Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Avengers Assemble "Nighthawk"

What is it about episodes where villains come in and just utterly wreck the heroes that makes them some of the best episodes in this show? Seriously.

Plot/Themes/Characters
Surprisingly enough, this episode was a pretty good adaptation of “Tower of Babel,” a Justice League plot, of all things. But considering the villain, it makes sense. Basically, Batman showed up and nearly defeated the Avengers. But you can bet he’ll be back. Oh boy, he will. And I can’t wait for it.

But this episode was about more than establishing a credible threat after Thanos’s disappointing first outing. This episode was about justifying Falcon’s very existence.

Characters
Falcon
Even in the comics, Falcon has always had a bit of a tough time trying to be more than the token black guy. He’s Captain America’s black best friend, he was one of the token black Avengers, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was quick to slot him into the Captain America sequel to deflect criticisms of the lack of minority representation besides Nick Fury. In Avengers Assemble, Falcon was always the one part that never quite meshed. He was tech wiz, but that role was already taken by Tony. He had S.H.I.E.L.D. training, but so did Hawkeye and Black Widow. He was the 17-year-old newbie, but with Ultimate Spider-Man, the Marvel Animated Universe has an entire show about that. Falcon was allegedly supposed to be the audience viewpoint character, but Tony Stark was constantly being pushed into the limelight as the main character of the show. Where did that leave Falcon?

As a token. The token whiz-kid, the token kid, the token black guy, the token “hip” guy, etc.

But then Season 2 happened, and this episode in particular. From this point on, Falcon starts to make his own path. While Tony Stark is the guy who builds big ol’ devices, Falcon starts being defined as the guy who builds the little things. Tony builds a jet, Falcon builds an energy shield. Tony builds Iron Man armor, Falcon creates homing devices. While Tony Stark is basically Lex Luthor on the side of good, Falcon is basically becoming the Avengers’ Batman. And that’s a good thing. And what better way to introduce us to this change in characterization than to adapt “Tower of Babel” and use Marvel’s own Batman pastiche as the villain? If the parallels between Falcon and Batman were intentional, that’s kind of genius. Speaking of genius….

Nighthawk
Nighthawk himself was pretty darn cool, and he finally gave this show what it needs. A threat.

The Cabal was never really a threat, mostly due to infighting. This changed towards the end of Season 1, but it still kind of persisted to the end. Thanos was just… lame. He showed up, broke some stuff, then got knocked into space. But all of a sudden, Nighthawk shows up, almost wins singlehandedly, then he escapes capture to regroup with the rest of his team. Which happens to include evil Superman. Now that's a threat to take seriously. And I’m just glad Anthony Ruivivar is getting work after Beware the Batman got canceled.

Animation
This is really more like trivia, but Nighthawk’s costume has changed since his hologrammatic appearance in Season 1. Is this because the rest of the Squadron wasn’t planned to show up? Was it an unfinished design? Who knows? I just thought I’d mention it.

It wouldn't be a NewtCave post if I didn't nitpick, right?
Overall, I’d say that this episode makes me wish that this was, like, the third part of the premiere. The race for the Infinity Stones is shaping up fine, I guess, but this could have added such a great note of terror. Forget racing against the return of Thanos, the race should be finding the Infinity Stones before the Squadron does. Even if you disliked Season 1… heck, even if you disliked “Hyperion,” I still highly recommend this episode. And wait until you see the next one featuring these guys. But alas, that’s a story for another day. See you then.

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