The Avengers, “459”

18Dec10

If there’s anything that this Avengers episode demonstrates, it’s that the melodrama of the Avengers comic does not play well with the normal beats of a kid’s cartoon show. The main plot is about Captain Marvel and a Kree Sentry, but we also get the subplot of how Ant man and Wasp are having relationship trouble. And while there’s nothing wrong with that in theory, the execution is pretty silly.

The episode starts out with the subplot front and center-Jan and Hank are flying somewhere, and Jan is complaining about how it’s not fun to do something with science, even though Hank enjoys it. Of course, that raises the question of why they’d be dating in the first place, since it’s not like Hank has ever hidden his interest in science in the show, but that’s not a question the episode focuses on. They’re in love, damn it, no matter how railroaded it appears! They arrive at a deep space observation station and meet Major Carol Danvers and Doctor Lawson, then find out why Hank was called in (Jan was just tagging along)-they want his expertise about an anomaly they’ve picked up heading towards Earth. I could complain about the “scientist=expert in all fields” assumption here, but considering Hank invented both a way to shrink people and objects and another that makes them grow, it’s hard to argue that people wouldn’t want his help on strange science things.

The anomaly quickly proves that it’s both intelligent and, if not hostile, still very grumpy by deliberately destroying a satellite and satellite dish before crash-landing on Earth. Oh, and vaporizing a wolf who comes close. After deciding to investigate the crash site, we get the most realistic moment of the relationship when one of the episode specific characters calls Jan out on being unfair to Hank. And then it’s time to fight the robot! To be fair, Hank advises the others not to antagonize it as he tries to peacefully resolve the issue, but since it’s shooting at everything that moves, it’s hard not to blame the others for assuming it’s hostile. And I will give the episode credit for this setup. Carol and Jan want to destroy the robot, while Hank points out that its actions could be borne from confusion rather than malice…but he’s not arguing it isn’t a threat. Hank isn’t made to look like an idiot for his lack of aggression, and it’s nice to see the two women responding that way instead. Then again, we’ve already seen how well Jan and Thor work together, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she eventually picks up a battle axe and buries it in someone’s head.

Despite their best efforts, the robot reaches the station, and pretty decisively kicks everyone’s ass but Lawson’s. And that’s because Lawson reveals he’s actually an alien soldier, an officer of the Kree Science Navy. He tries to order the robot to stop, but it doesn’t listen, and instead he has to save Carol and Jan while Hank manages to get out on his own. And then Captain Marvel gives the Avengers an exposition dump of what the robot can do, what its purpose is, and why both it and he are on the planet. It’s actually got some rather interesting details to it, such as the fact that he’s a scientist, which is both why he came to Earth and why he’s been working to prevent his superiors from realizing Earth technology is getting dangerously advanced. He also mentions the problem that the robot can set off a bomb that will kill everyone on Earth.

After some rather understandable tension with the Avengers, he leads the Avengers to the Kree Sentry. And this is where the subplot collides with the main plot in the strangest way. In the middle of a pitched battle to save Earth, Jan takes time out to tell hank that she’s fed up with his behavior, and then he has to save her life because she’s taking time to scold him instead of you actually fighting the robot. For the most part, the Wasp has been a useful member of the team, but having her put herself and others in danger because she’s annoyed about relationship issues that she’s largely at fault for? It’s an unwelcome return to the original version of the wasp from the 60s, and it’s just awkward as hell. The fact that she’s the one who ultimately defeats the robot by getting inside and disabling it doesn’t change that. There are certainly elements to the “Hank and Jan are having issues” subplot that make sense-they’re very different people, so it wouldn’t be surprising that they would have some friction. In a slightly more adult oriented show, maybe they could have pulled this off without feeling so dissonant.

Marvel tries to sacrifice himself to save the day, but in a welcome change, he doesn’t die, thanks to Thor and Iron Man helping out. Thanks to that, Marvel bitchslaps Iron Man’s attempt to be triumphant before leaving. And then we get another slightly subverted trope, as Jan says she’s sorry when she thinks Hank is unconscious…except he reveals that he wasn’t, and heard everything.

Overall, this is an episode that works well in most of its elements-the threat is well introduced, the fights are entertaining, and both Carol and Captain Marvel are characters that I’d easily welcome back. But it’s hard to get past how ridiculous the subplot with Hank and Jan is. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the target audience would be annoyed with it as well, even if it’s for entirely different reasons.

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