"The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - Season One, Volume One" DVD Review
April 25, 2011 by James Harvey
When you do a cartoon series based on some of the biggest characters in the Marvel Universe, you want to do it right. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, to put it very simply, gets it right. Remember that terrible The Avengers: United They Stand cartoon, where the only good thing was the fact that it ended after thirteen episodes (though there was the awesome spin-off comic handled by Ty Templeton, but that's for another time)? Well, this latest adventure series from Marvel Animation makes up for it in spades. Full of great writing, solid animation and exciting action, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes puts Marvel's big guns out there and does them justice. Suffice it to say, this is the cartoon that countless Marvel fans have been waiting for!
When the planet is threatened by super-villains, time traveling conquerors, mythical monsters or mad robots bent on the total destruction of humanity, when the forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero has the power to save the world, when there is no hope left… The Avengers assemble! Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Ant-Man, Wasp and The Incredible Hulk! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must band together to protect the world from a break-out of Super-Villains the likes of which no one has never seen. Only the Avengers can stand against this threat, and the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. Discover their adventures and experience the excitement of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!
As odd as this compliment may sound, I find The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes to be...comforting. It's straight-forward heroics with dynamic, developed characters. The action and stories feel "classic" to me, yet also not out of date. The show feels...genuine. That, to me, is probably the reason why this show has become such a fan-favorite among the comic crowd since its debut. Given some of the dubious treatment of the characters in the comics, the Avengers here feel as they should - heroes to the core. They're called "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" for a reason, and we see it here.
We get all the big guns - like Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor - plus a few high-class B-listers - like Hawkeye, Giant-Man, Wasp and Black Panther. Together, they make up a pretty much iconic line-up of heroes. While Marvel has their fair share of big-time teams, I can't think of any team more iconic than these guys. To me, when you think 'super-hero team,' you think of The Avengers (and the Justice League). Well, a comic reader like myself does, and hopefully this show will introduce this great gaggle of heroes to a new generation of comic readers.
This show works for me because it hits what I believe is the core truth of the Avengers, that they are the superteam of the Marvel Universe. Yeah, we also have our X-Men and Fantastic Four who go off and have their amazing adventures, but The Avengers are...they are what hold the Marvel Universe together. They are what other heroes strive to be at the end of the day. The X-Men want to be admired like them. Spider-Man looks up to these heroes, they are his idols. And even though this show is just starting, and the team is just coming together here, the creative team behind the show get it. They get what these characters represent on a higher level and in overall status for the Marvel Unvierse. And while they decide to become a team a bit too quickly at the end of "Breakout, Part Two," thankfully they still do take the time in the following episodes to explore how this team will come and work together.
In fact, how the show starts off, with five episodes each composed of four inter-connected vignettes, it allows us to learn about these characters in a gradual fashion, effectively showing us just why these characters belong together. Mix in some backstory, lay the groundwork for future plotlines, and the show starts off on the right foot so, when the team does form, it works. They're not just mushed together, but it feels a bit more natural than that. Of course the full team isn't formed after "Breakout, Part Two," but that's just another charm of the series - it evolves. Yes, The Avengers are born at the end of the first two-parter of the series, but that's not the end of it. New characters appear and join...heck, some even leave, but we do get to the final roster (for now), by the end of the last episode included on these two volumes, and it's a good approach by the creative team. It just allows us to get to know the characters as they get to know each other, which in effect gives the viewer a bit more of a personal stake in the whole thing.
The show isn't about each individual character and their assorted origins, but how they came together to become The Avengers, how they became a team. Yes, we learn about each of these characters, but the underlying theme in all of them is what led to each character becoming an Avenger prevails. We learn what we need to and how that eventually brings each character together.
My beefs with the show are very, very minimal. I found the birth of the Avengers at the end of "Breakout, Part Two" to be a smidgen rushed. It really needed just a couple more minutes just to allow the scene to breathe and move naturally along. And some episodes may be a bit weaker than others here, but overall I don't really have much to complain about. The gelatinous Dough Boy seems a bit too silly as a villain to use in the episode "Living Legend," another little nitpick I have. The writing seems just fine, the characters are all likable, the action well-handled (definitely a step-up from Wolverine and The X-Men, which seemed to suffer from slow action beats), and the stories never boring. Like I said, some episodes are better than others (the two-part "Gamma World" is easily my favorite in the collection), but there's not an out-and-out stinker in the bunch.
The episodes included in release are "Iron Man is Born!," "Thor the Mighty," "Hulk Versus The World," "Meet Captain America," "Breakout, Part One," "Breakout, Part Two," "Some Assembly Required," "Living Legend," "Everything is Wonderful," "Panther's Quest," "Gamma World, Part One," "Gamma World, Part Two."
Whether you're a die-hard fan of the comic material, or new to the scene, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is definitely worth your time (and, in this case, your money). It has this charm to it, this obvious attention paid to it, that allows it to rise above most of the animated shows that have come from Marvel. While not on par with the likes of The Spectacular Spider-Man, it can proudly stand alongside the likes of Wolverine and The X-Men and the best of the Marvel Animated Features DTVs, and deserves to be added to one's home video collection. The casting is great, the writing is great, the animation is slid, and it all comes together in fine form. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes comes Highly Recommended.
Available only in Canada, though still playable on all Region 1 and Multi-Region players, Vivendi Entertainment Canada brings us The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - Season One, Volume One in undeniably snazzy packaging. No doubt they're going the extra mile to try and lure Canuck fans from importing the American releases for the series and, well, you have to admit they're doing a heck of a great job with it.
This two-disc set, that in itself has already grabbed the attention of many, is housed in a nice cardboard digipack fold-out case. No slipcase to keep it in, unfortunately, but the cardboard case folds out to reveal two separate disc holders and an additional page to house the exclusive poster also included. It's definitely a great looking package that, undoubtedly, will stand out on shelves. It looks, well, high-class. It reminds of the great effort Vivendi Entertainment Canada put into their Wolverine and The X-Men: The Complete First Season Steelbook release. It just looks great, plain and simple. However, packaging isn't everything, so let's keep going...
The widescreen transfer on all thirteen episodes, across both discs, looks great but not perfect. Compression is definitely noticeable, but not to the point where it's too distracting. It'll be apparent from time to time. Colors remain bright and vibrant, the blacks are deep. While not on par with the The Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes DVD releases from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, they're still nothing to scoff at. Moving on to the audio, the English Dolby track is crystal clear and, at times, just enjoyably loud and thunderous. The French audio track also gets a good showing. It's a respectable showing from the Vivendi crew.
Extras are pretty slim here, sadly. The bonus features add up to three additional featurettes already readily available on Marvel.com. Each run only a couple of minutes and...that's it. For those who haven't seem these featurettes, all three are rather enjoyable fluff peices that run a few minutes. One features story editor Chris Yost, and the other two spotlight voice actors from the series, Rick Wasserman and Fred Tatasciore. Slim, yes, but could be worse...they could be barren like the recent Batman: The Brave and The Bold two-disc sets from Warner Home Video. Still, Vivendi does deserve serious recognition for making sure this is one release that people don't skip over on the shelves.
Now, will these stop Canadian fans from importing the single-disc The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes DVDs released in America? Well, it depends on how crucial the bonus features are. If they're not important, then this nice two-disc set from Vivendi should do fans just fine. If bonus features are important, well, I have to give the nod to Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and their informative features that look ahead at the second season of this great cartoon. Still, Vivendi also has a leg up with their release being a two-disc set at an affordable price (between $15 - 20 dollars), while Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is releasing two which'll cost slightly higher (between $20 - 25). There are a couple things to consider for Canucks trying to decide which edition to get.
Judging this collection solely on its own merits, and no comparisons to any other concurrent releases, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - Season One, Volume One two-disc DVD release definitely comes Highly Recommended to own. This cartoon is perfect - absolutely perfect - for new fans, casual fans, and the die-hards. This show embraces what makes The Avengers such a great Marvel team and just runs with it...and it works beautifully! It provides enough nods to the well-versed fans while not alienating those new to the franchise, and manages to balance it all quite nicely. Plus, the show's just fun! Toss in a gorgeous looking package, slim but enjoyable extras, and you have a great two-disc set that fans really should pick up. Seriously - go get it!
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - Season One, Volume One Limited Edition two-disc DVD release hits Canadian retailers on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011.