Monday, September 16, 2013

Recap/Review: Avengers EMH "To Steal an Ant-Man"

You know, I’ve been thinking about my audience. As you can (as of 9/16/13) see down at the “Popular Posts” area to the right, the most popular two posts of mine are the Avengers Assemble one (which, although I liked it, I gave a thorough physics lesson to), and an episode of HatAoS, a show which I utterly trashed.

What does that mean? Is my audience primarily composed of people who want me to bash the brains out of Marvel cartoons? Do they just want me to rant and rave about things I hate?

I guess not, because the majority of you voted for "To Steal an Ant-Man" as the Recap to celebrate 5000 views! Today, we’re going to look at a good episode of a good show.

Because everybody likes Ant-Man! Right?
Previously on Avengers: EMH, Ant-Man, who holds strong pacifistic beliefs, finally gets up with the “Take ‘em down” attitude of the Avengers and quit the team. He accidentally turned his greatest creation, the Ultron AI (made to help rehabilitate villains), into an evil, indestructible robot, and Henry Pym quit the Ant-Man identity in his guilt. This has caused some friction between him and his girlfriend, Janet, who enjoys fighting crime as the Wasp.

As the episode opens, we see a bank vault after hours. Security cams manage to capture footage of neatly sorted piles of money disappearing into nothingness, before Ant-Man, riding a flying ant, flies up to the security cam.  I have to say, great teaser. Short, to-the-point, and it makes you want to keep watching to find out what’s going on.

Unfortunately, it’s kind of cut down by the opening credits. See, Season 1 on the show had the awesome theme song “Fight as One” by Bad City. It’s a good theme, I’d recommend giving it a listen. Sadly, Season 2 replaced most of it with Nick Fury giving expositing about the team’s origin, with only the chorus being heard. And then the show was replaced by Avengers Assemble, which has no theme that plays during the cartoon, despite the praise that the alleged theme song gets. (Mayhaps they're playing it as background music?) But enough of my pet peeves, let’s keep going.

The episode proper opens with Wasp at Avengers Mansion exclaiming, “Hank, you’re back!” And he is, but he’s not wearing the costume. She wants him to go back to the way things were, but he’s just there to clean out his old lab. He tells Janet that he’s done with the Avengers for good. He shrinks down his lab-dome to pocket-size, and pockets it before leaving both the Avengers and his girlfriend. He tells Janet that the Avengers are a problem waiting to happen, before he gets distracted by the nearby TV showing a news report on the other night’s bank robbery.

Janet starts trying to negotiate with him to get him to stay, telling him that walking away won’t solve anything for anyone. She asks him if he can see how much this is hurting her, and he just watches the footage of the disappearing money on the TV. He quickly excuses himself and leaves through the front door. Janet gives him a look that no man wants to be on the receiving end of as he leaves.

We then cut to Hank’s university lab, where he checks on his hidden Ant-Man costume and gear, only to find it missing. He backs up, and begins to have a mild freak out. It’s quite underplayed, but actually very effective when coupled with knowledge of the character’s bouts with Bipolar Disorder as well as his rage issues. Yeah, the soft-spoken Henry Pym has serious rage issues. I actually find his struggles with his inner demons to be more compelling than Bruce Banner’s Hulk problems, or Tony Stark’s alcoholism.

Now, I did mention in the past that character traits only count if they're actually shown onscreen, and you shouldn't have to rely on knowing the comic versions, yes. But in my defense, Hank’s issues are present in very subtle ways, from the way that he goes through bouts of depression and creativity, to just the way he reacts to certain things.

Sitting on the ground, he finds his old Avengers ID card and activates the video-comlink to call Janet. She gives him a verbal lashing as he tries to explain what happened.

Wasp: “I’m shocked you still have your ID card. I thought you’d’ve burned it before it made you beat someone up.”

Maybe don’t say that to the guy who went insane and hit you in the comic books continuity, Janet?

Wasp: “What, are you calling to quit again? I get it Hank! You’re not Avengers material, you made it perfectly clear. I just didn’t want to believe it. Well, I’d never sit around and cry about things like Ultron.  I’d do something about it. The question is Hank: What do you want?”

I’m guessing he wants to re-enact a certain bit of comic book continuity regarding his hand and your face. I mean, every single thing that Janet just said was not only uncalled for, but really insensitive. I really don’t like to throw this word around…  but Janet’s really being a b*tch to Hank.

Now, I’m not condoning violence towards women one bit, through those last statements. I want to make that perfectly clear. HOWEVER, Janet’s behavior is completely unacceptable here is what I’m trying to say.

Let’s look at the facts. Hank has, however mildly, a mental illness. He managed to overcome this obstacle and fulfill his goal of creating non-lethal, robotic rehabilitation wardens to further his goal of helping the criminally insane. In a fit of desperation, he reprogrammed his creations to destroy a greater enemy. And then his creation attempted to destroy the world, because that would bring it order. The kicker? It was thinking with a digital copy of Hank’s own mind.

Hank is an emotional wreck at the moment, but he’s miraculously coping with the fact that a copy of himself almost caused the apocalypse. Pills? Alcohol? Who knows, but the fact is that he can still live with himself, he just can’t continue punching people in the face is all. And Janet, the most important person in his life, tells him that she wants him to just shut up, get over it, and go back to doing what she wants. 

The fact that HIS LIFE’S WORK IS FOREVER STAINED WITH THE BLOOD OF INNOCENTS is irrelevant to her, she wants him to stay in the Avengers because it’s what SHE wants. And when he insists that he can’t, she starts insulting and aggravating his emotional problems instead of helping him.

(Spoiler Alert: Later in the series, Hank Pym will have a complete mental breakdown and develop disassociative identity disorder! AND THERE’S FORESHADOWING OF THAT IN THIS EPISODE. Thanks a lot, Jan.)

Dump her, Hank. She’s a needy, insensitive, self-centered whiner who needs an emotional punching bag of a boyfriend. And I firmly believe that HER treatment of him is directly responsible for his eventual breakdown.

Their relationship summed up in a look.
I’ll save my full rant (yes, there’s more) on how Hank gets treated for a later date, so for now, let’s get back to the episode.

Hank: “I just… wanted to tell you that I’m sorry.”

Don’t apologize to her, Hank. You’re the victim, here. Everyone since the beginning of the show has used Hank as a punchline and/or punching bag, just because he’d rather work to rehabilitate super-villains than beat them up. Everyone. Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Hulk, Hawkeye, even the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Maria Hill. Is it any wonder that the first thing that a robot programmed with his brainwaves did was try to kill all the Avengers? Henry Pym has an amazing amount of self-control if he can deal with constant verbal abuse, his own mental issues, all the while not becoming an outright super-villain. It’s why he’s probably my favorite Marvel character.

Anyway, Henry looks over into the trash, and spots a newspaper article with a very generic “Need Help?” ad. One cut later, and it’s nighttime, and Henry’s actively briefing two people on the theft of the Ant-Man suit. Not only did the thief know exactly who Ant-Man was, but they knew where the costume was and got past one of the best security systems in the world. They’re not just a thief, but a genius. As he says this, we see a flashback of a man stealing the suit. Henry’s voice over continues as we cut to a hotel, where the thief is putting on the gear. As the thief uses the belt for the first time, Henry says that the biggest danger is to whoever stole it.

Henry narrates the unspeakable horror of everything being over 50 times its size compared to the user as the thief is set upon by a few ants. As the thief fights back with super-strength, Henry elaborates that at a shrunken size, subjects still have their full-size strength. Basically, if you can bench 200 lbs at 6’ tall, you can still bench that much at 6” tall. As a flying ant divebombs the helpless thief, he yells “STOP!” which the Ant-Man helmet picks up and converts into waves that the ant hears and obeys.

"This was a good plan!"
The camera cuts to the thief, dressed up as Ant-Man, using the “Pym-Disks” to shrink the bank’s money as Henry talks about the danger of them. Apparently, they were remotely shrinking disks that could be used to safely shrink and subdue villains. But Henry reveals that they weren’t stable as the thief watches the money shrink below the sub-atomic level.

Cutting back to Henry, he concludes that the thief must be found before anyone gets hurt. He asks if the two men he’s talking to will take the case. As we cut to them, it’s revealed that they’re Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And Luke demands half the fee up front.

After commercial, we cut to the thief robbing a bank the old fashioned way, then shrinking down with the money in his backpack. The weight proves to be too much for his ant steed, and they crash in an alleyway. Suddenly, a security guard and his dog appear. Uh oh, last time this happened, a cyborg was created. But the dog smells the thief and runs after him. The thief grows to full size, scaring off the dog, but the guard calls for backup. Ant-Man looks on the ground for his shrunken money, and the cop opens fire like this was Gotham City. The thief shrinks down and flies away on his ant.

Later, as the place becomes a crime scene, Cage and Fist are standing nearby, wondering out loud why Pym didn’t just go to the Avengers for help. It’s actually kind of Pulp Fiction-esque, in a way. Cage guesses it’s about pride and ego. Sorry, Luke, Hank Pym has neither. They keep talking, and Luke says that he found out that the bank is actually a front for a terrorist group called “Hydra.” After more banter, Cage says it’s time to shake down some informants, and we cut to Henry Pym trying to perfect his disks. One explodes in his hand, and he screams in angrish as we see a yellowjacket watching him.

Hello, foreshadowing.
We cut back to Cage and Fist.

Iron Fist: “Alright, your informant was right. You still didn’t have to bend him like that.”

They continue to walk down an alley and run into a couple of colorful thugs. After a scuffle, the Heroes for Hire mop the floor with the brutes.

"Feel my pink, glowy fist!"
Fist notes that they were on the lookout for “more” superheroes, and guesses that they ran into “Ant-Man.”  Fist begins to sit down and meditate, and he quickly locates Ant-Man’s shrunken money. He hears a buzzing noise, and they both spot “Ant-Man” flying in on his ant. They try to swat the tiny thief, and Cage claps his hand together and captures him. The thief escapes by growing to normal size and kicking Cage in the face. The thief yells that he doesn’t want to fight, but Cage doesn’t listen. The thief shrinks back down and starts fighting back before grabbing the money and flying away. The Heroes for Hire agree to never tell anyone about this, and Henry calls the two and tells them that he completed his Pym-particle detector, so they can track the thief.

Speaking of him, he arrives back at his seedy hotel, and grows back to normal size. He removes the helmet, and Cage busts down his door, followed by Iron Fist and Henry Pym. Henry begins his ultimatum, but he recognizes the thief as Scott Lang, the janitor at his lab. He shoves Scott against the wall and demands to know why he did all this. Scott gets a phone call, and tells the person on the other end that he has the money. Iron Fist asks Scott what’s going on after he hangs up, and Scott begins his story.

Scott used to be a very good electrical engineer, but his daughter, Cassie, got sick with a rare disease. The doctors needed a lot of money to cure her, so Scott fell in with some bad people who made him use his skills to open bank vaults. He got caught, but he served his time in prison. His daughter got better, but when he got out, he couldn’t find work as an ex-convict, so he became a janitor. He was happy, but his old partner, Cross, demanded the money they stole. But Scott used all of it to cure his daughter. Cross though he was hiding it, so he kidnapped Cassie and held her for ransom. So Scott stole the Ant-Man costume to come up with the money that he didn’t have right away to save Cassie’s life.

Cage says that Scott should have just punched the bad guys in the face as Ant-Man. But Scott doesn’t want to endanger Cassie. Henry offers his help, but Scott pushes him down and runs away with the money, shrinking down and flying away out the window.

Meanwhile, at the bad guys’ hideout, they await Scott. Cross, a real creeper, is met by Scott, who’s escorted in by colorful goons. Scott offers the money for her freedom, but Cross wants Scott to steal more money as Ant-Man (way to wear the costume, Scott).

Cross: “Guess what, ‘Ant-Man’. The deal just changed.”

"I am altering the deal.  Pray I do not alter it any further."
As Cross threatens Cassie, Henry, Cage, and Iron Fist break in to save the day.

Cage:  “Now how ‘bout you back off the girl before we avenge you upside the head?”

Henry shoots a Pym-Disk at Cassie, and she shrinks away. The others start fighting the goons and their strange weapons. Scott and Cassie re-enlarge themselves away from all the fighting, and Scott goes off to continue fighting. He shrinks down and knocks down Cross, threatening him. When Cross isn’t affected by the threat, Scott summons thousands of ants to swarm all over his body. He knocks out Cross, and Cassie runs up and hugs her dad. Henry exposits to Scott that he fixed the Pym-Disks to save Cassie, and Scott says he’ll return the money and turn himself in. Henry just says that “Ant-Man” was on an undercover mission for the Avengers.

Scott: “…I’m not Ant-Man.”
Henry: "You are now.”

Pym walks off, Iron Fist offers Ant-Man a job, Cage yells after him about the bill for their services, and the episode ends.

Luke Cage doesn't accept PayPal.
Final Thoughts/Review
Not only was this a unique episode that focused away from the Avengers, it was a very good adaptation of Scott Lang’s Ant-Man origin.

The show was solid on all fronts; action, plot, animation, voice acting, everything. It’s one of the best episodes of the show, and I highly recommend it.

Until next time,  Excelsior!

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