Avengers Assemble Arrives on Disney XD
Last weekend saw the debut of Avengers Assemble on Disney XD, with a two-part pilot episode. This is the second Avengers cartoon to air on Disney XD, the other one being The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes that ran for two seasons. So how does the new Avengers series hold up? It's too soon to tell about Assemble's overall quality as a series, but here are some initial thoughts about the pilot episode and some speculation about where the cartoon might go in the future.
The Good: Regardless of whatever else I thought about the pilot, it's nice to see the Avengers back on TV. Other superhero teams have made repeated appearances on TV throughout the years (particularly the Justice League and the X-Men), so I'm glad that Marvel's team of A-list superheroes is getting a second chance.
The Bad: The two-part Assemble pilot is a jumbled mess. It features not just one but two attacks by the Red Skull against the Avengers: first, he kidnaps Captain America in an attempt to swap bodies with him, and then he infects the Avengers with mind-controlling nanobots for the purpose of distracting them so that he can destroy the Avengers Mansion and the rest of New York along with it. Between these attacks and the subplot of Iron Man's mission to reassemble the Avengers team of Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye and Hulk, the pilot episode tries to cram far too much into so little time. Yes, the pilot is supposed to establish the Avengers as a team and the Red Skull as their main adversary, but it could have done so in a much better way. (Fun Marvel cartoon trivia: The previous Red Skull's plan to swap bodies with Captain America was seen in "The Capture of Captain America", an episode of the syndicated Spider-Man cartoon from the early 80s.)
Another problem with the pilot is its emphasis that it is a continuation of sorts--that the Avengers were a team that disbanded before the pilot--but then it doesn't commit to what exactly Assemble is continuing. Given the team's lineup and settings, the new Avengers cartoon is obviously meant to capitalize on the popularity of the live-action Avengers film from last summer; however, since this series isn't the official sequel to that movie, it tries to be vague enough so that it could also be interpreted as a continuation of the previous Avengers cartoon. In short, Assemble wants to have it both ways but it can't and because of that, the reassembled team lacks chemistry. (While watching the pilot, I found myself sorely missing Black Panther and Wasp from Earth's Mightiest Heroes.) The Assemble team will hopefully find its rhythm soon, but it's hard for any cast of characters to recapture a sense of camaraderie when they can't identify what kind of camaraderie they had in the first place. That said, Falcon has been added to the team's roster, but he's given so little to do in the pilot that it's hard to tell how well he'll fit in with the rest of the characters as the series progresses.
The Intriguing: Judging from the pilot's voice cast, it appears that Marvel is lining up its animation style and voice talent for possible crossovers between Assemble and Disney XD's other Marvel cartoons, Ultimate Spider-Man and the upcoming Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Not only are the character designs identical between Ultimate and Assemble, but the voice cast for the characters of Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Nick Fury and J. Jonah Jameson is the same for both shows. I'm hoping that Marvel and its parent company Disney is doing this with the intent of producing an epic Ultimate/Assemble/S.M.A.S.H. crossover miniseries--they'd be foolish not to--but only time will tell.