Somehow, Chief Justice Michael Stailey doesn't believe we'll be seeing Doctor Druid or Starfox anytime soon.
I gave up on Marvel animated adaptations way back in the early days of X-Men: The Animated Series. Sure, I tuned into the occasional revamp (The Spectacular Spider-man) or direct-to-DVD adventure (Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme), but compared with what Warner Bros. Animation was doing with the Distinguished Competition, even the most promising tales fell short. So imagine my surprise when The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes turned out to be one hell of step in the right direction.
Taking the foundation of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas' earliest stories and laying them on top of a 21st century Marvel cinematic universe might seem like quiet the challenge, but veteran storyman Chris Yost and producer Josh Fine make it look easy. Forty-seven years worth of history, relationships, the character flaws are on display; with significantly more reverence than we've seen from recent series like Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Wolverine and the X-Men, and The Spectacular Spider-man. Yes, certain changes have been made (as is inevitably the case), but they aren't enough to take even the most hard core Avengers readers out of the flow of these animated adventures.
In typical Walt Disney Home Video style, the first season 26 episodes are broken up into four single volume releases. This never fails to irritate me, but there's little we can do to change their marketing strategies. Volume One Heroes Assemble! showcases the series first seven episodes, which does an unusually effective job of building the team and setting up the overarching premise for the series. Each core member receives a single episode introduction, which culminates in a two-part battle royale with NYC's resident Marvel villains.
• "Iron Man is Born!"
• "Thor the Mighty"
• "Hulk versus The World"
• "Meet Captain America"
• "The Man in the Ant Hill"
• "The Breakout, Parts 1 and 2"
Presented in 1.78 anamorphic standard definition widescreen, the visual presentation is flawless. The animation by Film Roman and Marvel is top notch, creating a distinctly angular look for this world, punctuated by vibrant colors and an impressive use of traditional and CG elements. The Dolby 5.1 surround track rocks your sound system with a healthy dose of action and adventure. Composer Guy Michelmore's score is growing on me, but the hideous title song—a bastard child of Nickelback and Blink 182—makes me cringe every time I hear it. In fact, I've taken to fast forwarding through the opening credits to avoid it, stopping only at the final title card to see which characters are in this episode; a nod to the old school Marvel Comics convention of displaying character faces in the corner of the cover art. Classic.
Don't expect much in the way of bonus features. A single 7 min featurette finds co-creators Josh and Chris discussing the series development process and their own particular passions for these characters. Again, I reinforce the fact that this show is not a cheap sellout by Marvel to capitalize on their theatrical films. This is a sincere love letter to fans who have followed the Avengers stories throughout the years. Depending on how long the show runs, we can only hope to see some of the genius work of writers likes Brian Michael Bendis get the animated treatment it so richly deserves.
Verily I say unto thee, Not Guilty!
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