In 10 Words or Less
More merry Marvel action and laughs
Likes: Marvel Comics, Comic books
Dislikes: Most kids cartoons
Hates: The Hulk
The Story So Far
While the movies present a far more mature and serious brand of Marvel superheroing, their animated Cartoon Network series, The Super Hero Squad Show, is a brilliant blend of high-energy comic-book action and irreverent silliness that can appeal to young viewers and long-time Marvel maniacs alike, pulling together well-known and obscure characters in a fantastic bit of fan service. Shout! Factory released a volume of six episodes in July of 2010. DVDTalk has a review.
It looks like Shout! Factory plans on pounding out these Super Hero Squad Show DVDs pretty quickly, releasing two discs in just five months, so it's not too long since I reviewed the first volume. As a result, there's not a lot separating the two sets, in terms of storyline (since there's little in terms of on-going plot outside of Dr. Doom's search for the Infinity fractals) or the characters (every episode seems to bring in someone new from Marvel's deep roster.) So it's all about the individual episodes.
There's an incredible sitcom sensibility to the show, as the series has a lot of fun messing with the main characters, be it forcing them out of their headquarters and into a sleepover in Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, or having Wolverine looking to leave the team, only to find the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. For someone who's seen these plots frequently over the years, it might feel a bit "been there, done there," but there's a reason why these classic plots again and again, and for most of this show's audience, it'll be the first time they experience a mistaken identity or the weak link of the group being left behind to fend for themselves.
Like last time out, the six episodes here plumbs the depths of Marvel's history, bringing back bad guys you probably never thought you'd see, like Egghead or Baron Mordo and Paste Pot Pete (who became the butt of some wonderful jokes), while referencing characters who no one should really remember, such as Texas Twister or the Impossible Man. The show doesn't shy away from creating some memorable new stars itself, with Captain Brazil and Captain Liechtenstein stand tall (sort of) among the most memorable of the entire series. It's this reverent irreverence that makes the series so good. You'd be hard pressed to find a kids show that would be willing to build an entire gag around the name of a comic company's real-life head executive, offering up laughs to such a small part of the audience.
Of the six episodes here, there's not one that's not worth watching, but if you had to pick one as the best of the bunch, it's a tie between "Night in the Sanctorum!" and "O, Captain, My Captain!" "Night" might get the edge, simply for bringing The Punisher and the sexy Enchantress into the mix, while any appearance of Dr. Strange on the show is a big plus, but "Captain," which sees Wolverine join the All-Captains Squad as Captain Canada, is a lot of fun, in large part because of the ridiculous members of the team. I dare you to watch Captain Liechtenstein and not smile.
Episodes 8-13 of the series are collected on one DVD, which comes in a standard-width clear keepcase, with a two-sided cover and a one-page promo insert that also lists the contents of the disc. Then disc features an animated anamorphic-widescreen menu, with options to watch all the episodes, select shows, check out the extras and adjust the audio. Audio is available in Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 tracks, with no subtitles, though there is closed captioning.
The quality level remains as high as the first volume, as the anamorphic widescreen transfers looks great, giving the animation a proper presentation, with bright, beautiful color and excellent detail, though the compression artifacts that were present last time remain annoyingly present.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks are once again very nice, offering great separation between the channels, delivering the dialogue right down the center channel, with sound effects and music filling the side and rear channels, with dynamic mixing bringing panning throughout the show's action scenes.
The extras remain a bit thin, as you only get a few meager extras. Up first is a quick two-minute interview with the always-awesome Tom Kenny (who voices Iron Man, Captain America and MODOK) as he talks about what he likes about the series and shows him on the job doing the voices. When you consider how many characters he's done in his career, that he can give each one such distinct voices, it's really quite incredible.
After that, you get nine text character profiles, presented in a gallery format, along with 20 pieces of similarly-presented concept art. The concept art is pretty cool to check out, but the character profiles might be tough to read depending on how big your screen is.
Beyond that, there's just a trailer for the new online kid-friendly MMO based on the show.
The Bottom Line
In its second DVD volume, The Super Hero Squad Show manages to maintain the tricky balance between exciting super-hero action and silly comedy that makes the show accessible to both young and old alike, and keeps peppering the series with little easter eggs for hardcore fans. The DVD though, outside of the sound, won't knock anyone's socks off, but it's a close approximation of the show that airs on Cartoon Network.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.