Avengers Review: Breakout, Part 1/Breakout, Part 2

26Oct10

Going into this new Avenger’s cartoon series, the main question I had in my mind was how it would stack up against my most recent cartoon favorite, Justice League (later Justice League Unlimited). I don’t think it’s an unusual opinion to say that all of the DC cartoons helmed by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have been quite good, and it’s left most of the Marvel offerings in the dust, stretching all the way back to Batman: The Animated Series. It would be unfair to expect the Avenger’s premiere to be as good as Justice League, but I hoped to see that same mixture of appeal for both kid and adult fans. Fortunately, all of the elements are there for a good show, and it’s just a matter of seeing if they come together consistently.

Before getting into the main plot, it’s worth noting that the mini episodes that have been shown before the premiere do a lot to establish the characters and their motivations, and even touch on characters that don’t appear at all in the premiere, such as Klaw and the Black Panther. Fortunately, you don’t need to watch them to understand the plot here, though they do answer some questions, such as why Hawkeye is one of the prisoners in the Vault at the start of the episode.

The plot is fairly simple-after a teaser showing Iron Man defeating some AIM goons who’ve stolen his gadgets, the show touches on the existence of three super hero prisons-the Cube, the Vault, and the Big House, respectively (while making some time for two unrelated scenes of Thor being taken with a cute paramedic named Jane Foster that caught his eye). And then, suddenly, the power cuts out in all three prisons, and the villains start to escape. In the case of the Big House, they also cripple the SHIELD Helicarrier in the process. For a while all hell seems to be breaking loose just from the sheer number of prisoners escaping, until the real villain of the episode appears, Graviton. The show then abandons the other prisoners escaping, instead using the first half of the second episode to gather all the soon-to-be Avengers, and taking up most of the second half with a giant (and amazingly destructive) fight scene between them and Graviton. Fortunately, it’s a good fight scene-things get torn up, everyone gets to do something useful or exciting, and things blow up good.

The Avengers manages the impressive feat of making everyone on the team useful in their very first fight together. It’s not hard to make Thor or Iron Man look good, and the Hulk is great for anytime you want a whole lot of collateral damage. But both the Wasp and Hank Pym contribute multiple times as well, so they seem more like real team members than jokes or curiosities. It’s easy to see how they could fit alongside the heavier hitters.

So how much is it like Justice League? Well, it’s getting there already. The animation can be a little wonky at times, but it doesn’t look cheap at any point. As for the pacing and plot, I think this opening actually works better than Justice League’s 3 part beginning, since it gets to the action pretty quickly and keeps it going to the end. The show also does a great job of just dropping the viewer into the Marvel Universe without trying to overexplain it-villains pop up and either have immediately apparent powers, or use them so that they become clear. There are little nods that Marvel Comic fans will catch, but there’s never a point where you’ll be lost without being versed in Avengers lore. And that’s probably the most important virtue the Avengers and Justice League share so far-making sure that their origins as comic books don’t act as barriers to new viewers.

I was bothered by Iron Man’s never ending array of gadgets-it doesn’t get truly ridiculous in variety, but he seems to use the same device to do multiple things, depending on the plot. I think that can be excused here, since the show is just starting, but I worry about whether Iron Man’s suit will end up being the deus ex machina of the week.

Still, it’s just the beginning, and it’s a strong showing so far. Just make sure to mute the theme song. I listened to be thorough, and I can confirm that it is terrible.

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