Thursday, February 26, 2015

Recap: Avengers Assemble "Nighthawk"

Longtime readers of the NewtCave (both of them) may remember that "Hyperion" was the first episode of Avengers Assemble that I ever recapped before I went back to the premiere and started covering the rest of the episodes. (Slowly.) My overall impression of the episode was positive, and it still stands up as one of the better first season episodes. Its Season 2 counterpart is very much the same way. Season 2 of this series started off a bit lackluster (despite many improvements), but this episode changed everything. So in the spirit of my original post, I'm skipping ahead a bit to talk about Season 2, Episode 6, "Nighthawk."

Of course, those of you reading this in February of 2015 might need a quick rundown of what happens between "Savages" and this episode, so here's a summary of the beginning of Season 2.

Thanos appeared on Earth bearing a stone of power that was aptly named the "Power Stone." With it, he started trying to destroy the planet. After Thanos was kicked out into space, the Avengers have been trying to figure out what they can do about these "Infinity Stones" before Thanos returns.

And now, let's begin.

Sorry, Sylvester Stallone and Rutger Hauer are nowhere to be found.
In the S.H.I.E.L.D. Tricarrier, Tony Stark is busy going over the data from the Avengers' battle with Thanos for Nick Fury. He shows some footage of Thanos's exploding spaceship, and overlays the data of five energy signatures representing the wayward stones. This turns out to be such an important discovery that it makes a nameless extra decide to upgrade himself to a speaking role.

???: "Can you track them?"

He also introduces himself in classic "I'm totally not the villain for this episode" fashion.

???: "Kyle Richmond. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new Director of Interstellar Operations."
Hawkeye: "See what happens when you don't get code names? Fancy made-up titles."

Okay, that was funny. And a good line this soon in the episode? That's a good sign.

Like most people meeting the Avengers for the first time, Kyle is quick to introduce himself to his favorite one. Surprisingly enough, it's Falcon.

But having learned a lesson about humility last season, albeit rushed and largely off screen, Falcon insists that he's not anyone special; just an Average Joe in a bird suit. Then Falcon immediately turns around and tells Iron Man that he could write unique tracking algorithms for each Infinity Stone. But remember, Falcon’s not anyone special.

As Tony goes on about how the differences in energy signatures could mean that they have different properties, Kyle starts telling Falcon that he's very impressed with his Avengers work and would like him to join his latest task force in charge of finding the stones. Falcon declines; after all, he already has the Avengers.

Kyle: "Don't you get tired of feeling redundant?"

The same thing that Avengers Assemble critics say about Falcon. I'll talk more about that in the accompanying Review.

"Seriously, Falcon. The reviews that aren't criticizing your effectiveness just bash your costume."
"My old one or my new one?"
Kyle sweetens the offer a bit with promises of recognition and respect, but there's no time for that because explosion.

Kyle: "We're under attack! Battle stations, everyone!"
Nick Fury: "Hold it! First, it's not an attack, it's an internal malfunction."

Huh. I wonder why Kyle immediately assumed that this was the work of an enemy and not just a random malfunction? Hmmmmm....

Fury makes the call for battle stations as the Tricarrier threatens to fall onto Chicago, which would spell disaster for the theatrical run of "Rapture, Blister, Burn." Iron Man tells Hulk and Thor to manually spin the turbines, Hawkeye to be the lookout, and Black Widow gets to try and steer while Iron Man will try to hot-wire the engines.

Falcon: "What do you need me to do?"
Iron Man: "Cross your wings and hope we can crash in Lake Michigan."

That’s a good lake to aim for. God forbid the Avengers crash in Lake Huron. They might hit Mackanac Island. Then where would Michigan get all of its delicious fudge? Sure, Lake Huron is ridiculously far from where the Tricarrier's crashing, but you can't be too safe with fudge this good.

After some turbine spinning and engine rerouting, the Avengers manage to set the Tricarrier down in the water. I was going to make a joke about how the damaged Tricarrier was polluting Lake Michigan, but the thing is made for water excursions and the damage was very limited. So instead, I'll simply point out that our heroes are now technically the Great Lake Avengers.

Where's their movie, Marvel?
They later have a briefing on exactly what just happened. In a word, Sabotage. In many words, someone put a bomb in one of the turbines. Kyle Richmond can't find anything in the security feeds, but Falcon uses different wavelengths to find the heat signature of a mysterious, costumed individual.

So, yeah, I’m going to go ahead and spoil the obvious twist. It’s Kyle Richmond. Even if you don’t recognize his name from the comics, it's just like every crime drama ever made. You know, when you get that feeling that's like "Huh, I wonder if this guy we're just now being introduced to for the first time is the killer. I bet he is." Watch any five episodes of Psych; you'll know what I mean.

But Thor doesn't know what I mean and comes to his own conclusion from the heat signature.

Thor: "A man of fire. It was Dormammu!"

I seriously hope not. Every appearance of Dormammu in the Marvel Animated Universe ranges from simply okay to outright terrible so far. Dormammu is never in any good episodes.

Falcon creates an image of the mystery man from the data, and Tony Stark goes over it later that night in Avengers Tower. As he compares the image to their entire criminal database, he finds nothing.

Tony: "He might as well be an alien."

Falcon, not in the mood for such foreshadowing, comes in for a talk.

Falcon: "You're a tech wiz, like me. You and Thor both fly. Hawkeye and Widow have S.H.I.E.L.D. training like I do. Why do you guys need me on the team?"
Tony: "'Cause no one else's mom makes cookies."

Well, it's better than the reason he was on the team in the comics. It was simply because he was black. And I'm not positive, but I'm fairly certain that's the real reason Marvel put him in this show. But if you want to talk about race in comic books, I've already covered it. Twice.

But if you want to talk about tokenism... well, I'll save that for the Review portion as well. I'd elaborate on the matter right now, but HYDRA robots are attacking the Museum of Natural History and the Avengers are on the case.

Hawkeye: "And what would they possibly want with the Museum of Natural History?"

Well, as we've learned from "Hulking Commandos" and "Halloween Night at the Museum," it's because there's some sort of magic hoodoo there that can make all sorts of bad mojo. Ten bucks on it.

Black Widow: "There's a vault underneath. Ancient artifacts from other realms."

You owe me ten bucks.

Iron Man tells Thor and Hulk to smash the robots and tells Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye to follow his lead to deal with the bots on the streets. Falcon, because the writer needs to emphasize how much of a third wheel he is, gets to do crowd control. But Falcon has a thought.

Falcon: "Is this where they store the Norn Runes?"

Falcon seems to be recognizing something that might blow this case wide open, exposing the true scheme at hand. So naturally, Iron Man tells him to stop dawdling and tell those civilians the museum's closed. Inside the museum, one of the robots grabs a Norn Rune and fits it with a special device. Once Hulk and Thor arrive to so some smashing, the rune zooms to Thor's hammer, latching onto it. After Hulk smashes the robot into a smear of purple goo, Thor's hammer uncontrollably opens a portal to a far-away realm, sucking him through.

Meanwhile, the outside robots are going down a little too easily, getting that purple goo everywhere. Iron Man can't figure out what it is, but Falcon comes up and instantly recognizes it. It's a nerve agent that only affects Gamma-mutates. Like the Hulk. As if on cue, the Hulk appears. He's not feeling too well. He walks up to the Avengers with the same level of stagger as my cats did after we got them spayed. After giggling for a bit, Hulk concludes this display by telling Hawkeye he loves him and passing out.

"I don't- no, listen, man. You don't need a solo movie. You've got me. I love you, man."
Suddenly, Widow gets a message on her intercom, causing her to faint as the mysterious man from the S.H.I.E.L.D. footage aims a bazooka at the Avengers from a nearby building.

Falcon: "She's in programmed sleep. When Widow was a spy, the Red Room planted a post-hypnotic trigger word that would neutralize her. She won't wake up unless we find a counter-trigger."
Iron Man: "How did you piece this together so fast?"
Falcon: "Someone's taking down the Avengers one by one."
Hawkeye: "Yeah, we kinda picked up on that part. Who?"
Falcon: "...It's me."

Dun dun duuunnnnnn!

As Falcon explains, when he was at S.H.I.E.L.D., he created a series of countermeasures to take down each Avenger. Suddenly, Mystery Man fires his bazooka. Hawkeye takes aim, but gets knocked out by a booby-trapped arrow. Luckily, the EMP missile gets deflected from its intended target (Iron Man) into a nearby building. Presumably, Tony’s going to pay for that.

Meanwhile, Thor is fighting the demon Surtur in Muspelheim. To be fair, there's worse dimensions one could be trapped in. Like an alternate dimension filled with shrimp.

Meanwhile (again), Mystery Man is at Avengers Tower already, talking to someone over his comm and looking for something specific.

Mystery Man: "Where that Cabal of yours failed, we will succeed."

Here's a short list of things the Cabal failed at.
  • Taking over the world.
  • Taking over the universe.
  • Friendship.
  • Not being led by a Nazi.
Seriously, Cabal. You had worse standards than the Joker?
Sometime later, the Avengers return to the tower, with Mystery Man nowhere in sight. Tony discovers that JARVIS was disabled in all the kerfuffle. On the bright side, Thor returns. On the flipside, he almost immediately gets sucked away by the Norn Rune's power again. With the remaining Avengers understandably anxious for an explanation, Falcon gives them one. He explains that when he was at S.H.I.E.L.D., some of the higher ups were worried that the Avengers might go rogue. As such, Falcon was appointed to create failsafes to take them down. And it seems that someone with S.H.I.E.L.D. access has not only stolen those plans but also leaked the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron online. Dammit, HYDRA.

So the plan now is to counter Falcon’s failsafes. Iron Man brags that he already survived the attempt to take him out, but Falcon reveals that the EMP was just one plan of a metric buttload. Apparently, Plan B was to spray him with an odorless insect-attractant to short out his armor with bugs. With no way to detect it, it may have already have been sprayed on him. Ant-Man called, he wants his schtick back. Also, he’d like to be in an Avengers film. As for Captain America, Falcon advises him not to use his shield; the plan was to set it with a device to use the unique properties of Vibranium to take him down.

Meanwhile, in the shadows, Mystery Man sneaks by, dropping some eaves on the conversation. Falcon successfully manages to reactivate JARVIS, who tells Tony that Mystery Man's in the building looking for the a device called "helio-cube"; the nanotechnology that Hyperion used to power his citadel. As Tony whips it out to show that he still has it safe and sound, Mystery Man rushes in to make it dangerous and silent. That’s the opposite of safe and sound, right? Mystery Man begins his assault by using some kind of tech-wizardry to turn the Arc Reactor in Tony’s chest into an electromagnet to incapacitate him. In the confusion, he nabs the helio-cube and effortlessly takes on Captain America hand-to-hand.

What is it with the Avengers and cubes?
Captain America: "Who are you?"
Mystery Man: "I'm Nighthawk."

"I am revenge. I am the dusk! I! Am! Nighthawk!"
Nighthawk takes Cap out by booby-trapping his own shield and using it against him before using electro-cables on Falcon. He activates the helio-cube, and it flies out into the water and reactivates the Citadel, intent on using it to its full capacity as a warship.

Nighthawk: "People won't kneel before you until they're sure there is no choice."

Tough talk coming from somebody named after an Edward Hopper painting.

The ultimatum is simple. If America doesn't make him their new leader, he dissects New York with a gigantic laser. He hacks into the nations TVs and makes these intentions quite clear.

To be fair, New York is used to insane ranting from the Daily Bugle Network.
Nighthawk: "Submit to my rule or lose one city every hour."

If he'd only started with Jersey City, they'd have an extra hour to decide before something bad happened. (New York readers: You're welcome. New Jersey readers: I'm sorry. Detroit readers: I didn't make a joke about you. You're welcome.)

The tied-up Falcon, now in the Citadel with Nighthawk, pieces together what I already explained: Nighthawk must be part of Hyperion's team on their former home planet.

Nighthawk: "Correction: The Squadron Supreme was my old team. Hyperion was a hammer. I am an architect."

Time for a little bit of comic book history that I really should have elaborated on in “Hyperion.” (Sorry.) Hyperion and Nighthawk are members of an alternate Earth superhero team known as the “Squadron Supreme” or the “Squadron Sinister,” depending on whether or not you’re talking about the evil universe or the good universe.

They.. uh, look a lot less ridiculous when they don't look realistic.
This team was lovingly based on DC Comics’s own Justice League. The brightly-colored, invincible, flying hero Hyperion was based on Superman, Nighthawk was based on Batman, Doctor Spectrum was based on Green Lantern, and so on. To drive the joke home here, Hyperion is voiced by former Ultraman (DC’s evil Superman) voice actor Brian Bloom, while Nighthawk is voiced by Anthony Ruivivar, who played Bruce Wayne in the criminally-treated Beware the Batman. And to top off the whole thing with a nice little cherry, this episode is based on a classic JLA story arc called “Tower of Babel” where Batman’s failsafes to take down the rest of the Justice League were stolen and used by the bag guys. Basically, this whole episode is one big friendly wink at DC Comics.

Actually, it’s funny. Seeing as how the DC Nation got canceled, this means that simply by using characters based on the Justice League heroes, Marvel’s getting more animated mileage out of DC’s characters than DC is at the moment.

Speaking of the rest of the Squadron, Nighthawk tells Falcon that the others are on their way to Earth. He tells Falcon that they have a spot for him on the team, if he wants to join up.

"Join me, and we'll rule as father and son!"
"How the heck does that work?"
"I've got the adoption papers right here."
He asks for Falcon's help tracking the Infinity Stones and unmasks, revealing that the new villain for this episode is actually the other new character introduced this episode!

Nighthawk: "Kyle Richmond was just a disguise. Even S.H.I.E.L.D. can be hacked."

The password is “buffalo.” (If any of you get that, a no-prize to you.)

Using Nighthawk’s tendency to monologue to his advantage, Falcon escapes his bonds and fights the madman. He tries to turn off the Citadel’s laser, but there's no manual failsafe. Just as all seems lost, the Avengers assemble to save the day. Well, Iron Man, Cap, Widow, and Hawkeye show up. They're feeling much better, thank you very much. So, this may seem like a deus ex machina, but that’s only because it is. Although, to be fair, Falcon told Tony that restarting his chest would fix the magnetism, and it’s not very hard to spray some Raid on armor. All Cap had to do was take a gizmo off his shield, and Hawkeye was just knocked out for a bit. Not sure how they whipped up the magic code word that would bring Black Widow back from her sleep, though. Maybe they pumped her up with the same drugs that Dr. House used when he woke up John Larroquette that one time.

After some fighting, Hulk arrives to help, having shaken off the nerve toxin. He even smashes the Norn Rune off Thor's hammer when he teleports in to help. The two of them, being the ones best suited to breaking machinery, destroy the Citadel's laser while Nighthawk gets taken down in a single punch by Falcon.

Similar to a certain other punch involving Batman.
Later, at the tower, Falcon resigns in apology over the whole debacle.

Tony: "If you quit now, you'll be one day shy of your anniversary on the team."

Because family forgives, and anyone smart enough to take down all the Avengers deserves to be one of them. And they need him to create tracking algorithms to track down the Infinity Stones. And they need at least one minority on the team to be politically correct.

Over in the Tricarrier, Nighthawk is in a cell being speeched at by Nick Fury.

Nick Fury: "You think you're a genius. When it comes to the Avengers, you'll never be one step ahead."
Nighthawk: "I'm always one step ahead."

To punctuate his sentence, Hyperion breaks into his cell from the opposite side and takes Nighthawk away.

Nighthawk: "Let's round up the team."

And on that epic note, the episode ends. And I guess that means that I need to talk about those things I said I'd talk about in my Review.

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