Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why You Really Should Give Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes a Watch

 There are some spoilers ahead, but I'll try to keep them to the first part of the show.

One of my cohorts recently threw down the gauntlet (or possibly spandex glove) by comparing Young Justice to Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. As he pointed out, they are for different age groups, so it might not be entirely fair to compare them. While YJ gets to have complex storylines full of brooding and woe (and veiled references to drug use, with Red Arrow's latest story arc), A:EMH is much more about fighting bad guys and stopping cartoonishly evil schemes that usually consist of "taking over ____," revenge, and theft. This isn't to say that it's completely silly: Captain America still mourns over the loss of his entire world, Hawkeye and Black Widow have tension while going back and forth on just how evil Widow is, and at one point the Hulk is rejected and goes off to be alone. These moments are great, but they're fairly rare, because the show is about something else: it's about saving the world, and being mighty while doing it.

Of course, Avengers has some weaknesses. For a half-hour show, it focuses far too much on minor characters such as Black Panther, Hawkeye, Wasp, Ant-Man, and Black Widow, as though the writers couldn't figure out compelling plots about the characters we really came to see: the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. But at least the stable of heroes is somewhat manageable. It would be petty of me to add that my colleague used the fewer characters in Young Justice as a selling point in his argument, while the new season of YJ has had such an influx in new, unexplained characters that I feel as though I started watching a whole new show halfway through its run.

My friend has mentioned the different animation styles, and I admit it took me a while to get used to the look of Avengers. After a while, though, the stylized animation, with the big eyes, the huge shoulders, and the straight lines, has grown on me. I think it adds to the colorful, comic-book feeling of the show. It's not quite reality, but a more action-packed version of it where decisions really matter and the world is always in danger. The characters, especially Iron Man and Thor, are more simple versions of their movie/comic book selves, but that 'superhero lite' treatment makes Avengers the Saturday morning light-hearted popcorn fun it should be. It's like if someone took the stories I played out with action figures as a kid and animated them.

For all its cartoonishness, Avengers has some genuinely touching moments, such as when Captain America must face the memories of the men he served beside in World War 2 (I won't give you the details to keep from spoiling it) and when the Hulk discovers his own capacity for being a hero. I was also touched by the story of Krang, who wants to destroy Earth not because he's mustache-twiddlingly evil, but because he wants to save his own planet and the woman he loves.

Some of the villains also work very well. Though Loki is just kind of silly, I can't help but grin every time I see Arnim Zola or MODOC show up. They're supervillains in all the right ways. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing AIM and Hydra fighting each other; it's just fun to see two evil organizations going toe-to-toe with weird supervillain tech.


When Avengers is working well, this is what it does best: pure superhero fun and adventure. The plots are larger-than-life, the heroes are buddies, and the world in general is more colorful and lively than the shadowy world of Young Justice. While you might not have the same emotional impact as when Miss Martian reveals (SPOILERS), you also avoid the endless self-flagellation from characters crying about their feelings and self-doubt. Instead, you get explosions, monster-punching, and even the occasional touching moment. It's not soul-searching and brooding, but not everything has to be.

Sometimes, superheroism isn't about facing your moral weaknesses and trying to figure out whether fighting monsters has made you a monster. Sometimes, it's about knocking a screeching giant-headed villain through a wall with an enchanted hammer.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this response to my post. I'm glad this show brings you such joy! I think you and I focused on different things. You loved the over-the-top superpowered brawls, while I cringed at all the angst surrounding Hawkeye, Black Widow, Ant Man, and the Wasp. Ant Man was especially heinous, because it's always painful to watch a superhero whine about having superpowers and declare that he doesn't want to be a superhero any more. Being a superhero should be a good thing. Maybe it's a privilege and maybe it's a duty, but it should never be a chore.