two reasons; the first is that it’s ok to show this sort of violence because it’s not perpetrated on living things, and second because it’s cheap for one version of these robots to be crafted and repurposed over and over for various beat down. It can get a little dull for an older viewer to watch the Hulk just smash the same robot over and over with no consequences. With that said, little boys will love it.
It’s not the dark and complex animated series older comic book fans probably want but it’s a fun fluffy cotton candy bit of escapism that’s not quite just for kids.
Colors are bright and clean throughout, even in darker scenes. Animation seems a bit formulaic and often some characters are just drawn a little weird if they aren’t featured in the forefront of a scene. This is a lower budget cartoon series so it is what it is.
The Dolby stereo is basic but listenable. There’s not much dynamic range here but the dialogue crisp and easy to hear throughout the episodes. Action scenes feature stock sound FX as is common with these sorts of shows but they’re well utilized and they come through clean and distortion free.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
First of all the overall presentation of this series gets dinged for hitting store shelves in “volumes”. I won’t get on a rant about money grubbing studios here because I’ve done that before in other reviews. Suffice it to say all of these volumes should have been released in one box as a complete season the way most shows are released these days. Each volume features one disc packaged in a basic amaray case with basic artwork and a glossy slipcover on top.
Menus are really bland and a little tough to navigate. Bonus features are clunky, confusing, and simply made up of clips from the show. No real bonus features here at all.
The Wrap Up
Overall there’s a lot of fun to be had with Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes if you check your brain at the door and settle in for some comic books fun. It’s a better series than most that are similar to it. These two volumes have the freedom to simply tell stories with worrying about assembling the team and defining who the characters are too. I just wish the entire series had been released in one box and the overall presentation had been given just a little more care. My feeling on the presentation just brought the overall experience down a few notches.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Series 8/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 2/10
Overall (Not an average) 6.5
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