Why All Animation Fans Should Be Watching The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which is currently in its second season on Disney XD) returned to U.S. television last Sunday after a month-long hiatus, and as I was watching the return episode, "Nightmare in Red," a realization hit: It’s probably the most enjoyable comic book superhero series on TV right now.

Now, before any accusations start, I'm not just some Marvel fanboy raving against DC’s animated properties. Considering that I own most of the DCAU on DVD, have picked up more than a few of the more recent animated films, and currently read DC comics, I wouldn’t say that I’m a Marvel fanboy by any stretch. It’s just that Avengers is a bright, lively series with plenty of good comic book action and plotting. It’s by no means a deep series, but it offers a pleasant contrast to the DC Nation block of programming (Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice) in its tone, charm, and consistency.

And I think if you’re a fan of comic book series, or just animation in general, you should probably be watching The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

To make a case for the series, I’m going to provide quick overview of Season 1 and Season 2 as it stands so far. If you’re very spoiler-phobic, you should stop now. I’ll give away as little as possible, but since I know people’s spoiler ranges can vary, I just wanted to make that clear.

Season 1 is very much about how the Avengers would come together as a team. There’s Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, and Ant Man and Wasp. Black Panther and Hawkeye later join the team as well. Now, if you’re even passingly familiar with the Marvel universe, whether it be through comics or the wildly popular movies, you can skip the first five episodes of Season 1 (which are sometimes listed as "micro-episodes," depending on where/how you watch them) and start with “Breakout: Part 1” (Ant Man and Wasp may be unknown characters to many; if that's the case you may want to start instead with “The Man in the Ant Hill”).

Those first episodes are, frankly, rather rough and not the most pleasant origin-ish experiences, and that’s why I recommend skipping to the meat of the season, which deals with the team trying to recapture nearly every villain in the Marvel universe who isn’t a regular foe of the X-Men or Spider-Man after someone simultaneously sabotages every SHIELD super villain prison. On top of this, there are various intergalactic and intertemporal threats as the Kree and Kang the Conquerer (a favorite villain of mine) also arrive to cause problems.

And in this season the series establishes itself nicely. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is a very vibrant, fast-paced series that is very action-centric. If you watched Disney XD’s The Spectacular Spider-Man, Avengers is very much in the same vein, both in animation style and in overall tone. There’s a lighteness to the series as everyone on the team is competent and confident in their abilities, and they risk their lives with quips (it’s a very funny series) and gusto.

Bits of Season 2 are established in Season 1, demonstrating that the series has a bit of a broad plan in mind. Kang’s arrival is motivated by one of the Avengers turning out to be a traitor and ruining the timeline, and it turns out—as we learn at the end of the Season 1 finale—that the Skrulls, a shape-shifting race of aliens, are invading and taking the place of many superheroes around the world, including an Avenger.

And so Season 2, thus far, has been dealing with the team trying to figure out how it can sustain itself when it is divided not only by geography but also by trust. It isn’t a deep interrogation of these particular issues, but the team is practically down to Wasp, Captain America, and Hawkeye at this point in the, so things are becoming a little dire

I mentioned up front that I think Avengers is better than the DC Nation block airing on Cartoon Network, so I suppose I should back that up. Young Justice is probably the most instructive example. Both Avengers and Young Justice are team shows and both engage in arc-style narratives (to varying degrees); the team aspect is a big issue for me since it’s a tricky thing to balance so many characters, both in development and in action sequences. Avengers wisely doesn’t always use the whole team all of the time (even when they are all on good terms with one another), but even when it does, I feel like each character shines, and when it comes to full-on team brawls, the action choreography is more skillfully storyboarded and cut together on Avengers than on Young Justice (though YJ has improved on this front, thankfully).

I've noted the ease with which Avengers shifted rather seamlessly from the rounding up of villains to falling victim to a secret alien invasion, and I feel that Young Justice hasn't made similar pivots as seamlessly. Its Season 1 finale undermined a lot of the dramatic heft it gathered toward the tail end of the season, and while it set up this whole mystery of what the senior members of the Justice League did for 16 hours, it hasn’t done even a good job of making internal sense of those 16 hours due to the big reveal at the start of Season 2.

Admittedly, comparing the two series isn’t completely fair. YJ does also balance significantly more character work against its action than Avengers generally even attempts. And while I don’t feel that YJ has ever been all that successful with its character drama (it is successful in spurts but never consistently), it does at least make a concerted effort to expand its characters’ lives beyond their costumes.

I do think, however, that Avengers has crafted a different type of character arc in the case of Ant Man, who spends much of Season 1 grappling with his pacifist ideology and what that means in terms of being an Avenger. It’s not a character story we see too often (if ever) in a lot of superhero series, and Avengers shows the effects that Ant Man’s decisions have on the team and on himself in very specific and rather nuanced ways.

If there’s one last thing I think that Avengers does well compared to other, more recent superhero series, and this is true regardless of its owner/publisher/whatever, it’s that Avengers offers up strong female characters. Many of the comments on my review of The Legend of Korra's first season mentioned how much they liked having a central and complex female character, and I’d encourage those people, or parents with young girls interested in superheroes, to check out Avengers.

Between the dedicated and can-do spirit of Wasp—probably my favorite character in the series—and the confident, powerful, no-nonsense women of Abigail Brand and the Carol Danvers incarnation of Captain Marvel (voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Jennifer Hale, respectively, women known for voicing strong female characters) made prominent in Season 2, the show offers up the rare opportunity to see positive representations of women in a genre that often fails to do so.

However, it’s not perfect in this regard. Black Widow is featured prominently in the series, and she is oddly and overtly sexualized (she routinely enters the frame so that her posterior is the most prominent thing in it) in a series that otherwise steers clear of that type of unnecessary and unmotivated representation.

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is not going to see a third season, as Marvel has announced that a new Avengers series, Avengers Assemble will start in 2013, and that it will be more in line with the tone of the movies. But I think it should be telling how highly I think of it that I am essentially recommending a dead show walking. There are still more than 15 episodes left, and that’s more than enough to enjoy it while it lasts.



The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes airs Sunday mornings on Disney XD (but double check your local listings). Season 1 is available on Netflix Watch Instantly as well as through Netflix’s disc-by-mail service. If you don’t have Netflix, both Amazon and iTunes sell digital copies of Season 1 and the currently airing Season 2 on a per-episode basis.


Noel Kirkpatrick is a co-founder of Monsters of Television and This Was Television. Follow him on Twitter: @noelrk.

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Yeah too bad its cancelled though. So dumb.
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Marvel canceled the show.

They want to make another Avengers cartoons which would look more like a companion to their "Ultimate Spider-man" series.

"Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" is one of the best animated series of the last decade, in the same league than "Batman: The Animated Series", and probably the best overall animated series produced from Marvel.

"Ultimate Spider-man" is utter crap. An unwatchable, juvenile, moronic and unfocused piece of garbage produced directly from a dream Brian Michael Bendis had as a teen, a dream he thought hilariously... but it wasn't. It was just stupid, and, as a teenager, you don't know the difference between hilarity and stupidity.

The thing is, I watched the whole second season of "The Avengers" already, and, with the way they ended it... I'm now at peace with it. I would much rather get a third season of this masterpiece then a reboot 'more in line with the movie franchise' (what, it was too hard for you, Marvel, to just make Black Window a member and move from there!? Idiots...) But what I got, as a fan, is way more than what I expected when this series started.

I'll get the DVD set for it (Disney better not be cheap and give us all a proper complete set for the whole series); I'll check out the new series; if it sucks, which I fully expect it to be, I'll just move on to "Young Justice" - say whatever you want about DC, but they know better than to just kill off their best animated series.

Alright... my fanboy rant is over.
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I watch all the shows mentioned here and love all of them (including green lantern, young justice, legend of korra and this). I must say that from all the comic book adaptations, young justice is actually the best. I agree that avengers has mastered the ability of including all the main characters and giving enough time to each much better than yj but yj storylines have been very crisp of late and the way its being put together is keeping people guessing. This show has just started doing that with the last episode on captain america but hasnt done it consistently enough.
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Huge fan of AEMH here! Thanks for the heads up about Young Justice being good. I foolishly thought it to be a little kid's show, sight unseen. I've checked it out, and it is great.
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I created a page for nostalgic cartoon addicts like myself, if interested, drop by, share your favorite memories, post your favorite cartoon clips and also compare the ones being made today with the classics of old :)



Just click here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Best-Cartoons-growing-up/378456218855947



Thanks for the interest..

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Neither EMA or YJ compare to the DCAU Justice League Unlimited, however. Neither one has done anything approaching the level of the Cadmus story arc under the late Dwayne McDuffie.
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Agreed.



The DCAU stuff was just epic all around, and the whole Cadmus thing was great.



But Young Justice isn't so bad... it's a mix of stupid teenagers and serious stuff. And the serious stuff gets "about" as dark as the DCAU JL stuff.



EMH is more light-hearted. Not "Teen Titans" or even "Ultimate Spider-man" light-hearted, but a bit mroe up-beat. So a different kind of show. And honestly, it's quite decent.
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No argument here.
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Same.
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I'd watch if I could. I have to pay extra to get Disney XD.
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I really liked Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes. I'll have to check this one out.
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Avengers is real good unlike the new campy spiderman and now you tell me the are rebooting avengers in 2013 stop with the reboots this new Avengers earth's mightest has a storyline that flows like a comic . the movies are live action and are based on the comics with some changes they are great but not the comics . This is the 1st in a while I have been drawn back to watch these animated ones and really enjoyed it even my ten year old son thinks the new animated spiderman is corney but not Avengers ,
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Sorry, I can't fathom "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" without Superman. That's just wrong...
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This show was awesome but was created before Jeph Loeb took over. Now he wants a show like ultimate spiderman (awful) which focuses more on comedy and less on story. Do not look forward to new avengers show. Their next show before that is Hulks agents of smash, where all the hulks form a task force, and they said it will be like the office, where they cut to them being interviewed constantly throughout the episode and is more comedy then anything else.
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I've heard such things about Ultimate Spider-Man and I've shied away from it as a result. I don't mind a focus on comedy over story provided the comedy is actually good, and from what I've gathered, the comedy isn't all that great. (Compared to, say, Teen Titans, which balanced those demands really well; I suspect New Teen Titans will edge more toward comedy than story though.)
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I've forced myself to watch every ultimate spiderman and its just so bad, and these other two shows, Hulks agents of smash and the new avengers show are both made and written by the same people, so it they are anything like ultimate spiderman prepare for a huge disappointment. But this avengers show has been the best since justice league
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The only thing that really turns me off from the show is the theme song. It's ridiculously over dramatic.
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I agree that this has been the best "superhero" animated show on tv, I am a big Marvel fan, and a big Avengers fan, and have been consistently impressed with the series.

Yes the tone, image, costumes of the show is modern (eg partly form The Ultimate Universe).But the stories are from the classic Marvel Age of Lee and Kirby.

The Panther/Klaw story from the first season was from the Avengers comic from around 1969. Pyms breakdown and Yellowjacket incarnation was from 1971..............so from a comics fan point of view it was really nice to see.

Hopefully the new series will be as well made....The film was admittedly excellent :)
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to be honest I watched the first episode of this series...its a two part episode....and I was so damn bored from the first part I didn't even care to watch the conclusion...and that's really a testament considering I usually HAVE to finish something once I've started





so unless someone can tell me that it got drastically more entertaining as the show progressed..think I'll let it collect electronic dust on my hard drive and stick to watching young justice (the true "most enjoyable comic book superhero series on TV right now.")
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Second part is far more entertaining. Basically it's the superhero team-up brawl that ensues from all the build-up the first part did. And the series then keeps up the goodness from said second part, truly a fantastic series.
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I may have mis-read some of the comments (due to me mostly skimming them), but I believe there may be a bit of confusion with regards to the spider-man cartoon. The one currently airing is Ultimate Spider-man and I think that's the one people are comparing with Avengers. Spectacular Spider-Man was cancelled a few years back and imo is a masterpiece of a show. Way better than Ultimate. However, if I'm the one mistaken and you really are talking about Spectacular Spider-Man then disregard this post. Or flame me. 'Sall good!
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I agree Spectacular was a masterpiece. I wish it was never cancelled considering it ended on a cliffhanger (in a way).
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I think there may be a mix up occurring, yes. Rest assured when I compared it to Spectacular, I was thinking of the Greg Wesiman-ran series that ran from 2008-2009 on The CW and then Disney XD.
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I wouldn't compare this with Ultimate Spiderman at all! USM is full of such corny jokes and comes across as so goofy and juvenile! This cartoon is probably the best Marvel cartoon out at the moment and definately one of the top 5 ever.
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Great show, I was shocked that they cancelled it. Let's see if Avengers Assemble which comes out sometime in 2013 on Disney XD is as good or better than this.



It was said by two or three people already but Young Justice is way better than this. I enjoy both shows but Young Justice takes the cake for me.
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Young Justice is great, it treats its material and its audience with some respect, it doesn't try to dumb down its stories, and it also looks good. Having seen a few minutes of Spectacular Spider-Man, it's like a night and day contrast, SSM is schizophrenic in trying to be light like the Spidey comics but appeal to a different audience like Teen Titans (the show), and it comes off unwatchable. If A:EMH is like SSM, then that's hardly a glowing recommendation for it. Based on that, I've been staying away from The Avengers cartoon, but if it's on Neflix and airing on Disney XD again (thank goodness my new building has it in HD) then maybe I'll give it a chance.
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Blue Beetle's family and friends are not once mentioned and instead there's this native-america-somehow-mexican guy in BB's out-of-costume subplot, as well as the cliche'd woman who gets beaten and her child is depressed due to it. So. Yeah. More than respect, i think YJ has been taking most 90s ideas and adding more ~DRAMA~ to them, which is why i stopped watching during season 2.

Spectacular Spider-man is incredibly fantastic on the references to the comics, with every named character (and some background ones) based on an actual Spider-man character, unless you mean the currently airing Ultimate Spider-man which is quite terrible.

Avengers should be back on Disney XD in a few weeks, however there are about five good episodes left before Loeb takes over the series after which it's still good, but not quite as good.
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Eh, not really. The beaten woman IS the mother of BB's friend. So it establishes that his friend's life sucks donkey nutz right now.



Such a thing in comics often shapes characters to be villains or heroes... short-term or long-term. Having "drama" (or hardship) in a backstory gives decisions and actions more meaning than "screw it, I wanna be a hero/villain"
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I love animated shows, which is why I have no desire to watch this show. I do not understand why animators can't put some effort into their animation, which the technology they have today it wouldn't be hard for shows to have animation like the legend of korra. Shows like adventure time and regular show are okay without it but comic shows should all have the best animation they can afford. I'll never watch a show produced in this decade that has animation this juvenile.
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Not everything has to be anime-inspired art. Some people specifically choose certain art styles for the STYLE.. not for the tech or the cost.

Look at Samurai Jack... that wasn't because they were cheap... they wanted it to look that way.

Same here... a more light-hearted show with more light-hearted animation. I'm OK with that.
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Seeing a lot of distaste for the animation here. Can you explain what it is, exactly, that makes the animation "juvenile"?



As I've pointed out before, there's not exactly a cost issue here as everything is fully animated with no frames skipped to save on costs. So it more the the character design? The brightness?



It's important to think about the style of the show is trying to convey, and i think there's a push in EMH for a Golden Age of comics type of look and feel in a more contemporary style.
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Seems like it would be a good show to watch, but I don't know if I could handle anyone but Robert Downey being Iron Man...........
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Funny enough, they have made the voice sound VERY MUCh like RDJ!
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Eric Loomis, who voices Iron Man, does a fairly decent take on RDJ's voice. The writing for the character seeks to hit that style as well, though doesn't perfectly reach those levels.
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Although I enjoy A:EMH, it doesn't hold a candle to Young Justice. YJ has a very mature storyline, superb storytelling and intriguing heroes as well as superior animation. Both are good, but if I could only watch one, it would be Young Justice.
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I'll balk at the notion of YJ having a "very mature storyline." It may be a bit....darker in tone and style, but I think its storytelling is roughly at the same level as EHM's albeit YJ leans a little more heavily on its serialized elements.



I'll refer you to a comment I left below about the quality of the animation, which while in a different style, is by no means "superior." The animation serves a particular stylistic purpose, and both series are fully-animated, with little in the way of frame skipping to save on costs. It's more of a preference in style and whether or not one is inferior to the other.
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I prefer this to Young Justice if for no other reason than I just don't like DC Universe as much, if it was actual Justice League and not their kids then maybe I'd care. I think it's stupid that Disney XD possibly cancelled this to make room another show of The Avengers where the only difference is the new one will mirror the recent movie more than EMH, which I personally don't like. I like the idea of more than just those few heroes being there.
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Young Justice is way better than this honestly and this is coming from someone who enjoys both shows.
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it wasn't bad, but like I said, I prefer Marvel to DC and making it about their kids just turned me off to the show. If it was another Justice League show instead then I'd have been more interested.
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One of the top shows that I watch, animated or otherwise. Unfortunately it will come to an end as this season wraps up. I'm seeing the new show more in line with Unlimited Spider-man, while entertaining in certain ways, does not stack up to the other animated shows being produced right now.
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why??? its been cancelled along with all the other great shows... so no reason to watch
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Because 52 episodes have already been produced. That's just about the working number every cartoon series receives. And the show ends pretty nicely too, as if the end was expected. There's only one loose end remaining and honestly, it wasn't much. It involved Thor and it was a storyline I didn't care much for.
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Yeah I wanted to them to at least complete that story line before they cancelled it
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In my opinion, this is no where close to Young Justice. The animation really turns me off here, while YJ's is flawless. No problem with the storytelling though.



YMMV.
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It's two very different types of animation, aiming for different styles. Yes, EMH's style veers more "cartoon"-y, but I find it to be rather charming nonetheless. And it isn't like it's "cheap" looking either, or they're skipping frames to save money. It's a fully animated series.
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Never heard of it. I will have to check it out. Someone mentioned the c-word* below. Was the second season completed?



*) cancelled
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The second season is completed, and the show is unlikely to see a third given the new Avengers series coming out soon.
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Please Oh Please, you didn't say the Best cartoon out there.....When compared to Young Justice, which in my opinion is the best superhero cartoon series ever made, you are dead wrong; have you seen Young Justice Season 2 yet? I'm guessing not. The writing is absolutely superb, and don't me started on the animation which has no equal. Better than Young Justice??? are you ten?
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Nope, not 10. 27.



And I've watched EVERY episode of YJ. The writing is not superb by any stretch of the imagination. Its storytelling has been lazy, the timeskip has proven wildly unnecessary, and this current season is just a rehash of season 1's overall plotting: Secretive society/individual trying to take over the world.



And in what universe does it take 5 years for the Guardians of Oa to find out which planet the JLers attacked? 5 YEARS. Absurd.
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Fellas its just a difference of opinion.
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"Batman, the animated series" is the best superhero cartoon series ever made, and it's not even close.
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This we can agree on.
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Great article. I completely agree. I really like this show and I really wish that Marvel would reconsider canceling it. It just seems like a mistake since they already have an established fan base and there is really no reason to start fresh just to be in tune with the movie.



The series could also take such a vast number of directions. I could imagine a Civil War storyline for season 3 coming off the Skrulls. You could also bring in other characters like the X-Men, especially if it had the cast from Wolverine and the X-Men which was also cancelled a bit early in my opinion.
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I've seen all the episodes of both seasons and it kept getting better and better. SPOILER the last episode with Galactus, Wolverine and Spider-man is awesome and makes you wanting more...but cancelled...thank you Disney...effin mouse...
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Lol. I know right?
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Yeah this is actually pretty good and they are staying true....mostly to the comic storylines too.
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Does it in any way happen in the same universe as the new Spider-Man series? Because that's just horribly bad.



As for current cartoons worth watching, one of my favorites is the new Scooby-Doo series, it's hilarious, and surprisingly consistent, fixing everything tiring about older series. (catchphrases, the exact same formula every episode)
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No, luckily it doesn't take place in the same universe. Some of the same characters have appeared on both shows but have been depicted very differently.
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I think I'd rather watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which I do :D
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For what it's worth, I really MLP: FiM, too.
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I did enjoy A:EMH just like justice league and batman. It's something that I wrote back to (then owned Marvel by) Stan Lee waaay before the animation movies or any Marvel Products begun to become more popular (Just a little after x-men).



As with the ultimate brand of comics, there were times that I liked that they have retconned much of the rich story (the kree being picted with their new forms, or that captain marvell is not Rick Jones -- there is no Rick Jones in this universe imho or the skrull war/secret invasion). But there are a lot of elements incorporated from the fantastic four (Galactus, annhilus the super skrull) some stories being remade (Purple man was with dr.doom in the comics and not stark) and a lot of stories had plans for deeper archs but I am guessing they were scraped (or other interconnecting animation projects were not green lit. See the x-men / fantastic four references on the secret invasion episodes).
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A:EMH does borrow from both the main Marvel and the Ultimate lines, yes? I'm only passingly familiar with the Ultimate line through the Web and arc summaries, but not beyond that.
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A really great show. Although season1 was better than season 2 (I've already seen all the season 2 episodes) season 2 really isn't that far behind it. At times it seems as if the story drags in the middle of the season but the it begins to pick up and becomes this epic center of awesomeness that often reminds me of season 4 of the Justice League unlimited series.



I also enjoy how they incorporate many of the marvel universe characters, spider man, fantastic four, Dr. Doom, war machine, iron fist and luke cage.
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Yes, the entire has since aired in Australia, so I imagine a number of people have seen it all...one way or another.



The show does, rather easily, fit everyone else in, though I thought the FF-guest star episode was kind of clunky; whereas the Luke Cage and Iron Fist team-up felt far better integrated.
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