Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: Avengers: United They Stand "Avengers Assemble"

Sorry this one's a bit late. The blog's been acting up a bit.

Anyway, Avengers: United They Stand is like nothing else I've covered so far. Except maybe Steel.

Yeesh. Not a good start.

The episode is your basic "Ultron wants the Avengers dead" plot. Sure, we get a couple fight scenes, and the whole Vision thing, but at the very core of this episode, Ultron simply wants the team dead. Ant-Man in particular, thanks to Ultron's daddy issues.

Now, having little plot isn't necessarily a bad thing. And what this show actually does is use its running time to effectively establish the character dynamics as well as the status quo. This two-parter might have a few flaws, but no one can say that the show doesn't give us a taste of each characters' personality.

Though I have to say, I find it pretty funny that out of the three major Avengers cartoons, the two of them that are widely disliked are the two which have Falcon joining the team in the series premiere.

But as I said, the plot boils down to Ultron repeatedly trying to kill the Avengers. So instead, let's look at the subplots.

The creation of the Vision, his mission, and the fact that he has Wonder Man's mind are all taken directly from the comics. And I have to say, the original story is updated surprisingly well under all that 1990's cheesiness. The rational of preserving Wonder Man's mind and body is a bit mad sciencey, but presented as a desperate act by a desperate man. Speaking of Wonder Man....

Wonder Man's Coma
Again, taken directly from the comics. This was the meat of the original thirteen episode arc for the show, and one that, I'm sad to say, won't get fully resolved.

Still, I have to say that establishing Wonder Man as a member of the team does make his coma and disappearance a fairly shocking twist... for those viewers that aren't aware of a similar thing happening in the comics.

Falcon Joins the Team
Because he's black.

Look, diversity is good, there's no doubt about that. But there's really no reason for Falcon to join the team. I mean, all he can do is fly. Just like Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and even the other characters when they're riding sky-cycles. Not to mention the animal endangerment with Redwing, as well as the fact that the Avengers probably didn't even bother trying to find out this guy's real identity. He could be an evil robot for all they know.

Sure, he saved the President's life, but Mr. Sikorsky's insistence on Falcon joining the team sort of highlights the fact that the creators probably put him on the team just to provide diversity for the sake of ticking a demographic box. At least they recognized the lack of diversity... but adding a token black guy doesn't immediately solve the problem.

Points to Avengers Assemble; they made Falcon into a tech genius with S.H.I.E.L.D. training. Here, he's just some random superhero they let join because they have an extra seat around their conference table and some guy told them to.


Really, that's it.

I mean, even Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. has a theme, or a lesson, or some kind of symbolic point to the events. But this? I honestly can't think of a theme that ties this whole thing together. But if I had to pull one out of my rear, I'd say "upgrades."

Ultron continually strives to make himself more perfect, Vision becomes more than the sum of his parts with the addition of Wonder Man's mind, Ant-Man reaches his potential as leader of the team, and the team itself becomes stronger than ever after getting new members.

But like I said, I'm reaching for that. In all honesty, this episode is all about setting the stage for the rest of the season. Not so much a story, with themes and whatnot, but a prologue. An examination of the characters. So let's talk about them.

Hank Pym/Ant-Man (Rod Wilson)

He has a bit of an inferiority complex. Understandable, seeing as his main claim to fame is the power to shrink. He starts off doubting his abilities as a leader, but grows into the role. (Metaphor!)

And I must say, Wilson delivers a surprisingly good performance. Sure, it gets a bit melodramatic at times, but you can hear palpable joy in his voice when he realizes that Wonder Man's brain patterns have been successfully transferred, or real frustration at Scarlet Witch when she gets after him for Plan Brain-Upload.

Janet van Dyne/Wasp (Linda Ballantyne)
...Wow, she didn't do much, did she? She's basically there to be the team's soccer mom, providing emotional support to her man.


Seriously, wow; I just realized how almost-pointless she was.

Simon Williams/Wonder Man (Hamish McEwan)
It's like the show runners sat down and decided "Superman, but more so."

Bigger, same powers, same manly jaw... Wonder Man turned from an interesting, slightly vain, human character into a boy scout with an emphasis on his Superman-like qualities.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Stavroula Logothettis)
Not a fan.

If Wonder Man was designed to be "Superman, but more," then Scarlet Witch was designed to be "Storm, but less." Chanting to activate her powers, the thick accent; it's obvious that the writers wanted to recapture the popularity of Storm from the 90's X-Men series.

And I'm sorry... but that accent. Let me explain.

This show has an interesting take on the voice acting. There are actually a surprising amount of stutters, which actually do help make the dialogue seem more realistic, especially when the characters are agitated. But the repeated stuttering does not help when it comes to this accent.

I know that it's probably a real accent, and I feel really bad for criticizing it, but...

Look, Logothettis did a fine job as Athena in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or so I've been told. But she was able to put her whole body into that performance. When all you're left with is a voice that can be a bit hard to understand.... Let's just say there's a reason Pavel Chekov only made one ship-wide announcement before getting sent down to the transporter bay in Star Trek XI.

Greer Nelson/Tigra (Lenore Zann)
While Tigra might not get much characterization beyond being the tomboyish contrast to Wanda's femininity and Wasp's motherliness, her voice performance might be my favorite in the show. Lenore Zann makes the most ridiculously overdone pain/exertion noises, and I will love her forever for it. Seeing Tigra loudly grunt while making tiger snarls simultaneously is one of the funniest things I've seen in a Marvel show.

You know, with any 90's show that uses Canadian voice actors,it's always a gamble when you check if they went on to anything else. Lenore Zann is currently some kind of politician representing Nova Scotia. Somehow. Sorry, I'm not good with Canadian government.

Still, the fact that Tigra's voice actor went on to hold public office... I get a real kick out of that.

Best of luck to you, Madam.

Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Tony Daniels)
Hoo boy. We have a character whose only role is to be the hotheaded one who doesn't play well with others for, well, no reason other than he's abrasive. Add to that the most ridiculous out of all the costumes and the terrible voice acting, and you've got yourself a 90s'-splosion.

I don't blame Daniels for the voice, though. I blame the person who said "Yeah, keep doing that voice." The fact that several of his lines end in rasps of actual pain should be an indicator that you should maybe get a different actor or have him do a different voice. Tim Curry was going to voice the Joker in Batman: TAS, but was replaced by Mark Hamill because the Joker's voice simply hurt his throat.

But anyway, I look forward to many more episodes of listening to this man damage his vocal cords.

Sam Wilson/Falcon (Martin Roach)
Like I said, he's really just kind of jammed into the episode to fill the minority quota.

Instead, let us dwell on the important question.

Is Andrew dead or not!? Why did this happen if it's not important!?
Ultron (John Stocker)
Terrible. Just... terrible.

He keeps ranting about his magnificence after each failure, overacts more than Shatner doing Shakespeare, and is just generally... uninteresting. Each new plan is just another way to fail. Heck, each plan is just "trick the Avengers, then attack them" repackaged a different way each time.


Not very good.

I don't have to tell you the designs are bad. They are. They're asymmetrical for no other reason than the fact that it was the 90's, shoulder pads galore, armor that only exists to sell toys, and cheap rip-off aesthetics.

Spider-Man Unlimited was designed to look like Batman Beyond, and Avengers: UTS was designed to look like Spider-Man Unlimited. It's a copy of a copy, and it really shows. There's just no... soul to the aesthetic. It looks like it's trying to look like the DCAU, but without actually looking like the DCAU. Misapplied minimalism, too many details in some areas, overly busy character designs, and proportions that look good in the DCAU's art deco style, but horrible in this more traditional version.

It's easy to see that everything about the look of this show was meant to translate well to toys. The armor for each Avenger (collect them all!), the transforming vehicles with lasers, Ultron's multiple forms that don't really do anything, et cetera. So it probably won't come as a shock that Marvel was owned by Toy Biz in the 1990's. This show was as much of a sellout as G.I. Joe.

As for the general feel of the show, it's perpetually sunset (giving everything a weird, orange tint), and it takes place in the future, which explains why all the business suits in the series look almost exactly like the ones from Batman Beyond.

Yeah, you weren't expecting me to tell you this took place in the future, right? It does. The writers were hoping that the audience would understand it as the near future by the presence of lasers and such. Except that the 90's Spider-Man cartoon also had lasers, due to censorship, but took place in the present.

All in all, this show is a visual mess in almost every way.

The incidental music is actually pretty good, and the main theme isn't too bad. Nothing to write home about, but it still serves its purpose as a blazin' guitar intro.

Final Thoughts 
I absolutely love this show. When people say "so bad, it's good," this is what they mean. When Avengers: EMH is bad, you just watch a better episode. When Avengers Assemble is bad, you just sit there and get upset at how dumb the writers think you are.

But when a show's this much of a train wreck? Grab some popcorn and prepare to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness that the 90's were capable of. These episodes were an absolute joy to watch, and I can't wait to look at another episode.
What the heck? Geez, I need to switch to a different layout if this one's going to act up like this.
Anyway, see you nextttttttttttttttt□□□□□□□□□□□

Hey, does the NewtCave seem glitchy to anyone else? Like, the sort of unrealistic glitches you'd see in a movie?
Yeah, I should probably Google a solution to this.

"I'm afraid you won't be Googling anything."
Uhh... Any particular reason why not?

"Because all your blog... are belong to me."
Critbox, you're acting weird.

"The guise of your former ally has served me long enough."
"Ally"? Well, I did some guest stuff on his blog, but I didn't really know the guy. Also, what do you mean by "guise"?

...I guess that should have been my first question.

"Behold, my true form."
Oh, look. My blog's an Age of Ultron tie-in, I guess? Seriously though, what's going on?

"Do you remember that attachment on that email from 'the Critical Cablebox?'"
Yeah? ...Oh.  Boy, you'd think that the file name "Ultron.exe" would have been a giveaway, huh?

"The NewtCave is mine now, mere flesh-creature."
Keep setting those sights high, buddy.

"Oh, but I have. And you shall help me with my glorious purpose. Tomorrow, you shall make the announcement."
What announcement?

"One regarding the future of the NewtCave... And the world."
... Huh. That doesn't sound ominous. To be continued...? I guess?


  1. "Falcon Joins the Team
    Because he's black."

    Wasn't that the reason he joined in the comics? And wasn't he incredibly insulted about it?

    1. Oh, absolutely. The Marvel staff realized that the team needed diversity, so they added the Falcon. They were clever enough to note the reason in the comics themselves and make fun of what comics had been doing with minority characters in the name of political correctness,

      (DC did the same thing with a gag about an alternate universe where every superhero was a minority, which Grant Morrisson later put his own spin on.)

      Unfortunately, A:UTS decided to adapt the Falcon for political correctness... WITHOUT adapting the bit where they made fun of the real life reasoning.

      Meaning that instead of a commentary on having a quota for political correctness, they perpetuate the practice that they once lampooned.

    2. Yeah, representation is nice (I would love for El Gaucho to make a comeback, being argentinian) but tokenism is not

    3. Well, I've always thought that tokenism was step 1 of a good idea. I mean, recognizing a lack of diversity shows a bit of awareness. But if you don't take it any further than "we need a black guy" and just do nothing with the character... Then we have problems.

    4. Yeah, but Step 1 of a good idea is still incomplete until you get to the final step

    5. True. In that way, step two can be the most important step.