Shout! Factory // 2009 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 7th, 2010
Who's gonna hero up?
Super Friends. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Justice League. Over the years, there have been some stand-out examples of great animated TV series that took familiar superhero characters and introduced them to new generations. With such tried and true content to draw from, it would be pretty difficult to screw up an animated TV series, especially one that stars some of the most iconic Marvel character of all time, wouldn't it?
In 2004, toy manufacturer Playskool released a line called "Star Wars Big Adventures," that features familiar characters and vehicles from the Star Wars universe in a cutesy, chunky style designed to appeal to younger children and older collectors (ahem). At about two inches tall, the figures captured the spirit of many mainstream and supporting characters, and fall 2004, Hasbro took over the line and expanded it to include a line of 2-packs called "Galactic Heroes." Capitalizing on the success of that line, Hasbro adapted the concept to the Marvel universe with the "Super Hero Squad." Equally as fun as their Star Wars predecessors, the Squad characters introduced beloved Marvel characters to a new generation of fans (and their parents).
With legendary Marvel superheroes starring in every episode and an impressive voice cast backing it, The Super Hero Squad Show: Volume 1 should deliver in spades, making it an instant classic; it probably should, but it really doesn't. I watched the show with my two in-house animation fans, expecting the show to be funny, engaging and leaving me wanting more. Instead, I found myself explaining to my children why their beloved Marvel characters like Wolverine and Captain America were acting so lame and why none of the jokes made any sense. Apparently, the overarching plot for the series involves Doctor Doom looking for pieces to something called a "fractal sword," but that is quickly lost in cheesy dialogue. I'm not sure who the target audience is for this series, but the only conclusion I can reach is that it must be aimed at children under five years old who are fueled on sugar and have precious little attention to dedicate to any one thing. It took less than one episode for my children and me to realize that the writing is poor and disjointed, the situations are weak and there's no real flow from beginning to end. In many ways, The Super Hero Squad Show feels more like the Muppet Babies have been replaced with super hero equivalents. But if fart jokes and a Silver Surfer who talks like Keanu Reeves is your bag, this might be the show for you.
One thing the series has going for it is its impressive voice cast that includes animation voice powerhouses like Steve Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men), Grey DeLisle (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Mark Hamill (Batman: The Animated Series) and other mainstream names like LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Taye Diggs (Private Practice), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and even good ol' Stan Lee himself! From what I experienced, these folks and their immense talents are all but wasted on a product that seems to exist merely to sell toys.
This release comes tagged with the dreaded "Volume 1," something that always seems to mean "nope, it's not the whole season, not by a long shot, but we know you'll pony up the dough to buy it anyway." With 26 episodes in the show's first season and only seven included on this release, fans of the series or their parents will likely have to be prepared to buy at least two more volumes like this to have the whole series. You can also bet that a full season one set will likely be released at some point, making these smaller volume collections fodder for second-hand stores and garage sales.
The Super Hero Squad Show: Volume 1 doesn't fare much better on the A/V front either. The video presentation is relatively soft and while the heroic primary colors should pop, they remain fairly drab throughout. The audio mix is clear and the 5.1 track is not too bad at all, but the sonic experience is loaded with goofy dialogue that all starts to sound the same. Adding insult to injury, the only extra feature of any real value on this release is an all-too-brief interview with Stan Lee. Aside from that, trailers for the show, a video game and a music video (eesh!) round out the underwhelming offering.
There's no other way to say it, The Super Hero Squad Show stinks.
Marvel should be ashamed of themselves for selling out their most beloved
characters for a Saturday morning marketing vehicle. Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2010 Kent Dixon; 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: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Website
* View the trailer
* Video Clip: Giant Monsters
* Video Clip: This Really Stinks