As I’m sure I’ve mentioned time and time again around here, I love cartoons. And this new year has given me even more reason to love them.
See, for Christmas, one of my friends gave me access to his Netflix account as my present (I know, right?) and I’ve been watching–and plan to watch–some shows I’ve wanted to check out for a long time.
Mostly, I’ve been watching the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon that aired on Disney XD this spring. And unlike the vast majority of adult nerds, I like it a lot!
As I said in my review of The Amazing Spider-Man, the Ultimate Spidey comic was one of the defining things I read in my youth. That comic’s writer, Brian Michael Bendis, who’s still writing that book to this day, incidentally, is actually a writer and executive producer for this show, working with Paul Dini (the Batman: The Animated Series writer who made Mr. Freeze not lame anymore) and the writing team Man of Action (Steven T. Seagle, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, and Duncan Rouleau, all comic book writers too, but best known for creating the Ben 10 franchise). Drake Bell-former Nickelodeon staple on The Amanda Show and Drake & Josh–is the voice of Spidey, Chi McBride—yes, that guy–is Nick Fury and a whole bunch of other voice actors are a whole bunch of other Marvel characters.
The two things that separate this show from its source material are that 1. It’s less about Spidey working solo than it is about him learning about superherodom under Fury’s guidance with a team of other teenaged Marvel heroes: White Tiger, Iron Fist, Luke “Power Man” Cage and Nova. 2. The show is humor-oriented with wacky gags, fast jokes and little cutaways featuring chibi versions of the characters. As to the first, I think that’s a smart idea, as it helps teach kids about teamwork while working in lesser-known Marvel characters (that’s Greg “Beast Boy from Teen Titans” Cipes as Iron Fist, BTW). As for the second, while cutaway humor annoys the living crap out of me on shows like Family Guy, here, the jokes are relevant to the situation and aren’t just a random gag showing how the writers ran out of story for this particular beat. Plus, it’s also true to the spirit of Spidey’s character: his propensity for wisecracking is his signature shtick and it’s part of what’s made him so identifiable to audiences. So I say, ignore the naysayers and give it a watch.
The other show I’ve been catching up on is decidedly more serious. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has gone through 2 seasons already and is now discontinued, although it will apparently return under the name Avengers Assemble this year. While this obviously stinks for fans, it’s good for me because now I get a chance to catch up on the whole story.
This show is structured a bit differently from most. See, in order to generate more advance publicity, what Disney and Marvel Television decided to do was to break up the episodes of the first season into 5-minute microsodes and put them online, then reedit them together for broadcast. It’s a savvy move, to be sure, and probably indicative of what broadcast TV might have to do in the future, but it also has the side effect of making these early episodes (to me anyway) feel a bit disjointed.
Essentially, the structure of the show is similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: showing us the individual characters on their own before bringing them together as a team. However, this isn’t just origin stories all over again, which is refreshing and there’s also a great amount of interconnectivity here: Wolvering is part of Captain America’s WWII unit, the Fighting Commandos, Hawkeye and Black Widow work for S.H.I.E.L.D.–with the Widow being a double agent for H.Y.D.R.A.–and Iron Man is already well established. The show’s clear, focused writing–courtesy of veteran Marvel writer Christopher Yost and others–and stellar voice cast help cement it; while the animation isn’t the greatest, it’s still thrilling at its best.
So that’s what I’ve been watching on Netflix but meanwhile, on real TV, what’s quite possibly the best cartoon out there, Young Justice, has finally come back and oh man, was it worth the wait.
For the unfamiliar, about 9 episodes into its second season (subtitled Invasion because an alien invasion is what the team is dealing with right now), the show–and the weekend DC Nation block it’s a part of–was unexpectedly pulled from Cartoon Network’s schedule with absolutely no one, not even the creators, knowing why. But now, it’s been back for a couple of weeks and it’s better than ever. Brandon Vietti and Greg Wiseman (yes, the Gargoyles guy) are excellent show runners and what they put their characters through is exciting and suspenseful. Mix that with terrific writing, a phenomenal voice cast and Emmy-worthy animation and you’ve got one of the best shows around.
Well, that’s all for that. Man, this was fun: if any of you out there have a show, animated or otherwise, that you think I should watch, leave a comment.