REVIEW: JESSICA JONES – SEASON 3

Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)

Starring

Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad)
Rachael Taylor (transformers)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers)
Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix)
Jeremy Bobb (The Knick)
Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
Sarita Choudhury (A Hologram For A
Tiffany Mack (Hap and Leonard)

Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Rebecca De Mornay (Mother’s Day)
Aneesh Sheth (New Amsterdam)
Mike Colter (Luke Cage)
J. R. Ramirez (Arrow)
David Tennant (Mary Queen of Scots)

The Netflix Marvel Universe, starting last year with yellow-belt step-child Iron Fist and continuing on to the cancellations of Luke Cage, Daredevil, and The Punisher. Unfortunately, the bummer that comes with an ending does hang over Jessica Jones‘ third chapter, but in an oddly fortuitous way that dour tone actually works. This season—which was set to be showrunner Melissa Rosenberg‘s final season anyway—is a dark story, probably the least comic book-y of Netflix’s already grounded and gritty pocket of the MCU. It doesn’t always work and does suffer from the same pacing issues that have plagued, well, pretty much all of these shows. But when it hits, it hits just like its main heroine; violent, flawed, and willing to go where her more moral superhuman peers wouldn’t dare.Rachael Taylor in Jessica Jones (2015)Season 3 opens with its two leading ladies at a crossroads. Jessica is doing her darndest to get her act together and, overall, just be less of an asshole and more of a functioning private investigation. But Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) has dived into the life of a fledgling vigilante after Dr. Karl Malus’ season 2 experiments gave her special abilities. (She’s not quite rocking her Hellcat get-up from the comics, but there are some very clever touches of yellow and purple along with some cats-eye sunglasses courtesy of costume designer Elisabeth Vastola). Jessica and Trish are estranged, but a chance encounter turned violent with a superpowered man named Erik (Benjamin Walker) leads Jessica to the case of serial killer Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb). Salinger, who is absolutely bananagrams out of his goddamn mind, soon makes things very, very personal with Jessica, Erik, and Trish.Benjamin Walker and Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)Ritter is still pretty much pitch-perfect in the title role, one of the best casting jobs in the current comic book era. But the nature of Jessica Jones as a character so reluctant to get in on the action means the quality of her stories is almost defined by the strength of her villain. Season 1 was sensational in large part thanks to David Tennant‘s Kilgrave, with the actor’s charisma drawing you to the character—much like everyone was supernaturally drawn to the character—even as the script revealed him as an irredeemable monster. In comparison, season 2 developed into a bit of a slog Jessica’s team-up with her mass murderer mother Alisa (Janet McTeer) turned the back-half of the story into a largely antagonist-less road trip to nowhere.Jessica Jones (2015)Luckily, season 3’s serial killer Salinger flips the switch by completely stripping away the pretense of a supervillain. He might by Jessica’s most dynamic villain because of how terrifyingly un-dynamic he is. In the comics, Salinger is the second person to take on the title of Foolkiller, a brilliant murderer with a penchant for killing anyone he deems, well, a fool. But Rosenberg and the writing staff have tweaked that background into an extremely recognizable 2019 threat; here, Salinger is basically an internet troll, a man with an inflated sense of ego and rage built from the fact that he’s painfully ordinary. He’s Hannibal Lecter chewing on redpills instead of fava beans. He’s Ted Bundy with a Reddit account and egg-avatar Twitter page. He’s an incel but for having superpowers instead of sex—I guess that would make him an “inhuman”—who hates vigilantes for gaining abilities they didn’t “earn.” At one point, he points the spotlight back on to Jessica by playing the victim. “Perhaps I’m an easy target,” he tells news cameras, “a single white male, and she’s this feminist vindicator.”Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)It all gets borderline on-the-nose, but honestly “on the nose” works when you’re dealing with a character who deserves to get whacked in the fucking face this hard. Bobb—who also impressed earlier this year in another Netflix series, Russian Doll—makes a chilling meal of the role. He does great psychopath, with an ability to say menacing lines with absolutely nothing going on behind the eyes. This story isn’t exactly adding anything new to the serial killer genre—we’re talking chopped up body parts, creepy photo sessions, even a very Red Dragon-esque “Do you see?“—but it is playing with the tropes at a high-quality level.Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)It’s an intensely satisfying story when it’s laser-focused on that simple premise, a cat-and-mouse noir tale peppered with the personal dynamic between Jessica and Trish. (A world-weary Jessica trying to rein in an increasingly-enthusiastic Trish results in some of the best quiet work between Ritter and Taylor over all three seasons.) Unfortunately—and this has been the bugaboo for pretty much every Netflix MCU show, other than perhaps the near-perfect Daredevil season 3—it’s such a tight story that it can’t pad out the episode count. I’ve seen eight episodes and the story doesn’t quite click into place until episode 3 or 4. There’s a lot of gear-spinning in those first few episodes; a slew of legal subplots do come into play later, but early on they feel like they’re just giving massive talents like Carrie-Ann Moss and Eka Darville something to do while everyone gets into place. And even then, there are a few wonky leaps that seem a bit first draft-y; a sequence later on that more or less amounts to Jessica and Salinger sending threatening Snapchats back and forth definitely played more menacing on the page than it does on-screen.Benjamin Walker and Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)But still, as an ending, not only to a series but an entire universe, Jessica Jones season 3 feels right in its low-keyness. A significant part of that is down to the fact it doesn’t feel like an ending at all. (Not surprising, considering the fact production was well underway before Netflix started canceling these shows.) It’s not an epic culmination on the level of, say, Avengers: Endgame, but these street-level heroes were never about the bombast, anyway. Jessica Jones season 3 isn’t exactly going out with a bang, but it is bright enough to illuminate the darkest corners of the MCU just one more time.

REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 2

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

 

MAIN CAST

Mike Colter (Zero Dark Thirty)
Simone Missick (K-Town)
Theo Rossi (Red Sands)
Gabrielle Dennis (Bring It On 5)
Mustafa Shakir (The Deuce)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Jessica Henwick (Star wars: The Force Awakens)
Stephen Rider (The Butler)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Thomas Q. Jones (Being Mary Jane)
Elden Henson (The Butterfly Effect)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason?” That line, spoken by Misty Knight (Simone Missick) in episode six, is the key to the excellent second season of Luke Cage. Every one of its major characters is playing a game without rules, a game to save the district of Harlem, and there’s no way to win by playing clean. The constant interest comes from watching how dirty they’re prepared to get.Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Since we last saw him, Cage (Mike Colter) has become a huge celebrity. The public track him via an app. Everyone wants selfies. He is as famous as it gets, but he’s flat broke (helping the helpless doesn’t pay) and he can’t save everyone. Luke’s a plaster over Harlem’s problems, not a cure. He can’t really help Harlem unless he can bring down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), whose fingerprints stain almost every crime in the neighbourhood. Cage is not the only one looking to bring Dillard to justice. John McIver, aka Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), has arrived in town with an old grudge to settle and some dark magic that could help him defeat Cage.Alfre Woodard and Mustafa Shakir in Luke Cage (2016)The introduction of Bushmaster, who can match Cage punch for punch with the help of some herbal witchcraft, may sound like the show is heading back to Diamondback territory, but that’s not the case. Bushmaster isn’t really here to serve as an adversary to Cage, but to Dillard, who is as much a series lead as Cage. And thank God. You can never have too much Alfre Woodard. Mariah is the best kind of villain because she thinks she’s doing the right thing and doing what she has to do to achieve it. She’s building hospitals and safe homes for single mothers, but she’s selling guns, blackmailing officials and having people murdered to achieve it. If she’s only hurting bad people to help good people, is she really so wrong? Her family’s history of betraying others is what brings Bushmaster after her. He’s the only man she can’t negotiate with.Simone Missick and Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)Most of Marvel’s superhero series suffer a mid-season sag, without enough plot to fill their episode quota. This season never succumbs to that because it’s not rooted in plot but character. There are episodes where little happens in terms of event, but characters deepen and crack, becoming less who they want to be and more who they have to be, even Luke. Luke Cage could now remove any superhero elements almost entirely and still function as a series. It’s become Game Of Thrones-esque in its battle for Harlem, and like that show, whoever claims the prize will do so with bloodied hands.

REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Zero Dark thirty)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)
Rachael Taylor (The Loft)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Elden Henson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones)
Ramón Rodríguez (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Simone Missick (K-Town)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Wai Ching Ho (Cadillac Man)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Chuck)
Peter McRobbie (16 Blocks)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Marko Zaror (Machete Kills)
Amy Rutberg (NCIS: New Orleans)

 

The Defenders is Marvel’s best Netflix show, hands down.  While the crossover between Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage can occasionally veer into a fragmented set of mini-episodes early on, the awesome foursome eventually unites to form a show greater than the sum of its parts. The street-level superheroes provide a fantastic eight-episode run with high stakes, a frenzied pace and, most importantly, effortless chemistry.Things don’t start off that way, though. The opening pair of episodes read almost as a greatest hits collection of each hero’s respective shows before the narrative eventually relents and shoehorns the plot in a comically convenient way for the four to come together. The lack of instant gratification can be grating, but this is easily relieved by the fun interaction between fan-favourites that leads up to the team-up. Misty Knight and Jessica Jones’ brief scenes are worth the price of admission alone and there are a few, shall we say interesting, crossovers you won’t see coming. Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event is unleashed upon New York and The Defenders, each following their own leads, stumble into each other’s paths in the same building. And then things get good. Really, really good. Unsurprisingly, The Hand are the villains of the season and are led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. Her performance is tempered by an unidentified terminal illness which spurs her character on and at least drives her away from the realms of cartoonish MCU villain as  she has an actual character arc rather than the bland go there, be evil trope of prior bad guys. When the show does focus on The Defenders (and, in fairness, that’s 90% of the time) the show is a rollercoaster of wisecracks, quips and, yup, Jessica Jones’ side-eye. It’s glorious fun and, for my money, feels like a much bigger event than The Avengers ever was. There’s a spine-tingling moment, complete with an inspirational score bubbling up in the background, where the four heroes unite to take on a foe at the midway point which ranks as an all-time great Marvel moment.Yes, The Defenders run is short, but those thinking a mere eight episodes won’t cut it can have their fears put to rest. Coupled with Game of Thrones season 7’s clipped seven-episode run, it feels like we’re reaching a watershed point in television where shows don’t need to be chained to a long episode run anymore. Barely a second is wasted in The Defenders: Every quiet character moment is poignant and fleshes out something or someone; every action sequence leads to something bigger, better, and more shocking; and every one-liner and on-the-nose dig at Iron Fist will make you laugh. Nothing outstays its welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: LUKE CAGE – SEASON 1

CAST

Mike Colter (Ringer)
Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Simone Missick (A Taste of Romance)
Theo Rossi (Cloverfield)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Frank Whaley (Broken Arrow)
Sônia Braga (Alias)
Frankie Faison (The Silence of The Lambs)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Sean Ringgold (American Gangster)
Parisa Fitz-Henley (Even Money)
Karen Pittman (The Ameircans)
Erik LaRay Harvey (Twister)
Ron Cephas Jones (Mr. Robot)
Sonja Sohn (The Originals)
Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones)

Netflix’s latest drama may not be a great superhero series, but it’s searingly relevant and entertaining. Premiering on Friday, Sept. 30, Luke Cage is vital and alive and of-the-moment. It sings with the rhythms and swagger of Harlem and it’s a genre show that wears its intellectual curiosities like a badge. It’s so satisfying as badass street poetry and muscular urban renewal parable that after watching the seven episodes made available for critics, I barely cared that as a superhero show, Luke Cage is often repetitive and a little underwhelming. It’s the logical extension of Marvel’s niche-y approach to its Netflix offerings, a specificity that has yielded shows that are far more provocative, but far less universally accessible than the company’s blockbuster movies.The Marvel movies try to tick every box, but staying true to Netflix’s general business model, their comic book shows have just gone after one or two boxes aggressively. Jessica Jones used a snarky heroine and a mind-controlling bad guy to craft a story about consent and the power of sisterhood. Daredevil was using blindness and the darkness of Hell’s Kitchen as a platform for a story of Catholic guilt and challenged faith. Run by Cheo Hodari Coker, Luke Cage is the Harlem Renaissance intersecting with the comic book renaissance, a confrontational act of all-too-real wish fulfillment imagining a young black male as bulletproof.

Mike Colter’s Luke Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones as a haunted love interest for the main character, where we learned about his powers, basically being super-strong and impervious to bullets (or pretty much anything that might pierce/penetrate/crush his skin). We pick up with Luke sweeping the floors at the neighborhood barbershop run by Frankie Faison’s Pop. It’s the sort of community institution where people sit around all day debating the coaching styles of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson or whether Easy Rawlins or Kenyatta was the better urban fiction hero. By night, he works as a dishwasher at Harlem’s Paradise, a nightclub with a tremendous talent booker and operated by mobster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), cousin of local politician Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Immediately, we see a harsh contrast between the greedy capitalist renewal espoused by Cottonmouth and Dillard and the grassroots Harlem that Luke Cage wants to be a part of and wants to elevate. Naturally, conflict is a-brewing between the two Harlems.Like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, Cottonmouth is a vicious, remorseless killer, but he’s also got a somewhat noble sense of how what he’s doing is good for the borough he grew up in. Cottonmouth’s ties are to family and also to the idea of legacy and the protection of a renowned family name, key details that Coker and his writers hit hard.The Marvel movies rely on outsized special effects to capture their heightened take on reality, but the Netflix shows don’t have the budget for that, so they opt for outsized thematics instead. Like Jessica Jones before it, Luke Cage is aggressively unsubtle, but it’s also aggressively smart. Sure, having Luke Cage wandering around, wearing a hoodie as an act of defiance, reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man feels a bit on the nose, but once you throw in the references to Walter Mosley and Donald Goines and Ta-Nehisi Coates, it becomes clear that this show doubles as a superlative summer reading list, which has value beyond computer-generated scenes of mass destruction or a really cool mocap villain.The early episodes are so charmingly brainy and move with such a light step — Paul McGuigan of Sherlock and Scandal knows his way around a flashy pilot — and the cinematography is so stylish — not surprisingly, everybody loves photographing Mike Colter — that you only sometimes realize that the things you expect to get out of a superhero show are largely missing. Luke Cage is, to his great detriment, initially much too powerful, and while he’s certainly a reluctant hero, when he actually goes to work on the bad guys, it’s pointless to try stopping him. The “Ruckus” set piece in the third episode stands out because nothing else even comes close in scope or action execution. Of the seven episodes, the one that was least successful for me, and by a wide margin, was the most comic book-y, an origin-story fourth episode that hews reasonably closely to Luke’s ’70s Marvel origins. It’s fitting that Luke would want to debate pulp and elevated pulp-fiction African-American heroes, because that’s the tradition Luke Cage operates best in, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for the show to be.Ali makes great use of a classic villain cackle, and he gives Cottonmouth a coiled, psychotic rage and disarming glimpses of reasonableness. Woodard’s Mariah is Cottonmouth’s opposite, all superficial gentility and then undercurrents of something unhinged that become more frequent. Faison and Ron Cephas Jones, as a barbershop chess wiz named (or nicknamed) Bobby Fish, offer grounded decency, and I’m enjoying what Theo Rossi is doing, skulking around the edges, as a criminal intermediary dubbed Shades. Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple are there half as proactive female leads, half as potential love interests for Luke, but sometimes are confusing reminders that Luke was mighty hung up on a deceased ex — and then on Jessica Jones — just one TV show ago and they feel like they ought to be mentioned.Just as Colter moves with purpose, Luke Cage moves with purpose, even if that purpose isn’t the same as what Civil War or Age of Ultron have led audiences to anticipate from Marvel. It’s a series infused by the conversations we’re having about race and gender and the American urban space in 2016, and it’s a series built to inspire additional conversations about black masculinity and representations of heroism in an age in which the news is too often focused on the tragic disposability of black masculinity. Luke Cage is another great staple for Marvel and its Cinematic Universe.

REVIEW: JESSICA JONES – SEASON 1

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MAIN CAST
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Ringer)
Rachael Taylor (Transformers)
Erin Moriarty (The Watch)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix)
Wil Traval (Once Upon a Time)
David Tennant (Doctor Who)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Susie Abromeit (Sex Drive)
Robin Weigert (Lost)
Kieran Mulcare (The Following)
Clarke Peters (John Wick)
Colby Minifie (Nurse Jackie)
Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
Thomas Kopache (Stigmata)
Michael Siberry (Highlander: The Series)
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil TV)
Susie Abromeit (Sex Drive)
Colby Minifie (The Boys)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
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Marvel’s Jessica Jones announces its noir intentions from the get-go. From the slinky music and impressionistic animation of the opening credits, there’s no doubt what kind of series this is going to be, and the (naturally) hard-boiled narration of series star Krysten Ritter sets the stage for the dark, sardonic world she occupies. Thankfully, the narration can best be described as “unobtrusive.” It’s there because that’s how noir works, but the show is otherwise self-aware enough not to cling to the expectations of its genre. Sure, Jessica works behind a glass door with “Alias Investigations” typewritten across it, but this also the type of noir in which Jessica asks someone why they thinks she lives alone, and their response is, “Because people don’t like you?”
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Created by Melissa Rosenberg (who put in time on shows as varied as Dexter, Birds Of Prey, and Party Of Five in addition to writing all five Twilight movies), Jessica Jones avoids a villain-of-the-week structure by having Jessica essentially work on the same case for the duration of the first season. There’s no onslaught of new superpowered (or “gifted,” in the parlance of the show) opponents for the heroine to face each episode; in fact, despite her super strength and impressive vertical leap, Jessica would strongly object to being called a heroine at all. Her brief attempt to use her powers for good resulted in her being taken under the sway of Kilgrave (David Tennant), whose mind control tactics caused her to commit a terrible crime that the show slowly teases out.
It’s his apparent return that kick-starts the action on the show. A missing college co-ed case turns out to be more complicated than Jessica initially assumes, and forces her to reconsider her distaste for heroism. Reasonably content to drink her way through her PTSD and take PI cases from high-powered attorney Jeryn Hogarth (played with admirable steely ferocity by Carrie-Anne Moss, long marooned after the Matrix movies), Jessica is soon faced with the prospect of her own responsibility for taking care of Kilgrave.
Along her ambivalent path towards heroism, she looks out for her junkie neighbor (Eka Darville), flirts with the handsome Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and slowly reconnects with her foster sister, Trish (Rachael Taylor). The show really starts to cook once Jessica and Trish start working together on the Kilgrave case. Trish, a former child star and current celebrity radio show host, is the only one who knows everything that happened to Jessica. Initially introduced as the disapproving straight arrow friend, she’s quickly revealed to be something much more interesting, despite her lack of superpowers. She’s also positioned as the moral center of the show, which proves to be vital for Jessica, who’s unsurprisingly given to a bleak pessimism.
It should be said: Jessica Jones is a deeply feminist show, all the way down to its depiction of sex, which is pointedly empowering for the women. More than that, its central conflict is its lead character struggling to maintain her agency against an abusive man. All the people in positions of power (minus Kilgrave) are women, and the story of the missing co-ed extends beyond the mystery of her disappearance. Trish is by no means content to sit on the sidelines of the action, and Hogarth seems to spend all of her time conducting important business meetings in impeccably tailored dresses and confidently seducing her assistant. Moss has a way with a withering putdown, though Ritter gets her fair share, even if the show doesn’t take full advantage of her comedic side. She’s compelling as Jessica. The slow build toward a confrontation between Kilgrave and Jessica is tensely effective, hanging over everything else she does. Tennant’s face is barely seen on camera for the first couple of episodes, but rather than make his absence seem pointed, the tactic works as a way to build up Jessica’s dread about his return.
While the series clearly takes place in the same universe as Daredevil, complete with brutal violence and punches that really land, the fight scenes themselves have a very different feel. Jessica’s too strong to lose fistfights, and she partakes in them with a weary sense of resignation that people are wasting her time trying to resolve problems this way. All of this adds up to a show that is very certain of its voice and tone. Streets are always covered with a foot of grimy snow, Jessica doesn’t own a garment that doesn’t have a hole or three in it, and every drawer or cabinet contains a bottle of booze or a pistol. A Must See

REVIEW: THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Charlie Adler (Wall-e)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men)
Dave Boat (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck)
Grey DeLisle (The Fairly Oddparents)
Mikey Kelley (Gravity Falls)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Travis Willingham (Dragon Ball Z)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
John Barrowman (Arrow)
A.J. Buckley (Disturbing Behavior)
Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Taye Diggs (Private Practice)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Suisan Eisenberg (Justice League)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Nika Futterman (Futurama)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)
Josh Keaton (Justice League: Gods and Monsters)
Wayne Knight (3rd rock from The Sun)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Phil LaMar (Free Enterprise)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Jennifer Morrison (Urban Legends 2)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Michelle Trachtenberg (17 again)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Jim Ward (Danny Phantom)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)

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When I saw a preview of The Super Hero Squad Show back in February of 2009, I thought it looked pretty interesting, but certainly aimed at the kiddies, and as it aired on Cartoon Network, I never saw an episode. In fact, I forgot all about it, and when I got my hands on this disc, I thought it was an animated take on the old Fisher-Price Marvel kiddie figures. So I had no expectations coming in. Well, my only expectation being that it would be bad. So it was with a good deal of shock that I found it to be a pretty entertaining action-comedy series, if you don’t mind the cheese-level of many of the jokes.MV5BMTY4MzMzMzM2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE2OTc3MjE@._V1_The Super Hero Squad (sort of a loose version of the Avengers) is made up of an assortment of Marvel heroes, including Iron Man (as the leader), Captain America (who provides aid on a regular basis), Wolverine (adding the X-Men’s popularity,) The Hulk, Thor, a spacey surfer-dude version of the Silver Surfer, and Falcon (obviously added to bring some diversity.) Joining them is the mostly unknown Reptil (a dinosaur-powered bit player from the Avengers comics) who is both a young guy and Hispanic, helping fill out the P.C. scorecard a bit more and give younger viewers a stand-in.  They go up against Doctor Doom and his legion of bad guys (and ineffective henchmen), as he searches for the Infinity fractals, shards of the Infinity Sword (which seems connected to the Infinity Gems of the Infinity Gauntlet. Infinity.)MV5BMTUwMzc1OTEzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjU3MDg3MjE@._V1_Though the storylines are pretty solid and offer big action-packed battles, the bulk of the show is comedy, with the character’s out-sized personalities carrying the jokes, be it Thor’s overwhelming concern about his appearance or Captain America being stuck in the ’40s. Maybe I don’t give kids a lot of credit, but I can see a large portion of these gags flying over their heads, which will make the show far more enjoyable for adults than one would have expected. There was more than one joke that got a genuine laugh out of me, though many of them rely on bodily functions or pratfalls for the punchline. The wordplay and character-generated jokes are much more entertaining and fun, especially Thor’s Asgardian versions of modern language, the Silver Surfer’s alien view of Earth life, and anything involving the always-ridiculous floating head known as M.O.D.O.K. (voiced hilariously by Tom Kenny.) One joke about the Hulk swallowing a yo-yo is technically genius. The only thing about the show that doesn’t really work is Reptil, who feels like the Poochie of the show, coming off as a bone tossed to kids, with his dino-focused power, youthful role and extreme behavior.MV5BNzQ1MjI0NzUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk1OTc3MjE@._V1_This version of the Marvel Universe smartly keeps the same look for its characters, giving long-time Marvel fans an in for the series, but presents them in a super-deformed style (squat bodies, large heads and feet, four fingers) that’s kid-cartoon friendly and which easily separates it from any other version of the Universe you’ve ever seen. That way, there are no issues with continuity or previous incarnations, and the show can be enjoyed on its own merits (allowing them to do something like make Dr. Strange a complete lunatic.) That’s a good thing, because the show is loaded to the gills with fan-service goodies, like the episode titles (which reference famous comic titles) and title cards which replicate memorable cover art. The show also pulls characters from the depths of the Marvel roster, like Screaming Mimi and the Melter, and having silly cartoon fun with them. Taken simply as a silly, almost What The–?! treatment of the characters, it’s well worth a look for comic-book fans out of grade school.MV5BMjM1ODQ2NDUxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjk1OTc3MjE@._V1_On a non-story note, the theme song, provided by Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder, is an energetic blast, while the voice cast for this series has to be one of the best for a non-prime time animated series, with tons of veterans of the cartoon industry, like Kenny, Tara Strong, Jess Harnell, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer and Charlie Adler, along with plenty of genre stars, including Robert Englund, Tricia Helfer, Jennifer Morrison and Adrian Pasdar. It’s rare to see a show like this pull this kind of voice cast.MV5BNzQ1MjI0NzUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk1OTc3MjE@._V1_The overall plot of the cycle will feature the villain Thanos seeking the six stones of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful cosmic weapon. Opposing him will be the titular Super Hero Squad, which is made up of goofball takes on Iron Man, Thor, Falcon, Wolverine, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, original character Reptil, Scarlet Witch, and sometimes Captain America. While the first two shows focus specifically on the Thanos plot, other episodes detour into one-off excursions. For instance, “World War Witch!” takes the heroes back in time to when Cap was fighting the Red Skull alongside the Invaders in WWII, while “Support Your Local Sky-Father!” pits Olympus vs. Asgard, and it features the Marvel Universe rendition of Hercules.

 

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.