The Avengers film series is about as mainstream as you can get today – I could argue that Avengers: Endgame was one of the most anticipated movies of all time.
But back in 2010 the MCU was just getting started, and at that time, we got the best Avengers show – and possibly one of the best Marvel shows – to date: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. While it has some obvious influence from the recent Iron Man movies, this is mostly doing its own interpretation of Marvel’s comics, and it is glorious. It also has one of the most wonderful theme songs of all time. If you don’t believe me, google “avengers fight as one” and check out the music videos people have made.
But aside from the awesomeness of “Fight As One,” this show is amazing. Part of what makes it amazing is that… it isn’t strictly a kids’ show. It’s more a piece of superhero media that happens to be appropriate for children, but it’s serious and intricate enough that adults will probably enjoy it just as much.
The first half of the first season is pretty much about bringing the team together “as one.” You’ve got Tony already established as Iron Man, since the Iron Man movies had already put him in the public consciousness. But it gradually introduces us to The Hulk, Hawkeye, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Black Widow (who is a recurring ally/enemy rather than a full-on Avenger), Captain America, Thor, and sometimes Black Panther.
And for big Marvel buffs, it does indeed have characters that Marvel didn’t have the movie rights to in 2010, like the Fantastic 4, Wolverine, Spiderman, etc, as well as less prominent Marvel characters like Iron Fist and Power Man/Luke Cage, who are absolutely wonderful and deserved their own spinoff show. And it had the Guardians of the Galaxy before that group became big, as well as now-established characters like Vision and Miss Marvel (now known as Captain Marvel, and much more likable and relatable than in the live-action film).
Anyway, after a supervillain nearly destroys New York, Tony Stark decides to assemble the Avengers, a team that can recapture the 75 superpowered bad guys who have just escaped from SHIELD. So they all move into his urban mansion, and have some personal friction with each other. Just because they’re heroes doesn’t mean they all get along at first – the Hulk is grumpy and a little paranoid, Cap and Tony have differing ideas about technology and what’s important, Ant-Man despises Tony because he fights instead of rehabilitating criminals, and Hawkeye is a little pissed at SHIELD because he was framed.
But those rough edges, that friction, those personality quirks are what make the characters feel so likable and real. They’re not perfect, but they are likable, relatable and heroic. When they’re hanging out, or having conflicts, or making jokes, it really feels like they’re reluctant but fast friends.
The story arcs that follow include a lot of really fascinating conflicts, like a time-warping conflict with Kang the Conqueror, a gamma dome that mutates everyone inside it, invasion by the Kree, the Masters of Evil, the murderous android Ultron, a trip to Thor’s home realm of Asgard, etc. The second season has an overarching conflict with the Skrulls, who sow confusion and mistrust among Earth’s mightiest heroes and make things a lot more difficult for them, both amongst each other and towards the world.
Sadly, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ran for only two seasons, when it was clearly laying out plotlines and groundwork for much more. Apparently Disney didn’t want a story with good writing, intelligence, all-ages appeal, great stylized animation and well-developed characters, so they gave us the bland, simplistic, messy and juvenile Avengers Assemble instead. Bleah.
So yeah, if you can find this series, definitely watch it. It’s packed with plot, excellent writing, and it’s as rewarding a watch for adults as for kids.