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The Avengers:
Earth's Mightiest Heroes

It's tough thinking you're the only hero around. At least, that's where Tony Stark finds himself in the new animated Marvel Universe. As Iron Man, he may be the only hero, but there are plenty of villains to spare, all kept in a high security prison called The Vault.

His friends Pepper and Rhodey keep telling him he doesn't have to go it alone, and SHIELD seems willing to help – or force Iron Man to help them. Unfortunately for Tony Stark's sense of moral outrage, both SHIELD and their evil counterpart HYDRA have stolen pieces of Iron Man tech.

And then someone breaks all the villains out of the Vault.

Thus begins Marvel's The Avengers animated series, which debuted on Disney XD last year and now reaches DVD, with the first season spread over two separate packages.

After a few fits and starts altering and making their characters more hip or cool for television, Marvel Animated finally has a series that can stand up to Bruce Timm and company. How'd they manage it this time? By actually not shying away from continuity, embracing what people know from both comics and a couple of movies while still being its own thing.

Not that the show feels beholden to the movies, but Eric Loomis voices Tony Stark/Iron Man in a manner that sounds an awful lot like Robert Downey, Jr. When Thor appears in the second episode, the show's version of Asgard looks close enough to the film version, though the character designs could have stepped right out of Jack Kirby's pages.

As it should be, The Avengers makes no apologies for the richness of the Marvel Universe, introducing characters left and right with little explanation. How much does the audience really need to know about the Wrecking Crew anyway, besides their theme and criminal bent?

But each hero gets his due. At the time of its debut, Iron Man was the most well-known member thanks to the films. The pilot episode focuses solely on Iron Man, barely hinting that other super-powered heroes exist. Thor gets the second episode mostly to himself, until the producers lay the groundwork for the Avengers to assemble with Hulk in the third episode and Captain America, appropriately enough, in the fourth episode (he returned to "modern day" comics in The Avengers #4).

What follows over two discs are thirteen episodes of solid superhero entertainment, with animation perhaps not as smooth as it could be, but strong character design and good storytelling that mixes classic Marvel, Ultimate Marvel and movie Marvel.

Both discs feature the same extra: a look at the upcoming second season that should get kids (and big kids) excited to see the new members of the team. Other than that, this is a package just for those who want to watch the show, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Derek McCaw


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