The Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t always have a monopoly on Marvel space adventures. Old school Avengers fans know that space is where Earth’s mightiest heroes work best. From the Kree-Skrull War to Infinity and beyond, you don’t mess with the Avengers Assembled. Now Thanos is back, and our heroes are taking the battle to him, so meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “New Frontier.”
The Black Order
Now while I usually examine and analyze these episodes of the “Avengers Assemble” series with a critical eye, the bottom line is this is basically aimed at a younger audience while still enjoyable to much older and sophisticated viewers, but primarily it’s a cartoon for kids. The opening of “New Frontier” with the Black Order freeing Thanos from his prison was chilling, and the series’ first real ‘oh crap!’ moment.
The Black Order, also called the Cull Obsidian – Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Supergiant, Black Dwarf, and Ebony Maw – do not play. They were Thanos’ henchmen and hit squad from the Marvel Comics event, Infinity, which I reviewed for Biff Bam Pop! right here. They are bad news, bad ass, and extremely dangerous, probably the most dangerous original super-villain group creation in over a decade. Thank you, Jonathan Hickman. To see them animated and going after our heroes gave me chills.
Speaking of Jonathan Hickman, who has steered the fates of the comics Avengers the last few years and turned them toward a more interstellar destiny, that’s what our heroes are concerned with as we open on them. Re-energized and united after their victory over the Squadron Supreme, they are seeking to defend the Earth from outside threats. Launching a satellite defense system called DAN (Data Analysis Network) will alert them of oncoming threats. Seriously, after Ultron, wouldn’t one think the Avengers would have had enough of artificial intelligences, or at least machines with names?
Iron Man is looking forward to the future, Tony Stark is a futurist after all. This is something that was originally imagined by writer Kurt Busiek when he made the Avengers proactive and stationed several members on guard in space. That ball was picked up big time by Hickman at the close of Infinity with the idea of Avengers Worlds being those saved by Earth’s heroes during that event. And no, the fact that the next episode, the last of the season, is titled “Avengers Worlds” is not lost on me.
As if on cue, the second DAN is activated, an alien ship comes out of warp into Earth’s orbit, right into the gathered semi-space-suited Avengers (sans Black Widow). The little noseless guy in the ship, looking a bit like Beta Ray Bill‘s people (which he is, as he mentions his world’s name is New Corbin), greets the heroes with hugs, noting they are well known in space having beaten Thanos, among other threats like the Space Phantoms and Galactus.
The little guy, Jeter, does not know Hawkeye however. For a moment it was funny but as it was pressed, I felt like I was in the middle of a Patton Oswalt joke. Yes, funny for most folks, but not funny for us Hawkeye fans. While the Avengers go off to space to help Jeter’s people, they leave the Black Widow in charge, along with I assume Ant-Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. I would have taken Widow (or Ant-Man) over Falcon any day, but that’s just me.
Once on the planet, the Avengers start doing their thing, casually smashing away at what are apparently four-armed robots led by Proxima Midnight. The people know them, except for Hawkeye, and are happy they’re there. Two things are in the back of my head at this point. When is Thor going to lose his hammer? And wouldn’t it be cool if Hawkeye had some Pym particles to become Goliath and be more effective?
Thanos is there, and pulling energy from the planet’s core. This is a Galactus stunt, and he’s name-dropped a couple times, but isn’t this also what Nuke and the Squadron Supreme were trying to do a few episodes back? This must be a well-worn page in the villains handbook. Speaking of villains, just as I was about to put my complaining gloves on, the Black Order arrives, and crap gets real.
Despite Iron Man’s overzealousness in wanting to take on new challenges and Captain America’s wariness about unknown terrain and threats, this more confident, more experienced, more together post-Squadron Supreme team of Avengers take down the Black Order with skill and finesse. It was a real fist pump moment, even though I knew the baddies weren’t down for the count. There was still the bigger, badder Thanos, version 2.0 to deal with.
The Mad Titan was giving the Avengers a wide berth, and made them a deal. He respected their power in defeating him, and in exchange he would spare the Earth, but the rest of universe belonged to him. We now what the Avengers’ only answer could be, and I was fist pumping again to see them take the action. Like the heroes they are, they saved the New Corbinites as their planet perished, and continued the fight against Thanos and the Black Order. This is what the Avengers is about. I couldn’t help but remember the difference between the climaxes of the first Avengers movie and Man of Steel – the Avengers saved lives, Superman decimated his city without care for innocent lives.
Doing the right thing had consequences of course, and the Avengers knew it as they raced across space toward Earth, hoping to beat Thanos there. As they emerge from the dark side of the moon, with no contact from their comrades, they learn the truth… a cliffhanger as chilling as the animated appearance of the Black Order… the Earth is gone.
This episode, written by Kevin Burke and Chris “Doc” Wyatt, not only shows us a team of characters who are not just heroes but people we care about and want to root for. We are also presented with villains who are not jokes, and posed a serious frightening threat. And though I wish we’d seen more Black Widow and Ant-Man (but hopefully we will next week), this is not only one of the best episodes of the season, but probably the series as well. Bring it on, guys.