As we left things in the last episode, the first of this season – the Red Skull has returned to Earth from space with the Power Gem, but in fear of Thanos the Mad Titan who is after it. Iron Man has found a new play-buddy in H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot, um, I mean Arsenal, and unbeknownst to the Avengers, Thanos is on Earth, and not happy. Believe me, except for Arsenal, it was much much better than it sounds. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “Thanos Rising.”
We open on Iron Man bonding with his brand new best friend Arsenal. Comments are made that the rent-a-friend’s armor works almost exactly like Tony’s. The Falcon observes that of course it does, it was built by a Stark. Are we implying that genius is hereditary? That maybe Howard Stark’s brilliance is a mutant power passed down to Tony?
I know what you’re thinking, I’m reading far too much into a few throwaway lines of really meaningless dialogue. But what if I’m not and it isn’t? Arsenal is just like Tony’s armor? Could Howard Stark have built Tony’s armor before Tony even thought of it? Stranger things have happened. Just look at Orson Scott Card’s Ultimate Iron Man or Kieron Gillen’s “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark.”
The U Word
Or maybe there’s just something even more sinister going on here. One of the Avengers’ deadliest enemies has yet to make his appearance on this series, and he’s about to make a huge splash on the big screen – and this show is based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, I’m talking about Ultron.
We Avengers fans all should know about Ultron’s comic book origins, how he was created by Hank Pym, gained sentience (along with a very twisted Oedipal complex), and vowed to destroy all human life. In the movies, with Pym not quite in the picture yet, Ultron may very well be Stark based in origin. Could Arsenal be an Ultron prototype?
The Grim Reaper
Hmmm… only a minute into this week’s episode and I’ve speculated for almost 500 words. Anyway, the Iron Man/Arsenal playdate doesn’t last long thanks to the Grim Reaper. Yeah, if you followed my reviews last season you how much I whined about the lack of any real Avengers villains on this show, well, it looks like we’re off to a good start with season two so far.
We saw a version of the Grim Reaper briefly last season in the episode “In Deep.” Thankfully this version here is much closer to his comics, and classic, incarnation. If they’d given him his cape and made a Simon Williams reference I would’ve squeed, but this was better than nothing. And I am thankful even for a momentary appearance by a real Avengers villain.
For his help in the battle against the Grim Reaper, Arsenal is made an Avenger. Hey, they let Moira Brandon and D-Man in, why not, right? Also Tony finds out that Arsenal is shunting all that energy he’s absorbing into a parallel dimension. I guess that’s convenient, unless you’re in that dimension. He learns this from holographic recordings of Howard Stark inside Arsenal. Yeah, kinda like Marlon Brando as Jor-El.
Thanos makes himself known by beating the crap out of the Watcher on the moon and throwing him at Avengers Tower. Hmmm… if there had been a message in the crawl that said “Hey kids, buy Original Sin from Marvel Comics at your local comics shop!” I would have respected it a bit more. Particularly creepy is seeing images in the Watcher’s eyes. The Avengers, who seem to have studied up on Thanos, and know who the Watcher is, take the fight to the moon (which in the Marvel Universe is not an egg).
Wrestling the Titan
Another improvement over last season is that we not only get to see the Black Widow in action, she actually has a hand in strategy this time out. Falcon shows off his tech skills and Thor continues not to sound as moronic as he did last season. The Avengers put up a good fight, but this is Thanos after all. When Thor and the Hulk are thrown aside like ragdolls, what good really are arrows and Widow’s stings? I did like that since Thanos couldn’t hit Thor with his hammer, he hit the hammer with Thor. Daayamn.
Shades of Original Sin, Iron Man gets the idea to use the Watcher’s technology to focus Arsenal’s use of the Power Gem. However Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet (which seems shoehorned in at the last minute honestly) to take the gem. Arsenal makes the ultimate sacrifice, shunting energy from that parallel dimension to destroy the Power Gem and blast Thanos across the galaxy. Don’t worry, he’ll be back. And the less said about seemingly toy marketed Titan battlesuits, the better.
So Arsenal died an Avenger, but is that the end really? Tony swears to rebuild him, so obviously we have not seen the last of him. The question is will he become Ultron? Perhaps he might end up as a more approximate version of his comics incarnation? Or maybe, just maybe, since he’s already an Avenger, he’ll become the Vision? Time will tell…
Next: Hulk and Thor in Valhalla!