Continuing our week long march to The Avengers here on Screened, its time again for Grown Ups Talkin Bout Cartoons, because I still have yet to come up with another name for this that hasn't already been taken (seriously, you wouldn't believe how many podcast there are on cartoons and they've already taken all the good names). This week I will be talking about, what else, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Marvel's animated adaptation of their flagship team book.
It premiered a year ago, right around the time that Thor and Captain America were hitting theaters, and its second season just kicked off in time for the movie. Now I'll admit, even though I'm a huge Avengers Fan, I didn't really enjoy this show at first, and I know I'm not the only one. I've spoken with so many people who watched the first several episodes and then had to finally give up on it. However, if you are one of those people, if you started watching and dropped out thinking it was mediocre or just plain weak, then keep reading. Because this show is actually incredibly impressive for many reasons and ended up winning over everyone I talked with who stuck with it.
Plays for the Long Game
Normally when you get a cartoon adaptation of a comic book series, it's basically just the characters completely re-imagined and with new storylines. Sometimes they try to stick fairly close to the series (Spectacular Spider-Man), sometimes they try to go in a totally different direction (Teen Titans), and sometimes going somewhere very different can be good (I know I'm probably the only person that liked Iron Man: Armored Adventures) and of course other times it's just a huge mistake (I know I'm not the only person that hates Ultimate Spider-Man). However we have rarely gotten a series that attempts to be a fairly accurate representation of the series its based off of. And I know a lot of you right now are saying "Take that talk to yer comic book blogs geek, this here is a movie and TV blog." (I don't know why I picture all critics on the internet to have southern accents but I do) Well I'll tell you why this is important and why it's a major plus for this show. Because by taking a closer adaptation, they let things build up and they let storylines flow together. This isn't a series where each episode is self contained, or there are maybe three episodes a season that blend together. This is a series where you really get time to learn about each character, and the stories slowly start to all lead into one another, becoming this ultimate snowball of a show. For example, a lesser version of this show would have just started it off with the cast complete, or at least started it with the big four (Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man), but instead it takes the time to let us learn about each of them so we feel a much deeper connection with them. Because of this it feels far more like a regular live action drama than a cartoon for children. So many cartoons these days try to appeal to the short attention span audience, hoping to win you over before the first commercial break. So I can tell you it is really refreshing to see a show, of any medium, that actually plays for the long game.
Because of this, by the end of the first season you are so involved and so behind it that the climax's of each storyline really makes you feel invested. However, this is also the show's biggest flaw. As I said, it's great seeing each character develop, but because of that they don't start off fully developed and for the first few episodes they feel a little flat. And yes I love how each of the episodes have a story that leads into something and you can really start to see this big puzzle coming together, but when a puzzle just starts out its nothing but a blank table with a few little pieces on it, and that's kind of how the first couple of episodes feel. Heck I'm being a tad generous with that, I'd be willing to say the series doesn't actually get to be good until about the halfway point. And yes, when it reaches that point its fantastic, but up until then it just seems like a really run of the mill, basic Saturday morning cartoon.
A Well Assembled Cast
The cast behind this show shares something in common with the way this series tells the story, and by that I mean that when I started watching the show I was not a fan of them either. Sure I thought Hank Pym was alright, the Wasp was fun and quirky, but aside from that I thought everybody was pretty basic. I thought Thor, Hulk, and Cap all got the point across, but there was nothing really unique about them, and Iron Man seemed like somebody doing a nasally Robert Downey Jr impersonation. However, maybe it was just that it took the actors a little while to get into the rolls, maybe the writers needed some time to warm up and learn how to make dialogue good for each character, or maybe its just that when you have a show that builds up slowly you don't get to see the range the actors can pull off. But whatever the reason for it is, the cast really pulls it together about halfway through the series.
Hawkeye really captures the cocky and arrogant guy pushing everyone's buttons but in a way that you get behind and enjoy, Ultron comes off totally creepy, and in the most recent season we've been introduced to characters like Luke Cage and Iron Fist who are done so much better than they are in Ultimate Spider-Man. This is one of the few shows since Justice League Unlimited where I find myself really excited to see how they're going to interpret characters and who will be playing them.
So Where is this Going?
As I said, Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes is a show that has set up so much stuff that I can't keep track of it, but I don't have to because they do a darn fine job of that themselves. And in Season One they had a few story threads that ended with the big fight in Asgard and the battle against Ultron, but they never once thought that they should settle for that. Because even halfway through the first season they were setting up the major storyline of this season, and even most live action TV shows these days don't have the guts to try something like that. So even though this season once again is starting off somewhat slow, it's clear they're setting up for a big war between two alien races and after how well they ended the last season I'm fully willing to trust them on this and will go ahead and recommend it to any new viewers.
However, as I said the first season takes so long to get to the good part, that it's hard for me to tell someone to go back and check that out simply because I worry that they'd come to me after seeing ten episodes and say "You wasted five hours of my life! How dare you." But that being said, I'm still going to recommend it to people, but just with that disclaimer that you have to be ready to put the time into this show that it takes to enjoy it, because once you get to that point where the show becomes good you won't be able to get enough. I literally watched the last ten episodes of the season all in one sitting starting at around 11 PM, simply because I went "Oh okay, I'll watch another episode on Netflix, why not." And I ended it going "wow that was much better than I thought... maybe I'll watch the next one, I still have time." And after that I was gone and next thing I knew the sun was coming up.
If you really want to get excited for the release of the movie and you have Thursday off from work or school, just load up the entire first season on Netflix's instant stream, and have your own marathon run. You won't be disappointed.