Speaking as a devoted fan of the Marvel-verse and the collection of their premiere heroes known as The Avengers, I have been pleasantly surprised by the animated version currently airing on Disney XD (and before you ask, I have no idea what “XD” stands for).

For those who don’t eat, sleep, and breathe comic books, The Avengers is a team made up of Marvel’s biggest names and heaviest hitters. Starting when Ant-Man, Iron Man, Wasp, Thor, and Hulk were brought together to fight Thor’s evil brother Loki, the team has lasted through decades of deaths, crossover events, and roster changes to remain a constant in Marvel’s monthly lineup. Disney’s new animated version is brought together by Iron Man (voiced by Eric Loomis), when all four of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s super villain prisons are destroyed, leaving over seventy super powered menaces on the loose.

In a clear allusion to the first issue of the original series, the future Avengers first meet while fighting the same, all-powerful enemy, except it’s now Gravitron instead of Loki, and Gravitron is only distracted by Ant-Man’s ants, not trapped and defeated by them, as Loki was. Keeping up these shout-outs to those of us geeky enough to notice them, Hulk, a founding member of both the comic and animated teams, promptly quits the Avengers upon realizing that his teammates do not truly trust him; although in the animated series, this happens after a run-in with Thor’s Asgardian nemesis The Enchantress, as opposed to the comic’s shape-shifting alien conqueror Space Phantom. And, in the animated series, a rampaging Hulk slightly frees and leads the Avengers to the frozen Captain America, as opposed to the same being accomplished by Prince Namor in the comics.

I have liked these additions to the plotlines, as well as some other, surprising things. For instance, there is something sinister going on at S.H.I.E.L.D., hence why Iron Man forms the team independently of Nick Fury and his government task force. Exactly what is going on remains to be revealed, but I have loved that there's a darker side to what could have easily become an overly simple kid’s show. Also, the animated versions of these classic characters has been good: Thor has no Dr. Donald Blake to keep him from being a super human all the time, Hulk reaches an agreement with Bruce Banner in the first episode that keeps Banner locked away as a voice in his head, and Hank Pym/ Ant-Man/ Giant-Man/ how many super hero names does this guy need? is a pacifist scientist not too fond of fighting his way out of every situation.

A character I’m not fond of is Janet Van Dyne/ The Wasp (Colleen O’Shaughnessey, a veteran of so many animated series and films, you might recognize the voice, but probably not the name). I assume the creators decided that they needed at least one character who was all excited and thrilled with the joy and fun of being a super hero, but the result is that the one female member comes off as over-exuberant and a little irritating at times, especially when she seems to be having the time of her ditzy little life while her teammates are fighting for their lives.

Another character shift that I’m conflicted about is the exchange of Hitler and the Nazis to the Red Skull and Hydra in Captain America’s origin story. On the one hand, I understand why a TV show made mostly for children would make the change. No Nazis means no mention of Nazi atrocities, the Holocaust, and every other horrible thing committed by the most evil bastards of the 20th century. Also, by making the Nazis Hydra, the show can create a direct connection between Captain America’s past war and his present enemies alongside the Avengers (this is also probably why Hydra is included in the upcoming Captain America film, it links the action of the 1940s to the modern day). On the other hand, Captain America fights Nazis! It’s what he does, it’s why he was created, it is as inseparable to his origin as Krypton blowing up is to Superman’s. And with all due respect to Disney’s sensibilities, you don’t get much more black and white than a guy dressed up in red, white, and blue beating up Nazis!

So, comic fans everywhere, ignore whatever fears you had about Disney buying the rights to Marvel’s characters. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is the first direct result of that merger, and the results aren’t bad. Oh, but DVR this show. Even the brief commercials for Disney’s other programs will make you want to crap yourself in shock that anyone could be paid to make something so awful.       




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