TV: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (Season 1)

I started watching the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as background noise, a way to pass the time while I ate lunch after my morning writing session. I wasn’t expecting it to be great, and it’s not, but it ended up pushing all sorts of nostalgia buttons and I, uh, kind of ended up getting a little obsessed with it. Oops!

In time-honored Marvel tradition, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is another rebooted, remixed, reimagined version of the superhero team’s history. After a massive breakout of supervillains from various prisons occurs, the series starts shakily with a number of solo, quasi-origin stories for the major Avengers who will ultimately found the team: Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, and Wasp. The show doesn’t really start to gel until the team officially forms six or seven episodes in, motivated by the need to round up all the escaped criminals. (The season doesn’t exactly follow up on this arc, though.) Once Black Panther, Captain America, and Hawkeye find their way onto the team, the show starts to come together, doing a good job of recapturing the created family/soap opera dynamic I remember from my childhood.

The plots are pretty simple, frameworks on which to hang flashy, noisy action sequences. But it’s great, harmless fun for Avengers buffs. I was happy to see that the writers clearly like Hawkeye as much as I do: the archer, always my favorite Avenger, gets boatloads of screen-time and wisecracks. I was also happy to see less widely known Avengers like Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Wasp get as much attention as the more conventional, big name guys. And like the recent Avengers movies, there’s plenty of enjoyable easter-egg hunting for fans of the Marvel universe, as obscure villains, familiar side characters, and amusing cameos turn up throughout. My favorite storylines involved H.Y.D.R.A., Kang, and Ultron.

I do wish they’d managed to work more female Avengers into the mix: there is a reasonably big recurring role for Black Widow, and Carol Danvers (Miss Marvel) and Mockingbird make appearances, but overall the team is dominated by men. (Maybe season two will shake up the roster.) And in general the show lacks restraint, a big, loud runaway train juggling a pretty unwieldy cast. It’s a bit of a mess, then, but if you grew up with the comic book like I did, it’s a great, mostly mindless instant streaming diversion. And it definitely whet my appetite for next year’s Avengers flick!

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