Shout! Factory // 2009 // 154 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // February 27th, 2011
Back in 2006, Hasbro launched The Marvel Super Hero Squad Collection, two-inch action figures, somewhat squished (the technical term is apparently "super-deformed") versions of Marvel characters. When the collection became a surprise hit, a cartoon was somewhat inevitable.
The setup for the show is fairly simple (and has little to do with the comic books). Prior to the series, Doctor Doom, in his never-ending pursuit of universal domination, attempted to acquire the limitless reality bending power of the Infinity Sword. He was stopped by Iron Man, but the sword shattered into numerous shards, called "fractals" because that sounds more scientific than "shards" or "fragments." The fractals rained down on Super Hero City, each fractal capable of granting power to its bearer. The underlying premise is that both sides are trying to retrieve the fractals.
From their lair in Villainville, Doom and his two henchmen, MODOK and Abomination, are out to retrieve the fractals, picking up additional help as needed from the Marvel villain roster. On the flip side, the Super Hero Squad (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, and Falcon), assembles a bunch of superheroes to stand in Doom's way. There are occasional references to "factors." Iron Man has a technology factor, Hulk has a strength factor, Falcon has a speed factor, etc. It's never really explained -- either the explanation occurred earlier in the season or it's an element of the action figures -- but the idea is to combine the various factors to assemble a balanced team.
Season 1 had twenty-four episodes; this disc contains episodes 14-20:
* "Tremble at the Might of...M.O.D.O.K.!"
MODOK and Loki conspire to overthrow Doctor Doom and take his place as leader of his allied villain group after MODOK eats one of the fractals. The Super Hero Squad must team up with an unlikely ally: Doctor Doom, who does a Rocky-style training montage as he vies to reclaim this position.
* "Mental Organism Designed Only for Kisses!"
Enchantress tries an Asgardian love spell to win Thor's heart; predictably, it misses, instead causing Ms. Marvel to fall in love with MODOK. Slo-Mo Luuuuuv montage, activate!
* "Invader From the Dark Dimension!"
Baron Mordo possesses Iron Man and escapes from his prison in the Dark Dimension. When Wolverine, Falcon, Redwing, and Abomination end up under Baron Mordo/Iron Man's control, Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Thor must team up with Doctor Strange and Valkyrie to stop Baron Mordo's evil plot.
* "Tales of Suspense!"
War Machine teams up with Iron Man when Doctor Doom, Crimson Dynamo, and Melter band together in a plot to eliminate Iron Man. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Reptil face off against Abomination and MODOK in a game of golf. With MODOK and Abomination in golfing clothes (including tams), the mind boggles.
* "Stranger From a Savage Land!"
When a smilodon (aka Sabre-tooth Tiger) is brought to Super Hero City from the Savage Land, a mysterious jungle lord named Ka-Zar shows up stating that the smilodon is actually his companion Zabu. Meanwhile, Doctor Doom sees the Star Quartz (which could be used to mend the Infinity Sword) around Zabu's neck and sends Toad, Thunderball, Sabretooth, and Batroc the Leaper to steal Zabu. We learn what kind of underwear Doom favors. Swear to God.
* "Mysterious Mayhem at Mutant High!"
Captain America sends Wolverine back to Xavier Academy to finish his remaining credits and get his diploma. Ringmaster shows up and hypnotizes the entire X-Men team in order to find a fractal for Doctor Doom. Foodfight in the X-Men cafeteria!
* "Election of Evil!"
The Mayor's re-election bid goes awry when Egghead wins by a landslide thanks to a little mass mind control. Wolverine and the Mayor are up against every hero and villain in a desperate attempt to free everyone from Egghead's control and stop the villains' planned invasion. An annoyed MODOK calls Egghead an EggMcNothin'. Heh.
The Super Hero Squad Show combines traditional comic book plots with the basic aesthetic of The Little Rascals. Every episode can be summarized thusly: Something happens; wackiness ensues. The stories really aren't the point. The writers are well-versed in the Marvel canon, but they never take anything too seriously -- we get a flashback to Thor's teen years in a garage band on Asgard: "Verily, we rocketh. More Cowbell!! Thus Sayeth Thor!," and you can't help but chuckle when MODOK calls the Watcher a "voyeuristic fanboy." The regular voice talent is good, and they bring in some good names for guest shots, including LeVar Burton (Star Trek: First Contact) as Jim Rhodes/WarHammer, Taye Diggs (Chicago) as Black Panther, and in a couple of nice touches, Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: The Last Stand) as Iceman and Stan Lee himself in a recurring role as Mayor of Super Hero City. Overall, the humor never quite reaches Airplane!-esque critical mass where you just stop caring that the story barely makes sense. There's the occasional lull in the action, and that's when the stories get boring and stupid. Part of the problem may be that the first time through, I watched the disc by myself. Add some comic fans and a keg, and you just might have yourself a party. My kids thought it was a blast, and they're generally a tough sell.
The disc is technically solid. Colors are clean and images are clear, and the sound field gets the job done. The animation is pretty good as well, with just enough facial detail to convey emotions. Extras are slight: an extremely brief (2-3 minutes) interview with voice actor Grey Delisle (Ms. Marvel and The Enchantress) and a bit of concept art for the villains. The main thing from the interview is that as a general rule, the voices are recorded together -- unusual for cartoons -- resulting in more natural interaction.
The Super Hero Squad Show is a little hit and miss, but overall is good, mindless fun -- it all depends on what kind of mood you're in.
Review content copyright © 2011 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 154 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Art Gallery
* Official Site
* Wikipedia: Super Hero Squad