Following in the tradition of the fine X-men and Spider-man cartoons from the early 90’s, Disney XD aired two amazing seasons of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (EMH). 52 episodes of many of the best Avengers’ story lines from the last 50 years. Drawing on the source material (as many good shows and movies do), they picked some of the best story lines, weaving a complex tale the built until it peaked mid 2nd season. Knowing the direction of the show or season adds another lair of cohesion enhancing the overall experience. Due to some behind the scenes changes in the 2nd season, EMH never quite reaches the same story telling apex as Justice League Unlimited (still the pinacle of animated superhero shows).
The first few episodes of EMH are standalone, staring only Hulk, or Iron Man, or Thor, etc. giving us a backstory for the characters. Episode 6 (which aired first because, whatever) is where they come together, forming the Avengers. The amazing opening credits ended with the title card and the characters posed, but only the ones in that episode. If Thor stayed in Asgard in the last episode, making he not in the one, then he wouldn’t appear. It was a neat mechanic, especially in episode 23 of season 2, New Avengers.
Each episode had the potential of introducing new characters like Vision, Captain Marvel, or Yellowjacket, extending the main cast. Many other Marvel mainstays even got some screen time, such as The Fantastic Four, Beta Ray Bill, and even Spider-man. One of my favorite episodes had a run in with the Guardians of the Galaxy (if you don’t know who they are, you will come 2014).
In season 1 it was easy to see how they were building to a conflict with Loki that did not disappoint while dealing with other threats along the way. Season 2 is when things began to change. The first 12 – 13 episodes followed suit with the previous season, with the premier laying ground work for the Secret Invasion story line. Upon it’s completion, the format changed. Every episode become more of a standalone, villain of the week. Around this time during production, Marvel was purchased by Disney. Controversial writer Jeph Loeb (who had experience working on successful shows like Heroes which he totally didn’t get fired from) was put in charge of Marvel’s TV department. He thought the shows were becoming to complicated (false), and moving forward should have a lower barrier to entry.
This edict was echoed in EMH. With what I’m sure were story lines that could have easily filled another 2 seasons, we were shown villains and plot lines that in the end didn’t matter much. I don’t know if this was either to prove that they could be the show he wanted, or a mad dash to fit it all in. In either case the audience is the one who suffered. Thankfully, nearly every plot line was given closure, save for Loki’s foreshadowed return and Sutter’s invasion of Asgard.
EMH is a fantastic show that sits along side greats like X-men (90’s), Batman: The Animated Series, and Justice League Unlimited. I can not highly recommend this show enough. Considering it’s not hard to do better than this.
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