Here we have another episode title referencing something very specific from the comics, like the Secret Avengers series, yet giving it a new spin on the “Avengers Assemble” animated series. I have to say, I really like this trick. This week, Captain America’s team of Avengers faces the Winter Guard, Russia’s mightiest heroes, or are they? Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “Secret Avengers.”
I guess Disney X-D just couldn’t get their scheduling right to have the Ultron episode air the week Avengers: Age of Ultron was released, so what we have here is really episode 17, but it’s labeled as episode 18. These events occur before “The Ultron Outbreak.” Man, this will look confusing on the Blu-Ray release. Suffice it to say this episode is effectively a flashback when shown in this order.
So here’s the gist. After Captain America’s anger at Tony Stark for withholding details from the Avengers and endangering not only the mission, but the team iself, Cap quit. He later joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and recruited the Falcon, the Black Widow, and the Hulk to his new team. Stark was left with Thor, Hawkeye, and broken armor. Got it?
Avengers of S.H.I.E.L.D.
So with Cap in his Super Patriot costume and Widow, Falcon, and Hulk uniformed in dark and stealthy S.H.I.E.L.D. versions of their costumes, they raid a Hydra base in search of ‘an asset.’ The Hulk, codenamed Gamma-X, is most disturbing in his full S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, sans feeties and forearm sleeves, with his hair nicely cut and combed, and a smile on his face. He’s the bomb. And effectively, they’re the super-powered Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In coordination with Nick Fury, who ironically is known for keeping secrets and running need-to-know missions, this team seems to work much better that Stark’s. Also, the Avengers, notably the Hulk and the Falcon have become celebrities amongst the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Lest you think things are good, Fury may be organized, but as Cap sees pretty quickly, he’s more like Stark than he likes.
The Winter Guard
The Silver Age of Marvel Comics was in the midst of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was America’s archenemy. Many villains who fought the Marvel heroes especially Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Avengers, and others were born of that Cold War fear of the USSR and China. By the time I was reading in the Bronze Age, the Russians were generic bad guys just as the Nazis were in WWII.
Still, it was a treat when these characters appeared. As much as they were villains to us, you knew in the back of your mind, they were the heroes of their people. I remember the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man from Iron Man, Radioactive Man from Thor, Darkstar from Champions, the Titanic Three, and of course the Red Guardian, the Black Widow’s ex-husband, from Avengers. I was thrilled when a Soviet team was formed, including Ursa Major, also seen here.
The next mission has the Secret Avengers retrieving a power source from Russia’s Winter Guard, although, it’s not just the Avengers who are after it, the Squadron Supreme are too, or at least Zarda is. She’s only in this episode momentarily, but it serves as a reminder that not all loose ends in this series involve Thanos or Ultron. Her battle with the Crimson Dynamo serves very little other purpose than show that the folks making this show care more about secondary characters than the Avengers themselves.
There is a sunny side to this ongoing battle however. The final act of the episode has the Avengers acting as a team, thinking through a problem, and cooperating to save lives – in other words, acting like Avengers. And that’s something we have seen very little of in this series, and not lately at all in the comics. Remember the difference between the mass destruction in the first Avengers movie and Man of Steel? The Avengers were out there saving lives.
The Avengers, under organized and thinking leadership, and the Winter Guard cooperate to solve the problem and save lives. This is what the Avengers do. And I loved the Hulk’s trick of wearing the Crimson Dynamo’s armor. This episode not only had fun moments, comics-like moments, but thinking moments. I liked it. And if you want to find out what happens next, as I said above, see episode 17.