Cartoons & Leftovers

On Black Friday I realized that there was absolutely no way I was leaving my house. Bursting at the seams from all manner of savory delights consumed the previous night, I was hoping to stretch my legs and possibly pick up a few items at the mall. Upon watching the news I came to my senses. Images of insanely congested parking lots and outlet stores overflowing with customers sent me back to the couch for a quiet day in. As luck would have it, there was a duo of animated features waiting for me on the trusty DVR.

Gamma Gamma Hey

First up was Avengers: Gamma World! Essentially two episodes of the Marvel Comics superhero team television show, it was a fun romp featuring all the characters and concepts that make the weekly episodes worth watching.

Opening with the Black Panther and Captain America pursuing an unknown assailant, the show immediately hits you with a jolt of pure fun. Sense be damned, it’s Captain America riding his motorcycle on a rooftop and the Black Panther running on walls! Cap looks faintly ridiculous wearing a helmet and leather jacket , but the Panther oozes coolness and, at one point, even manages to strike a Kirby-esque pose. Style aside, it turns out that the Avengers are pursuing Hawkeye, a SHIELD agent wrongly accused of selling out his own organization. Hawkeye manages to escape just as SHIELD agents arrived to recruit the Avengers for a mission.

What struck me about this was the fact that this mission tied in to events that transpired in the series premiere. Thus far, this show has gone to great lengths to establish a real sense of connection between the characters and events portrayed in every episode. It’s almost as if they are going for the real monthly comic book feel, but on a weekly basis. Character development continues logically according to what has happened previously and, as such, we slowly learn new (and really fun) facts about the heroes and villains alike. I can only liken it to a superhero version of LOST. It’s that good. But I digress.

Without giving away too much of the plot, we see the Avengers return to one of the prisons from the episode ‘Breakout.’ It turns out that the Leader has used gamma energy to project a field around the prison that is turning anyone who comes in contact with it into Hulk-like monsters. We get the Avengers and SHIELD agents donning some cool spacesuits to protect them from the gamma radiation and battling all manner of super villains and mutated baddies. The action is top notch and really gives each character a moment to shine.

Furthermore, the episode features all of the larger than life characters and kooky concepts that make comic books so enjoyable. From Russian spies and superhero archers to secret government organization and super-smart villains, the show has it ALL. In one hour of the show, we were treated to roughly 15 villains and nearly as many superheroes, all the while never losing track of the story. This is a show that is perfect for a long time fan like myself AND the newbie looking to get in on the ground floor. And the best part, it’s appropriate for all ages. There I said it. So if you have the chance, sit down and watch Avengers. Or don’t. But you’ll be missing out.

Justice…with a side of teen angst.

The second member of the holiday cartoon club is Young Justice. Based on the young heroes (don’t call them sidekicks) of DC Comics, it’s an hour-long romp on par, if not better than Avengers. The set-up is simple: Young heroes are brought to the Hall of Justice by their adult mentors (Batman, Aquaman, the Flash, etc.) and mayhem ensues.

Much like the Avengers, this episode embraces the tropes of the medium and runs with them. As an avowed comic geek, I easily recognize that this essentially a mash-up of classic characters and concepts with a very modern storytelling sensibility. The narrative is clear and concise and the characters are introduced to use right away. Headlining this hour of powers are Robin, Aqua Lad, Kid Flash & Superboy.

Each of them has an indiviual power/skillset in addition to very distinct personality. Robin is both the opposite of Batman and his mirror image. He regularly lets quips fly and witty repartee is means to throw enemies off guard, but much like his mentor he is the go to guy when it comes to tech and intelligence. The second member of the team is Kid Flash. He’s the goofy, good natured speedster and is constantly the butt of Robins jokes. Much like his mentor, he plays the advance scout role and is generally amiable. Nimble as can be, he engages in some fun action throughout the episode. Rounding out the core team is Aqua Lad. At first glance, the character seems to play right into the ‘angry young black man’ stereotype. His aggressive, straight-forward nature makes him immediately unlikable. Fortunately, the producers reveal that he is actually quite sensitive and possesses the most honor and integrity of his fellow heroes. This was a relief, as I didn’t want the only character of color to be unlikable. It’s something that happens much too often for my taste.

But where, you may ask, is Superboy? Well, Boy of Steel isn’t part of the team at first, as he is a central part of the plot. His role is at first antagonist and he eventually moves into protagonist territory. He’s angry and full of rage, which he readily unleashes on the villains facing our young heroes. You see, the baddies are a secret science outfit that actually created Superboy and pressed him into servitude. As always, I’m reticent to give to many details, but suffice to say that by episodes end, we see the formation of new team that serves under the auspices of the Justice League. Furthermore, the final member is introduced in the form of M’gann M’rrz, the sweet yet powerful Miss Martian. Unfortunately, we never get to see her in action. Regardless, the movie serves as a backdoor pilot for th upcoming series and sets up everything we need to know about these characters.

Much like the Avengers, the production values are high and it shows. The animation is slick and actually quite darker than similar-themed shows, which is a welcome change. The action is fluid and vicious; giving both a real sense of movement and impact when a character is struck. The voice talent is excellent and even features Bruce Greenwood as Batman and Alan Tudyk as Green Arrow.

This was by far the most fun I’ve had watching an animated feature in a long time. While DC usually puts out very solid product in terms of their animated projects, this was a cut or two above the normal output. I would highly recommend it to any and all who might have even a passing interest in comics or cartoons.

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