Television Review: Avengers Assemble (2013)

Avengers Assemble Review

This past Memorial Day weekend, Marvel gave us a sneak peek at their newest animated series, Avengers Assemble on DisneyXD. Ever since Marvel was snapped up by Disney their first in-house animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man has been met with rabid derisiveness by a lot of their fan base, due mostly to the “dumbing down” Marvel did to our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler.

Marvel aimed this new toon squarely at young kids, which meant depth of character and multi-plotted story arcs were given the boot in favor of rampant comedy that involved the breaking of the “4th wall,’ (i.e. Spidey talks to the camera). Not to mention, there are also short comedy skits the show occasionally breaks away to as Spidey talks to us all out here in the “real world.”

I don’t care what anybody says, I will always maintain this “dumbing down” is due to Disney’s influence, and I fear that influence will always be there from now on. Sometimes I wonder why Steven Spielberg or George Lucas couldn’t have bought them out, the simplifying wouldn’t have been so bad. Maybe almost non-existent I would suppose with Spielberg, but that’s food for thought for another day.

The one good thing Ultimate Spider-Man had going for it was the extraordinary level of animation in the first season; character and action animation, which had no equal, and the sole reason I kept watching. Alas, Marvel/Disney slashed the budget and the animation we currently see is now just fair to good, depending on the episode.

With Avengers Assemble, that extraordinary level of animation has now once again returned, and unlike the unbridled comedy of Ultimate Spider-Man, there is no 4th wall breaking. The comedy that is on display is no more intrusive than it was on The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Bottom line is, visually, it’s an appealing show, and because of that alone I will continue to watch to see where it goes.

There is bad news however, and it mostly comes in what Marvel recently stated in a recent Press Call that was published on the web that pretty much tells us all how things are going to go down with this new series of theirs. Some things popped out that tells us that Disney is still pulling their strings.

From CBR: “This series will draw visual inspiration from the current Marvel comics while also feeling as though it comes from the same world as Marvel’s current ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ cartoon. Storywise, one of the most significant changes is that ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes‘ had cliffhangers and longer complicated story arcs,” he said, explaining that “Assemble” will have solo episodes that also work up to one giant story by the end of the season.”

And this quote here pretty much lays it all out: “ . . . Ultimately, we have to make sure these shows are appealing to new, younger viewers.”

They also assert that this new series, “… doesn’t come off as a reboot…” Well, it does and doesn’t. In Part 1, in the prologue, it’s clear from what Stark says that they have disbanded. Would they have really done that after the final episode of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, where Galactus assaults the earth? No, I don’t think so, and if they had why is Wasp not back on the team? It’s understandable as to why Hank Pym isn’t, as he’s now Yellowjacket and doesn’t really work well with others. There could be a case made as to why Black Panther decided not to rejoin, but not having Wasp back, after all those scenes in the previous series where we see how much she believed in the group, doesn’t make any sense. Plus, Hawkeye now resembles his new look he sported in the live action movie. That’s proof alone that this new series is not adhering wholeheartedly to the comics or the old series.

The only thing I can see thus far that gives some credence to Marvel’s assertion that it’s not a “reboot” is that Hulk is still the semi-intelligent behemoth he was back in the other series, completing full sentences and being somewhat witty. If you want to categorize this properly, I’d call it a remake/(loose)sequel.

Except for Fred Tatasciore, who reprises his voice role as Hulk, all the other voice actors from EMH have been recast. And I don’t have a problem with any of them, didn’t have problem with most of them from EMH either, except for, maybe, Stark’s voice. Here Adrian Pasdar, who did Stark in their Iron Man anime series, is now playing him. Actually, I prefer his voice to Eric Loomis’ from EMH.

It also appears opening credits are a thing of the past with Marvel, too. To keep Avengers Assemble in continuity with Ultimate Spider-Man, the opening of the show is exactly the same. It starts, a few credits appear, and then at a penultimate point the title appears in a similar manner as Ultimate Spider-Man. Quite frankly, I like to see a full opening credit sequence. The continuity connection continues in episode one when J.J. Jameson makes a cameo and before the team is put back together, Hawkeye has rounded up a couple of low level Spidey villains.

This series starts off, as I mentioned before, with the team disbanded, but a confrontation between Cap and Red Skull and the seeming disintegration of the former gets Stark, who is still the leader, despite his handing that job over to Cap in the second season of EMH, to get the team back together to exact revenge basically. Mystery is solved once we learn Cap wasn’t disintegrated but teleported to Skull’s lair for a mind transference. After Cap’s thinker is eventually restored, M.O.D.O.K. ups the stakes by using a psionic power we never knew he had to literally strip Stark of his Iron Man suit and put it onto Skull. Part Two is the team fighting Skull’s nanobots who have slipped into all their minds and turned them into loons who must fight each other to the death.

Stark arms himself with a new and improved suit, while Skull refurbishes the old one for his own use and concocts a plan to form a “Cabal” of villains (shades of The Light from Young Justice and the Legion Of Doom from Justice League) to counteract Stark’s team. I’m not sure how to react when Dracula is one of those who are recruited.

The rest of that Press Call does hint at possible potentials that may make this show a better one than Ultimate Spider-Man, but no matter how better it does get, I know already it won’t ever be as good as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I just hope when Marvel/Disney get around to doing new versions of X-Men and Fantastic Four, which you know they will, Disney keeps their influence to, at least, a tolerable minimum. And here’s to hoping that some day Marvel actually tries to give us a quality Spider-Man series that either equals or surpasses The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009).

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