Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010) – Season 1, Episodes 15-19.
Episodes 15-19 are full out fanboy joy for me; if they’d found a way to work Beta Ray Bill into these episodes I’d drive to the production studio and buy everyone lunch. Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, Mockingbird, Ultron, and Kang the Conqueror all show up and we’ve got a huge focus on Hawkeye as the center of action. There’s a whole litany of awesome characters populating these tales (from Strucker and Viper to Reed Richards and HERBIE) and references to all kinds of Marvel stories throughout the history of the company (from the Kree-Skrull War to Secret Invasion). The action comes hard and fast and the character interaction continues to serve as the part of the show that really elevates AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES from great kid’s cartoon to great TV show.
Episode 15: “459″ – A Kree Sentry shows up and it’s up to Jan, Hank, and Carol Danvers to stop it. When things get really bad, Captain Mar-Vell shows up and he’s wearing his old, classic Kree uniform! Awesome. (You’ll hear that word a lot in this review.) I love the whole presentation of this episode – I love the color palette (blue, purples, and green abound) and there’s definitely an Iron Giant vibe going on with the big robot, the forest setting, and the 1950s feel to the action (part of the battle takes place in a drive-in, and the Wasp gets knocked onto what looks like a 1950s sci-fi monster movie poster).
Jan rides Hank pretty hard this episode – to the point where Carol tells her she needs to back off or she’ll risk losing him – and it’s a bit lame/sexist to see Jan stop in the middle of the battle to argue with Hank about their relationship. The show redeems some points by having Jan be the one who gets the big hit in on the Sentry as she gets inside the robot to take it down, but there’s definitely more of the silly, man-happy Jan here than I like.
The Hulk gets the best line in the episode. When it looks like the Kree Nega Bomb held inside the Sentry is going to go off and eradicate life on the planet, Hulk shrugs, “I’ll probably survive.” It’s the perfect mix of Hulk as an egotistical jerk in his meaning but totally underplayed in his tone.
Episode 16: “Widow’s Song” – The Clint/Natasha story comes back to the fore as Nick Fury tells Hawkeye and the Avengers to stay away from AIM and Hydra. Hawkeye is at his anti-authoritarian best, basically telling Fury to go suck eggs, and when Stark steps in to agree with Fury that the Avengers are better off fighting supervillains instead of terrorists, Clint is even less thrilled and more desirous of going after her.
“Widow’s Song” introduces Mockingbird into the A:EMH world as she’s been chosen to fill one of the vacated spots on the special ops team. The chemistry between Clint and Bobbi is fantastic and had me smiling from start to finish. When Mockingbird explains to Clint that she wants to come on his revenge quest and Clint isn’t enthusiastic, Mock tells him, “I’ve come a long way since driving you around.”
“That was three months ago,” Hawkeye replies.
When Hawkeye tells her in the Quinjet he knows Fury sent her to tag along so she could spy on them, Bobbi wants to know why they still let her come. Clint grins, “Your costume had something to do with it.” Later, Bobbi will throw the same line right back at him. They have a pretty serious chat while they’re in Hydra’s holding cells about the number Tasha did on Clint, and you can see the mix of hurt and jealousy in Bobbi as she alternately wants to console Clint and kick him in the ass. It’s such good writing – the show allows them to be flirtatious but doesn’t jam it down our throats. I mentioned it last time but I’ll say it again – this is a kid’s cartoon but they’re not writing down to kids, at all. This is a smart, subtle show, in a lot of ways, beyond all of the ultra-cool action sequences. You don’t need to know their shared comics history to appreciate what’s going on, either.
Cap and Panther follow Hawkeye, disobeying Stark’s orders, and we get a huge throwdown at Hydra Island between the Avengers, Baron von Strucker, Viper, Widow, and the forces of Hydra. We get the first really serious indication that Widow is a double agent here as she takes down Strucker before he can kill Hawkeye and then lies about afterwards, telling the Hydra leader that it was the Panther who took the old geezer out.
There’s a Hawkeye vs. Grim Reaper fight in this episode that’s fast and amazing, too.
The non-main plot highlight, though, concerns the AIM/Hydra connection. We find out that AIM’s attempt to build the Cosmic Cube was done as a ruse to bilk money out of Hydra, but as one of the AIM techs tells a shocked MODOC: “We believe there’s a chance the Cube might actually work.” MODOC’s ultimate response? He gives Hydra its money back and says, “Whoopsie. The Cube was a failure. Sorry about that, Stand-Ins for Nazis.”
At the end of the episode, we find out that the captured Viper is actually a Skrull. It’s the perfect cherry on top of a terrific episode, setting up some story that will come way down the road.
Flat out, “Widow’s Bite” is one of the very best episodes of the season. Great stuff.
Episodes 17-19: “The Man Who Stole Tomorrow,” “Come the Conquerer,” and “The Kang Dynasty.” – There’s nothing overly disappointing about three episodes of Kang vs. Avengers, but this Kang trilogy doesn’t have the same kind of story or character highlights as “Widow’s Bite” or “459.” Most of the interesting character interactions take place in the first episode, which sees Kang dropping into the 21st century to take Cap out for ruining the timeline. Cap and Stark get into it about the whole “I’m a man of the past” and “I’m a man of the future” angle, and it wouldn’t paid off better if the show had been a little less subtle about their disagreements over the course of the season; as it’s been played, Cap’s annoyance at Iron Man has largely come in irritated glances and subtle rebellion (like in “Widow’s Bite”). Here we see Cap getting on Stark for being overly reliant on technology, so he takes him into a boxing ring and politely kicks the hell out of him. Just as great is Hawkeye and Hulk sitting up above, watching and laughing as Stark gets worked over.
We get one of those great comic shout-outs as the 42 prison from “Civil War” makes an appearance and when Jan, Thor, and Hank take Blizzard inside we find out that the guards of the prison are all Ultron robots.
Yeah. Ultron. And lots of them, too.
Kang shows up and there’s a pretty good fight between the team and the Conqueror, with Stark eventually figuring out that Kang’s tech has some Stark tech in it. Once again, the Hulk gets the best line of the episode, insulting Kang by calling him, “Stupid Future Man.”
So the Avengers win and send Kang on his way and we won’t see him again until …
The very next episode. Kang shows up in space with a freaking armada and starts and invasion of the entire planet. One of Kang’s minions sets the tone for the episode when he says, “The conquest of the 21st century has begun.” It paints everything with a coat of epic. This is definitely big, blockbuster entertainment storytelling, with the character bits taking a back seat to the action-packed battles between the Avengers and all of Kang’s robots and ships. It gets a bit overdone but since it leads to Hank teaching the Ultron guards violence, which creates an Army of Ultrons to use to attack Kang, it makes up for it.
The Avengers are getting their butts handed to them by Kang’s forces, and Stark can’t figure out where Kang is (because he never thinks to look in space, which is a totally acceptable oversight according to the Plot Contrivance Manual), and then Jan figures out that the way to beat Kang is to …
Blow up his armada ships’ control panels.
Um? That’s it? There’s this whole build-up and things are crappy and the solution is to blow up the steering wheel and send everyone hurtling back through time? It’s a bit of a letdown.
The final episode sees the Avengers taking the battle right to the Damocles ship. For some reason everyone wears some Stark-designed space suits that look like Iron Man armor that hasn’t been fully painted, yet. There is a great moment with Jan, in the middle of battle in outer space just kind of stopping and looking back at the Earth. When she breathlessly says, “I can’t believe I’m in space,” you feel every bit of the wonder the character is feeling.
(It does make it twice in the last few episodes that Jan has chosen exactly the wrong moment to have a moment, but at least it’s now a consistent character quirk.)
With the Avengers storming Damocles, Kang ends up coming to them. I love this. Instead of waiting on the bridge for the Avengers to come to him, Kang sees that they’re invading and goes right to them. That’s Kang. “You came to fight me, Avengers?” he asks them. “Here I am.”
Awesome, awesome, awesome.
Jan eventually finds Ravonna in stasis, which is the future Kang is trying to prevent. The Avengers defeat Kang and send him to the 42 Prison (which is a bit lame – seeing him escape would’ve been better), where we get to see cameos from Reed Richards and HERBIE. Honestly. HERBIE. That’s the fanboy greatness of AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES. It’s a bit frustrating that we never get the specifics of how Cap ruins the timeline as the writers play the “we’re gonna dangle a mystery in front of you that will surely pay off down the road” card, but seeing the Avengers and Kang going toes-to-toe (see what I did there?) is still pretty awesome. I can’t say I was ever bored or bothered by the Kang trilogy, but there’s a lot of little hiccups that hinder the episodes a bit and when you get to the end you realize a lot of the smaller, character moments have been forsaken for more fighting action, but A:EMH gives us their best, most compelling villain alongside some fantastic action sequences.
1. The Micro Episodes (chronologically, Episodes 1-5): “The Micro Season All Pieced Together”
2. Episodes 6 & 7: “How Many Villains Can You Stuff Inside a Story?”
3. Episodes 8 & 9: “He Brings Shame to All Monkeys with His Cowardice”
4. Episodes 10-14: “Like a Frost Giant’s Head on an Infant’s Body”