Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Avengers: EMH "Masters of Evil"

Well, this episode tried to deliver a satisfying payoff to the ongoing buildup, but kind of fell short. Reminds me of modern Doctor Who, in a way....

Along with the fact that the Doctor also likes to taste random things.
Yeah, it’s one big spiel today.

The episode was based on Avengers #274-277, known as “Avengers Under Siege.” Attack the mansion, defeat the Avengers, et cetera. Of course, that version of the team had, like, eighteen members in an attempt to defeat the Avengers through sheer numbers. The approach here is a bit more nuanced.

The actual Masters lineup (though the team is never called that in this episode) owes a lot to multiple incarnations of the team. Baron Zemo, Enchantress, and Executioner are classic members, but Crimson Dynamo was from the Heroes Reborn incarnation while Abomination was only a member in the Marvel Adventures line. Still, they’re a diverse crew, and I like how different they all are, like their counterpoint team.

As for the episode’s setup, it’s a classic situation that goes with any team. The most competent/strongest/etc. team members are out of commission, so the day has to be saved by the other guys.

Sometimes, quite literally.
In this case, team members who are usually viewed as being the “least powerful” saved the day. Except for Wasp, who was taken out first. But even then, the whole “shrinking is a stupid power” thing was covered by Ant-Man. And he as well as Hawkeye and Black Panther each had something to prove this episode.

Ant-Man got a chance to prove that when push comes to shove, he will mess you up. I mean, he was doing pretty well against the Masters of Evil by himself for a bit.

Hawkeye and Black Panther, on the other hand, are relatively new recruits without flashy powers or an ongoing subplot. So giving them a chance to save the others lets them show the audience why they should be on the same team as Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor.

But alongside that, we got a look at what makes the Masters different from the Avengers.

Teamwork vs. Working Together
The Avengers are often likened to a family, but they’re not quite at that point yet. Their roster changes a lot, and there are still a few trust issues to work out.

And Iron Man's probably a bit sensitive about being the shortest member without the ability to shrink.
But they are fully capable of teamwork when the situation depends on it because it’s the right thing to do. The Masters, on the other hand, are all motivated by bribery and self-interest. Instead of working together for a common goal, they work together for their own goals. The means of achieving those goals just happen to include “eliminate the Avengers” for them all.

Unfortunately, the plan to eliminate the Avengers was more than a bit lacking. There was simply no reason for Baron Zemo to keep any Avenger alive after defeating them. But no, he kept going on about victory, unimaginable power, unlimited rice pudding, et cetera while completely failing to ensure his own victory.

Baron Zemo might actually be a worse villain than Syndrome.
Though on the other hand, I did like the reveal of Ant-Man as the secret weapon.

“Defeat you? Zemo, we’re not Indiana Jones, we don’t make it up as we go.
We brought Ant-Man here thirty-five minutes ago.”
Though it is rather convenient that he returned from Wakanda off screen....

"Well, time to go be a deus ex machina. See you guys later."
But my enjoyment of this episode suffers because of the villains’ incompetence. To be fair, they managed to almost win… but the ease of their defeat and their lack of any sort of plan besides “defeat the Avengers somehow and rule the world” were really kind of unimpressive after all the buildup we had for the past few episodes.

Apart from Loki’s over-efficient shroud of darkness, par for the course, but I’d like to point out how good the average animation is compared to its successor. Avengers Assemble is content to have characters moving around stiffly over static backgrounds. EMH has actual cinematography. Interesting camera angles, atmospheric lighting, dynamic motion… We didn’t know what we had until it was gone.

Final Thoughts
Though I was disappointed with how this episode kind of failed to deliver after all that buildup, this is still a solid episode with good writing, acting, and animation. And in the end, seeing the Avengers fight this team of diverse villains is something that we have yet to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the time of this writing.

While the Masters of Evil had appearances in Avengers: United They Stand and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (among a couple other appearances), Avengers: EMH had the most nuanced, carefully built-up storyline involving them. So as of yet, this is the closest thing we have to an MCU version of the Masters of Evil. And we haven’t seen the last of them.

Next time, aliens invade! Because whether they’re Kree, Chitauri, or Skrull, that’s what they do. Invading Earth is the only thing they can really agree on. See you then!


  1. The only thing I can say is that Zemo's got a huge ego and is insanely overconfident and that is in big part what makes him such a fun baddie.

    Also: Is it just me or is Cap in that picture above doing pose like in that one infamous Liefeld drawing?

    - Faceless Enigma

    1. You know, I believe it is. Good catch; I must have missed it because he was realistically proportioned.

      And... you know, usually I like villains with such audacity, but Baron Zemo says "I won't kill them now, because I have plans for them later." And then he just sits around with his thumb up his butt doing nothing with the captured Avengers. Almost as if he didn't actually have any plans and was just being an idiot.

      So for me, the fact that his downfall comes about because he sat around and did nothing for a while instead of doing ANYTHING to further his plans outweighs the awesome boldness of straight-up invading the mansion. Twice.

    2. My best guess is that as Hawkeye and Panther established, having hostages gave him a bit of edge. Ant-Man had to come to save them rather then hide and S.H.I.E.L.D. and other heroes would hesitate to attack him if they found out about whole thing.

      But speaking of lack of plans...its a nitpick, but is it just me or does Earth Mightiest Heroes (and for the record, also Spectacular Spider-Man) rely a little too much on straight up battles?

      I mean there is plenty quiet scenes where people talk where plot moves forward and characters develop, but I mean that action sequences rely on straightforward fights that would almost fit in video game. No chase scenes, no sneaking around, no stopping doomsday weapons, just "punch everyone who isn't your punching buddy".

      Zemo wants revenge on Cap? His plan is to distract Avengers with thing to fight and then take him on directly.

      Leader has plan? It involves throwing bunch of baddies on Avengers.

      Big Man wants Spider dead? Can't think of anything better then make another villain for him to fight.

      Spider-Man has to spot Gang War? Fight between 3 guys.

      To be fair season 2 got better with stories like "Prisoner of War", "Assault on 42", or "Emperor Stark".

      - F.E.

    3. Interesting point.

      Counterpoint: While such battles keep showing up, the fight-scene-to-plot-development ratio leans more towards plot development than later Marvel shows. Here, battles save the day. In Avengers Assemble, battles are used to put the story on pause for a bit.

      And you could also make the argument that the writers used this tendency to get Ant-Man disillusioned and started on his downward spiral in later episodes.