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DVD review: “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Volume 1 and Volume 2”

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes gets it right. This Disney/Marvel Comics animated series has the same well told, serialized storytelling you’ll find in the comic pages; excellent animation from Film Roman; lively performances by the voiceover cast; and a well blended mix of action and comedy. It even has a killer theme song (sung by some dude who sounds like James Hatfield of Metallica). The DVD’s for Volume 1 and Volume 2 are single discs sold separately and are the perfect introduction to the ongoing animated series, as well as the characters who will be featured in the Avengers live action film being released in the summer of 2012.

Disney DX premiered The Avengers last fall with a series of vignettes that aired during commercial breaks between other shows. These vignettes, 3-5 minute scenes, were sliced from actual half hour episodes that focus on the individual heroes who comprise the Avengers, the super hero group who fight the Earth’s worst super villains.  The vignettes were teasers in the build up to the series launch. On Volume 1, those vignettes have been reassembled into the actual episodes. Thus, there is a half hour devoted to Iron Man, a half hour to Thor, the Hulk, Ant Man and Wasp, and finally, a rousing 1940’s adventure that stars Captain America. In case you’re wondering, Cap is frozen in suspended animation and reawakened in the 21st Century, just in time to join the Avengers.

By episode 5 on Volume 1, in which secret prisons that hold the worst super villains in the world break open, we know who the players are and anticipate them coming together to form the Avengers. The series takes it time bringing those principals together, allowing for an epic approach to the series. Characters cross paths, have misconceptions about each other, team up for the greater good, and ultimately realize that their combined super powers can help maintain peace and order in a chaotic world.  In addition to the previously mentioned heroes, two other members eventually round out the group. There is Hawkeye, a cocky master archer who is a former member of the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D, and there is the Black Panther, an African prince, who comes to America because he believes joining the Avengers will help mankind.

Disney/Marvel made a conscious decision to link the portrayal of Iron Man/Tony Stark to the smash films starring Robert Downey, Jr. In fact, Eric Loomis’ performance as Iron Man uses the same cocky cadence and flippant line reads as Downey in the movies.  It will be interesting to see how close the animated Thor and Captain America sound and act to their live action counterparts, coming to theaters this summer.

An intersting choice was made in the characterization of the Hulk. Instead of the monosyllabic mass of fury (“Hulk smash!”) that the general public knows him as, the Hulk in this Avengers is more intelligent (he can actually have qa conversation with his teammates) and has an understanding between good and evil. Early on, the Hulk hallucinates seeing his alter ego, the mild mannered Dr. Bruce Banner. The two halves of the Hulk’s personality converse and come to an understanding. If the Hulk will act as a hero, then he can maintain control of the body. Banner will be pushed in to the subconscious. This is a bold storytelling technique for a show aimed at kids. I think that makes The Avengers cooler than your typical action cartoon; it credits its young viewers with being bright enough to figure out some of the complex themes being dealt with in the show.

The Avengers is a fun, lively show that I would consider safe for any child familiar with the many other super hero series that populate the airwaves and DVD racks. It’s rated Y7 for violence, so if your child is sensitive to bone crunching punches and stylized action sequences, it might be better to check out the DVD’s yourself before letting them watch. For any parent that actually likes comic books, there’s plenty to keep you interested and entertained. Unlike some of the crappy animation that Marvel churned out in the 90’s, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is one of the best.

Volume 1 Episodes: 1. Iron man is Born 2. Thor the Mighty 3. Hulk vs. the World 4. Meet Captain America 5. The Man in the Ant Hill 6. Breakout, Pt. One 7. Breakout Pt. Two

Volume 2 Episodes: 8. Some Assembly Required 9. Living Legend 10. Everything is Wonderful 11. Panther’s Quest 12. Gamma World: Part One 13. Gamma World: Part Two