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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Animated > TV > Marvel Comics’ The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Vol. 1 & 2 (Animated/Disney DVDs)

Marvel Comics’ The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Vol. 1 & 2 (Animated/Disney DVDs)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Episodes: A

 

 

Over the last ten years DC Comics and Warner Brothers have ruled the roost when it comes to animated features for comic book characters.  The long shadow cast by creative juggernauts Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie has set a high standard that has made it difficult for Marvel’s animation projects to measure up.  That started to change with Ultimate Avengers a few years ago, and the subsequent string of animated features that followed all showed great progress, with some shining more brightly than others (Hulk Vs. stands out as one of the best of the recent vintage).

 

What Marvel animation still lacked was a television series to rival DC and Warner’s epic Batman, Superman, and Justice League runs from the early to mid 2000’s.  Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (AEMH) now fills that role, and does it with a dynamic energy that draws its inspiration from the very best aspects of Marvel’s rich history.  With the DC stuff, Timm and McDuffie always strove to capture the essence of their iconic characters.  AEMH follows the same credo.  Volume One offers a wonderful set of prequels that provide critical background to the formation of the Avengers team.  Some act as full-blown origin tales, while others pick up en media res, dropping us right into the action of an ongoing story that provides the underpinning to larger events yet to come.  Another tenet of the “DC model” was to animate characters you might never hope to see on the television screen--obscure, but visually stunning villains that make the longtime fan exclaim, “They did him? No way!”  

 

That happens a lot in these two sets.  We get to enjoy full-on slugfests with villains like the Absorbing Man and Whirlwind, and we’re treated to flashes of baddies like Modok and the Bi-Beast.  And they don’t skimp on the voice talent for these characters, either.  For example, Fred Tatasciore returns as the Hulk, and Clancy Brown shines in his too brief appearance as Odin, All-Father of the Norse Gods.

   

Whereas Volume One provides plenty of setup, Volume Two features the Avengers assembled.  Again writers Joshua Fine (also a producer on the series) and Christopher Yost (a Marvel Comics veteran scribe) draw upon the core elements of the characters and their rich history.  Like in the original comics from Lee and Kirby, the team squabbles in their early adventures.  Manipulated by the machinations of Loki and the Enchantress, Hulk and Thor engage in a donnybrook that leaps from the screen.  Captain America strikes a melancholy chord as a stranger in a strange land, displaced in time and riddled with guilt over the death of his WWII comrade, Bucky.  Hank Pym and the Wasp enjoy a frenetic but troubled relationship, and voice actor Eric Loomis beautifully harnesses the “Robert Downey Jr.” Iron Man--at once deadly serious and playful.   

 

Writer-Producer Joshua Fine and his crew hit the sweet spot with this series, and they’ve now shown that they can successfully apply the techniques that made the efforts of their “Distinguished Competition” such smash hits.  These two sets provide a great start on what promises to be an exciting journey back into the history, and the future, of Marvel Comics’ animated universe.

 

 

-   Scott Pyle


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