Case Number 20031: Small Claims Court


Shout! Factory // 2009 // 132 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 3rd, 2010

The Charge

"I hate those squaddies!"

The Case

With superheroes almost omnipresent right now, a dilemma facing many parents is how and when to introduce the younger (male) members of their families to the Marvel and DC Universes. As I've learned through the experiences of my nephews and my young son: as much as young boys may want to watch the likes The Incredible Hulk or Superman tearing it up on the big screen, they are not necessarily old enough to watch these movies. I mean, who in their right mind would allow their young kids to watch any of the Christopher Nolan Batman films?

So the problem becomes how best to start a child's love affair with superheroes, without damaging their fragile little minds? I had hoped The Super Hero Squad Show may be the answer. Featuring a central roster of Wolverine, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, and Thor, with frequent appearances by Falcon, Doctor Doom, The Abomination, and Mole Man, The Super Hero Squad is certainly packed full of iconic characters who have, in some cases, been entertaining comic book fans for the better part of 40-years. How sad, then, to report that the show is not the home run I'd hoped for.

Without exception, the characters resemble their movie and comic book counterparts in name and appearance only. In fact, if it weren't for the faithfulness of the costumes in the show, you'd be hard pressed to tell which superhero is which. I appreciate that Wolverine could hardly be portrayed as a man capable of killing others in a heartbeat, and I understand why the inner turmoil of Bruce Banner is completely discarded, but in dropping these important character traits, we are left with empty vessels who -- as a consequence of an overly sanitized, kid-friendly, dumbed-down representation of the Marvel Universe -- will frequently annoy seasoned comic book readers, while simultaneously failing to fully engage the imagination of children.

The first episode, "From the Atom...It Rises!" contains a sequence where Mole Man momentarily defeats Iron Man by farting -- a common characteristic of this interpretation of the classic villain -- and a prime example of the show's humor and misrepresentation of the various heroes and villains. The villains, led by Doctor Doom, are imbeciles, offering zero threat. The heroes are no better: Thor gets more excited about two-for-one coupon day then he does the prospect of laying the smackdown on Thanos.

There are moments to savor, of course; after all, this is a show packed full of perennial ass-kickers. The sheer number of characters introduced is certainly impressive, and though all too fleeting, the action sequences can be a lot of fun. A short, but magnificent airborne battle between Doctor Strange and Enchantress in the episode "Night in the Sanctorum!" really stands out, with stunning visuals and a rare glimpse at the epic nature of these encounters. Similarly the episode, "If This Be My Thanos!" which features the Fantastic Four, is all kids of awesome. But without exception, every time the show starting drawing me in with something cool, it would lose me almost immediately with the banal jokes that punctuate every damn scene. That said, youngsters will be far more forgiving, and as The Super Hero Squad Show is aimed primarily at them, must be considered something of a success. It's very easy to criticize the series for a lack of depth, or for jettisoning huge chunks of comic book mythology; but if the show can lead to your son/younger brother/nephew asking you who The Punisher is, or whether Captain Britain could beat Nick Fury, then it's certainly doing something right.

The Super Hero Squad: Volume 2 comes to DVD with a colorful full frame transfer. The image is a little flat, but nothing too distracting, especially for the show's target audience. Thanks to a crisp 5.1 surround track, the Super Hero Squad theme sounds great. For extras you get a couple of art galleries, character profiles, and an interview with voice actor Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants).

The Verdict

What we have here, folks, is a hung jury. If you have young kids, and feel it's time they met Iron Man and company, then by all means give The Super Hero Squad Shot a shot. Otherwise, it's probably best left on the shelf.

Review content copyright © 2010 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Interview
* Hero Profiles
* Image Galleries

* IMDb

* Official Site