REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: MONSTER MAYHEM

CAST

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Troy Baker (The Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Kari Wuhrer (Hellraiser: Deader)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Alistair Duncan (The Batman)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)

Batman Unlimited is DC’s all-ages animation line. The dialogue and storytelling don’t pander to a younger crowd, and while the superhuman slugfests are family-friendly, they’re still every bit as well-staged and thrilling as DC’s PG-13 animated efforts.
Thor-2As much as I dug Animal Instincts, the premiere entry in the Batman Unlimited series, Monster Mayhem easily tops it. The basic formula pretty much remains the same: a motley crew of four super-villains are pulling off heists all across Gotham, it turns out that a scheming master villain-type is yanking their strings, and only Batman and his buddies stand any chance of stopping the technologically-fueled apocalypse. Monster Mayhem reigns supreme over Animal Instincts because of…well, everything! For one, the roster of super villains is a lot stronger this time around. Silver Banshee hasn’t scored a whole lot of screentime in DC’s animated movies or TV series, so it’s pretty great to have her take something close enough to center stage here.MV5BMjM1MzYwMDM1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTg2MjkzNjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_

Clayface is a character that works more brilliantly animated than in any other incarnation, and Monster Mayhem takes full advantage. I’m not wild about Scarecrow’s pro wrestler redesign, and he’s the most underutilized of this bunch, but the guy’s obviously a great fit for a Halloween-themed rogues gallery. Oh, man, and Solomon Grundy…! Undead and loving it, everyone’s favorite Southern-fried zombie runs away and steals every single scene he’s in. Seriously,The movie keeps its cards close to its chest and takes a while to reveal that the Joker is the sinister mastermind behind it all, but he’s right there on the cover, so you probably figured that out anyway.  Monster Mayhem is so. much. fun.I mean, look at all those clever battles in an abandoned amusement park, complete with Solomon Grundy squaring off against the Caped Crusader in the Tunnel of Love. The movie is pretty much just one “oh, wow!” after another: from its lengthy, masterfully staged, adrenaline-pumping action sequences to the wildly imaginative ways it plays with and against!)its futuristic tech. Though Monster Mayhem is meant to be a cross-promotional thing with Mattel’s action figure line, the dinosaur tie-in is genuinely pretty great and makes sense in context. Not having to deal with any origin stories lets Monster Mayhem hit the ground running and relentlessly plow forward. There just isn’t a wasted moment anywhere throughout this sucker. The master scheme is vastly superior to the one in Animal Instincts, and it’s riddled with twists and turns along the way that make the whole thing that much more engaging.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Brian Bloom (Vampirella)
Chris Cox (All Star Superman)
Jennifer Hale (The Rick)
Peter Jessop (Jla Adventures)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Eric Loomis (Shin Chan)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Colleen Villard (Duel Masters)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST COICES

Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Drake Bell (The Reef 2)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and Teh X-men)
Alex Desert (The Flash 90s)
Vanessa Marshall (Duck Dodgers)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Elizabeth Daily (Valley Girl)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Cam Clarke (He-Man)
Lance Reddick (Lost)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold!)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)

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Both Marvel and DC have to an astonishing degree started to pick up these last few years, with several well-appreciated shows that I really enjoy: Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Green Lantern TAS, and now this; The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s very rare indeed for a superhero cartoon of this magnitude to be  great from start-to-finish, but that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is, right from Episode 1 `Iron Man is Born’ to the finale `Avengers Assemble!’. There are literally no dud episodes whatsoever! The whole series is infused with tremendous intrigue, exceptional plotting and some of the tightest continuity I’ve ever seen in a TV series. The number of sub-plots and story-arcs that are juggled here is staggering, but the creative team handled it all with such precision. The coherency, intricacies and pacing is nothing short of exemplary overall. This isn’t just essential for kids; adult Marvel fans will get bags of satisfaction from watching this cartoon!MV5BMTgxOTA1Nzk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk0MzY2MjE@._V1_So what exactly can folk expect? Well, as I said, the choicest pieces of Marvel history (be it in comics or on film) have been successfully adapted and utilized here. From how the Avengers banded together to life-changing events like the Civil War threat and the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion (adapted beautifully here!). Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, the Wasp and Black Panther are all superbly established before `Assembling’ for the first time, members come-and-go, characters undergo changes, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision join the ranks, and all-manner of superb guests join the party, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and even those Guardians of the Galaxy!

And on the villains-front, you can be subjected to a cracking-bunch of dastardly rogues, such as Loki, the Red Skull, Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom and (of course!) chief arch-nemesis Ultron. And it’s not all just for window-dressing. The depictions of all these characters (hero, villain and otherwise) and their worlds is just pure gold. It’s perhaps the most faithful animated portrayal of the Marvel Universe.
Really, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could (and should) have gone on for more seasons. Instead, Marvel pulled the plug in favor of the replacement show Avengers Assemble. Thus in the last batch episodes, you DO get the feel that the writers were trying to wrap things up and give the show a grand swansong to make way for the next-cartoon-in-line. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left over, but the series is mostly wrapped-up in winning style with a very acceptable conclusion. And in an age where too many shows are cancelled prematurely/end on a sour note, it makes that final moment of `Avengers Assemble!’ all the more of a triumph, just like the entire series itself.