Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Brooklyn, NY, US of A
Re: Avengers cartoon - Part 4
Coming off "INFILTRATOR" and "SECRET INVASION" is a very tough act to follow, even under the best of circumstances. Even an otherwise solid episode or two will seem to underwhelm after so much sheer awesome. Unfortunately, "ALONG CAME A SPIDER" will probably be remembered more online for the controversy surrounding it more than the narrative itself. While some fans were already groaning as it would feature Spider-Man as a guest star - a hero who rarely lacks TV animation exposure for long - a development in the production has also sparked ire.
Spoiler!!! Click to Read!:
May as well comment on the controversy now. While this episode is over a month away from airing in the U.S., it aired overseas. It features Drake Bell reprising his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man from the vastly underwhelming (and that's being kind) "ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN" as well as J.K. Simmons reprising his role of J. Jonah Jameson from film and now TV. Bell is probably the most irritating Spider-Man voice actor that I recall from memory, and this includes going back to the era of "SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS" in the early-mid 80's with Dan Gilzevan as the voice of Spidey for a generation. Bell doesn't channel a youthful hero, merely an obnoxious kid. However, the real story emerged online when voice actor Josh Keaton - who starred as Spidey in "SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN" as well as reprised the role in a few video games, including ULTIMATE MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3 - was the original casting choice for Spidey in this episode and subsequent appearances before having his dialogue dubbed over by Bell's. We have Grey DeLise reprising her role as Betty Brant from "TSSM" and some other "TSSM" alum playing regular characters on this show (Lacey Chabert plays Quake, Vanessa Marshall plays Black Widow, etc.). Keaton is great in the role - hell, he was great as the Flash in "JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS" - and it is truly a shame that we didn't get to hear him mix it up with the other members of the cast on "A:EMH", that he wasn't a VA who got to reprise his role on more than one TV show much as Robert Hayes' Iron Man did in the 90's (a role Hayes reprised in guest stints on "SPIDER-MAN: TAS" and "INCREDIBLE HULK"). While this episode was written by the same team as the Yost/Fine era, it is the first which bares some sign of post-Jeph Loeb meddling. From a corporate standpoint, I do see the logic; "TSSM" was Sony's show which is canceled and no longer on the air, while "USM" is Disney's show which the network is pushing heavily, so thus why not cross-promote it with some redubs? Unfortunately, corporate decisions often rob fans of great stories and experiences sometimes, and this is one of them.
To his credit, Josh Keaton handles this as a professional on his Tumblr: http://joshkeaton.tumblr.com/post/24...-dubbing-thing
He notes that re-dubs of dialogue and re-casts at the last minute in voice over work happen all the time, and cites previous examples he had such as his work in "HERCULES" (ironically, also for Disney). I don't doubt his first hand experience and it isn't as if he wasn't paid for his work or something like that. While this did only arise because Keaton noted it on Facebook, he also is attempting to quell the fan-flames a bit, which is admirable. I consider "TSSM" to be the best adaptation of Spider-Man outside of the comics - yes, better than the film trilogy - even though I know it had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that prior adaptations lacked. It was a shame to see that show end in it's prime due to corporate decisions/meddling, and it is a bigger shame to see such things once again rob us of more of Josh Keaton's Spidey. There was a magic to that show which not even its helmer, Greg Weisman, has been able to easily replicate and it is a shame that "A:EMH", which has itself been a trend setter for Marvel Animation, won't get some of it either. While as an intellectual I understand why Loeb and Disney would bend over backwards to promote "USM" to the point of doing a rapid dub edit of an episode perhaps weeks before it went to air - attempting to cross promote their new show and attempt to link them as their air beside each other - as a fan I see it as a major corporation backing a pile of rubbish because they see it as an investment, not because it's good work. I suppose one could wonder why Grey DeLise wasn't dubbed over as Brant, although I suppose because she voices so many female characters these days, it wasn't considered a big deal.
The shame of it is that while "ALONG CAME A SPIDER" is hardly the best episode of "A:EMH" ever, it is still solidly written and develops a subplot between a villain who was in many ways just introduced to viewers in "PRISONERS OF WAR", which was Viper (Vanessa Marshall). While the character models are the same, the animation seemed different in this one; which I don't know is due to a new studio, some sign of rush, or what. This episode carries along subplots from "SECRET INVASION" and other episodes very well, creates the first TV team-up between Spidey and Capt. America since the end of "SPIDER-MAN: TAS'" fifth season in 1997, and at the very least gives Drake Bell the best material he's ever had as Spidey. While Spider-Man does come dangerously close to hogging the episode, he seems to maintain that fine line as Captain America is the major focus of the episode; Spidey is really there only to enhance Cap's subplot. The gist is that Capt. America has become a pariah to the public at large due to the events of his Skrull imposter, with most of the public seeing him as a traitor to the extend that they've vandalized his WWII tribute statue and toss rotting veggies at him in public. Tony Stark seeks to intercept one major media outlet, the DAILY BUGLE, run by the usually hostile J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson naturally is as one would expect - resentful of masked vigilantes in general and Spider-Man in particular - and won't budge on hie smear campaign unless Stark arranges an immediate exclusive interview with Cap himself (or his alien double). Betty Brant (who is a reporter here and not the secretary she was in "TSSM", or in her youth in the comics) is immediately assigned to cover the story, with Peter Parker the photographer of last resort. Capt. America along with the other Avengers is monitoring a SHIELD prisoner transfer of the convicts who returned from the Skrull capture with Cap, which include King Cobra and Viper of the Serpent Society. The routine transfer naturally gets dramatic enough for TV when the rest of the Society arrives to liberate their chums.
This all leads to Capt. America, Spider-Man, SHIELD agent Clay Quartermain and a bunch of random civilians from a subway car trapped in the underground subway tunnels/sewer system attempting to escape before the tunnels collapse as well as avoid being killed by snake-themed super-villains. The episode has a lot of good dark shadows and suspense, with Viper proving to be as good as her word about only being an ally of convenience during the previous two episodes. While the public has turned on Cap like snakes, the snake-villains are devotedly loyal to their own, which is deliberate irony. Throughout it all Spider-Man wonders why Cap does little to answer these public criticisms as being seen as a pariah is something which dogs the wall-crawler as well. There is some initial awkwardness of the teenage hero meeting a legend like Cap, which is something Keaton's version was probably better at depicting. The action is pretty good although the ending reaction of the civilians is predictable. To paraphrase "THE SIMPSONS", all Cap had to do was save their lives to get some acceptance back. Cap gives a pretty good speech about how one's actions define who they are, not what anyone says about them which again notes how solid Brian Bloom is that he can pull off a speech like that without sounding corny. A moment where Spider-Man is exhausted from holding up a tunnel for several minutes and is about to succumb to fatigue, only to be inspired by Cap for a little while longer is also great stuff (and a slight homage to "IF THIS BE MY DESTINY" from the ASM comics).
In the end a solid team-up episode 15 years in the making, although the real world controversy will probably be what it is remembered for. Cap's ability to remain true to himself and even inspire his worst critics are why the Skrulls made sure to target him, and it is that which this episode showcases.
Finally, "BEHOLD...THE VISION" is the final episode produced before the Loeb era and naturally accomplishes what it says on the tin; Vision debuts. This is the first time Vison has been on TV since "AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND" in 1999, although he also appeared in the "NEXT AVENGERS" DTV from a few years ago. Suffice it to say this is easily the best TV appearance Vision has ever gotten.
Spoiler!!! Click to Read!:
Capt. America, Thor, and Hawkeye travel to Wakanda to get Cap's shield repaired via Wakandan science and expertise as well as a gesture towards getting T'Challa to return to their team. While T'Challa is willing to fix the shield as a gesture to a friend - even remarking how the original Vibranium for the shield was a diplomatic gift to FDR - he is less willing on the other front. This irritates Hawkeye, who is the most irritated with T'Challa since the two had been friends prior to the Skrull affair. In the meantime, the robotic Vision (dubbed so as he sees himself as "His Father's/Creator's Vision" has successfully stolen adamantium samples from a Weapon X facility (further linking this to the X-Men, "WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN" in particular) and also seeks the unique alloy in Cap's shield. To this end he attacks the mangled Avengers mansion and nearly kills Jane Foster and Wasp within it.
At this point if I have one frustration with this show, it is that Wasp sure seems to get her butt kicked a lot. In terms of dialogue and energy she is a delight, but she also seems to fall into the role of "the chick" on the team far too easily. Other female guest stars such as Ms. Marvel or Black Widow often always fare better in fights than she does. While that's hardly Janet's only worth to the team - and in the comics, she was far more of a ditz throughout the 60's - but when I saw Wasp get manhandled by the threat of the week with ease for what seemed like the two dozenth time, I rolled my eyes a bit. If Ms. Marvel does anything, she provides a counter-point to Wasp by being a massively powered military woman. I'd actually love an episode with Janet, Natasha and Danvers all united, but I don't know if that will happen.
The Vision is voiced by Peter Jessop, and while it is revealed at the end, comic fans can figure out what his objectives are. He is attempting to gather materials so his "father", Ultron (Tom Kane reprising the role) can rebuild himself in a vastly superior body. He is not evil, but acts with a cold, emotionless robotic precision. The episode makes great use of his intangibility for not only combat tactics, but for some well story-boarded horror style sequences. He's a ghostly figure and the episode capitalizes on that as Vision picks off a horde of Wakandan warriors one by one like any classic monster. He's quite powerful here as well, able to fend off even Thor with brute strength and solar-beams from his forehead. In the end, however, his ignorance about the stubbornness of humans as well as a little guile from T'Challa cause him to have to retreat and abandon the Vibranium.
As the final episode before the Loeb takeover of the show, it doesn't pack the punch of "SECRET INVASION". It introduces a great character from the Avengers mythos as well as notes the return of one of their worst villains. Considering Wonder Man remained aligned with villains until the end, I wonder if Vision will continue serving the goals of his "father" or if he will be liberated as he was in the comics. Building that up instead of wasting it in his intro story is fine, I just hope Vision fares a little better than Simon Williams did. Good action here and a contrast to the last episode as it took place during the daylight jungles of Wakanda.
From here on out, Loeb & MAN OF ACTION ran the show, with Yost & Fine's roles diminished due to the schedule, as they tell it. One can only hope these new story editors can maintain the high level of quality the show is known for...or at least not ruin it too badly. Only time will tell.