Sure, it's all a big, savvy marketing ploy, having this animated series on Disney XD and releasing these DVDs, what with Joss Whedon's AVENGERS set to clobber the box office this coming summer. But cynicism must stand down when the production values are of this caliber. AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES! is the boss! This show pays attention to character arcs, the development of continuity, the visual graphics (love, love, love the character designs), the voice acting. It's all here. Head writer Christopher Yost has got his finger on my pulse and yours, and geek love runneth over like a mother.
This show piggybacks off several eras, lifting from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and also from the Ultimate Universe, as well as from the cinematic adaptations. The core members are the original ones, only I'm rather glad that, in this iteration, the Hulk is sticking around. What's amazing is that Marvel and DC seem to be striving to churn out more episodes per season. Off the top of my head, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (at least in its first two seasons) and YOUNG JUSTICE have all tallied 26 eps per season. AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES! Vol. 3: IRON MAN UNLEASHED showcases six more terrific episodes.
- Episode #14 - ""Masters of Evil"
- Episode #15 - "459"
- Episode #16 - "The Man Who Stole Tomorrow"
- Episode #17 - "Come the Conqueror"
- Episode #18 - "The Kang Dynasty"
- Episode #19 - "Widow's Sting"
In a nod to continuity, the Avengers are still corraling them supervillains what hastily beat feet during the mass prison breakouts from the Vault, the Cube, the Big House, and the Raft. And, as we learn in this volume, Dr. Pym (a.k.a. Ant Man) has taken steps to construct the perfect penitentiary (more on that in a bit). But, first, we open with Baron Zemo and his "Masters of Evil" taking out the Avengers one by one, until only Ant Man and new members Hawkeye and the Black Panther are left. In "459" a powerful Kree sentry drone perceives the Avengers as a serious threat. This episode introduces the Kree warrior and xenobiologist Mar-Vell and also Major Carol Danvers (the future Ms. Marvel). "The Man Who Stole Tomorrow," "Come the Conqueror," and "The Kang Dynasty" comprise the three-part epic in which the Avengers try to stave off Kang's full-scale invasion. Interestingly, Kang insists that he's traveled from the 41st Century to save the world... by eliminating Captain America. This episode gives us a glimpse of Ant Man's new escape-proof maximum security prison which is safeguarded by a horde of Ultron robots. If you're aware of Pym and Ultron's troubled history, you can sense the ominous undercurrent. Finally, "Widow's Sting" has Hawkeye, the team's resident hothead, back on the traitorous Black Widow's trail, despite Nick Fury and Tony Stark's strict orders that he back off. This is also the first appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Bobbi Morse as Mockingbird. And she kicks much buttage.
I love all the foreshadowing. We know that the Ultron project is about to go haywire and that the immortal Enchantress has a bigger end game than just being a card-carrying member of the Masters of Evil. We get a whiff of an impending interstellar war. Surprisingly, Janet Van Dyne has become a favorite of mine as she is just so spunky and likable, a stark contrast to Hank Pym's cautious, wet blanket scientist-hero. And while Iron Man calls the shots, Captain America easily emerges as the natural leader. You can see why there's tension between the two. Marvel has always been at its best when it's juggling the grandiose elements with the petty personal soap operas.
The DVD's bonus feature: "Avengers Unmasked: Masters of Evil" - to quote the DVD case, this is "an animated in-episode comic book experience loaded with fun facts on Marvel's Avengers and the Villains that challenge them." Basically, the "Masters of Evil" episode plays picture-in-picture while trivia captions pop up onscreen. It's worth checking out.