On Tuesday April 26th, Walt Disney Studios released AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES VOLUME 1 and VOLUME 2, 2 DVD’s compiling the first 13 episodes of the very popular animated series based on the Marvel Comics. When the folks from Disney contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in giving away a few copies of the DVD’s on the site here, I thought “Why not?” Unfortunately TCAF preparations prevented me from getting it up on the 26th, but since the DVDs are in stores now (and to some acclaim), I figure we should still do a little bit of promo and give away some DVDs. I asked my good friend Derek Haliday to review the series and he’s done so below, so check that as well.
If you’d like to enter to win one of two sets of the DVDs, see the rules and details at the bottom of this post.
Review: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Volume 1 & 2 DVD
Available in stores now.
Reviewed by Derek T. Halliday
Growing up as an 80’s baby meant growing up during what some might consider to be the Golden Age of televised animation. Saturday morning used to be the day you’d sneak out of bed as early as 6am and stay glued to the TV until noon, watching in wonder as your heroes strode across the screen, having big adventures and fighting bad guys, inspiring your imagination and shaping your moral compass; GI JOE and HE-MAN were as important a part in shaping my world view as any other influence from that early developmental period in my life. When I was a kid, I was convinced that when I grew up, I could become a hero.
AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST inspires those same feelings; it’s a Saturday morning throwback to when children’s entertainment featured larger than life characters having big and bold adventures. The Good Guys are good and the Bad Guys get what they deserve. It’s colorful, exciting, and engaging, mostly because there’s a sophistication that hasn’t been apparent in a lot of cartoons for quite a long time.
EARTH’S MIGHTIEST introduces MARVEL’s greatest heroes individually in the first five episodes and then brings them together as a team to face the biggest of threats; a massive breakout of four Superhuman Prison facilities, which all inexplicably fail simultaneously, release 73 of the world’s most powerful, most evil, supervillains. It’s a crisis that no individual hero can cope with, and an uneasy alliance is struck as Iron Man gathers together a motley crew: Thor, a Norse God unfairly exiled to Earth by his all powerful father Odin; The Incredible Hulk, a snarling monster and fugitive on the run from the Government; pacifist scientist Hank Pym and his spunky girlfriend Janet Van Dyne, also known as Ant Man and the Wasp. Each hero is introduced individually in stand alone episodes that give their background and show their unique place in the larger context of the MARVEL Universe, and all come together to face a greater threat. And what a great threat it is! A powerful, insane, villain named Graviton uses his mastery of gravity to life the entire island of Manhattan from the Earth, and threaten to throw it into space… and that’s one of the great things about AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST, every story is BIG, and makes effective use of the fact that it’s an animated show by showing you something you’d otherwise never be able to see. Colorful characters, literally larger than life, provide big action in a way that you’ve always wished you could see; there’s weight and force as they trade blows, punching each other across great distances and through buildings, tossing cars around and ripping up streets… it’s all big and exciting and visually engaging.
One of the greatest strengths of EARTH’S MIGHTIEST, though, is character. Big action is great and fun to look at, but doesn’t mean as much if you don’t care about the guy getting punched. Each character is unique, and they don’t always get along. Characters clash and fight and rag on each other, and through it all there’s growth; these are people who are used to fighting alone, and, being superhuman, have never had to rely on anyone else, because there wasn’t a thing they couldn’t do for themselves. Iron Man and Thor clash over Technology VS Magic, Thor and Hulk clash over who is strongest of all, Giant Man and Wasp clash over the effectiveness of violence, and my favorite character, Hawkeye, he just clashes with everyone! Most of the show’s humor comes from how awkward each character’s interactions with each other are.
EARTH’S MIGHTIEST is also something of a nerd-bonanza. In an ambitious move, the series creators seem to be determined to work in just about every MARVEL character you could possible think of in some respect, creating a massive and textured world that will have many a nerd running for his OFFICIAL HANDBOOK TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, looking up obscure characters glimpsed in the background. Weird fan favorites such as the Wrecking Crew and Whirlwind, and, yes, even CHEMISTRO, who is just about as far down on the D-List of MARVEL supervillains as you can get, make appearances. On top of this, MARVEL also expands on it’s brand by bringing in characters and villains from each individual hero’s titles, including as Thor’s human love interest Jane Foster, and classic Walt Simonson creation Malekith the Black, not to mention James Rhodes, Bucky Barnes (who seems to be set up to return as The Winter Soldier), Maria Hill, and more. On top of this are guest stars and future Avengers such as Ms Marvel, Captain Mar-Vell, the Fantastic Four, Mockingbird, and Black Widow, among others.
It’s not just the ancillary characters and guest stars that will excite nerds both young and old, but seeing classic stories adapted and woven together as the writers pull from the deepest annuls of MARVEL history, showcasing the best and most defining stories for not only the Avengers as a whole, but each individual Avengers. Notable stories include the CASKET OF ANCIENT WINTERS from Thor, THE COSMIC CUBE from Captain America, and Avengers stories THE ULTRON IMPERATIVE, THE MASTERS OF EVIL, KRANG THE CONQUEROR, and even hints at a forthcoming KREE/SKRULL WAR.
Visually spectacular, the show is well animated and storyboarded, bright and colorful, with lush, detailed backgrounds, and lots of big action. I will admit that I was not entirely on board with character designs, which are blocky and awkward looking at times, but they animate well, and evoke a sort of classic MARVEL look, showing influences that range from Jack Kirby’s square jawed Captain America to John Busema’s messy haired Hulk. Occassionally there are some really lovely and ambitious scenes that look like animated splash pages.
In terms of voice acting features a solid cast, and even has a few welcome guest voices; Steven J. Blum (a personal favorite actor of mine, who famously portrayed Spike Speigel in COWBOY BEBOP) does a pitch perfect Red Skull, while Lance Henriksen (best known for ALIENS and TV’s MILLENIUM among other things, as well as previous voice work on IGPX and TRANFORMERS ANIMATED) does a chilling but wry Grim Reaper, and Clancy Brown (a fantastic actor famous for SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, as veteran voice actor from such show as MEN IN BLACK, SUPERMAN, and many others) portrays a powerful and intimidating Odin. The regular cast is overall solid and grow into their characters, though I’m not sold on Brian Bloom’s Captain America.
Overall, AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST is the kind of show I’d have loved back in 1988, sitting in front of the television at six in the morning eating a bowl of cereal. It has big characters, big stories, and big action, all coming together to bring these classic heroes to life, thundering across your television screen.
CONTEST: WIN ONE OF TWO AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES DVD SETS
Hey there! How’d you like to win a set of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes DVDs, including Volume 1: Heroes Assemble, and Volume 2: Captain America Reborn? It’s dead easy. Here’s how you can do it:
For a chance to win, send an e-mail with your name and “AVENGERS EARTHS MIGHTIEST” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org before Monday, May 16th at 12pm (noon) EST. Winner will be drawn and contacted on Monday the 16th. Their first name will be announced on the website here.
RULES & REGULATIONS:
1. Subject line MUST contain entrant?s name, and “AVENGERS EARTHS MIGHTIEST” (no apostrophe), and must be sent to email@example.com.
2. Entries must be received before Monday, May 16th, at 12 noon. You will be contacted for your mailing address at that time.
3. No purchase necessary, void where prohibited, etc.