Cartoon Reviews: The Avengers – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes


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I don’t normally watch that many American cartoons. Not because I’m a Japanophile, but because I’ve been so burned by the past decade of American animation that I can’t get the energy up to even bother most of the time. But thanks to Rob Bricken over at Topless Robot, whose columns I read in Animea when that magazine was still a thing, kept gushing about the series with every new episode, I decided it was worth a shot to check the series out.

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Of course, like the moron that I am, I started watching it towards the end of a semester, when everything was due. Fortunately I had a day off from both classes and work, and was able to watch almost the entire available series in two days. First impressions are good. I haven’t given two craps about Marvel for a few years. Besides the movies they just didn’t have anything to offer, while DC had Batman. I was also lost in what was currently going on in the Marvel universe, I read the first five volumes of Essential X-Men, but haven’t picked up a Marvel book religiously since then.

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The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is perfect for someone like me. I know the basic characters, and while I don’t know their entire history, I know enough to appreciate the interaction between the characters. The show is a perfect mix between stand alone stories, and the episodic format. While I do appreciate the amount of investment needed to watch most anime series, I still appreciate the Western episodic format that lets you pick up any random episode in the middle of a show and still get what’s going on.

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There’s so much I love about this show that it’s hard to decide where to even start talking about it. So I will divide this review into convenient subtopics!

Characters
For someone like me, that knows nothing beyond the basics with these characters, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible everyone is in this series. Personalities are well portrayed, and distinctive enough that I can legitimately tell them apart from each other without relying on their character designs. Hawkeye was a particular standout for me, because prior to this I always just considered him a purple Green Arrow with wolverine’s cast off outfits. But I quickly got invested in him, just because he is the definition of badass. In a team of super powered individuals, he’s the only one without powers who still kicks more ass. He’s the Batman of the team. And even Batman Light is still Batman. The timing on this realization was perfect, because now I’m actually looking forward to seeing him in the movie.

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I wasn’t as impressed by Black Panther. While I will admit to a juvenile bias against the character (Storm having been a childhood crush of mine…What?), I haven’t seen much from him to prove me wrong. Sure he’s competent, and a cool character, but he hasn’t exactly done all that much to wow me. He’s a much more reserved character, and kind of easy to ignore. I would have liked to see more from him, but I suppose it’s just part of his personality to be more in the background. I suppose that if I didn’t have an admitedly ridiculous bias against him I would like him just fine.

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Animation
When I say “animation” I really mean art style more often than not. One of the biggest pet peeves in an animated series is when it just doesn’t look good. A show like Phineas and Ferb may be absolutely hillarious, but that art style just turns me off. Avengers manages to have a simple, yet stylized art style. It reminds me of an updated version of classic Marvel cartoons. A bit more angular than I’m necessarily a fan of, but that’s a minor complaint when the rest of the series just looks so darn good.

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Plot
The first two episodes were great, while they may have been disorienting for anyone unfamiliar with the characters, the story moves fast enough to make for an exciting watch. The series then switched to the individual episodes, each containing four stories centered around a specific character. This part of the show was a little rough for me. While I enjoyed each of the individual episodes, I’d get so invested in each character that I was upset they wouldn’t be involved in the next episode. This made continuing the series a little difficult, because I kept having to switch where I was invested. Fortunately the first two episodes promised me enough that I knew I’d be able to follow all the characters I’d grown fond off soon enough.

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The majority of the show is made up of episodic stories, with several ongoing threads carrying through the season, and a few multi-parters sprinkled amidst the single episodes. Overall a really great way to make a show. I’m a fan of the episodic format, because it allows viewers a chance to rewatch favorite episodes without having to watch the entire series again. But the ongoing story threads, and multi-parters give the show more depth than a strictly episodic series might have. Really it makes for an ideal combination of story formats.

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World Building
I’m not ashamed to admit that my knowledge begins and ends with the first five issues of Essential X-Men. So at best I was aware of the basics of the Marvel Universe. What I did not realize was how heavily it was steeped in Norse mythology. An ongoing plot line for the first season involves The Enchantress, one of Thor’s enemies, and her involvement in the background of all the trouble the Avengers encounter. When the finale of the season moved on to delve even deeper into Asgard and the nine realms, I was amazed at how rich the Marvel Universe really is. I’ve always been a bit of a fan of mythology, particularly Greek and Norse, and while DC’s Universe gives me my Greek kick, I’ve always had a fond spot for the mythology of my ancestors. So Marvel’s use of Norse mythology was a delight to watch. Thor is easily becoming one of the characters I love, but never expected to love.

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It helps that the world in general gets a lot of development. There are references to other teams, giving the impression that the Avengers are not the only ones in this world. While the focus is on the Avengers, they do not feel isolated like some super hero teams have in past series. There’s a bigger world out there, and it makes the individual stories more vibrant knowing that they aren’t taking place against a matte painting.

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Cameos from other Marvel heroes help that.

Final Word
It’s been years since I switched almost entirely over to anime. I despaired for Western animation. As far as I was concerned it was deader than roadkill. In past years however, I’ve slowly been discovering some quality animation coming back to our shores. Sure some of it may be fairly anime inspired, but it was still our own creation. Finally I could be an animation fan, instead of just an anime fan, again. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is one of those shows that has revived my faith in Western animation.

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And now it might be gone after the second season. I’ve heard from trustworthy sources that say the series isn’t doing nearly as well as Disney wants, and so the show hasn’t been renewed for a third season. Instead it will possibly be replaced by a show that follows Ultimate Spider-Man more closely.  I’m of two minds on this, on the one hand I’ve been loving The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and while it would be tragic to lose the series, I’m hopeful that the new series would be just as high quality.

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Though, it seems weird to cancel a series, and replace it with an identical one. Figure out why the show isn’t doing so well, and then change it, rather than starting from scratch. I dunno, I could think of a few things that could use changing. Such as maybe airing it on a channel that people actually get in their basic services. And not airing it on Sunday. What’s wrong with airing it on Saturday? Peopla are already sticking around to watch Korra then, so just air it after that and you’ll have an audience that is already watching TV at your fingertips.

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If you liked my review, let me know in the comment sections whether I should go back and review the entirety of season one episode by episode. I’m already planning to review the released episodes of season two on their own, I just needed to get this out before doing so. I’ve got the bad habit of trying to review everything, but I’m slowly working towards actually being capable of doing it. So as a way to keep myself from overworking myself, I’m doing season reviews, and giving you, the reader, the option of deciding whether I should go back and review all the episodes individually.

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