Here’s day four of Torture Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo Week served up to you on a bright silver platter, DiNozzo!
Come on, Tony! You had to know that I was going to work a Marvel series in here somehow! The only problem was deciding which one it would be. 😉
I’ll admit that this may be a bit of a premature review for a series. Only a few episodes have aired on television. There’s no knowing how high and far the story could go. Not yet.
But you know what? I simply can’t resist talking about it!
All right, so we’ll start with the all important aspect of a story: how it begins.
As first episodes go, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble was pretty good. The two-part opening in May showed the Avengers had disbanded on Tony Stark’s, ummm, order, I guess. Despite this, Tony still keeps an eye on his fellow bachelor Avengers (for some reason he doesn’t keep tabs on Black Widow). Seeing Captain America suddenly losing to HYDRA and the Red Skull, Tony dons his armor and takes off.
Only, it seems, to get in on the fight too late to save Cap from being killed by the Red Skull.
This leads Tony to call the Avengers back together. While Hulk, Thor, and Hawkeye are at first less than thrilled to be back with the guy who so arrogantly broke up the band, the three change their tune when they see Cap’s ‘death.’
The four, of course, head out to avenge Cap by taking down the Red Skull. Widow joins them at the HYDRA base the villain currently calls home, and that’s when Tony discovers (surprise) Cap is not dead. Blasting his way in to get to Cap, Tony is met with a rude revelation: because he is dying, the Red Skull has switched bodies with Cap.
Wait, wait, I’m not finished, DiNozzo! Red Skull’s super soldier serum in this series is incomplete; it can no longer keep the man alive. Cap’s serum is quite complete; it will take a lot more than mere time to do in the First Avenger. That’s why the Skull captured and switched bodies with him.
Quickly incapacitated, Tony and ‘Cap’ are rescued by Iron Man’s secret weapon/new protégé – Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon.
With the band back together again, the Avengers and Falcon beat Skull and undo the switch. But after the round of pats on the back, the seemingly incapacitated Skull pulls another trick from up his sleeve. Using the machinery in the room they are standing in at the HYDRA base, Skull rips Tony’s suit off his body. He crushes the helmet and deprives Stark of his arc reactor, the only thing keeping the billionaire hero alive.
As the Skull escapes, the Avengers race back to their base to save Tony. They manage it in the proverbial nick of time. However, according to Tony the Skull isn’t going to be a problem anymore. He proceeds to again disband the team. Everyone but Cap and Falcon walks out on him in disgust. Falcon flops onto the floor in dejection because in answering Tony’s call for aid he got fired from SHIELD.
But an attack by the Skull (Hah! Not so defeated after all, Mr. Stark! Hmm, another fat-headed Tony ….) leads to the team having to fight and defeat him again. Beaten twice in one day – ouch. The Avengers’ Mansion is destroyed in the battle and the Skull flees. When the Skull calls on other super villains to form a cabal with him to conquer the world, Tony is finally convinced to keep the team together.
After this decision, Cap nominates Tony for leadership of the Avengers and Falcon is invited to join them. The team’s next step is to set up base in Stark Tower since the Mansion is a wreck. At the end of the show they jet off to China when the Great Wall abruptly stands up and heads for Beijing.
So far the series is doing pretty well. But I do have some questions and observations about it, a few of them less than flattering.
To kick these off, we’ll begin with the disbanding and reforming of the Avengers. Avengers Assemble is supposed to be a continuation of the television series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! which ran for the last three or four years. At the same time Assemble is also supposed to capitalize on the 2012 film Marvel’s The Avengers.
Heroes ended with the Avengers as a well-honed, tight-knit fighting team. There was no hint that they were considering disbanding, which makes sense because it was the end of that series and any such hints would only drive fans bonkers. As others have noted, Assemble seems to shadow the 2012 movie rather than its television ‘prequel.’ This is evidenced by such scenes as Cap knocking a punching bag off its chain in the episode ‘Blood Feud’; the Hulk’s statement of “I’m always angry!” in ‘The Avengers’ Protocol, Part 2’; and Hawkeye telling Cap, when ordered to fire on Dr. Doom in ‘The Serpent of Doom,’ “After what he did to me it’ll be my pleasure!” These and other small incidents echo the movie and have nothing to do whatsoever with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
Now we come to the characters. For the most part, Iron Man doesn’t feel too changed. After the depth of character Robert Downey Jr. imbued in him, it would be hard to radically alter Tony Stark. But this doesn’t keep Tony’s arrogant and somewhat high-handed leadership style from grating on my nerves every five minutes in an episode’s run.
Ooops, I think I crossed my characters again! Was I talking about Tony Stark or Tony DiN… –
Okay, okay! Don’t get mad! Moving on….
Then there’s the Hulk. Unlike the movie, this Hulk speaks in proper sentences. There are also a few added twists, such as the Hulk keeping a spotlessly clean room full of glass figurines no higher than an inch. It seems the new series’ writers want to portray the Hulk as a rather calm nine-foot tall wall of muscle until it’s time to start SMASHING! This dainty portrayal even extends to the Hulk carefully getting himself a PB&J sandwich in ‘Blood Feud,’ and then stealing Justin Hammer’s cocktail in ‘Super Adaptoid’ without breaking the glass.
In all honesty, I don’t really mind this turn of events for the big guy. Ol’ Green could use some quiet moments. I do wonder, though, if the crystal critters may not have been a step too far.
Next there’s Thor. In the two-ipart opening of Assemble I was under the impression that this version of Thor is a bit of a party animal. During the quinjet ride to Avengers’ Mansion, Hawkeye asked Thor what was on the social calendar for Valhalla that night. Thor’s enthusiastic reply was a little too enthusiastic for a minute; I thought he might actually start up a tavern song. Even though the Prince of Thunder sobered in the next few seconds, it hinted at a change in Thor’s proud and regal bearing.
This image of Thor having a “PARTY!!!” motto was emphasized in the third episode, ‘Ghost of a Chance.’ While trying to help Falcon settle in at the Tower, Tony showed him Thor’s room. If it hadn’t been for a sudden noise, the two wouldn’t have been able to avoid Thor as he tumbled to the floor while wrestling his ‘pet’ Bilgesnipe (an Asgardian creature also mentioned in the 2012 movie by Thor). Thor’s obvious lack of concern for his teammates’ near miss was his cheerful statement that they shouldn’t worry about him, as Bilgesnipe enjoyed fighting.
Uh, excuse me? Thor nearly pancaked his team leader and the new kid yet he thinks they’re worried about him? I’d say Tony and Falcon were more worried about what the Bilgesnipe might do to the rest of the Avengers if it ever got out of Thor’s quarters. Not to mention what it might do if it got out of the tower.
There appears to be some hope that Thor is getting a little calmer and more regal. I don’t mind him being jovial, but I draw the line at him behaving as if he’s had one too many gulps of ale while he’s lounging around the Tower.
Next there’s Hawkeye (thank goodness they didn’t put him in that Red Arrow knock-off costume!). While the other three members of the team are the most noticeable for their powers or size (one would have to have severe macular degeneration to miss the Hulk, let alone Thor), Hawkeye manages to retain the audience’s attention. How does he keep himself in the spotlight?
Simple. He runs his mouth.
This is nothing new. Hawkeye was always a talker, even in the original comics. I think this is a way for him to feel as if he’s keeping up with his super-powered teammates. It also distracts his opponents. When they say, “You missed!” after dodging an arrow, they’re jinxing themselves. If they avoided the arrow, then Hawkeye was aiming for something else. So I don’t have too much of a problem with Hawkeye’s constant string of repartee. The rub for me lies in that he seems to have been given the role of team clown.
For instance, do you remember when I said the Hulk was making himself a PB&J sandwich in the episode ‘Blood Feud’? Well, he had the jam and the bread, but some “dead man” had stolen the peanut butter from the fridge.
The so-called ‘dead man’ was in the gym, watching Cap work out while fisting into the peanut butter with his hand. And his name happened to be Hawkeye.
Throughout these episodes Hawkeye has repeatedly fired off remarks or done things which have gotten the Hulk upset with him. While you will never hear me advocate for the World’s Greatest Marksman to go back to the days when he was constantly riding Cap, I don’t think it’s exactly safe for him to ride the Hulk, either. This is also a departure from the friendship Hawkeye and the Hulk developed in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but that seems to have no bearing on Assemble.
Next we have Cap. Despite the fact that the two opening episodes feature the Avengers banding together again precisely because of Cap, he remains a background figure. This continues in ‘Ghost of a Chance’ and ‘The Serpent of Doom.’ So far ‘Blood Feud’ and ‘Super-Adaptoid’ are the only episodes which give Cap more than ten lines and the same amount of time in the limelight.
This also ties in somewhat with what I was saying about Tony earlier. Iron Man is not a bad team leader. If he was, the team would have been dead a long time ago. But the most capable leader of the Avengers has always been, and I believe always will be, Cap. Tony’s good, but he hasn’t got the experience that leadership requires. Cap does.
I think this is another indication that Assemble follows the movie more than the TV show Heroes. By the end of Heroes, Cap was team leader for the Avengers. In the movie, Iron Man and Cap were sharing leadership up to a point. For the most part, though, it was Cap who called the shots. Literally. This is what seems to be going on in Assemble, showing once more that Heroes has no actual bearing on the new series.
Now for Sam. Falcon is, according to some, supposed to be the “eyes and ears of the audience.” In ‘Ghost of a Chance,’ Falcon indeed serves this purpose by finding his way around Avengers’ Tower and stopping the Space Phantoms from invading Earth. But in episodes like ‘The Serpent of Doom’ and ‘Blood Feud,’ he’s the nearest thing to a go-fer the Avengers have ever had. In ‘Blood Feud,’ he’s also the one who predictably falls into the trap of trying to answer a plea for help, only to get caught for his troubles.
It’s a characteristic mistake in film and television, one the rookie always makes. But it would be nice to see at least one rookie, particularly one as bright as Falcon, not fall into that trap for once.
As for the Black Widow, she is present sporadically throughout the aired episodes. She was there for the team in ‘The Avengers’ Protocol, Parts 1 and 2,’ ‘Ghost of a Chance,’ ‘Hyperion,’ and ‘Molecule Kid.’ But in ‘Blood Feud’ she showed up under the control of Dracula.
I know. I’ll get back to the lead vampire in a minute.
Because Widow is supposed to be an Avenger “when she wants to be, and ONLY when she wants to be,” I wouldn’t expect her to be a regular in the show for the first season of the series. This means that she won’t get too much character development initially. But her girlishly pitched question, “Oh my gosh, am I a vampire?!?” in ‘Blood Feud’ was rather revealing because it proves she can be frightened. That’s a plus.
In a way, having Widow as an on-and-off member makes sense. To the Black Widow, espionage is as essential as oxygen. If she stops spying it’s because she’s dead. She has never stopped her espionage work in Marvel history, despite joining up with other heroes and teams several times. Bred and trained to be a spy she will never aspire to be anything else, not even something as prestigious as an Avenger.
Okay, okay, now we’ll go back to Dracula. When he got added to the Marvel roster of villains I don’t know. I would guess he’s been around as long as Blade the vampire hunter. I’m sorry, but when you’re going to Bram Stoker for a bad guy you’ve either run out of imagination or are following a ‘trend.’ Worse, you could be doing both. In my opinion Malekith or the Kingpin would have been better additions to the Cabal line-up than ol’ fanghead, but that probably won’t happen. Not any time soon, at least.
The other observations I have about the series have left me with questions. Lots of them.
In the first two episodes the audience is never told why the Avengers disbanded. How Marvel is going to twist an answer out of pAssemble’s supposed combination of the 2012 movie and Heroes I don’t know. But it better be good, or they’ll be hearing from yours truly.
In those same episodes our two ‘master assassins’ leave us perplexed on several counts. First, Hawkeye is shown standing in front of a statue in the Avengers’ “Hall of Fallen Heroes” (pardon my naming it as such). The statue’s features aren’t clear but it appears to be a woman’s likeness. Is it a statue of Mockingbird? Does that mean she’s dead in this series, or that everyone thinks so? Or was he just standing in a convenient place to think/reminisce?
In a small tussle in ‘The Avengers Protocol, Part 2,’ Widow and Hawkeye both accuse the other of being a traitor. Why? Why did they make these accusations? Does Widow feel betrayed because Hawkeye left SHIELD? Does Hawkeye feel betrayed because she didn’t follow him out of SHIELD? Or is the answer something totally different?
(If the writers start a romance up between Widow and Hawkeye, they’d better be ready to hear from me. Remember my post ‘Romantic’ Tension?, DiNozzo, and you’ll know what I mean.)
What made Tony disband the team in the first place? Where did Falcon come from, and why did Iron Man choose to mentor him? If some big calamity made him split up the Avengers, it would stand to reason Tony wouldn’t abruptly do a one-eighty and suddenly decide to teach Sam to be a superhero.
Why is Hawkeye riding the Hulk? Where has Thor been? Why is Cap so reticent? This is definitely another nod to the movie, as Heroes saw Cap completely at ease with the 21st century and his team by its end episode. Assemble shows him still acclimating to a time gap, as mentioned (several times) in ‘Super Adaptoid.’
Why is Widow watching the Avengers? What does Fury fear they’re going to do that he has his best agent working with them? Odds are that every fight she participates in, Widow writes a report about it that lands on Fury’s desk promptly afterward. Any fight she merely observes probably gets the same treatment.
The Avengers have to be aware of that. Hawkeye should suspect it since he once worked with her. Why are they still letting her be a part of the team? Do they trust her implicitly or are they watching Fury watch them?
There’s still time for these questions to be answered. The series is just starting.
Yes, Tony, I’ll be watching it. And Marvel better remember that, because if I don’t like something, they’ll be hearing from me about it.
Anyway, that’s my take on Avengers Assemble. It has potential, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes. But don’t be surprised if I bring it up again in a few months or so. More episodes will have aired, and I will probably want to talk about them.
After all, I am pretty heavily invested in Marvel characters.
See you around, DiNozzo!