Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Brooklyn, NY, US of A
Re: Avengers cartoon - Part 5
I know I am far behind the curve in terms of reviewing episodes. But look at it like this; I am still ahead of the Disney XD schedule.
"POWERLESS" features a soulless monster who lives only to destroy everything before it. Can you tell this is the first episode written by MAN OF ACTION under the order of new TV czar Jeph Loeb? A cheap shot, yes, but this episode has it coming. It is the first, but not the last, episode helmed by "MAN OF ACTION", who I usually dub MAN OF AVERAGE, with increased influence by Loeb under the pressure of meeting scheduling deadlines - as Yost and Fine tell it. While I am fairly certain that is true, neither Yost or Fine could likely say outright, "Well, Loeb is the new boss and he wanted to throw his weight around a bit", and for all I know Loeb is a perfectly lovely man to work with and for. However, "ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN" is an underwhelming insult to the intelligence of viewers and if this episode is a sign of what later episodes of this show may devolve to, it will be vastly disappointing. It is said that in politics, Republicans are a voice forever standing in the way of progress screaming, "STOP"; in the realm of Marvel animation, that voice may be Loeb. This week it was announced that "A:EMH" was canceled and will be replaced by something that is hardly likely to match this in quality. It is easy to despair sometimes.
While I can say with relief that this was the worst of the four episodes I saw this week and the others all vastly rebound, this is very much an episode which wants to believe it is still 1982 instead of 2012. It has the trappings of the seasonal subplot but it handles it all poorly and regresses many characterizations, and is poorly written to boot. It seems very much like an episode written to meet a deadline, in other words. That is why I am willing to take Yost and Fine at their word at that. Say this about Loeb productions, they always get turned in at the bell. Still, even underwhelming that it is, "POWERLESS" still has a few decent nods to comic fans and is far better than "USM" offers.
Spoiler!!! Click to Read!:
It begins innocently enough by reminding us that Loki was banished to some nasty realm by Odin at the end of last season, that Amora the Enchantress is still working under Surtur's influence, and that the Avengers are about to interrupt a standard bank truck robbery by the Wrecking Crew. Right off the bat I thought it was odd that there were only 75% of the Crew present; Piledriver was gone. Why? He'd always been with them before, such as in the micro episodes and in "GAMMA WORLD". Was it because it would have made the rest of the episode more difficult? At any rate, any sign of Amora's distress and inner turmoil about being Surtur's puppet from "THE BALLAD OF BETA RAY BILL" is gone and she's reverted to standard "I want to kill Thor" type. While she refuses to free Loki from his prison, she offers to cast a spell to weaken Thor before transporting his soul into the Destroyer armor so he can kill Thor for her. Is this revenge for Thor not killing her when she begged him to in "BALLAD OF BETA RAY BILL" or am I being generous? Is Amora completely under Surtur's thrall even without the glowing eyes or am I again being generous? At any rate, as the title suggests this is a "everyone loses their powers" episode.
There are certain plots that many cartoon shows have worn into the ground over the past 20-40 years to the point that every time I see them, I groan. These include "The Amnesia Episode", "The Mind Swap Episode", "The Shrinking Episode", "The Lose Your Powers Episode" and "The Fantastic Voyage Episode". By and large "A:EMH" avoided such mundane drivel, but right off the bat the first MAN OF AVERAGE episode uses one; never a good sign. With a blast of energy, Thor is tendered mortal (without Mjolnir), Steve Rogers is back to being a 98 lb. weakling, and Tony Stark is in his Mach 1 armor with zero science skill. Only Hawkeye is left uneffected, despite being near the zap zone. One major plot hole is how Amora describes her own spell to Loki. She claims it "removes physical power", which I suppose can explain Thor and Cap, but it's effect on Iron Man is baloney. I could see it maybe vanishing his armor away in the middle of a fight (which would be a major disadvantage), but the problem with taking away his science knowledge is that KNOWLEDGE IS NOT PHYSICAL POWER. If the beam effected Stark by taking away his science lore, then it SHOULD have effected Hawkeye and took away his archery skills. The second plot hole is that Amora claims that her spell could be broken "if Thor learns humility". Now, I can understand Amora being behind the times, but hasn't Thor already learned humility? A great chunk of Season 1 was about Thor learning to appreciate mortals more, especially after they rescued him from Loki and saved Asgard. Hell, to once again mention "BALLAD OF BETA RAY BILL", Thor was literally about to hand over Mjolnir to Bill so he could avenge his people and defeat Surtur because his quest was righteous; how much more humble can Thor be? Instead we have an entire episode of Thor whining about how frail it is to be mortal and sounding very much like he might have at the start of Season 1 (and I mean the micro-episodes) until he could learn his Very Important Lesson which is so obvious even the 6 year olds in the audience will roll their eyes and see it coming. Then this dismisses the sight of even 98 lb. weakling Rogers being capable of some amazing feats of physical stamina like being hit full on by Destroyer and still getting up to fight.
On top of that, Destroyer is described as Odin's unstoppable war armor, yet the four heroes do a perfectly good job of stopping it long enough for Thor to learn his moral of the week. Subway trains, sticks, and girders even stun it. I don't know if that was because Loki in general sucks as a fighter (he's more of a wizard than a warrior), or just bad writing. There are far better ways to write "unstoppable threat" episodes; Juggernaut usually gets those, and even Rhino got it in "SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN". In this episode Destroyer is more of a metallic bumbler, although again I don't know if that's simply because it was powered by Loki, who was acting very much like an 1980's villain here. In fact, the very idea of Thor having to learn humility by being willing to die as a mortal in battle against the Destroyer is so obviously cribbed from "THOR" that that film's screenwriters should get royalties from this episode. It's so lazy and second-hand.
There were some highlights. As usual, Hawkeye gets some of the best lines, and I liked the bit where he uses a spare bit of wood as an arrow; in the comics he was always making random objects into bows & arrows when he had to, way before "MACGUYVER" appeared. While Thor's whining was vastly out of character, I did like the nod to his Donald Blake persona with his walking stick bit, as well as to his old identity of Sigurd Jarlson with his overall design of his "mortal form".
This was a very average episode, at best. And while "average" is the peak of quality for "ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN", for "AVENGERS: EMH" is a nosedive in quality. A forgettable and virtually pointless episode, very close to being a waste of time. Such a shame that this may be Loki's last appearance in the show and it is in such a wasted endeavor such as this.
I am sure it technically exists to help build up the Surtur arc, but surely there were better methods to do it than this. While the subsequent episodes are all better than this - namely because Yost & the old writers do return for some of them - if this is a harbinger of more to come, then it is a shame indeed.