Avengers Assemble S02 E14: Crack in the System


Time has passed since the last time the Avengers Assembled, and things have changed. They’ve traded adversaries – Thanos for Ultron, just in time for the upcoming movie. And Iron Man might be hiding something. Meet me after the jump to find out in my review of “Crack in the System.”

The Switch

When last we left our animated Avengers, a switch had been made. One of their worst enemies had been traded for another of their worst enemies, in this case, we lost Thanos and got the more trendy Ultron, who of course has a movie coming up in just a few weeks. To affect this, a little deus ex machina was employed in the form of Tony Stark’s boyhood robot babysitter, Arsenal, who inexplicably had the power to vanquish the mad Titan. Not as annoying as the d.e.m. used in a recent episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but it was pretty darn close.


Anyway, once Thanos has been defeated, and the Infinity Stones controlled, Arsenal, in a ploy I called waaay back in episode two of this season, “Thanos Rising,” Tony’s robot big brother becomes Ultron. Everyone on the team seemed to know Ultron at the end of the last episode, even though we have never seen the robot in this series, raising many continuity questions – is this Pym’s Ultron from the comics, Stark’s Ultron from the movies, and is there a Vision, and how does he fit into this?


I needn’t have worried about such things, because even though it looked like the end of the world in the final seconds of the last episode, when we open on this one, no one seems to have a care in the world. It’s party time, the Avengers are playing, laughing, wearing leis, and chewing down on Asgardian lightning-cooked hot dogs. It is almost as if a powerful robot sociopath whose goals include the annihilation of the entire human race was not on the loose.


Apparently Captain America is the only adult among this group of babies with a sense of responsibility. Granted, as depicted in the series so far, the majority of this grouping are selfish children, but I would have hoped at least Falcon and the Black Widow would have been with Cap trying track Ultron. Or perhaps they are thinking, as in previous episodes, that the Guardians of the Galaxy or someone else will simply do their job for them.

The Nature of Ultron

After Iron Man convinces Cap that, really, it’s all cool, and he has an app that can detect Ultron (an app???), the team is of course attacked by a giant robotic scorpion-shaped tank. The way the team discusses Ultron during the battle seriously suggests that show writer Danielle Wolff doesn’t quite know or understand who or what Ultron is – or perhaps she hasn’t yet gotten her orders from high up on what Ultron will be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


As Captain America explains it, Ultron is “an artificial intelligence that works like a computer virus,” and that he can take over any type of technology, similar to a ghost in the machine. While I’m sure he can do it, and has, that has never really been Ultron’s modus operandi. He is more of a hands on kind of killer robot. Once the tank is down, the consensus is that Ultron is behind it. Tony insists not, after all, sigh, he’s got an app for that.

The Lie

The app keeps insisting its not Ultron, or so Tony says, but we all know what’s happening. First the attacker is traced to Justin Hammer, and after a quick but fairly pointless fight against dreadnoughts and Hammer in a giant battlesuit he claims formed around him when his robots developed life if their own – the signal switches to a secret A.I.M. island base. Of course, when the Avengers get there, no A.I.M. beekeepers are to be found, only Ultron.


In keeping with the 21st century tradition of characterization for Tony Stark as a liar, a jerk, and yes, even a villain, he’s been lying about his Ultron app. He knew the robot was on the island, and it gets worse. He won’t sacrifice his artificial big brother Arsenal, created for him by his father, to stop Ultron once and for all. It’s gone beyond ‘family’ and landed squarely in obsession. Ultimately, Ultron gets away, and Captain America, feeling betrayed by his friend, quits the Avengers. The bad guys win again, thanks, Tony.


One of my favorite scenes in Avengers history is only a few panels, and just a simple conversation, but it reveals so much. During the battle against Kang in the old west, Moondragon confronts Thor about why he’s an Avenger. After all, most of their foes are easily taken down by the God of Thunder alone. She implies that he’s slumming, being a big fish in a small pond to stroke his own ego. His response is along the lines of ‘shut up you,’ but the words sting and he does take leave of the team for a while.


There are two instances in this episode that remind me of this scene. When the Avengers face Hammer’s dreadnoughts and when they are ambushed on the A.I.M. island, Thor simply vanquishes all of their foes with a shrug and a tap of his hammer. Almost as an afterthought, as if stifling a yawn, he takes them all down, just like that. Even though Ultron is one of those villains that exempts this line of thinking, now that it’s out in the open, I’d love someone, maybe Widow, to run Moondragon’s speech on him.

Misses and Hits

Let’s do the bad first. I hate Tony Stark as a villain, so much so that I am dreading the next Captain America film Civil War. Sure, Iron Man has always been flawed, but he’s not Doctor Doom. Stop doing him like that. I’m also stunned by Tony’s obsessive attachment to this H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot reject, Arsenal. Did he really have that malformed a childhood that he needs this as an adult?

Anything would be better than this…

On the plus side, I loved seeing the Hulk in action against Ultron. This might not be something film folks or recent comics readers would understand, but this is not a match-up seen often. If truth be told, until fairly recently the Hulk was rarely even considered an Avenger. In fact, in the original 500+ issue run of Avengers, the Hulk is a member for a small handful of stories, officially quitting the team after the second issue. His appearances in the run as an adversary of the team are probably triple that number. Therefore, an Ultron/Hulk fight is not something you see often.

Next: “Avengers Disassembled!”

...and hopefully not this Disassembled...
…and hopefully not this Disassembled…

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