You know Harry, right? Harry Knowles, the fellow who runs Ain’t It Cool News, one of the preeminent geek websites on the ‘Net today. You see, this past week in his upcoming DVD releases column, Harry mentioned Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow, the fifth offering from the Marvel Animation line. Harry said it was better than it had any right to be. I was intrigued and thought it best if I check it out for myself.
Damned if the guy wasn’t dead on right.
The thing you’ve got to understand is that up until this point I’ve thought that the Marvel Animation DVD’s I’ve seen have all been bad. I’m talking piss poor; in the case of Ultimate Avengers, ridiculously unwatchable. So you’d understand my hesitancy with Next Avengers, which features a group of Avengers offspring that were created specifically for this film. If the previous DVD’s have been lackluster affairs, why would a totally unique story succeed?
Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.
Next Avengers takes place in a future where the robot Ultron has taken over 60% of the world. All the Avengers, save Tony Stark/Iron Man, have been killed, leaving Stark to raise James (son of Captain America and the Black Widow), Torunn (daughter of Thor), Azari (son of Black Panther), and Pym (son of Giant Man and Wasp) on his own, training them for a battle with Ultron they seem destined to face.
In theory, Next Avengers is supposed to be a kids flick (it’s the first in the Marvel Animation line to be rated PG rather than PG-13), but the storytelling contained is surprisingly sophisticated. The world which these orphaned kids inhabit is dark and lonely. Each of these young would-be heroes feels the weight of their parent’s legacy. Especially Torunn, who believes herself to be like her missing father Thor, immortal and impervious to harm. The look on her face when she realizes the truth gives the character a depth you don’t often find in mainstream animation.
Speaking of which, Next Avengers looks great too. It may not be stylized the way in DC’s The New Frontier or Batman: Gotham Knight is, but the animation is bright and lively, and is especially impressive during the scenes set in the cities overrun with Ultron’s technology. It is certainly more appealing than any of the previous Marvel Animation DVD’s I’ve watched.
I’m on an Avengers kick right now, an interest which began prior to watching this film. As I got ready to put the DVD into the player I wondered, with all the amazing Avengers stories that have come out through the years (the Kree–Skrull War, Heroes Reborn, Avengers Disassembled), why wouldn’t the powers that be have chosen to adapt one of those core stories rather than come up with something involving their kids. By the end of Next Avengers, I thought I discovered the answer. Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow carries with it no baggage and no expectation, unlike an adaptation which would inevitably be held up against its original comics origin. Introducing new and appealing character the right way, with solid animation, a compelling story, and the right feel, and you can have a potential new DVD franchise that won’t be bogged down with continuity complaints and comparisons.
Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow pulls it all off in spades, leaving me interested to see if the story will continue or if theirs will be just a solid one-shot.
Either way, I still blame Harry.