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Assembling for the big finale of their first season, The
Avengers head to Asgard to take down the mysterious ultra-villain who has
plagued them for the last 26 episodes.
This action-packed trilogy of episodes closes off just about all of the
plot threads in a satisfying way, yet leaves us with a doozie of a cliffhanger
at the same time.
The basic idea behind the first episode in the trilogy is summed up by Iron Man’s battle cry “Avengers Disassemble”. After following their adventures as a team, we get to see how these characters function when split up. Conveniently, the seven teammates have to go after seven Norn stones which are gateways to Asgard and other dimensions.
However, we see them all fighting the wrong supervillains! Wasp takes on the Abomination, who is a Hulk baddie. Captain America fight Crimson Dynamo an Iron Man Villain, while Hulk goes up against one of Thor’s nemesises. Hawkeye, who doesn’t have a well establish nemesis ends up battling some laughably obscure villain.
This first episode ends with a cliff-hanger, but many of these villains are just forgotten once our heroes are teleported to Asgard and the other realms. At this point, the story concept switches to “Fish out of Water” as the team all end up in the various worlds of Norse legend. Thor is held prisoner in Asgard, which leaves the rest of the team to each make their way through solo adventures. Hank and Captain America have the strongest stories here; Hank must embrace his inner hero, and fight for the woman he loves. Yes, Hank says the “L” word, a moment they’ve been building up to all season.
Meanwhile Captain America has to literally find a reason a reason to go on living in a world where everyone he knows is dead. Do note that Bucky is absent from the land of the dead, so we’re even more likely to see a Winter Soldier story in a coming episode.
The rest of the team have less character-driven adventures, but there’s a lot of action, and everyone gets a moment of awesomeness at some point. There’s some great animation in this episode, like the look on Hulk’s face when he discovers just how much power his magic axe possesses. Yup, Hulk’s got a magic axe; the bad guys are pretty much screwed at that point. Once everyone begins to find their way in the other worlds, we get Loki’s grand Villain Speech in which he makes it clear that even if Hulk has an axe, all hope is lost!
When the final episode of this storyline begins, savvy viewers know that no matter how bad it looks, the good guys will still win. Yet it sure feels great when- just as all hope seems lost- from nowhere, Captain America or Iron Man, or Thor show up at the right moment to save the day. This happens with perfect timing three times during the Big Fight, and it always works.
After the day is saved, and all of the bad guys have been defeated, the producers offer viewers a final cliffhanger to keep us hanging on while the next batch of episodes is in production. The Skrulls have arrived, and have replaced Captain America with an alien imposter! This leaves the producers free to pursue several wide-ranging plot lines on the show; they’ve already laid the ground for a superhero Civil War, and now they can also do an animated version of Marvel’s Secret Invasion as well.
Since the show first premiered last year, it has grown, both in terms of production quality, and in maturity of story-telling. Animation is more elaborate in the recent episodes, especially for action sequences. One of the final episodes involves Loki explaining how everything that happened this season was all part of his master plan, and this includes footage from the earlier shows. This was a clear reminder of the difference in quality between that first batch of “Micro-episodes” and the later animation as the series progressed. (Although I did catch a little continuity snafu in the final episode; Captain America was shown holding his vibranium shield in a scene after it was destroyed).
As for targeting adult viewers in addition to kids, the show is dealing with violence more openly now. Most child-targeted shows are very careful to deliberately show that no one gets hurt. Yet Avengers allows the audience to presume that characters die, so long as it happens off screen. The same holds true for the taboo subject of violence against animals, like the wolves that are killed by Black Panther. They’re also readily willing to show magical death, like Carmilla’s death by petrification at the hands of Grey Gargoyle earlier in this storyline. Of course there is Loki's gruesome punishment at the hands of Odin. That's not child-friendly at all, but will surely encourage kids to obey their parents...
Fun mythology fact: Loki writhing in torment when the snake venom hits his eyes is why we have earthquakes, according to Norse myth.
The final two episodes were written by Christopher Yost, the Story Editor for the show, and one of the guys behind Marvel’s better cartoons over the last few years; he worked on Wolverine & The X-Men, and the underrated X-Men Evolution, along with the spectacular Hulk VS Wolverine feature film. He deserves credit for much of the show’s success.
Fifty-two episodes have been announced so far, with the second season most likely arriving next Fall. The first half of season 1 is out on DVD now, with the second surely to follow soon. It is highly-recommended for both kids and grown-ups.