For many comics fans when they hear the phrase ‘Dark Avengers,’ it conjures images of the super-villain team formed by Green Goblin Norman Osborne in the aftermath of one of Marvel Comics’ huge crossover events from a few years back. Based on the title of this episode of “Avengers Assemble,” I was expecting an animated version of those characters. Instead the television series did something it has rarely done in the past, it surprised me. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “The Dark Avengers.”
This isn’t the Dark Avengers from the comics, but something far sinister, it’s the Squadron Supreme. Many of us have been waiting for this since maybe last season’s “Hyperion” and definitely since this season’s “Nighthawk,” this is the whole team finally going head to head with the Avengers. The big guns are all here – Hyperion and Nighthawk, pastiches of Superman and Batman, along with the Squadron’s versions of Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash.
The TV series alters these three slightly in the visual department. Doctor Spectrum has had more dynamic interpretations of his costume, and I didn’t care for the different colored eyeholes. The Whizzer is wearing his Speed Demon outfit and name (the latter only in the captions), and has undergone a Heimdall race switch (like his Supreme Power counterpart), all for the better, mind you. And Power Princess has neither shield nor sword, but a sledgehammer and is referred to only as Zarda.
We open on a city under assault by giant octopus robots that look suspiciously like the Hydra ones from the opening sequence of the old “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” series. The Squadron Supreme arrives and takes them down, being cheered on by the crowds. These folks similarly boo and jeer when the robots’ master arrives on the scene – the dark hued Iron Man.
Holy switcheroo, Nighthawk! Things become a little clearer when Doctor Spectrum attacks Iron Man. He doesn’t have his usual weapon, the Power Prism, embedded in his hand, but the lost Reality Stone instead. For a moment his control waivers, and Stark witnesses a glimpse of the ‘real’ reality, how things are supposed to be – the colorful Iron Man and the Avengers facing off against the villainous Squadron.
The Dark Avengers
In this new reality, the Avengers are the villains. After being routed in the opening by the Squadron, villain Tony Stark returns to his hidden base to review what he saw in Doctor Spectrum’s attack. With the help of JARVIS, Tony watches media watchdog J. Jonah Jameson run down this reality’s other top villains. Tony has a great line about the real villain being who let Jameson grow his rarely talked about and recently altered Hitler mustache.
Among these villains are the cat burglar Black Widow, the hacker Falcon, ‘lord of crime’ Thor, and gangster strongman Hulk. It would have been awesome had Hulk been in his Joe Fixit duds, but unfortunately they didn’t go for that. There’s also Hawkeye, who steals from the rich and keeps for himself, and the mysterious Captain.
All have a darker color scheme to their costumes, the Hulk a mohawk, and Widow far too much eye shadow, but where did Falcon get those wings… did he steal them from Stark? Because that’s where he got the armor and wings in the first place. And The Captain of course is Captain America decked out in his The Captain outfit, later used by the USAgent.
Thinking something is not right, and that the Squadron has altered reality, Stark gathers Earth’s mightiest villains and shares his thoughts. Surprisingly, they get along as well as they ever did in this animated series despite a strong urge not to. They actually work better together as a team of strangers than they ever did previously. Nice to see.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
“The Dark Avengers” was an extraordinarily good episode. I was surprised, I was impressed, but it can’t all be perfect, as I was also disappointed at points too. I’m a little unsure of the whole death of Iron Man bit. Does the Reality Gem really work like that? It felt like the rules were too loose for Stark to make such a decision on a hunch without having ever studied the stone.
I also hated the Avengers Tower being repaired so easily. It was far far too convenient, just as the Squadron escaping in the end. I did however love Nighthawk playing up both a parody and homage to both Batman and Owlman, with his contingency plans and the way he treated Hyperion. And the Nighthawk plane was cool too. More episodes like this please!
Next: Loki sends Thor “Back to the Learning Hall,” see you next time!