Based on the Marvel comic book series, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! is a very good animated program for superhero fans that debuted online and in the U.S. on Disney XD during Fall 2010. The show combines characters and plotlines from the comics with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. The latter's influence is evident by the front covers of Volume 3 and 4, which cover the second half of Season One in production order. Each only shows only the four characters from the movies: Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America.
These Avengers were formed in response to the escape of a number of super-villains during a massive prison break from four high-security facilities run by spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. By the halfway point in the season when Volume 3 opens, The Avengers are comprised of the foursome previously mentioned and also The Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Panther, and scientist Henry Pym who has both his Ant Man and Giant Man capabilities. Their base is a mansion belonging to Tony Stark (Iron Man) and it contains a room to practice their skills, similar to the X-Men's Danger Room. JARVIS, the Artifical Intelligence in Iron Man's armor, assists the heroes in the mansion.
The six episodes contained on Volume 3 find the Avengers battling the super-villain team known as Masters of Evil (Baron Zemo, Enchantress, Executioner, Crimson Dynamo, Abomination, and Wonder Man); meeting the alien Captain Marvel, drawn like the Ultimate Marvel version of the character; which hints of the Kree-Skrull War taking place in the series' future; a three-part story featuring Kang the Conqueror from the 41st Century blaming Captain America for the disruption of his timeline and the death of his beloved; and Hawkeye searching for former S.H.I.E.L.D. partner The Black Widow, who turned traitor and is now working for the villainous organization HYDRA
The seven episodes of Volume 4 finds the Avengers dealing with a lot of Asgardian trouble as dark elf Malekith the Accursed unleashes the magical Casket of Ancient Winters upon Earth and the season wraps up with an epic battle against Loki and his allies over the course of three episodes. Also occurring is a return of The Black Widow, who seeks the Avengers' help to stop the reality-altering Cosmic Cube from falling into the wrong hands, and a two-part story involving Ultron, the robot Henry Pym invented
Each Volume comes with the extra "Avengers Unmasked," which runs character trivia while one episode runs in a small window on screen.
Built upon the work of many Marvel Bullpen writers before them, the series' main strength is the quality of the writing. There are a large number of characters that appear in major and minor roles and their different personalities are handled well. The producers make great use of the Avengers' rich history in their choice of storylines and the series writers do a great job keeping the viewers coming back by presenting little snippets of stories that lead into future episodes. There are also great little Easter Eggs throughout for longtime Marvel readers.
There are a couple of problems with the series. I am not a fan of the artwork, particularly the character designs, which result in many, if not all, the characters having slightly distorted bodies. Plus, a number of the men have overly exaggerated rugged jaws. Even worse, though easy to skip over on DVD, is the terrible theme song by Bad City. It's a horrible pop-rock, studio-polished anthem that one would expect a lame comic book villain to use during a heist to distract people. Yet, neither are enough to distract me from watching and recommending this enjoyable series.
Now is a good time to catch up as the second season of The Avengers is set to air in 2012, as is the Joss Whedon-directed summer blockbuster. I was lucky enough to see the season premiere at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con and producers keep up the intensity as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four take on Doctor Doom. To quote the legendary Stan Lee, "'Nuff said."