Monday, January 26, 2015

'Avengers Assemble' animated series/DVD review

"Now I can't say I haven't seen any of 'Avengers Assemble' or 'Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H.' …"
— Cary Ashby
"And you can't say you're any better for it?!" — Andrew Gates 

As I said in my review of the related trade paperback, I hadn't watched any episodes of the "Avengers Assemble" animated series because my cable service doesn't provide Disney XD.

And if you read the quote above from one of my closest friends, Andrew Gates and me, I'm pretty sure I'm not any more fulfilled having seen the first four episodes. In short, "Avengers Assemble" lacks the certain magic of its somewhat unrelated predecessor, "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes."

That's not to say "Assemble" isn't enjoyable. To be fair, it's hard to tell how much I might have enjoyed these episodes if I hadn't read the trade, which includes condensed versions of the same kid-friendly stories.

All that aside, I certainly would have gotten more out of the episodes had two consecutive stories not had to do with taking over the bodies of The Avengers. In the first story, a two-parter, The Red Skull takes over Captain America's body and in the conclusion, he does the same thing with Iron Man. The Red Skull even dubs himself the ridiculous sounding "Iron Skull" and wears Shellhead's armor. The third episode features extra-dimensional aliens who overtake each of The Avengers except for the Falcon, leaving the newest member on his own to save the day. Yawn!

Being a lifelong Caphead fan, I've got no use for Captain America being put on the sidelines. As I've discussed before, I fully understand "Avengers Assemble" is Iron Man-centric (not unlike the live-action films, but I have a feeling that's changed with Cap. Falcon and Black Widow singlehandedly taking down SHIELD in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), but it's so blatant here it's ridiculous. The writers very much treat Winghead as a secondary character while Shellhead gets all the glory. Sorry to say this, Iron Man fans, but Cap ain't Tony Stark's b****. Grade: B-
Iron Man (left) and War Machine take flight in the 1990s cartoon.

Here's a useful suggestion for watching the "Avengers Assemble" collection: Don't watch the batch of hysterical "Marvel Mash-Ups" after the two-parter and before the bonus episodes. Because if you don, it's close to impossible to take them seriously.

The "Mash-Ups" on this collection are focused on the dreadful Iron Man cartoons of the mid-1990s. Aside from the spot-on character designs for Spider-Woman and Hawkeye, that series was nothing less than cringe-inducing. (And get this: Marvel was doing its level best at the time!)

Add in Stark's mullet hairstyle and the intentionally cheesy delivery of ridiculous lines recorded over the original material — putting the original sequences into even more ridiculous circumstances — and you're guaranteed to bust  a gut laughing.

By far, this is the highlight of the DVD. Make sure you look up "Iron Man Marvel Mash-Up" on YouTube; you won't regret it. The Hulk ones are equally funny. Grade: A

And that brings me to the one episode of "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." on the DVD. Talk about ridiculous — not to mention a massive waste of voicing talent. (Seth Green voices A-Bomb and Clancy Brown (best known as Lex Luthor) does the Red Hulk, just name two.)

The concept stretches my patience — and likely many Marvel fans. Hulk leads a squadron of gamma-powered creatures (and they're "heroes, not monsters," they remind people).

The Hulk and his cousin She-Hulk in a scene
from "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H."
First of all, the Big Green Guy is no leader and was never intended to be one — even more so than Iron Man. What's even more trying on my ability to suspend disbelief is why such a team would be called in to be the featured celebrities to open a Las Vegas casino. Even worse, the Hulk wears a white tuxedo and to put an exclamation point on it all, Galactus decides this is a great time to show up and make She-Hulk his new herald.

Fred Tatasciore again voices the Hulk. And it's a shame the quality of "Agents" (or rather, the lack of it!) doesn't match what he's done in the past as the Big Green Guy or various other characters.

While it's cool for Eliza Dusku to say she's the first actress to voice She-Hulk, she might look back in embarrassment at this corny Disney XD animated series that doesn't do much for kids. Of any age. Grade: C-

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