Tag Archives: David Kaye

Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars – Rescuing the Heroes

It is not usual for me to review Avengers Assemble in bits and pieces. Previously, the closest I came to doing that was with season three of the series. And that was because the showrunners and writers did not air the episodes one after another – not on a regular basis, at least.

This is what they are doing again now, but with longer breaks between installments. Remember, readers, “Avengers No More” came out in August. It is now October, and they have aired eleven other episodes only in sporadic chunks over the course of two months.

Personally, I find this irritating. I do not know enough about television schedules to say why Disney XD is splitting the series up like this; maybe it is to make room for shows from other series that air on weekends. The timetable seems to have no rhyme or reason, though, and that always drives me a little crazy.

Since I did a review of “Why I Hate Halloween,” I will not include that episode in this post. Although I will say that it is definitely one of my favorite installments in this series so far, and it seems to have been set before the Avengers were teleported across the Marvel universe. I say this because (spoiler alert), in “The Once and Future Kang” we find one of the Avengers has been transported into the future. And he has subsequently aged.

By this episode, the Avengers’ B Team has been keeping Earth safe while Dr. Jane Foster searches time and space to find the original Avengers. In “The Once and Future Kang,” she tells the B Team that she has discovered their locations. In order to rescue the team, however, she has to send the Mighty Avengers after them. The way they will return is by using a “tether” – a device that acts as a teleporter – to pull themselves and the Avengers back to the present time and place.

Jane does this after the B Team has had to stop a monster from destroying the Statue of Liberty. She accidentally brought said creature to NYC when working on the devices to bring back the Avengers. And while I still do not like her, I admit that watching Carol Danvers rescue a deaf girl from the Liberty torch was a good scene. Yes, I still think she is useless, but the fact is it was a good scene.

Anyway, “The Once and Future Kang” shows Wasp and Vision teleported to the future to rescue the Avenger trapped there. They do not know who it is, but they know who is running the place – Kang. They soon learn that the Avenger they are after is none other than Falcon, now twenty years older than he was when the cabal transported him out of the present time.

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My main problem with this episode is: what’s his mom going to say? Sure, it is cool to have a Falcon who looks and sounds like Anthony Mackie’s film counterpart. But what in the world is Sam’s mother, who is alive in the Assemble universe, going to say about his rapid growth? One day he was a seventeen/ninteen year old kid going to college. Now he is suddenly an adult. Both she and the Avengers missed his transition from boy to man, meaning there should be a period of adjustment needed on all sides.

This is not the first time Marvel has pulled such a stunt, of course. In the X-Men comics, Colossus’ baby sister was kidnapped by an interdimensional bad guy who trained her in his arts and her powers for six or seven of his dimension’s years. But for the X-Men, seconds passed between Ilyana Rasputin/Magick’s disappearance and reappearance. She vanished as a frightened six year old and returned as a scarred, yet bright and chirpy, thirteen year old girl.

Colossus, as you might imagine, had a hard time wrapping his head around this. I am having a similarly hard time wrapping my head around Falcon’s transformation. It is not that I do not like him – I think Falcon is a really cool hero. It is just the whole idea of sending someone off into the future (or another dimension), and bringing them home at an older age which gets me.

Other things to like about this episode were Vision and Wasp. Vision, as usual, stole at least half of the show without really trying. And it appears that Wasp has finally lost that chip on her shoulder. Hooray!

There is also the fact that we got a glimpse of Kang’s face beneath the blue mask he wears, showing he grew older, too. I may have a hard time reconciling my heroes’ accelerated ages, but when it comes to the bad guys, I rarely have any sympathy for them. Kang does not get any tears from me.

Next on the list is “Dimension Z.” Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, gets sent to rescue an Avenger from what is apparently 1930s New York. This version of the city is under the thumb of Arnim Zola. Here, Scott finds three of his teammates: Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. He helps them escape Zola’s HYDRA goons and they take him to their hideout, explaining that they are not actually in the 1930s when they get there. (Whew! I had had enough time travel at that point, anyway!)

Zola captured the gang early on, but they escaped and have been trying to free the people of Dimension Z from his control ever since. This has not been easy because Zola has the people wired with cybernetic implants. If they disobey him, he fries them. This also rules out using an EMP to fry him. That certainly is convenient, isn’t it?

The episode is a good one for Hawkeye. Although he plays around with the 1930s New York accent and slang, it’s less of a joke this time and more him trying to lighten the mood. Widow is usually aggravated by his period repartee, but she slips a couple of times and uses the lingo herself, showing his attempts to cheer everyone up aren’t wholly failures. Cap does not seem to mind the fun Hawkeye and Widow have with the jargon either way, which is nice.

Despite her fussing, Widow comes through the show with flying colors, too. While growling at Hawkeye for his attempts at humor, she works well with him here. This is a far cry from their earlier team-ups in the series, which had her constantly bickering with him when they were on a mission. She gets to give Scott a “suck it up and have some confidence in yourself” pep talk as well, which is in keeping with her character.

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Scott does nicely here, as compared to previous episodes in season four which present him as a bumbling, fumbling fool. (No, I am not counting “Sneakers” when I talk about those shows.) He gets to prove his brains and his heart, which is a pleasant change from the writers’ earlier treatment of him.

Captain America does not, sadly, get by nearly so easily. For some bizarre reason, the show writers decided to reference Marvel’s HYDRA Cap fiasco in “Dimension Z.” Though Cap is freed of the HYDRA influence fairly quickly, and while I can see how having him under Zola’s spell serves the episode’s plot, I really wish that the writers had not done this to him. Bad enough they have to demean me and other readers by mistreating him in the comics; when they start  messing with him in their other media, I become even less amused.

With this caveat out of the way, I have to say Steve did not do terribly outside of this event, which literally was not his fault. The whole reason Zola wanted him in Dimension Z was so he could highjack Steve’s body; doing this would mean he would not have to rely on those mechanical bodies we have seen him using thus far in the series.

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At first, Steve resisted Zola’s attempts. But he and Hawkeye were captured together, so Zola zapped Clint to make Cap stop fighting him. While I still do not approve of the HYDRA Cap reference, I have to admit, this scene hit me right in the “feels.” It showed the brotherly affection between the First Avenger and Hawkeye, who stubbornly insisted Steve not surrender despite the fact that another zap would have killed him.

In a way, this scene bridged the gap between the original – and better – comics and the new ones today. I only wish the writers would show these relationships between the Avengers more often in Assemble. It is truly inspiring.

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T’Challa got sent after the Hulk in “The Most Dangerous Hunt,” which was actually more fun than I was expecting. Transported to Asgard, Panther finds Hulk being hunted for sport by Skurge the Executioner. Using a magic crystal in the head of his axe, the Executioner can control Banner’s transformation. When Banner gets too tired to run, Skurge says a spell to make him the Hulk. When the Hulk gets within a hair of smashing him, the Asgardian hunter speaks a counter spell which makes him Banner again.

The whole yo-yo effect has left Bruce terrified. He has been in control of his power for so long now that not being able to change at will scares him more than his previous, involuntary transformations did. It is actually kind of nice to see Banner this vulnerable; before we only saw his distaste for becoming the big guy, period. Since the writers have allowed him to control the change, it adds a new dimension to his character.

Only one thing in this episode really annoyed me. This was Hulk returning to his old baby speech pattern for most of the adventure. While I doubt I will have much of a problem with it in Thor: Ragnarok, here it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I guess it was because it made Hulk sound more like a beast than a person – which was the point. Skurge considered him nothing more than an animal, after all, not a fellow sentient being.

Panther came out of this show very well, too. He got to demonstrate his intelligence, his honor, and his heart. We also got to see what he is like when enraged, since Skurge was able to reverse the spell and use it on T’Challa. No one understands wrath like Bruce does, and watching him assist the suddenly helpless Black Panther was a great moment.

I have to admit, though, that I did not see the Hobbit reference coming. Really, Marvel writers? Stealing from Tolkien now, are you? Too bad you won’t study him rather than pilfer from the surface of his work. Maybe if you actually learned from him, your comics would be entertaining again.

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“Under the Spell of the Enchantress” was not quite as torturous as I thought it would be, mostly because by the end, Thor got to be Thor. I still find Captain and Miss Marvel to be awful, flat characters, but having the Son of Odin break Amora’s spell when he saw Miss Marvel in danger was a good scene for him. I think the reference to Frozen might have been a bit much, though.

Thor’s characterization was just as good in “The Return.” Here we learn that Loki orchestrated the events of “Avengers No More.” We also see that he is now suddenly taller and has more brawn here than he did in prior episodes. By the way, fellow writers, what the Sam Hill is up with that five o’clock shadow you gave him?

Anyway, this episode was pretty good. Though no one seemed the least bit phased by Falcon’s age, which felt a little off, the story was quite the pick up from the season’s earlier fare. Cap got his shield back and Hawkeye actually got to figure out how to save the day – using an idea this author had considered five or so minutes before the crisis point of the show arrived, no less. 😉

Thor, as I said, shined in “The Return,” but so did Vision. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that Loki badly underestimated him. Scott got to notice an important fact, which Miss Marvel unsurprisingly missed and dismissed, while Jane Foster was allowed to be the super genius she is. And she did not even have to leave her apartment to do it. I really hope they do not give Mjolnir to her. It would spoil her part in “The Return” so badly.

Finally, I have to say that I enjoyed the various nods to Thor: The Dark World in this show. The film itself did not have a great plot and got bad reviews for it. I liked Dark World nonetheless, mostly because I never go to a Marvel movie to watch the bad guys. I go to see the heroes, and I thought the second Thor movie did right by them. Watching the writers tip their hats to it was fun.

On the whole, I was more impressed with these five episodes than I was with four of the ones I reviewed previously. But as I said in my post on “Why I Hate Halloween,” now is not the time to become complacent and think Marvel is cleaning up its act. Certainly, these recent shows offer us fans some hope that the company will value our patronage more than PC grandstanding. But now is not the time to bank on such an assumption.

Part of the reason I say this is Loki’s gleeful warning at the end of “The Return.” “Strange things are coming,” he tells Thor’s back when the Prince of Asgard leaves the detention center. Tony still has not come home yet, and the writers here did nod to the HYDRA Cap debacle. I find these small instances in the show more than a little worrisome.

So we are not out of the woods. These are hopeful signs and, if unaltered by the future, I could say they were a turning point. But the future is not the present. Therefore, I advise caution before commitment, as well as the firm hope matters will change for the better.

But to quote Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the only thing we can do now is say, “We shall see.”

Avengers – Assemble!

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Avengers Assemble!

Marvel's Avengers Assemble!

Heeey, DiNozzo!

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!

Later,

Mithril

Assembled