Welcome to FUNNYBOOKS OFFLINE, comics-related reviews that just don’t make it into the weekly podcast.  It’s similar to Funnybooks After Hours, except that OFFLINE is more review based, whereas AFTER HOURS is more conversation based, and features opinions from the rest of the boys.  We don’t always get a chance to talk about all the comics we read (due to time limitations), or even the comics-related media we may see, so here’s the place where you’ll get those kinds of reviews, whether it be comics/graphic novels, television, ,movies, or comics-related video games.

Today on FUNNYBOOKS OFFLINE, my review of the first four televised episodes of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel’s new animated series featuring the adventures of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and the rest.  Check out my review after the jump!

I think the series, currently airing on Disney’s XD station, may actually be airing out of order.  The first two aired episodes, two two-part “Breakout” actually seems to take place after some of the other episodes I’ve seen, since the team seems more formed, and not much is really explained about how they gathered together.  I will say that Marvel aired a series of 20 “micro-episodes” before the show aired, and those micro-episodes make up the first 5 episodes after “Breakout,” so it’s very possible that “Breakout” is intended to take place after the micro episodes…it was just shown on television first.

Breakout, Parts 1 and 2: While, like I mentioned before, it seems like this takes place after the next couple of episodes, my initial confusion over the universe that this series takes place in was short-lived.  Probably because this introductory two-parter is just too damn awesome for words.  Tons and tons of Marvel heroes and villains pop-up, including guest appearances by characters I wasn’t expecting to see, and locations from all over the Marvel Universe that have never been portrayed in animation before.  Though most of the Avengers are already in a team at this point, the Hulk is contained in the Cube, which is a prison for gamma-radiated villains under the direction of Leonard Samson.  Similar to the inaugural story in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers, there’s a huge prison breakout – except that in this series, villains escape from four super villain prisons, broken out by a still-unknown force.  The Avengers team up to stop the destruction caused by Gravitron, one of SHIELD’s dirty secrets that comes back to haunt them.

I loved how, despite the fact that the majority of the two episodes are action-heavy, there was still a good amount of information given about the universe.  SHIELD heavies Nick Fury (a mixture of the comic Fury, and the one from the Iron Man movies) and Maria Hill make appearances, and all the super villains that break out are still out, leaving behind plenty of story fodder for a series, as well as the ongoing mystery of just who caused the breakout (my guess is Skrulls).  There seems to be plenty of influence from Bendis’ series, as well as interjecting some original Avengers canon and characters, and some from the film universe.  Not only that, but the writing has done by Christopher Yost, who’s done some great comic writing himself.  A fine introduction to the show.  While not the best animated superhero series I’ve ever seen, it’s definitely one of the best based on Marvel characters.

Iron Man Is Born: And here’s where I got confused.  In this episode, Pepper Potts and James Rhodes preach to Tony Stark about he needs to stop “trying to save the world alone.”  I’m thinking that this was written as the first episode of the show, and just happened to air after the two-parter.  It’s clearly evident from watching this episode that the series is going to be heavy into the Iron Man introduced in the movie series – Tony Starks acts like the one from the movies, and the weapons he uses are definitely influenced by the ones from them.  There’s a shift about halfway into the show though, to focus on Nick Fury investigating  a leak in SHIELD technology at a SHIELD facility.  While at first is was jarring, I found out that it was because this episode was made up of four micro-episodes.  However, I realized that I actually liked the fact that this series seems like it will focus on an entire universe of characters and how they connect, rather than just the Avengers on the poster.  Overall, a pretty damn good episode.  I hope they’re all like this.

Thor the Mighty: Fan of Thor?  Then you have to see this episode.  Thor and the Warriors Three fighting Loki and the Frost Giants in Asgard.  Appearances by Sif, Heimdall, Odin.  Not only that, I find it interesting that Donald Blake seems to have been removed from the series altogether, instead focusing on a romantic relationship between Thor and Jane instead.  No Iron Man (though Stark Technologies is mentioned) or Nick Fury.  This series is truly unlike any superhero animated series I’ve seen before – separate stories that eventually tie together as the origin of a team.  Very unique and very well done.

In short, fans of the Marvel universe and its denizens should absolutely check out The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  Despite the fact that we won’t see certain heroes in the series, you see more than enough to quench your thirst for some great Marvel superhero action.  Imagine the series as an animated equivalent of a Marvel crossover – heroes brought together to combat an evil greater than any one could withstand!

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes airs on Disney XD.  Check our listings for showtimes.