Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes Vol. 4

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

Now "Thor's Last Stand" is much more descriptive of what we get with this final volume of Season One. Although, as with Volume Three, the only real extra is another "Avengers Unmasked" installment; this time for the episode, "Hail, HYDRA!"

But for now, it's on to the good stuff!

Volume Four features seven episodes and includes two multi-part epics that we'll discuss later. First, however, we get two stand-alone adventures: "The Casket of Ancient Winters" and "Hail, HYDRA!"

"The Casket of Ancient Winters" brings back The Enchantress and The Executioner as Loki's henchmen, sent to retrieve an ancient Asgardian artifact that actually later made an appearance in the Thor film. Here it is used by the evil Dark Elf Malekith to nearly conquer the planet. It's one of the weaker episodes, really, but it does provide a few nice bits, like Wasp and Hawkeye by the pool (and Hulk in the pool) when winter spreads across the globe.

Again Hank breaks out the Ultrons, and we also get a guest-appearance by The Thing and The Human Torch! I love the way this show keeps building up and adding on to the Marvel Animated Universe. But like the subtitle of the disc says, this is mostly about Thor and by the end of this episode, he discovers that he's somehow been banished from Asgard.

That can't be good.

Meanwhile in "Hail, HYDRA!" Black Widow returns, asking the Avengers to help keep the Cosmic Cube from staying in the hands of A.I.M. and/or falling into the hands of HYDRA. For those of you who haven't done your homework, the Cosmic Cube is a device that allows its user to alter reality to satisfy their every desire.  And Black Widow has been working as a double-agent to discover just what A.I.M. and HYDRA were working on.

Also, Nick Fury has disappeared and Maria Hill is acting director of S.H.I.E.L.D. That sounds a little familiar and given the revelation at the end of Volume Three's "Widow's Sting" anyone who's been reading Marvel comics over the past few years knows where this is leading. And did I mention that Hill is determined to force the Avengers to register and work for S.H.I.E.L.D.?

And after Cap and Baron Strucker both touched the Cube, we get a little flashback to the only thing that Cap would have ever changed. Bucky's death.

Awesome. Simply awesome.

This is followed by a two-part battle with Ultron. I'm telling you, the creators of this series are serious about upping the ante as the season progresses. Every volume has done a great job of presenting some major-league threats to the world and reality and that's really what The Avengers is supposed to be about, isn't it?

And it goes out of its way to make the conflicts suitably complex and interesting. For example, the Ultron story here is sparked by the fact that Hank Pym has become disillusioned with the violence that comes along with battling Super Villains and quits the team. Ultron agrees with Hank's depressed musings that humanity is a danger to itself and decides to take action. You know, by destroying mankind.

In the process, The Enchantress secrets Thor away. But the rest of the team thinks he's dead.

And before anything can be done about it, Ultron uploads his consciousness to everywhere he can find a foothold and that's when things get really bad. Not only is he simply physically threatening, there are one or two moments that are actually disturbing. But Thor returns and allows Pym time to get inside Ultron and shut him down for good with a good, old-fashioned paradox.

And that leads to the big three-part Season Finale that takes the Avengers to Asgard to take on Loki and his allies. Just like I said back when discussing Volume One, one of the most impressive things about this show is the way it takes elements of the Marvel Universe like Asgard and fleshes it out enough that they could be great Marvel Cartoons on their own. But they're able to pull it all together and create a detailed and textured world where just about any type of story can be told.

This story finally makes it clear (if it wasn't already) that Loki is behind the Masters of Evil, guiding them to this point, where they use the Norn Stones in an attempt to break down the walls between the Nine Realms. And in doing so, the Avengers get zapped to other worlds. This is huge, epic adventuring that ends with a scenario that is oddly echoed in the recent Fear Itself series, with Tony Stark working with Dwarves to craft Asgardian-enhanced armor.

And it's all capped off with Clancy Brown returning to voice Odin as he sends Loki off to a mythologically accurate and frankly, horrifying fate.

And then we get another twist ending that will lead directly into the next Season. And it has something to do with a certain intergalactic war that has been referenced again and again so far, as well as Cap's "betrayal" as prophesied by Kang.

I love this show.

Once again, this is a solid 4.5 star release and is about as rewatchable as can be.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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