Cartoon Block Reviews for 5/23/12
- Written by Kevin
This week we have a battlefest as Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Ultimate Spider-Man and Young Justice: Invasion ramping up their storylines. One cartoon goes dark, two go with all out action and the other goes with plain goofiness. Do these story choices mean four winning episodes? Or did one or more shows fall flat with their story choices? Find out in this week’s Cartoon Block Reviews.
Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – “The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill”
At first glance, it could be seen as an odd choice that Disney and Marvel lead us into a one month hiatus for the Avengers with an episode that does not deal with the Skrull Invasion/Kree-Skrull War. It can almost be said that “Who Do You Trust?” would have made for a better episode thematically as we head into the break. But then you watch “The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill” and it becomes clear this was intentionally done because we are left with what may be the one of the best, if not the best, episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes so far.
As the title mentions this episode involves the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill as Thor. It also continues to deal with the ramifications of Sutur’s escape from his tomb. Not only does this episode deal with this secondary storyline that is going on but it can also be seen as a tribute to Walt Simonson's brilliant run on Thor. “The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill” is a love letter to one of the best comic book runs we have had.
For readers that have had the great pleasure to read Simonson’s Thor run, and those who have not I implore you to correct that, will notice a lot of parallel’s to early issues of the run. From Thor and Beta Ray Bill’s brief fight, Bill’s origin story, Sif’s attraction to Bill, Odin’s fatherly side and Suturs involvement with both Thor and Bill it is incredible how much was packed into this 22-minute episode. Michael Ryan and the animation team really do their best to give the viewer a full look at Thor’s universe.
The story from beginning to end has fantastic pacing. The origin of Beta Ray Bill is well told with the time given. We are quickly shown just why he is alone on the ship and his heroic personality. His team-up with Thor and Sif establishes him as a powerhouse and it was great to see him and Thor acting like brothers throughout their battle with Sutur.
At the same time, both Sif and Odin were given more time to flesh out their characters. For Sif, we got to see a nice character arc from her being a badass warrior that did not understand Thor’s connection to Earth to a badass warrior that builds a connection similar to the one Thor has built. Odin was also given some time to show his more compassionate side with his worry for Thor and his willingness to help out Beta Ray Bill once he learns of his situation.
Though Sutur is a bit underdeveloped in this episode I did enjoy how he used Enchantress as a proxy to get over how much of a threat he is. With Enchantress at his command it will be fun to see what his plans are in future episodes.
“The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill” is as perfect of an episode as we have had on Avengers: EMH. From beginning to end both the writing and animation pulls you into the story that by the end I just wanted to see more. If nothing else I am left hoping we get a Thor solo cartoon because this episode is a perfect example how Thor’s universe is one with infinite possibilities in animated form.
Episode Rating: 9.5 Night Girls out of 10
Green Lantern: The Animated Series – “Invasion”
I finally figured out what Green Lantern: The Animate Series has been lacking for the majority of its first season. That thing it has been lacking is any sense urgency when it comes to the overarching plot of the Hal and co. war against the Red Lantern Corps. Outside a few episodes were we got to see the characters acting with desperation to gather a force to help we have had a lot of standalone episodes that did not help the main plot progress.
That is where “Invasion” comes in to fix this problem as we head into the season finale. For the first time we really get a sense of the scope of the war against the Red Lantern Corps. Hal and co. finally take actions into their own hands by fighting to get back the Green Lantern lighthouse from the Red Lanterns. The pacing does a good job fleshing out each character as they each get good lines or action sequences to standout.
The true standout character of this episode was Aya. She showed a nice evolution from being the one taking orders to the one that steps into danger without thinking. Having Aya stand her ground showed that she has slowly progress with each episode and has become more than just another android.
At the same time, we got to see Hal continue to step into the leadership role. Seeing Hal give out orders was a good way to show how he has grown as the natural leader. The interaction between Hal, Kilowagg and Razor was spot on and having Kilowagg ask Hal what they are going to do next as the Red Lanterns will be invading Oan space any second was a great note to leave this episode with.
Now, even though Hal and co. were able to get a minor victory I did enjoy the fact that the big victory was saved for Attrocitus and his Red Lantern Corps. Just as Hal and co. celebrate their win Attrocitus turns everything around and sets off his explosives to create an opening into Oan space. Not only that but he is able to take the Green Lantern ship and basically leave Hal, Kilowagg and Razor alone in space with nothing to do but wait to be slaughtered by the rest of the Red Lanterns.
The one weakness of “Invasion” is the fact that there really is no way for Hal and co. to win except for having a deus ex machine, aka Saint Walker. As great as this episode was the plot is still hurt by the fact that we have had very little development in terms of Hal actually gathering help to fight the Red Lanterns. Fighting a war against an actual army we should have had Hal be able to gather more help than just three characters. It seems short sighted by the show’s writers which will possibly lead to an ending in the next episode to be rushed.
Though I will say even though he will most likely be a deus ex machine for the season finale it was great to see Saint Walker again. Having him finally become a Blue Lantern at the end was a big fanboy moment, even if rushed. It sets the stage for the season finale nicely as I do wonder how Hal and co. will be able to overcome such large odds.
Episode Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Ultimate Spider-Man – “Field Trip”
I am done. Even after a brief spurt of somewhat solid episodes that gave me some slight hope for Ultimate Spider-Man we get “Field Trip” that puts the show back to what it was originally. Even though Spider-Man is one of my favorite characters I absolutely hate the incoherent storytelling approach of Ultimate Spider-Man.
No matter how interesting a team-up between Spider-Man and Thor could have been, and it could have, the writers break it with all of the fourth wall breaking. Any time there may be a reason to get interested in the story from Thor turning into a frog or the battle with Loki we are completely taken out of the story by the continued forced fourth wall breaking. Not only does it make Spider-Man unfunny but takes the attention and development from any character involved in the episode.
In the end, the only thing “Field Trip” will be memorable for is for it being the episode that I gave up on Ultimate Spider-Man. I am officially done watching this show, un-DVRing it and deleting all the episodes from my DVR. As a Spider-Man fan I wish I did not have to do this but I just cannot continue to watch one of my all-time favorite comic book characters being treated like this. I am done.
Episode Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Young Justice: Invasion – “Salvage”
Finally! After the first two episodes failed to answer question and succeeded to only add more questions we finally begin to get questions answered in an intriguing way. Continuing the aftermath of what happened to the core team from last week we find out that Aqualad is not the only one that has fallen. In “Salvage” we see Red Arrow has also fallen just as hard, in a different way.
The most intriguing thing about these last two episodes is seeing the different paths the original four sidekicks have taken during the 5 year time skip. In the last episode we had Aqualad fall to the dark side in a manner reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker as the death of Tula and his true heritage pushed him over the edge. In the process it made him a character that is actually interesting. And now here we find out what happened to the other two missing sidekicks finally appear.
This branching off of the four original sidekicks adds a great overarching sub-plot for Young Justice during the Invasion storyline. Now we have to wonder because of how close Nightwing, Wally, Aqualad/Manta and Red Arrow were if all there storylines will somehow merge into one towards the end of the season. Red Arrow’s mention of Aqualad’s fall has me hopeful we will have some story involving the four together.
What also makes this episode enjoyable is the fact that the writers were able to adapt some of Wally and Red Arrows comic book history into this 5 year time skip. Similar to what Wolfman did with the character in Teen Titans we find out Wally gave up being a hero to go to college and shack up with Artemis, the other missing member of the Team making her return. It was nice to see Wally given a happy ending story.
Though this character arc does lack depth since we are not given a reason for Wally’s change. Within the shows context Wally was the most eager about being part of the Justice League and for him to go civilian is completely hollow.
At the same time, the writers were able to mix in Red Arrow’s addiction storyline into a more child appropriate manner. It was obvious we were not going to see Red Arrow turn to drugs but the writers smartly used the fact he is a clone to be the cause of his lack care for his own well-being. The whole intervention was handled well and showed how far the character fell. Cheshire’s appearance with their baby daughter Lian was a nice surprise that has me looking forward to where Red Arrow’s story goes next.
As the B-plot for the episode involving Superboy and Blue Beetle we are able to see some nice progression for both characters. It was interesting to see that Superboy has actually developed X-ray vision since he did not have that 5 years ago, show time. This has me wondering if we will see him develop more Superman-like powers as the season progresses.
Blue Beetle was also given some time to shine as we find out that Ted Kord was the creator of the Scarab and he was killed by the Light before he could use it. This was an interesting addition to the character's history that slightly adapts Ted’s death.
Now with the mysterious “Partner” continuing to make his presence known I wonder what his connection to the Light is and what the Light has planned with the 6 JLA members off planet. I am kind of hoping that it is revealed that Deathstroke is this mysterious “Partner” since Young Justice has been very much an amalgamation of Young Justice and Teen Titans. In any case I am now excited for where season 2 is going which I did not come out thinking after the first two episodes. That is a big step forward.
Episode Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Kevin started reading comics as a kid when he watched the first episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series. After that his parents bought him a few random Spider-Man and Batman comics and he has been hooked ever since. When he is not reading and writing about comics you can find Kevin as the destroyer of worlds, champion of fighting tournaments and ace Madden player on the PS3. You can catch up with Kevin and all his thoughts at the following links: